Surviving Lockdown: The hostel story, so far!

July 19, 2021
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 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!
  • 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 for sharing trivia with folk we couldn’t visit
  • practice new recipes for home cooked meals – lots of practice using the long forgotten bread maker and making gallons of home made soup
  • treat yourself with leisurely bath time and scented candles – we substituted the bath with the equally relaxing alternative to binging on box sets?

Monthly Picture Diary

April 2020: watching seals sunbathing

Okay, so we were still enjoying the lack of activity and enjoying the watching the seals relaxing too.

May 2020: pedalling back to the hostel

Okay, so maybe it’s 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?

June 2020: another day, another dog walk

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 area lmost always horses in the field and they’re very curious and friendly – even the hostel dog doesn’t scare them off!

July2020: 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 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

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.

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(not yet!)

January 2021: getting ready to take the plunge

The water was so clear and inviting, just a pity it was so very cold, 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-boardor kayak, 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 the hostel hound 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

Okay, so 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!

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 isCovid Safe and we’ve despite the relaxing times shown in our photos we have been extremely busy -

  • converting our layout to have all rooms en-suite;
  • re-arranging our communal kitchen so that different household ‘bubbles’ use their own area;
  • dividing the large lounge/dining area to make two separate areas for ‘bubbles’ to eat + relax;
  • adding kettles and cups to give the option of tea / coffee making in each room;
  • using contact-less thermometers for each guest before they enter the hostel.

We’ve also been busy outside the hostel -

  • building a bike shelter for our cycling guests;
  • setting out a fire-pit area so that guests can enjoy evenings beside an open fire and maybe have a BBQ dinner?
  • 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 hostel associations (SIH and IHUK) to make sure we’re fully implementing all of the guidance for the hostel sector.

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?

For all new bookings between now and 31st May 2021 we only need a 10% deposit.  This will be refunded up to 48hours before your arrival date, if you have to cancel due to Covid-19travel restrictions or Covi-19 symptoms.

Is the hostel clean and safe to use?

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

  • providing hand sanitiser for guests use;
  • separately defining kitchen areas, including cutlery and crockery for guest use;
  • reducing the scope for cross contamination by removing leaflets, books, games etc.
  • marking a one way system between rooms and other hostel spaces
  • deep steam cleaning of rooms on check-out.

Can we still book a bed in a dorm room?

It’s a popular part of hostel life to share dorms and although the guidance is being kept under review, it’s likely that we’ll still be able to offer dorm bunks but the number of guests allowed in the dorm will be reduced – to allow for social distancing.  In the meantime we have divided the lounge / dining area for use by separate households / bubbles and we’ve added kettles & mugs in all rooms.  The external bunk rooms have also been equipped with microwave ovens and cool boxes so that they can be self sufficient without using the hostel kitchen.

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 always growing but at the top of the current list we intend to add another few features to our rooms to make them more self contained e.g.

  • a small table and seating so that guests can opt to eat breakfast or use their laptop there;
  • in addition to the heaters already in each room, we also plan to add wall heaters close to the en-suites so that guests staying for a few days to dry their towels more quickly;
  • we’re planning to offer basic breakfast bags for guests to have in their room or when they set off on their journey.

What’s waiting for you when you eventually manage visit us?

No matter whether you’re walking, cycling, kayaking, paddle boarding /wild swimming or driving through our beautiful area – there’s always a treat in store!

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


Hostel Warden & Host at Argyll Backpackers

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