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Ratagan Youth Hostel (Ross-shire, Scotland)

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Ratagan YH, Glenshiel, Kyle, Ross-shire IV40 8HP. Stars: 3. Tel: +44(0)1599 511243.

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      12.01.2001 00:03
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      For new year 2000-2001, I went on a walking week to Glen Shiel (see separate opinion in Highlands > Attractions), in the Scottish Highlands. The place we chose to stay was Ratagan Youth Hostel. Ratagan is a small village on the edge of Loch Duich, near the Isle of Skye. It's also an ideal location for walks in Glen Shiel, including the famous Five Sisters Of Kintail - a ridge of mountains which is about 5 miles long. The hostel is a fairly big place, providing 6 dormitories and sleeping a total of 44 people. Each dorm has bunk beds with full bedding - much comfier than sleeping bags! The hostel was awarded 3 stars by the Scottish Tourist Board, and a gold award by Green Tourism. Downstairs, there is a large common room with very comfortable chairs - ideal for sinking into after a hard day's walking. The common room has large windows overlooking the loch and the Five Sisters ridge. Moving through past reception, there is a hanging area for putting jackets, boots, etc. Space is limited, so if you want a hook, get in there early. Next to the hanging room is a drying room for wet walking gear. Again there is limited space, but the smallness of the room means your things will dry quickly. The drying room also has a washing machine and a tumble drier. I'm not sure how much a wash cycle was, but the drier was £1. It is a fairly big drier, so it would work out cheaper for two or three people to share a cycle. And for the washer, washing powder can be bought at the reception for 30p. Next up is the dining room, which is large enough for about 30 people to be seated. What I found useful in here were the pictures and maps on the walls - one of them is a 3D map of the area, so if you want to do a walk which doesn't involve too much climbing you can take a look around without leaving the hostel. The kitchen is also fairly big, with a large workspace, three cookers and one oven. Two of the cookers and
      the oven/grill aren't automatic to light, so bring along matches or a lighter. There are two fridges (no freezers) and a large storage space in the kitchen, but again you need to claim space early. But as we found out, some stuff could be stored in the car being so cold outside! The hostel also provides plates, cups, bowls, cutlery and cooking utensils. The hostel reception puts up weather forecasts for the week, faxed from the Met office. The reception is open for a few hours in the morning and then around 5:00 in the evening, at which times you can buy odd little items, of course including postcards. And when you get the chance, have a chat with Nick, the hostel warden - he can be as much use, if not more, than any walking guide books in the area. As far as hostel rules go, there are hardly any - the only one I noticed was that we had to have left the dorms by 10:30am at the latest. But most mornings we were up and out well before that time - long walks meant early starts. And unlike some youth hostels there are no chores to be done. It took most of the day to drive there (11 hours including stops, from Liverpool) so it was dark when we arrived. But next morning the setting of the hostel was revealed - the view from the front was stunning. The highlights are Loch Duich and the Five Sisters ridge behind it - a classic postcard view if I ever saw one. For the less energetic, Ratagan is 20 miles from Kyle of Lochalsh, where the (in)famous Skye Bridge crosses from. If you venture onto Skye there is plenty more to see. And about half way up to Kyle of Lochalsh is Eilean Donan castle - where the film Highlander was made, and in the BBC trailers where a hot-air balloon passes it. Now there's something to tell your mates. Ratagan is a fairly isolated little village, but there are a few extras if you go for a drive. Up at Shiel Bridge (2 miles away), there is a small shop, selling everyday items like bread and m
      ilk. I didn't go in there while I was at Ratagan, so I can't really tell you much about it. At Shiel Bridge, head towards Kyle Of Lochalsh for about 2 miles and you reach the Kintail Lodge - a surprisingly large pub for the area. There aren't many drinks on offer, but I recommend Tennent's. The pub also has pool tables and a TV, not to mention the 2 dogs and the cat. There's some impressive photos of the area on the walls as well. Back on the road, head along the valley towards Loch Cluanie and after about 20 minutes you reach another pub, the Cluanie Inn. This place also offers accomodation, and is said to be the best place in Glen Shiel for starting walks. Overall, if you're planning to have a holiday in Glen Shiel, whether it be walking, climbing or just doing nothing, I recommend Ratagan. Price per person per night is £9.25 for seniors and £6 for juniors, March to October (prices outside those dates vary - see website). SYHA membership is £6 per person for a year, and can be bought on arrival at the hostel. Website - http://www.syha.org.uk/pages/hostel_pages/ratagan.html Maps covering the area - OS Landranger 33 (1:50,000) : Loch Alsh, Glen Shiel & Loch Hourn; Harvey's maps (1:25,000) : Kintail

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