It offers unashamed luxury: only yards from the beach, accommodation with a hot tub in its walled garden where visitors can take in the night skies before retiring.
But this isn’t a high-end hotel, rather a new brand of hostel in the north-east of Scotland which welcomes its first guests this weekend, and part of a not-for-profit group.
The Sail Loft Bunkhouse at Portsoy, on the Moray Firth coast, offers self-catering accommodation with 25 beds and bunks. From private rooms to dorms, this is hostelling with a difference.
Not only are traditional, modern dorms available for classic backpackers, the Sail Loft is also playing strongly to the family market and to those who seek a little more privacy.
With several two-bed and three-bed rooms, with ample space for travel cots, individuals who felt hostels were perhaps not for them are now truly welcomed into the mix.
The shared facilities, such as cooking space and relaxation areas, make it affordable and also maintain the element of mixing and mingling that make hostels so special.
The Sail Loft comes under the umbrella of Scottish Independent Hostels, a not-for-profit organisation that brings together a unique range of hostelling opportunities in Scotland.
It’s the largest hostel network of its type in the world, with 130 hostels as members. From Shetland to the Borders, there’s a mix of original, quaint, bespoke, and sometimes idiosyncratic properties, all individually owned, many of which rival B&B or guest house accommodation, at a fraction of the price.
For visitors to the Sail Loft, Banffshire is an excellent region for outdoor exploration, for groups of friends, couples or families and the site is geared up for rugged adventure.
For those on foot or two wheels there’s an outside wash-down area for boots or bicycle cleaning, as well as a secure store for up to 25 bikes and bike hire available. Portsoy is renowned for its annual boat festival, so it’s a positive addition that the hostel offers courses in boat building, traditional music and storytelling.
Just along the coast is Cullen Harbour Hostel, personally built by its owners Howard Owens and Ruth Hyde. With exposed timbers and single beds (no bunks), its dorms are homely and welcoming. Each bed has a splash of colour with an individual red curtain that provides privacy for guests. A private family room or the hire of a cottage is also available.
Further along the shoreline is the Findhorn Village Hostel, renovated in May 2016. With a short walk to the Findhorn Dunes and Findhorn Foundation, it offers budget accommodation in one of the most scenic corners of Scotland.
Hostelling is a colourful way to explore the country, meet fellow travellers along the way and, budget wise, it’s a bargain.
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