Glenbrittle Youth Hostel on the Isle of Skye has come a long way - literally. The main structure you can still see today, with its thick beams, steel rods and industrial size nuts and bolts, was shipped from Norway, and then taken by horse cart down the rough track that was the access to the glen in September 1939. After having been built in around six weeks by slotting the prefabricated timbers together (rumour has it no nails were used), the youth hostel finally opened its doors in early 1940, though its early years were disrupted by the war.
The team at SYHA often come across guests with special memories of chance encounters and amazing experiences at Scottish youth hostels so as part of Glenbrittle’s 75th Anniversary we’ve collected memories, anecdotes and photographs from guests who have stayed at the youth hostel over the years…
Christmas and New Year at Glenbrittle 1949/50
“From a very early age I visited youth hostels with my father James Mc Neill (1881-1964), a founder member of the SYHA and a long term very active member of the South West Area Committee. He was a teacher of technical subjects at Newton Academy, Ayr from 1911 until he retired in 1946. After this he became more or less a full time volunteer "Repair Man" for SYHA using his skills to repair the more remote hostels and from the age of 12 I spent all my school holidays helping him to repair and paint these somewhat remote hostels.
“My Christmas and New Year Holiday in 1949/50 were spent at Glenbrittle where my father was carrying out repairs and building a front porch with sliding doors to protect the main entry to the youth hostel. It was dark by 16:00 in Glenbrittle in winter, sometimes earlier, and not light till well after 08.00. We slept in the warden’s quarters, and spent the evenings as close as possible to the big stove. There was no electricity and a "Tilly Lantern" provided light and extra heat. It was very, very cold.
“On 2nd January, once the work was complete, we packed up the little, very second hand, Austin van that my father had bought to carry all the gear he needed. We took two days to reach home in Ayr. It had been quite an adventure for me and left me with good memories of Glenbrittle and the Isle of Skye.”
- Ruari, Dumfries
“I stayed at Glenbrittle twice. Once was the day after climbing Ben Nevis and my dormitory was upstairs. I’d stiffened up a lot from the walk and as I was coming down the stairs with completely rigid legs (imagining I looked like I had two rather old-fashioned artificial ones) there was a large, friendly party present from Thailand.
“On the other occasion I encountered a small group of young Germans. One showed interest in my book (the first of the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ series by Douglas Adams) as he’d been reading it in German and wanted to see what the Vogon poetry was like in the original!”
- Simon, Harwich
It was the summer of ‘82
“My cousin, my sister and I had an amazing youth hostel trip in the hot summer of 1982! At only 14 and 15 years old with little money and no mobiles (didn't call home much anyway) we took the bus from Bradford to Glasgow and on into the Highlands.
“Our holiday started off in Glen Coe before taking in Ben Nevis on a scorching day and then a train up to Skye for adventures in the Cuillins. The warden of the hostel on Skye was an expert on Eagles...I think.
“We came home after a couple of weeks having climbed some serious mountains and having been generally wowed by the Highlands!”
“I stayed at Glenbrittle Youth Hostel one autumn about three years ago. I came in from the hills one evening to find a large group of motor-cyclists had arrived, up from Yorkshire. They were a quiet, polite group…until the middle of the night. I woke up thinking they'd brought a few of their bikes into the dorm and were fine-tuning the engines when all it was really the sound of these guys snoring!
- Paul, Workington
Michael and Daniela at the summit of Sgurr nan Gillean then, and today with Max (16) and Lexi (13).
Love at first sight
“My wife and I met at the youth hostel for the first time in September 1995. A great storm demolished many of the tents at Sligachan, where I had been camping, and so a good few people took refuge in the youth hostel. This became my first experience of Scottish hostelling. A day or two later a German girl arrived and we got talking – I offered her a lift down to the beach on a day when I was off exploring the ridge. We met afterwards and talked about our day and when she told me she was leaving on the same day for Edinburgh I offered her a lift. Little did I know she had gone round all of the Germans in the youth hostel the night before inviting any and all to come with us as chaperones. Fortunately no one did, so we spent a very happy journey down to Arden House by Loch Lomond. The rest is history and we married in 1999 and have two teenage sons. We’ve been frequent visitors to the Isle of Skye ever since and have very happy memories of visits to Glenbrittle Youth Hostel, run then by Ted and Hilde, with whom we are still in touch.”
- Michael and Daniela
A long and happy history
“My first stay there was in 1947 when I was just 19, arriving with my boyfriend on his 350cc BSA Empire Star Motorbike. After 3 days of breakdowns and thunderstorms between Leeds ad Mallaig a local forestry worker bought the bike (the vital spare parts sent to him later from Leeds) and we went home in style by bus and train.
“The second stay was in September 1949, same boyfriend but now we were an old married couple of 21 and 24 years. We didn’t see Glenbrittle for the next ten years or so as family life with two children took over, but when we finally had a vehicle we returned to camp near the beach. From 1969 to 2015 there have only been three years when I haven’t returned for a visit.
“My late husband wrote the small guides ‘Walks from Glenbrittle’ and ‘Scrambles from Glenbrittle’ which were available from the youth hostel in the 1980s and 1990s.”
- Marjorie, North Yorkshire
Many thanks to all of our guests from over years and special thanks to those who took the time to send us their memories. We've loved reading them all! Follow the link to book and create your own Glenbrittle memories: /where-to-stay/islands/glenbrittle.aspx
Biography for SYHA Hostelling Scotland
Scotland's best known network of youth hostels in stunning city & rural locations. Go on a #SYHAdventure! As a not-for-profit organisation, we encourage guests to join SYHA Hostelling Scotland. Members enjoy a range of exclusive benefits including dual membership of Hostelling International, providing access to more than 4,000 youth hostels in over 90 countries worldwide. Membership and guest overnight income supports our charitable youth programmes and the maintenance of the hostelling network, particularly in rural Scotland.