Tag Archives: Glen Affric

Experiencing Scotland’s youth hostels at their best

Alltbeithe youth hostel is set in the heart of Glen Affric

There are around 60 SYHA and affiliated youth hostels across the length and breadth of Scotland, from city centres to remote glens. I went to two of the most beautiful to see what a hostel break can offer – and to explore the mountains and coast of the Highlands.

My first visit was to Allbeithe hostel in the heart of Glen Affric, often considered the most beautiful glen in Scotland – and for good reason.

After a rare couple of weeks without rain the ground there was drier than I’ve ever known it, so the cycle in from the road end on the mountain bike was more dust than dirt riding.

I was joined by my friend Malcolm, who was keen to add the remote Munros deep in Glen Affric to his bagging total, with only a few dozen left to “compleat” all 283. We climbed An Socach after dropping our overnight kit in the open porch at the welcoming hostel.

From the top of the hills it appears as barely a dot in the glen below, giving a real scale of the remote location. This hostel isn’t like any other – it’s eight miles from the nearest road and takes its water from the burn and its power from a small wind turbine and solar panels.

Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan from the ridge to Mullach na Dheiragain

After a night in the bunks, we headed back into the hills the following day, climbing Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan and Mullach na Dheiragain, two of the most remote Munros. There were surprisingly quite a number of people taking advantage of the good weather out here, where self-reliance is key – there’s no phone signal, even on the tops, and unlike many hostels today, there’s no wi-fi back at base.

Reluctantly I had to leave Affric on another glorious morning before heading to Achmelvich Beach hostel in the north-west Highlands. This time I took the family, so we had a room to ourselves, as well as full use of the shared kitchen and common room facilities.

This hostel, a former school house, is just a short stroll from one of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland, and the children loved playing on the golden sand and searching for sealife among the rockpools.

Achmelvich Beach youth hostel is a former school house

It’s a beautiful place to come and relax, or to enjoy a number of walks. Many visitors were staying while climbing the nearby Assynt peaks of Quinag, Suilven, Stac Pollaidh or Cul Mor.

We took a few shorter walks to a 17th century mill a couple of miles along the coast and nearer to the beach a peculiar concrete castle tucked among the rocks.

There’s also great cycling in the area, with the road that loops around Quinag a stunning if strenuous circuit. Achmelvich beach is also on the North Coast 500, so it’s popular with people travelling this route, too.

* John Davidson was a guest of SYHA as part of a feature for Active Outdoors, which will appear in our local newspapers next week, Friday, May 26.

Running through glorious Glen Affric

Turning point - the youth hostel at 8.75 miles in my run

With less than four weeks to go until I take on the challenge of my first Highland Cross, I headed down to Glen Affric today to put in some serious miles using part of the route.

I’ve done the run round Loch Affric before but decided to extend it by running out the the youth hostel at Alltbeithe – the halfway point of the 20-mile foot section of the 50-mile duathlon.

Today the hostel also marked my halfway point and, at nearly nine miles in, would give me a good idea how I’d feel in the latter stages of that long run. I ran from the Loch Affric car park along the north side of the loch first then, after reaching the hostel, returned on the actual route via Athnamulloch and the ‘yellow brick road’.

It’s fair to say my 17.5-mile run today was pretty tough but in spectacular scenery like this I was able to enjoy myself as I mentally ticked off checkpoints along the way. I averaged just over 10-minute miles (including a few stops) which is okay for me on this terrain – I’d be happy enough with that on the day.

The thought of cycling the 30 miles to Beauly after that run was quite daunting but I’m heading out on the bike tomorrow to prepare myself for that next leg!

Here are a few photos from today’s run through glorious Glen Affric.

Running around Loch Affric

Been out for a great run today in the beautiful setting of Glen Affric, following the route around Loch Affric from the end of the public road.
Continue reading Running around Loch Affric