Frequently Asked Questions
We haven’t thought of everything, so if you can’t find the information you want here, please get in touch. If you are making an enquiry about a specific hostel please make sure you mention which hostel or hostels you plan to visit.
These pages are kept up to date. This page was last updated on 29 November 2018.
What will my stay at the hostel cost?
A full list of charges can be found on our Visiting page
Are debit/credit cards accepted? No.
We take cash and cheques (made payable to GHHT or Gatliff Hebridean Hostels Trust). Credit and debit cards cannot be accepted – sorry.
It would be helpful if you had the exact change to pay your fees.
There are cash machines in the islands. For example you can find them at the following locations: Balavanich, Isle of Benbecula; Lochmaddy, North Uist; Tarbet, Isle of Harris; Stornoway, Isle of Lewis; Lochboisdale, Isle of South Uist.
Can I make an Advanced Bookings? No.
This advice assumes that you are travelling alone or with one or two friends. Different advice applies to groups of more than four people travelling together. See heading Groups below.
We are not able to take advanced bookings at any of our hostels but you are very unlikely to be turned away. There are some spare camp beds at each of our hostels in case the hostel is full. There is also room for camping. Our hostels (Berneray, Howmore and Rhenigidale) rarely operate at capacity. In other words there were beds available every night of the season. If more people turn up than the hostel can accommodate, say on a stormy night, we seem to manage to squeeze everyone in!
How do I claim a bed?
When you arrive at the hostel just find empty beds and claim them by making them up using the duvet and your sleeping bag. All beds are equipped with a fitted mattress cover, pillow and pillow case, duvet and duvet cover. You can hire sheet sleeping bags at the hostels for £2. Bags can be found in plastic boxes in the hostel. The bed is then yours for the duration of your stay. It is a strict requirement that all hostellers use a sleeping bag or one sort or another.
Are there rooms I can reserve for myself and my companions? No.
All our hostels are converted traditional croft houses. By their nature, they are small.
The hostels cater mainly for independent travellers travelling alone or with one or two companions. They are small. There just is not enough space for private rooms. All sleeping accommodation is in shared rooms. Howmore has four shared rooms. Berneray and Rhenigidale each have three. There is no dedicated family accommodation. Children under 5 years of age cannot be accommodated. We expect all under the age of 18 to be accompanied by a responsible adult. There a ‘lights out’ rule.
Can I arrive at any time – day or night? Yes.
The hostel door is never closed so you can arrive whenever convenient to yourselves. If it is late or very early please bear in mind that other hostellers may be sleeping. The warden does not live at the hostel, so find beds and claim them by making them up. Sheet sleeping bags can be hired at the hostels. (£2 for the duration of your stay.) If the hostel register is in the hostel, mark your name & address in the book and the number of nights you plan to stay. The warden may visit in the morning and early evening. You can also leave your details on the comment cards or envelopes which are provided at each hostel.
What do the hostels provide?
Bunk or camp beds, (there are a few camp beds at all the hostels in case all bunk beds are taken) blankets & duvets, cooking equipment and calor gas or electric stoves, cutlery, crockery and tea towels are provided. The hostels have toilets, washing facilities, hot & cold water and heating. Each has a coal burning Morso Squirrel Stove.
All the hostels have hot water from instantaneous heaters. All showers are heated by electric heaters.
If your experiences of Scottish Hostels go back to the 1960s and 1970s you will remember that you had to take your own tea towel, knife, fork and spoon. Those days are long gone.
Can I camp? Yes.
Camping is possible at all three of the hostels.in the hostel grounds.
We are not providing a camp site per se. Hostellers can camp if they so wish. We provide no pitches for camper vans. We can only give you permission to camp on our land. Much of the land surrounding our hostels is croft land which does not belong to the Gatliff Hebridean Hostels Trust. If you are camping elsewhere than on the hostel site (e.g. wild camping) and use the facilities at our hostels then it is necessary to pay the camping fee as set out above. Those who do not wish to pay our fees are asked not to use the hostel as this is unfair on the majority who are more than willing to pay. We are a voluntary organisation and have to meet all the costs of running and maintaining the hostels, some of which (e.g. electricity and maintenance) are high.
Will I meet the Warden? Usually.
Each hostel is looked after by a warden, a local person who lives near to the hostel. The warden visits each day to check the register, collect the overnight fees and check with the hostellers whether there are issues that need attending to.
Am I expected to contribute to the smooth running of the hostels? Yes.
Gatliff Hostels are not duty free. You are expected to do your own washing up, including any pots and pans you use. Please put them back where you found them. Pans and dishes piled up on the draining boards of sinks have to be cleared away by other hostellers.
Empty the rubbish from the kitchen bins into the local authority bins. Leave the bins by the roadside at Howmore on the appropriate days. (And return them to the hostel when empty).
If you have a fire, clear out the ashes from the stove in the morning and set the fire ready for lighting by incoming hostellers.
Keep toilets clean, wipe hand basins and shower trays after use. A good rule of thumb is to leave everything as you would like to find it!
Can I treat Sunday like any other day of the week? Be respectful.
Sabbath observance is a feature of life in many parts of the islands but especially in Harris and Lewis. Please respect local feelings on this issue.
Are there restrictions on staying at the hostels? A few.
For practical reasons, and the well being of the children themselves, it is not possible to accommodate children under 5 years of age. No special facilities are available for young children or babies.
We assume that as a hosteller you are a travelling alone or with a few friends and that you are using the hostel to deepen your knowledge and understanding of the islands. We do not permit long-term stays. We define a long stay as two weeks. Admittance to the hostel and length of stay are at the warden’s sole discretion. We also assume that you will show respect and consideration to other hostellers. Hostellers who do not conform to this norm will be asked to leave.
If you arrive or leave late or very early, please make as little noise as possible as other hostellers may be sleeping.
If I leave property at a hostel, what can I do to recover it?
If you leave anything behind at any of our hostels please write to “Gatliff Hostel” at Berneray, Isle of Berneray, North Uist (HS6 5BJ), Howmore, Isle of South Uist (HS8 5SH) or Rhenigidale, Isle of Harris (HS3 3BD) enclosing a stamped addressed envelope or international reply coupon. If your item has been found the warden will advise you about how much postage should be sent for your property to be returned.
Generally though, neither the warden nor the Trust can accept responsibility for the safety of visitors or their property.
Can I bring a dog? It depends.
For practical reasons hostellers with dogs are not to allow them into the hostel. All hostels have communal kitchen and eating facilities for self-catering. All sleeping accommodation is in shared rooms. If you have a vehicle or a tent then your dog must be left in your vehicle or tent. Assistance dogs can be admitted.
Can a large group come together to a hostel? No.
Sadly, our hostels cannot accommodate large groups. The hostels are used almost entirely by independent travellers. All are small, renovated croft houses. If you are travelling in a group of more than four, please check with the warden if it is OK to stay before you bag any beds. This should not, however, deter a party from visiting the islands. Other modestly-priced accommodation is available in the islands which welcomes groups on tour. The tourist information office in Stornoway can advise. Their number is 01851 703088
Will I arrive too late to stay at Howmore if I drive off the ferry scheduled to arrive at at Lochboisdale at 9 pm in the evening, or at Berneray if my ferry should arrive at Lochmaddy at 9.15 pm? No.
You are welcome whenever you arrive. The doors of our hostels never close. However, please bear in mind that other hostellers may be sleeping so approach the buildings and enter the place with the minimum of noise.
Can I view the timetables for the buses in the Outer Hebrides? Yes.
There is a comprehensive bus service in the islands, and the Islands’ Council, Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar provides the timetable information. Some buses take bikes. Buses on the inter-island north – south link connect with the ferries. In other words ferries wait for the buses and buses wait for the ferries. The north – south bus service in the Uists terminates at Berneray Youth Hostel. You will see this destination information displayed on the relevant buses.
The timetables may be downloaded from the local authority’s web site here.
Do I need to book the bus to and from Rhenigidale? YES
The timetable asks you to ring in advance to request use of the bus to Rhenigidale. This is necessary especially during school terms because this bus service doubles as the school bus. So if a large number of hostellers want to use the bus in either direction a bigger bus has to be provided.
The timetable for the W11 bus service to Rhenigidale and the operator’s contact details can be found on the local authority’s web site: Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
Take a torch – there are few street lights but you will see the stars.
It is advisable to carry a torch. There are few street lights in the islands, especially near our hostels. Nights can be very dark.
By the same token visiting our hostels presents a great opportunity to see the stars, the moon, nearby planets and the milky way. If you are lucky you might catch the Northern Lights