Media release: Celebrating 90 years of Scottish hostelling

Skiers at Cairngorm Lodge

HOSTELLING Scotland (Scottish Youth Hostels Association), today (13 February 2021), celebrates its 90th birthday.

To mark this major milestone, the self-funded charity is introducing all babies born in the month of February 2021 to the wonderful world of hostelling by offering them a free lifetime membership (worth £150).

Since 1931, the organisation’s mission has been to make more of Scotland more accessible to more people, especially young people, which is as relevant today as it was then.

The new, young lifetime members can look forward to a future of travel with friends and family, staying in great value, affordable, flexible and welcoming hostel accommodation in some of the best locations throughout Scotland.

Margo Paterson, CEO of Hostelling Scotland, said: “As we reflect on our most challenging year since 1931 and celebrate being 90 years young, we are determined that 2021 will be a year of positivity and hope, celebrating our hostelling family’s past, present and future.

“Hostelling Scotland is delighted to enable a new generation of hosteller to experience travel and adventure across this beautiful country of ours, exploring new places, making memories and friendships to last a lifetime.

“Any child born in February 2021 is eligible for a free lifetime membership, which includes loads of additional member benefits. All you have to do is sign them up on our website before the 31 March 2021.”

Like the young hostellers of the 1930’s, the new lifetime members (and their families) will have the freedom to learn about Scotland visiting places of historic and cultural interest and explore its stunning countryside, environment and natural heritage.

They will be able to take advantage of the many additional benefits, from retail and visitor attraction discounts to exclusive member promotions. When the world opens up again, they will also have access to more than 4,000 hostels in many countries around the world with dual membership of Hostelling International.

Hostelling Scotland prides itself on being the largest participant in the youth hostel market in Scotland. As a membership organisation with over 8,000 lifetime members, it has 33 youth hostels and 27 affiliate hostels.  In recent years the network has welcomed up to 380,000 guests annually with a turnover of £9m and an estimated annual contribution to the Scottish visitor economy of £25m.

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the organisation incredibly hard, the worst crisis it has faced since it was established in 1931.

An 89 per cent drop in annual operational income has resulted in a massive swing, from a £1.4m operational surplus in 2019 to a £2m operational loss in 2020.

Margo Paterson added: “2020 has been the most challenging year in the organisation’s history but we feel confident there is light at the end of the tunnel. We are delighted and thankful for all the messages of support and as we recover from this crisis; we look forward to welcoming our guests to our youth hostels once again when the time is right and it is safe to do so.”


Media contact:

Paddy Cuthbert | Littlehouse Media | E: | M: 07913 951717

Images attached – Historical photos and graphics and renovated hostels

For more downloadable hire images, go to

Useful links:

Hostelling Scotland –

Hostelling Scotland on Twitter – #ourplaceisyours

Hostelling Scotland on Facebook –

Hostelling Scotland on Instagram –

Hostelling Scotland on LinkedIn –

Notes for editors:

Hostelling Scotland membership

Life Members of Hostelling Scotland enjoy a range of exclusive benefits including:

  • Explore Scotland and save money every time you stay;
  • Save £30 on all RentaHostel, exclusive private hire bookings;
  • Gain access to +4,000 hostels around the world with dual membership of Hostelling International;
  • Take advantage of exclusive ‘members only’ promotions;
  • Enjoy a range of membership benefits, from discounted admission to visitor attractions to savings at retail outlets and travel services across Scotland;
  • Monthly eNewsletter for latest news, events and special offers;
  • A MyHostellingScotland account which enables members to manage their membership details online;
  • Once you have your membership number, create your MyHostellingScotland account for exclusive access; and
  • Make new friends through hostelling – you might want to join one of our Members’ Groups.

Membership and guest overnight income supports Hostelling Scotland’s charitable youth programmes and the maintenance of the hostelling network; helping to give children, young people and families, who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity, a chance to explore Scotland through our youth, volunteer and community programmes.

Youth and Community programmes

As a charity, Hostelling Scotland is committed to ensuring that everyone can discover Scotland. One of their core objectives is to the advancement of education, for the public benefit, by helping all, but especially young people, to experience and appreciate the Scottish countryside, environment, natural heritage and places of historic and cultural interest in Scotland, and through the promotion of their health, recreation and education, particularly by providing low-cost accommodation for them on their travels.

Hostelling Scotland’s charitable youth programmes, an important element of their work, give young people and families, who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity, the chance to experience Scotland and develop their skills for life, learning and work. The programmes support a diverse range of groups and individuals.

Youth and community projects include:

Festive Fun project (launched 2019) –

Explorer Fund (launched in 2018) and Mini Explorer Fund –

Respitality Breaks (2017) in partnership with partnership with Respitality –

ScotSpirit Breaks programme (supported since 2016) –

Braw Buildings in partnership with Scottish Civic Trust’s Doors Open Days –

Hostelling Scotland also runs work experience programmes for school and college students, supporting ‘Developing The Young Workforce’ (DYW), a Scottish Government initiative to better prepare children and young people for the world of work.

About Hostelling Scotland

Hostelling Scotland is a self-funding charity operating a network of nearly 60 exceptional youth and affiliate hostels for the benefit of all those wishing to learn and experience what Scotland has to offer. Their unique sites provide affordable, comfortable, safe and quality-assured accommodation with a warm friendly welcome, local knowledge, activities and services for guests travelling around Scotland.

Following a strategic review of the organisation, early in 2018, the much-loved hostelling accommodation provider is now known as Hostelling Scotland. The new identity follows on from extensive marketing research and reflects the organisation’s commitment to understanding the needs of its members, guests and employees as the modern face of Scottish Hostelling. The name also more clearly indicates its representation of Hostelling International within Scotland.

Both the changes in trading name and logo highlight a commitment to ensuring the hostelling organisation remains relevant in the modern context.

Network modernisation programme

Despite the current UK and international travel restrictions, Hostelling Scotland is perfectly set up to welcome back a new generation of hosteller and adventure tourist keen to explore what is on their own doorstep.

The charity’s vision is to ensure that it remains the principle hostelling organisation of choice in Scotland through the provision of a sustainable, modern, high-quality affordable accommodation network that meets the needs of today’s hostellers.

It has had a longstanding commitment to listening to and understanding its members, guests and employees which has resulted in the most radical period of modernisation of the network, together with a business re-brand and name change that reflects the modern face of Scottish hostelling.

In the last five years, £7.2 million has been invested in renovation and refurbishment projects across the network creating exciting contemporary living spaces with cosy private, en-suite and family rooms that sit comfortably alongside the more traditional shared dormitory-style accommodation. In many youth hostels, food and drink is available to purchase for those who are less keen on getting into the kitchen, and improved facilities such as free wi-fi, drying rooms, laundry facilities and secure bike storage are offered.

There are now 14 dog friendly ‘WoofHostels’, perfectly set up for visitors looking to holiday with their pet; and the organisation continues to offer exclusive private rentals – RentaHostel.

Recent modernisation projects include:

  • The renovation of Oban Youth Hostel
  • The Renovation of Lochranza Youth Hostel, Isle of Arran
  • Development projects at Loch Ossian and Achmelvich Beach
  • The purchase and renovation of Portree Youth Hostel, Isle of Skye
  • The renovation of Aberdeen Youth Hostel
  • The major redevelopment of Glen Nevis Youth Hostel, Fort William
  • The renovation of Inverness Youth Hostel
  • The renovation of Edinburgh Central Youth Hostel
  • The renovation of Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel (in progress)

History – the early years

Over the last 90 years, Hostelling Scotland has made a significant contribution to Scottish history, not only in its social development but, more importantly, the impact it has had on the lives of countless individuals, both old and young, through their experiences of using their hostels.

In the early days, hostelling provided a great opportunity for people, many of whom wouldn’t normally have had the chance, to escape the crowded cities and their unhealthy environments, get outside and discover the natural wonders that Scotland has to offer – often on their doorsteps.

In the early years, the typical hosteller was a hardy individual or one of a small group of friends discovering Scotland by slogging from one hostel to the next by bike or foot. During and after the war came the enlargement of premises to cope with city youth group cycling weekends, school parties and an increasingly leisured society. Motor tourism followed and from the 1960’s individual hostels started providing activities and tuition in mountaineering, pony trekking, sailing and skiing.

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Contact: Paddy Cuthbert