Our marketing intern, Jide, who has been with us at the National Office for the past few months, spent some time sightseeing in Oban and shares his experience on his very first stay at a youth hostel...
Having visited many of the cities and towns along the central belt of Scotland, usually as part of a day trip or just for a few hours, I felt it was time I became more adventurous and took on the Highlands!
Although I wouldn’t consider myself a seasoned backpacker or traveller, I’ve certainly done my fair share of backpacking over the years but never stayed at a youth hostel. The idea of sharing a room with seven other strangers has never really enticed me, mainly because of the stories you often hear whether exaggerated or false, it never helped in convincing me that hostelling was for me. However, since joining the team at SYHA, I’ve acquired a whole new outlook on how youth hostels work and the people who use them, I wanted to experience it myself and be a part of this wonderful community.
My first hostelling experience took me to Oban, one of Scotland’s most unique locations. The coastal town is very popular with backpackers and tourists. Often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the Isles’, this was the perfect destination for the beginning of an adventure and my very first stay at a youth hostel.
I travelled to Oban by rail, the journey was approximately four hours, very long, but the scenery along the way made the journey a lot more enjoyable and worthwhile. It was the most scenic train journey I’ve ever been on!
Oban Youth Hostel was where I would be spending my first ever night at a youth hostel, I was excited for what was to come but nervous nonetheless. The youth hostel was situated along the bay, and a 20-minute walk from the train station. On arrival, the staff were very helpful, I felt they were genuinely interested in knowing what I had planned for the day and there were no shortages of assistance. I was handed a map which highlighted all the major attractions Oban had to offer including other recommendations and best possible ways to get to the sights. I immediately knew I was in good hands and I was very pleased.
Oban Youth Hostel
I started my tour of Oban by visiting the town centre which was very vibrant and colourful, full of tourists and other backpackers from all sorts of places. The harbour was bustling with activities as fishermen were dispatching their catch and ferries constantly on the move. The Island of Kerrera was also within sight and the views from the pier were astonishing.
The location of the youth hostel offered the perfect base for a quick rest and escape from rain before heading out again.
Next on my list was Oban War and Peace Museum, one of Oban’s major attractions and the best place to get away from the rain! The museum is ideally located within a short distance from the pier which was very easy to find. It was a small but interesting museum as it boasted some of the finest collections of medals, war memorabilia and photographs. There were introductory videos which tell the story of old Oban and its contribution towards WWII, the Watchkeepers also offered some great insight into the history of Oban which turned out to be a great learning experience.
Oban War and Peace Museum
McCaig’s Tower was a major highlight of my trip. An iconic monument, the tower rises above Oban town centre and very much visible from all around Oban. It was a very steep climb but it was certainly worthwhile as I found out that the tower also had a striking resemblance to the colosseum. Overlooking the harbour, the tower offers a panoramic view of Oban and a splendid view of the islands of Kerrera, Lismore and Mull.
I visited Dunollie Castle and Museum at the advice of staff at the youth hostel and I was not disappointed! The castle is located at the end of the esplanade and dominates the entrance to the bay. The woodland trail offers a pleasant walk on the way to the 1745 House Museum. The museum which is located at the foot of the castle showcases life as it was back then. There were many items on show as I witnessed a 19th century mangle and a Victorian toilet. The castle overlooks the rest of Oban with fantastic views stretching far and beyond, the steep climb to the top was definitely worth it.
Dunollie Castle and Museum
I also visited Oban Distillery and Oban War Memorial and despite the rain I enjoyed every bit of sightseeing. After a long day of walking and climbing it was only right I treated myself to some locally sourced fish, and chips before heading back to the youth hostel.
Sleeping arrangements and dorm experience.
I stayed in a male dorm at the Victorian building of the youth hostel and shared a room with three other people. I found everyone to be polite and courteous. My room mates seemed to have developed a great relationship with each other and they were also quick to strike up a conversation with me which made me feel a lot more comfortable. The room was kept clean and there was plenty of space to move about. I had to settle with the top bunk as all bottom bunks were already taken. I definitely learned a lesson! Next time I’ll arrive at the dorm as early as possible because toilet breaks can be more difficult than you’d expect. No one snored either and I had a pleasant experience for my first youth hostel stay.
The highlight of my trip was the fact I was able to get out of my comfort zone and witnessed the true beauty of hostelling. I also think hostelling is a brilliant way of travelling as you get to save some well needed cash so you can do more important things while meeting people from all works of life. The Wi-Fi wasn’t bad either so don’t knock it till you try it!
The beauty of hostelling means that even if you had nothing planned, staff and other hostellers are always willing to help with ideas and recommendations. Hostelling for the first time has given me the confidence to be a more independent traveller. Getting tips from seasoned backpackers was definitely beneficial and I look forward to putting them to use wherever my next trip takes me.
Part of my Continental Breakfast
The highlight of the night was spending some time hanging out in the lounge and TV room watching the 10 o’clock news where I met people from different parts of the world. This was something you don’t get at other accommodation services such as hotels and B&B.
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.