The YHA hostel at Roshven

Blairs Cottage in Roshven was a YHA Hostel for a year, in 1959.

The article below is an extract from Hamish Cameron's travel diary.

Extract from Travel Diary.

Thursday - 18th June 1959
A glorious morning of clear skies and sunshine, was up just after seven and swithered whether to go up on hills or push on to Roshven. Roshven won the day for me, and the two Bills decided to join me, Ron having to turn for Crianlarich. I was ready for the road at 9.15 but the boys were just starting breakfast so, leaving them at it, Ron and I went down into village where we idled in the sun. Ron went off and at 10.30 the boys turned up, only to disappear into the shop to buy supplies. We set off for the ferry at 11 and were just through Ballachulish when the boys remembered they had forgotten their cards and had to turn back. We got across the ferry just on 12, and the Corran about 15 minutes later.

The road followed the shore of Loch Linnhe, fringed on the shore side by trees and giving delightful views across the loch towards Glencoe and the Appin shore. We turned due west and, with the wind at our back, climbed up Glen Tarbert and drummed up just over the summit. Despite my entreaties to hurry, the boys took nearly 2 hours over their dinner and it was 5.15 when we arrived at Strontian. The road wound and twisted up and down, giving breathtaking views of Loch Sunart. I wondered just where the floating church had been moored.

We reached Salen and then Acharacle, to look away up Loch Shiel, and I remembered another sunlit day out of Glencoe when I visited Glenfinnan away up at the other end, A stiffish climb took us over onto Loch Moidart and, as we flew down, we could see the fantastic shape of Eigg away on the western horizon.

On a flat piece of ground Bill spotted seven trees planted in a row and we guessed (correctly, as we later found) that these trees commemorated the Seven Men of Moidart. It is hard to be in this area and not keep thinking of Prince Charles Edward and his brave bid to win back the throne which was his by right. Soon we were in Kinloch Moidart (a Post Office) and the road came to an end, it was 5.55pm.

The path to Loch Ailort was level and broad - for 100 yards - and then it got narrow and started to twist uphill. In places it was 1/3, if not steeper; and we pushed and sweated, our feet slithering in the gravel, and stopped every few yards to draw breath. I had been expecting something like this (hence my efforts to hurry earlier on) but, to the boys, it came as a revelation and what they thought of me as we sweated blood up that path I just shudder to think, for, without me, they would never have thought of Roshven. It took us over 50 minutes for the first mile, and 45 for the second; at one part it took two of us to take a bike up over some rocks. Bill started to take the '"knock" but overcame it by munching biscuits as we struggled on.

At last the top of the pass, 700ft I reckoned, and what a view away down the coast to Ardnamurchan. We had to go through a gate at the top and we saw a lot of cairns, some with crosses, and we guessed these to be burial cairns. The path was rideable for a bit and suddenly we were in sight of houses – Glenuig.

Some men building a house found it hard to believe we had actually brought bikes from Kinloch Moidart. The path continued uphill and down dale but a little easier than before and for bits we could ride, although I took a toss, fortunately into a bank of heather. We had just come through a very wet patch where the bikes sank to the hubs when Bill, with a cry of dismay, found his bag burst and that all the food had fallen out. The other Bill immediately ran back along the track and was soon lost to view. We started checking up and discovered that this only thing missing was a number of potatoes, and Bill returned 10 minutes later with two - a poor reward for his search.

My cyclometer read 8 miles and we came through a clump of trees to see a cottage with that beautiful red triangle - we had arrived at Roshven Youth Hostel and it was 9.5 pm.

We were the only hostellers but there was a warden (a young nurse from Kent), a roaring log fire and, wonder of wonders, Calor gas for cooking. Soup, Sausages and Spuds, and tinned Oranges, with tea, and a very welcome bed brought to an end a day not likely to be soon forgotten.

Friday - 19th June, 1959
I awoke at 9 am, looked out dormitory skylight to see blue sky from horizon to horizon. I think I must have been really tired to sleep so late, the boys too because they were not up till 9.30. What I like about remote hostels like this is the informality.

Decided on a day on the hills and, after breakfast and a general cleaning-up, left hostel just before 11 for Rhois Bheinn (the warden and her mother were off to Glenuig before 10).

We were just on the hill when were hailed by a tall, middle-aged man in a well-worn tweed suit, accompanied by two dogs. He asked us to look out for a heifer he was keeping for a neighbour and which, he was afraid, was in a bog hole. I jaloused he was the Laird, Mr Blackburn, and thanked him for the use of the cottage and his reply was a real compliment to the SYHA.

He said we knew how to behave in the country and our standards were high. I hope he never gets reason to think otherwise. He told us to climb Sgur Dhomnuill Mhor for the best views and this we did. On the summit we were about 2400 ft. and the views were superb - Ardnamurchan, Moidart, Lochs Sunart and Shiel, Cruachan, Nevis and Glencoe, Knoydart, Morar and the road to the Isles, Lochs Ailort and Nan Uamh, Rhum, Eigg and Canna and last, but not least, the Black Cuillins of Skye. We just drank in the beauty and colour, while lunching on sardine sandwiches.

After eating, we scrambled down onto a broad ridge connecting our mountain to Rhois Bheinn and we had a fine view Into a huge deep valley. While looking down we saw a large herd of deer (well over 30) and a sight I have never seen before, two foxes moving fast off our ridge and down into the valley. They were obviously hunting and, although they vanished into the background after a few seconds, it was a sight I shall never forget. Later, Bill flushed a ptarmigan which he had never seen before.

We climbed Rhois Bheinn (2870 ft) but the views were not as good as on the other mountain as the top was rounded instead of sharp. The exception was the view of Loch Ailort, which was grand. Came down south-west face which was steep and rocky but not too bad, and were in hostel at 6.30.

We ate up my iron rations (steaks and chops) which, with soup, beans and the last of the spuds, went down well
A walker turned up later and we all (Warden included) went down to a lovely wee bay of pure white sand and watched the sun setting over Rhum and Eigg, a fitting end to an unforgettable day.

Saturday - 20th June 1959

Sun bright and warm when we rose at 7.30. As the boys were worried about trusting their bikes to the remaining 4 miles of path between the hostel and Inverailort, we decided to take the ferry which the Warden told us would be off the beach before the big house at 9.30. We got down at 9.10 after taking a reluctant departure from this grand wee hostel.

We lay in the sun, and at 9.50 were joined by Mr & Mrs Blackburn, and their younger son of about 6, who were also going on the ferry The “Jacobite" appeared at about 10.10, stopped about 50 yards offshore and sent a minute dinghy to take us on board.

Bill & Will on Sgurr Dhomnuil

The old, familiar game of slithering about on wet seaweed; holding up a bike with several feet of cold salt water a few inches away, was gone through before the Bills, myself and the boatman were installed in the dinghy, with the bikes piled on top of one another in the stem.

The bikes hung over on each side and the freeboard was about 2 inches, but fortunately there was a flat calm and after about 10 agonising minutes we were safely aboard the Jacobite, which is a substantial boat about as big as a Dunure fishing boat. My pump went for a sail but was quickly retrieved by the aid of a boathook and by my hanging over the side, with Bill holding my legs.

The sail up Loch Ailort was a real joy and I spent part of the time talking to the teacher from Glenuig who told me she had seven pupils, which surprised me, and also to the Laird who said it took 3½ acres to feed a sheep here and also that the heifer had crossed over to its home in the next glen.

We reached Inverailort at 11.10 and after paying our fare (5/6d each, including cycle) we went to the main road, where the Bills and I parted, they heading east to Glen Nevis, while I was for Skye.

I enjoyed their company very much, as they were cheery, but it was good to be on my own again.