SYHA to consider new hostel

FAR from abandoning the Borders, youth hostel bosses revealed yesterday they are looking at opening a new facility in the region.

SYHA Hostelling Scotland put their Melrose and Yetholm facilities on the market on Monday, but granted Broadmeadows in the Yarrow Valley a further season to prove its worth.

And, just as TheSouthern went to press yesterday, the organisation’s chief executive Keith Legge revealed: “We are exploring options for opening a new youth hostel in the Borders, resources permitting.”

Scottish Borders Councillor Vicky Davidson, SBC’s economic development executive member, said: “That would be very good news, but it’s not something SYHA Hostelling Scotland have mentioned in their meetings with us, although we stressed it would be a great mistake for them not to have any youth hostel presence in the Borders. The 6,700 visitors who stayed at their hostel in Melrose last year is a big market.”

The 80-bed Priorwood House in Melrose is for sale at £850,000, while the five-bedroom Kirk Yetholm property is priced at £130,000.

Action group Friends of Melrose Youth Hostel had hoped the charity would gift or sell the Melrose hostel to them and news of the sale came as a surprise.

The group’s John Hawkins said: “We need to consider our next move, which could be a community buy-out.”

And there have been advances by a party wanting to continue running the Yetholm operation as a hostel.

Councillor Davidson said: “There is interest in keeping the Yetholm hostel as a hostel. They have been in touch with the SYHA directly, but that opportunity may be gone now it’s on the open market. They were surprised they had not been told it was being put on the market.”

Melrose hotel, the George and Abbotsford, has decided against becoming an ‘associate’ hostel because of the changes SYHA would want it to make and hotelier Philip Titley said: “We are really hoping we can keep people within Melrose with the rooms we already have. We want to make sure people still visit and have somewhere to stay within their budget.”

Broadmeadows – Scotland’s first hostel, opened in 1931 – has been given an extra month’s opening, now starting in May, in a bid to increase usage.

Mr Legge yesterday refuted criticism, saying: “SYHA has worked hard to collaborate with all interested parties to find solutions.”

Opening Broadmeadows earlier in the season came about following a community meeting he said, adding: “We have given an undertaking to review the situation again at the end of the year.”

He said the organisation “has been in discussions with independent operators regarding the sale of Kirk Yetholm as an affiliate hostel and going concern” and that there are ongoing opportunities for independent backpackers to become SYHA affiliates

He continued: “Additionally, we are currently exploring longer-term options for opening a new youth hostel in the Borders, resources permitting.

“Since announcing closure of the youth hostels nearly five months ago, SYHA has publicly stated on a number of occasions that we would welcome any viable proposals concerning the future of these hostels.

“Sadly, no such proposal has been forthcoming and regrettably the buildings are now being publicly marketed for sale.”