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In April 1971, as I cycled along the single- track road from Strath, I got my first view of the tall chimneys of Carn Dearg. I cycled from the Youth Hostel in East Anglia, which I’d managed for YHA for four years, and I’d never been further north than that before. Wow! What a location! Tere was no telephone in those days. When there was an emergency - a boy who had fallen down the cliff - I had to send someone half a mile to the campsite and its phone box. Tere was no washing machine either for

the compulsory sheet sleeping bags. Tey were washed in the kitchen sink. At our wardens’ association AGM, my colleagues laughed at my suggestion that every Youth Hostel needed a washing machine. During my absence one winter, mice

Above and right: memories of Gairloch Carn Dearg Youth Hostel

chewed down through the stack of sleeping sheets in the office so that they could nest. Tey took the silver paper from the chocolate bars they had also consumed, and left a tell-tale trail of purple footprints from the ink pad over all the paperwork on the desk. I kept a Siamese cat after that.

And there was no central heating, of

course. We scoured the shores for winter driftwood which provided firewood for the big, Victorian tiled fireplaces. One university group piled all my “treasure” into a bonfire. Disaster! Waste food from the members’ kitchen helped to feed my ducks, hens, geese and pigs. I also kept a ferret for rabbit netting in the sand dunes. I sold eggs and garden vegetables to hostellers for seven years. A significant contribution by each

hosteller in those days was “the duty” – usually a useful sweeping, dusting or wiping task. But I gave an artistic hostelling friend the job of designing a Hostel stamp from a postcard of Carn Dearg. I paid for its manufacture and the stamp is still in use. Anonymous


DOWN UNDER I have recently returned from a 30th anniversary trip to Australia. Tis was the first time that I had returned

to ‘Oz’ in all those years. For nearly a year, from June 1981 to April 1982, I worked and travelled around most of Australia and New Zealand. For seven months, I lived and worked in Brisbane with the female friend that I went out with. We spent a few nights in Brisbane Youth Hostel before finding more permanent accommodation. Having worked and saved very hard, we set off in January 1982 first to New Zealand and then came back to do ‘Oz’ using Youth Hostels and a Greyhound bus pass. My diary records us doing ‘duties’ in

various Youth Hostels - I have one early 1972 memory of washing down the steps in Colwyn Bay Youth Hostel with my sister. Some of the more unusual duties that I

recorded were in Dunedin Youth Hostel in NZ where we had to cut and arrange the flowers in the morning. Tis was also the time of early curfews and often we were


rushing at the last minute from the pub to get into the hostel by 10pm or 10.45pm! My trip this time was only three weeks

long and with the same friend who now has a son living and working in Perth, WA. Tis time we could afford to fly across the

country. However, we decided we had to stay in a Youth Hostel for old time’s sakes and decided on three nights in Sydney Harbour Youth Hostel. What a place - location, location, location! Very modern and new; minutes from Circular Quay; no

curfews; four-bedded room with shower room en-suite; and no duties. It has an amazing roof terrace with views of the harbour, bridge and the iconic Opera House. All this cost us about £30 each, per night. When I got home, I found my copy of the

latest Scottish Hosteller magazine in the mail – and imagine my surprise when I opened up its pages to find a whole page on Australia’s hostels and a picture of the roof terrace! I love youth hostelling, old or new! Catriona Macdonald


Catriona Macdonald

enjoying the stunning views of Sydney Harbour Bridge

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