Wilma Watson, Pitlochry Youth Hostel Manager, will be waving us goodbye at the end of July after a fantastic 32 years with SYHA Hostelling Scotland. Wilma started her journey at National Office, in the accounts department - or "Hostel Stores" as it was known at the time.
We caught up with Wilma recently to reflect back on hostelling then and now, and her favourite memories over the past three decades...
You’ve been with SYHA for over 32 years – what has been your most memorable moment?
I met my husband, who was the Duty Manager at Inverness Youth Hostel at the time, at a SYHA training course at Loch Lomond. And, when my daughter was born we spent her first 8 years at Rowardennan on the edge of Loch Lomond. It’s one of the most beautiful settings for a youth hostel and a great place for her to start her life.
Overall I have had a fantastic 32 years - it has truly been a great experience. I will take a lot of happy memories with me when I leave and I have also made some lifelong friends.
How has the hostelling experience changed over this time?
Drastically – I began my career with SYHA in National Office and worked there for 14 years and at first there were no computers at all, just a big typing pool on the ground floor. I remember the Assistant Accountant adding up ledgers in his head. He was always correct first time, not many could do that these days. Though I must admit computers have really helped cut down on paper work and the internet has made it far easier for guests to book now.
Wilma during her time at SYHA National Office
In the past, those staying in a youth hostel had to do a chore before they left and there were no bedsheets supplied - only sheet sleeping bags - a long way off from the youth hostels we have nowadays. I must say there were some very colourful wardens in those days. Very happy times.
What advice do you have for someone staying in a youth hostel for the first time?
Go with an open mind. Hostelling has changed so much in the last few years and you will be surprised at the comfort in youth hostels these days. (No more jaggy blankets and duties!)
Pitlochry Youth Hostel is great for guests looking to "RentaHostel". Why do you think it's such a popular choice and have you had any unusual groups stay at the youth hostel?
Most people use our Exclusively yours…RentaHostel service for a family and friends get-together. It’s a great value, easy way to get a large group of people together and also have the use of the youth hostel’s facilities such as self-catering kitchen and meeting spaces.
The most unusual group we have had, I must say, was a “vampire enactment” group. They came for a few years and were always great fun.
Wilma in Pitlochry Youth Hostel's garden
How are you planning to spend your time after SYHA Hostelling Scotland?
I have applied to college and at the moment I’m waiting to find out if I have been successful.
We would like to thank Wilma for her years of service, hospitality and warmth she has provided to hostellers and colleagues and wish her all the best for the future!
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.