A new hostel has opened in the north east of Scotland and it’s pretty luxurious. It’s such good quality it will rival many hotels, B&Bs and guest houses in the area but don’t tell them I’ve said this. I’ve backpacked as a single girl and never quite envisaged hostelling with a husband and small children but certainly in Scotland it’s a valid option for a great escape that won’t break the bank. And it’s comfortable too.
We were told we’d be the first guests at the brand new Sail Loft. I pictured us alone in this vast building. I’ve been watching too much of the Scandinavian thriller ‘Fortitude’ and my imagination started running away with me but thankfully we were given a warm welcome on arrival and discovered that other people would be staying too.
CHECK IN. We arrived and received a friendly tour of the shared areas and facilities. A brand spanking new kitchen with cafetieres and new pots and pans just waiting to be used. A large lounge area. And space outside in the walled garden for a hot tub – yes a hot tub! This isn’t your standard hostel. We were then shown to our pristine room.
THE ROOM. There is a dorm at the Sail Loft for traditional backpackers but we’d opted for a family room. A proper cot stood in the corner for Mr Baby and the rest of us had beds with the notably well known mattresses supplied by Glencraft in Aberdeen (a social enterprise renowned for its quality). Everything was so fresh and new. The building used to be a loft where they fixed and maintained sails for the fishing industry, so it was vital part of a busy community. It must have been heavy, hard work and now the rooms are so clean and crisp it’s hard to imagine the labour once carried out here. Some of the rooms have beautiful sea views, ours didn’t but you can’t have everything. For a short video revealing more click here.
As is the norm with hostelling we had to share shower and toilet facilities with other guests. The facilities are immaculate but on a separate floor to the bedrooms so Mr Toddler’s false alarms got me plenty of exercise as we wandered about as he decided whether he really, truly needed to go. Thanks Mr Toddler.
DINNER. The wonder of hostelling is the sharing, the cooking and the mingling. We stored our haggis, neeps and tatties in the fridge along with the kids’ fruit and favourite yogurts. They did jigsaws, played with the stack of toys available in the hostel, argued, made up, argued again, as we spoke to other adults and prepared dinner. Hostels provide such a warm environment. The kids were so welcome and it was nice for us to socialise in an informal setting. I feel we got the benefits of hostel life, the communal angle, with the bonus of a private room. The bedrooms are in the building adjacent to the kitchens/lounge so we all retired for the night at the same time.
Breakfast was equally convivial, people swapping stories about last night or what they planned to do with the day ahead. We knew we’d start by exploring the shoreline.
LOCATION. Portsoy on the Banffshire coast is a small picturesque fishing village. Known for its annual boat festival there’s a regular demand for accommodation so the Sail Loft is a welcome addition. Situated right on the shoreline we just wandered out the door to the beach. There are plenty of attractions in Banffshire and Morayshire. Macduff Marine Aquarium is always a winner for kids. Duff House is elegant, charming and full of history. The distilleries are part of the culture, and the beaches are quite stunning. I’d recommend Sandend for just a big stretch of sand – check out the photo journal.
SCOTTISH INDEPENDENT HOSTELS. The Sail Loft is part of the not-for-profit organisation Scottish Independent Hostels. They offer over 130 hostels, each one individual with its own character and story. Many of them offer private rooms, some with ensuite facilities. We carried on our north east road trip with a stay in the Cullen Harbour Hostel so it’s easy to browse this website and find adventure at a reasonable price.
PRICE. I don’t often talk money, as one person’s luxury is another person’s small change, but hostels are known for being good value. The Sail Loft is currently £23 per person for a dorm bed, £24 per person for a bed in a small room, with under 3’s going free. There’s a single room, a few twin rooms (with interconnecting doors) and a couple of family rooms so a lot of options for budget travellers. When travelling with kids a hostel is fun, that’s the bottom line, we had so much fun.
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