Surviving Lockdown: The hostel story, so far!

June 30, 2023
News & Events

Surviving Lockdown: the hostel story, so far!

Lots of people and businesses have shared their experience of lockdown so we decided to add our contribution.  In this post we’ve used a photo diary to trace our Covid journey from the early confusion in March 2020, through to the relaxing of restrictions in June 2021. The last part of the post is a Q &A section to encourage future guests to visit us and enjoy the Argyll Backpackers experience!

In the Beginning

Of course it was great to be able to enjoy a dog walk through the woods, then head back via the beach without rushing back to the hostel to help with the daily changeover, but we really missed the buzz of having guests around. Usually we’re sharing our evenings with excited guests, making their meal after a long day cycling or hill walking, or enthusiastically planning what tomorrow’s adventure would be.

Lockdown 1

So how did we stay sane during the early stages?  Of course we checked out the predictable advice available online but our 5 favourites were -

  • learn a new skill – our attempts at home hairdressing had mixed results...for us and the Hostel watch-dog!
  • take plenty of exercise, indoors or outdoors, depending on the weather – dog walking is compulsory, regardless of the weather but fortunately we have a choice of sheltered and more open countryside around the hostel.
  • keep in touch with friends and family using your preferred device – we got the hang of this eventually, between Zoom calls for business meetings and WhatsApp groups as well as for sharing trivia with friends & family we couldn’t visit.
  • practice new recipes for home cooked meals – lots of practice using the long-forgotten bread maker and making gallons of homemade soups.
  • treat yourself with leisurely bath time and scented candles – we substituted the bath with the equally relaxing alternative of binging on box sets!

Monthly Picture Diary

April 2020: watching seals sunbathing

Ahh, we were still enjoying the lack of activity and enjoying watching the seals relaxing too. The planned covered secure shelter for up to 10 bikes now getting underway. Luckily there was sufficient materials left over from the Hostel build, as no builder yards could open to the public or actually supply.

May 2020: pedalling back to the hostel...and with such perfect weather!!

Okay, so maybe you think peddling is a lazy way to get through the water but it is so restful and great fun. Obviously, this works well on calm water like today, don’t think I’d risk it in choppy conditions. Maybe next time I’ll take a wee picnic with me.

Now time for the planned Firepit build, again done by Hostel left over materials...will there ever be guests to use it though? Yes, be positive, of course there will, some day soon!!!

June 2020: another day, another dog walk...the poor wee dug's legs are getting worn out and shorter!

We’re so lucky to be on the edge of this terrific cycle / walking trail.  Even when I’m short on time this is a great turning point for a daily walk. There are almost always horses in the field and they’re very curious and friendly – even the hostel dog doesn’t scare them off!

From mid June till mid August, ensuites were added/completed in 4 bedrooms, enabling all 7 ground floor rooms have their own now not just a hostel with some ensuite rooms, but a 'Mostel'.

July 2020: taking in the views

There are so many opportunities to follow links from the Crinan Canal, this is one of my favourites, Bellanoch.  This area is great for nature lovers, especially birdwatchers, but also not far from Kilmartin Glen which is so richly steeped in the history and culture of Scotland.

August 2020: life’s a beach!

A rare photo of Pam, the hostel owner, taking a day off to enjoy the sweltering sunshine – yes, we do get hot days in Scotland!  Maybe she just forgot to wear shorts that day?

September 2020: playing hide and seek with the seals (there are 2 in the distance...but zoom in to see them better)

It’s very tricky trying to time the photo taking with the seals diving, obviously I haven’t got the hang of it yet!  This attempt was in the bay opposite the hostel, so you don’t have to go too far to enjoy kayaking or seal watching.

October 2020: spot an otter?

No, to be honest I didn’t spot one on this trip but there are plenty to be found around the many beaches close to the hostel.  If your keen to find some, we’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.

November 2020: The Paps ofJura

No prizes for spotting that this trip was made on an e-bike, very handy if your legs get a wee bit tired on some of the hilly sections of the Kilberry Loop.  This circuit shows off some of the best scenery in Argyll and offers the alternative of a 28 mile ‘long-cut’ instead of the direct, 10mile route between the hostel and Tarbert, part of the Sustrans Caledonia Way (NCR78).

December 2020: Crinan Canal Makeover

It seems even the contractors are keen to make the most of lock-down.  This project aims to improve the lock system along part of the famous Crinan Canal which links theold fishing village of Ardrishaig to the picturesque village of Crinan, also known as Scotland’s most beautiful short-cut.  If all goes to plan it will be restored to its former glory by April 2021(but not yet at the end of May!)

January 2021: getting ready to take the plunge

The water was so clear and inviting, just a pity it was so very cold (6 degrees!), wetsuits were such a great invention!  As well as wild swimming, this bay just opposite the hostel, is very handy for taking a trip on your Stand Up Paddle-board or kayak, and at high tide you can even launch from the garden area beside the hostel.

February 2021: Doggy Gym

There are so many fabulous places for dog walks, but can you spot the 'hostel hound' who decided that he needed a bit more of a workout on the outdoor gym equipment in the woodland park a few miles from the hostel.  There are also lots of trails for walkers and runners with or without dogs!

March 2021: crossing Ellary estate

Yes, having the e-bike did help with the hill at the beginning of the route.  The scenery is fabulous and you’re more likely to meet a few cattle than other people.

April 2021:

Hurrah! Our first group of cyclists post lockdown! A group of 6 who had to have a bedroom each!!! The 'birthday boy' had to have his cake at one end of the table and candle at the other, so as not having to blow it out over the cake...just another one of the things we had to improvise due to the restrictions...but it worked!

May 2021: family friendly cycle route

Such a flat, quiet route. Great when you’re more interested in the scenery than breaking speed records.

Keeping our guests safe after lockdown

Of course our main focus is to make sure that our accommodation is Covid Safe and we’ve despite the relaxing times shown in our photos we have been extremely busy -

  • cutting through solid walls to enable converting our layout to have all bedrooms en-suite;
  • re-arranging our communal kitchen so that each room has use of their own area;
  • re-arranging/adding cupboards to ensure each room has it's own containing their crockery, cutlery, glasses and teatowel;
  • dividing the large lounge/dining area to make two separate areas for ‘bubbles’ to eat + relax;
  • re-arranging and 'naming' tables, enabling each room to have their own dining area;
  • building breakfast bars or adding tables within bedrooms;
  • adding kettles and mugs to give the option of tea / coffee making in each bedroom;
  • using a contact-less thermometer on each guest before they enter the hostel;
  • suppling/fitting various hand sanitiser stations throughout the Hostel (both alcohol & non-alcohol).

So, unlike what some folks thought, 'lock-down' closures did not mean holiday time here. We’ve been busy both inside and outside the hostel -

  • building a x10 bike secure shelter for our cycling guests, (thanks to labour by 'Lockdown' cyclist...a great job Roger);
  • setting out a fire-pit area so that guests can enjoy evenings beside an open fire and maybe have a BBQ dinner? (again, thanks to labour by Roger);
  • Finding new walking and cycling routes by networking with locals on social media, Strava, and Komoot;
  • Building connections with other local businesses to offer our guests more options for exploring the area, including guided walks, foraging and boat trips;
  • Keeping in touch with our Scottish Hostels (SH) members and other hostel associations (IHUK etc) to make sure we’re fully implementing all of the guidance for the hostel sector.
The new bike storage

We recognise that hostels across the country will want to offer reassurance to their guests that they will be able to enjoy their stay in a safe environment.  We’ve come up with a few questions that might worry folk who are thinking about booking at ArgyllBackpackers -

Can we book and then cancel due to Covid circumstances?

The short answer is 'No'. As of April 2022, all restrictions have now been lifted, and Covid-19 is treated as any other ailment, therefore normal T&Cs apply again.

Is the hostel clean and safe to use?

We are well prepared to meet the necessary hygiene requirements to ensure a Covid safe environment, some of the measure we have adopted include;

  • providing multiple hand sanitiser points for guests use (both alcohol & non-alcohol);
  • separately defined kitchen areas/cupboards, including cutlery & crockery for guest use;
  • installing timers & PIR/motion detector bulbs to minimise use of switches;
  • daily cleaning of all 'touchpoints', including kitchen appliances, as well as the usual 'Common-room' areas;
  • use of '24hr multiple touch' disinfectant spray on all 'touchpoints';
  • staff only enter bedrooms after guests check-out.
  • supplying extra cleaning materials in the 'shared bunkrooms' for guests use;
  • deep cleaning of rooms on check-out.

Can 'solo travellers' book a bed in a dorm room?

It’s a popular and normal part of hostel life to share dorms, so we can now again offer our usual shared dorm/bunk rooms.  The external bunkrooms have also been equipped with microwave ovens and cool boxes so that they can be self-sufficient without using the hostel kitchen if guests prefer.

The future and beyond!

If only we knew – but that won’t stop us improving the hostel and the range of experiences available for our guests. Our ‘to do’ list is always growing but we have added another few features to our rooms to make them more self-contained for those who wish to remain 'socially distant' e.g.

  • a small table and seating in bedrooms, so that guests can opt to eat breakfast or use their laptop there - outside bunk-rooms have undercover seating/tables by their room door;
  • in addition to the heaters already in each room, we have added electric towel heaters close to the en-suites so that guests staying for a few days can dry their towels more quickly; (please note these are towel radiators - not clothes driers...there is a 'drying/boot' room for wet/damp gear).
  • split 'Common-room' into 2 smaller ones...but now back to 'normal' open-plan layout.

The Wee Snug

For the start of 2022 season, our 1x double bedroom apartment underwent some changes, and now has a twin bedded room a mini hostel, still with private rooms, but a shared WC/shower-room. Apart from individual bookings, its also perfect for families or a couple of friends who want a quieter space, but still want the full hostel experience too.  

What’s awaiting you?

No matter whether you’re walking, cycling, kayaking, paddle boarding /wild swimming or driving through our beautiful area – there’s always a warm, friendly welcome, local advice to help you have an enjoyable stay here!

Well that’s us blogged out for this instalment, we’ll catch up soon.


Hostel Warden & Host at Argyll Backpackers

Related Posts

Related Posts