Wednesday, 22 July 2015

At the Hostel Door: July, 2015.

Abernethy Highland Games August 8th 2015
Is it me or, despite this early summer's weather being not quite scorching, are not hostel folk as well on the move around Scotland much as ever?   We see no let up in visitors here whatsoever and that is good news for all. Importantly we think, as well as saying 'Hello' to new arrivals, we do our very best also to say 'Goodbye'.  Often there are bits of chat in between of course but with one nighters that might be slender. 

We find that it is at the 'Goodbye' stage that most guests linger a bit to tell something of themselves, discover more about us and maybe ask for help with their forward journey plans.  

Yet more pipe bands - with Smugglers Hostel
So many are going from hostel to hostel and it is really great to be able to identify with their route and destinations.   

Quite often we know, or know of, the other hostels  and although the SIH scene is changing and healthily expanding we still find ourselves sending greetings far and wide:-  Rousay Hostel, Orkney, Badralloch, Dundonnell – again!, Sleeperzzz, Rogart, The Poor House, Tongue, Dun Flodigarry, Skye – again!, Cullen Harbour, Hostel, Comrie Croft, Iona Hostel, Smugglers Hostel, Tomintoul and Haggis Hostels, Edinburgh have, just this year, each been sent a jolly message from us via ever willing hosteller couriers. 

A hostel wedding!
Now we don't do weddings.  We are too small and not geared up for that kind of invasion.  That said, we have just done one.  Rather, 'they', the bride and groom and their ten guests 'did' it.  They brought absolutely everything from plastic plates, gleaming picnic cutlery, glasses, Malbec red wine, magnificent pate's, cheese, meats and exquisite 'Jolie' champagne.  We did the flowers from our riot of a wild flower garden. The Registrar from the local town was recruited to conduct the ceremony on a Monet style bridge spanning our watercourse and the bride and groom sang their own composition with guitar accompaniment from a musically talented guest. 

There were two rather astonishing aspects to that memorable day.  Firstly, our whole hostel team was invited as guests to witness the ceremony and then to join in the feast which followed under cover outdoors.  Secondly, Benoit and Sophie with their whole wedding party had come from France.  They had been in Scotland only once.  Ireland they knew, but it was Scotland with its misty ambience of legend and fling they wanted.  Then, from a wealth of equally worthy possibilities they chose to come here for their bespoke event.   

The romance of a hostel wedding
When the couple sang, the sun broke through and with the Scottish dancing which followed, led quite terribly by Hostelkeeper, the happy event rolled on through several bottles until it was time for the taxi to take our French guests away to dinner.  At the pub, an icon for traditional music, and as accomplished singers and players,  they had been invited to contribute to the evening's musical entertainment.  The whole day was rounded off by fiddler Charlie McKerron and friends en route from the west coast, who had us and the whole place hopping until throwing out time. 

When the party left us on tour for the Black Isle, Ullapool and the Inveraray Games    we experienced a sense of loss.   They took with them our fondest good wishes and the engraved quaich we commissioned for them. Would we do it again?  Unlikely, unless we could be convinced that what we have on offer here really would meet the expectations of the wedding party and be well within our own coping capacities. 

A week later our team took a few hours off to brave the incredibly high winds at the Tomintoul Games.   I blethered early on to old pal, Jimmy Hamilton from Aberdeen.  Jimmy was one of two judges for the senior piping event.  We agreed that just how, in that gale, any pipe could be properly heard or kilt managed without indecency was beyond us.  If the hammer throw had ended up being carried as far as Ballater we would not have been surprised.  The Games though survived and we all hurried back for the arrivals of hostel and camping guests at 4.00pm.  The next traditional Highland Games in the annual circuit is of course the Abernethy Highland Games   at Nethy Bridge on Saturday 8th August. Jimmy might  be there and our team, hopes to make the trip for a few hours. 

By the way, and for connoisseurs, the legendary 'Whisky Castle' Tomintoul   has just changed hands.  Mike and Cathy Drury have, after a twelve year distinguished and riotously hospitable tenure, departed for a life of B&B to Fionnphort by the ferry to Iona from Mull.   Scott and Sam Ashforth are now dispensing the tasters and aiming to progress the business.  I for one wish them well. Each successive owner of The Whisky Castle seems miraculously to combine a thorough knowledge of the vast range of over five hundred  malts they stock and the secret world of  whisky production for which The Whisky Castle has been a noted ambassador for over one hundred years. 

If the tastings on offer prove too much for you to travel, consider toddling up the road to The Smugglers' Hostel    where Kerry and her team will bathe your head. Sorry, they might bathe your head. 

Next month a small gathering of hostel owners and managers arrives here for what has become something of a punctuation mark in our year.  Not that we do it every year but now seems just the time to revive this convivial and useful tradition.  Why useful?  The 'Bite & Blether'  gathering, well over twenty years old, has been an irregular, liberating and quite unofficial  way of sharing one with another just the latest gossip, good news, bad news and in between news.  No speeches, unless one of us is retiring, just good yet meaningful 'craic'. 

That way there is a three way benefit:-  at home, we learn from our hostel guests and tailor what hospitality we can offer accordingly.  We pass that 'learning' exercise on to other hostel owners who have come to the gathering bringing contributions of food and whatever.  Each of us then has the opportunity to translate those experiences of our friends and colleagues into our own hostel's forward planning to make the whole experience a roll of good news for those guests who come to us next. 

Enjoy the summer. 




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    1. We're very glad you enjoyed it - thanks for taking the trouble to let us know
      Best regards