Remote Highlands youth hostel searches for new buyer

Achininver Youth Hostel. Picture: Geograph
Achininver Youth Hostel. Picture: Geograph
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A REMOTE youth hostel which can only be reached via 4x4, canoe, or on foot is looking for new management.

Achininver Youth Hostel, which lies in and amongst the remote Coigach countryside in Ullapool in the Highlands, has been open since the 1930s.

The former croft house has featured in hit films such as The Eagle starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell.

For years it has been looked after by the Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA), but the organisation has given up the lease due to the cost of running Achininver.

It now risks lying empty and unused unless a buyer can come up with half a million pounds to purchase the property and carry out renovations.

The youth hostel, which sits on the banks of the picturesque Loch Broom, has a capacity for 20 beds, a kitchen area with common room, showers, toilets and warden’s accommodation.

It is situated directly next to famous hiking routes such as The Postman’s Path and Ben Mor Coigach – a magnificent and complex range of hills.

But the only way to gain access to the property is to choose one of three options.

Visitors can choose to arrive via a rough path that only a 4x4 or quad bike can negotiate, or they can hike along a rocky road from Ullapool round the base of Ben Mor Coigach - suitable only for experienced and very hardy walkers.

More daring visitors can even arrive by canoe or kayak and land on the sandy beach nearby.

Once there, they have to cross a narrow footbridge over running water to reach the hostel itself.

Julia Campbell, a local development officer for the Coigach Community Development Company, spoke of her desire to see the croft house remain a hostel.

She said: “We don’t want it to become another holiday home, we have very little short stay accommodation here.

“The property is owned by the Scottish Wildlife Trust so we don’t have any power over the decision making.

“Personally I would like to see it become an independent hostel. The owner could live there and they could do things to add value.

“The hostel is not there for the luxury, it’s there for the good times. It creates a real sense of community.

“It’s surround by stunning countryside and is right next to the beach. There is even a little foot bridge you have to cross to get to the hostel.”

Keith Legg, chief executive of the Scottish Youth Hostel Association, has estimated that it would cost about half a million pounds for someone to buy the hostel and get it back into shape.

He said: “The lease on the hostel was due for renewal and we had it on good terms.

“But recent changes to the terms now mean that it is just not cost-effective for us to take it forward.

“The hostel is very old and remote, and it needs some work doing to it. We’re very sad to be letting it go and really hope that someone can take it on.

“I reckon it would cost about half a million pounds by the time someone has bought the property and carried out the necessary upgrades - it’s not a cheap job.

“It’s a very iconic place, I even used to visit there with my family. Giving it up is not something that we wanted to do but something that we have been forced to do.”

Mark Foxwell, reserve manager for the Scottish Wildlife Trust in the Highlands and Islands said: “The former SYHA hostel is part of our Ben More Coigach estate.

“The Trust is very much keeping options open regarding the future of the former SYHA youth hostel in Achiltibuie and exploring ways for the building to become a resource for the community.”