BROADMEADOWS Youth Hostel has become an iconic symbol of youth hostelling in Scotland, launching an organisation which opened up the great outdoors to thousands of working class hikers.
But, as we reported last week, sentiment was cast aside with the news from the Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA) that Broadmeadows, with its spectacular outlook over the Yarrow valley, is earmarked to close, along with the hostels in Melrose and Kirk Yetholm.
The three are among five Scottish facilities which will be sacrificed to “enhance the future performance and long-term sustainability” of SYHA’s 46 other hostels.
According to Councillor Nicholas Watson (Melrose and Lauderdale), who met SYHA chief executive Keith Legge ahead of last week’s announcement, occupancy at Broadmeadows, near Selkirk, in the season past was only 13 per cent.
However, he stressed that, while Melrose and Kirk Yetholm would close in January, it was likely that Broadmeadows would stay open for another season.
“If its business could be boosted in the meantime, then in theory the first youth hostel in Scotland could get a reprieve,” said Mr Watson this week.
Selkirkshire councillor Vicky Davidson, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for economic development, also believes Broadmeadows is not a lost cause.
“I was at the 75th anniversary celebrations there five years ago and it is very sad that it is now so under-used,” she told TheSouthern.
“I believe there must be an opportunity for the hostel to be better promoted and marketed to bring more people to stay, either under the SYHA umbrella or with a new operator, and I will be working hard to make this happen.”
Another Selkirkshire councillor, Carolyn Riddell-Carre, said: “I cannot help feeling sorry that the oldest youth hostel in Scotland is passing into history.”
Borders MP Michael Moore wants the decision to close all three of the region’s youth hostels reconsidered.
“I am very concerned about the news that SYHA Hostelling Scotland is planning to close the three hostels,” said Mr Moore.
“Tourism is an extremely important industry here and the low cost accommodation provided by SYHA makes it accessible as a holiday destination for young people and those on a tighter budget.
“I will be contacting Mr Legge to urge him to reconsider these plans and save these hostels from closure.”
The Scottish Government’s tourism minister Fergus Ewing MSP appears unlikely to apply similar pressure on the SYHA. A spokesperson for his department said: “It’s disappointing to hear about the closure of the hostels, but we understand the association has had to adapt its strategy to suit changing customer behaviour.
“There is a real mix of accommodation in the area and we hope that visitors will continue to enjoy the unique visitor experience on offer in the Borders.”
It appears that the Borders’ loss will be the Scottish network’s gain.
Mr Legge said: “SYHA aims to offer guests the best possible facilities at an affordable budget cost. Our ongoing review has resulted in many of our properties [most recently at Lochranza on Arran, Oban and Glenbrittle] upgraded to provide smaller rooms, some with ensuite facilities to suit couples, families and smaller groups, along with the traditional overnight and larger group accommodation and services provision.”
Broadmeadows Youth Hostel was opened in May 2, 1931. Originally a row of four cottages, it was converted and gifted to the fledgling SYHA by the late William Stewart Morton.
TheSouthern understands that a local accommodation business in Kirk Yetholm is in discussion with the SYHA over the possible acquisition of the village hostel.