Hostelling Scotland is opening the doors of 24 free rooms this September

Sarah Gowanlock (25) visited Allanfearn Waste Water Treatment in Inverness last year. She said: 'What an opportunity! I got to see where the water goes after flushing and learned so much. So much care and thought went into the presentations and we received a really warm welcome."
Sarah Gowanlock (25) visited Allanfearn Waste Water Treatment in Inverness last year. She said: 'What an opportunity! I got to see where the water goes after flushing and learned so much. So much care and thought went into the presentations and we received a really warm welcome."

Families and young people from across Scotland could enjoy a free weekend away – courtesy of Hostelling Scotland and the Scottish Civic Trust.

The Braw Buildings project is now open for applications, following a successful inaugural year.

Lois Marshall, Hostelling Scotland youth and families engagement officer, said: "Braw Buildings will give young people and families the opportunity to explore some of Scotland's most fascinating buildings, while at the same time exploring a new area of the country."

Lois Marshall, Hostelling Scotland youth and families engagement officer, said: "Braw Buildings will give young people and families the opportunity to explore some of Scotland's most fascinating buildings, while at the same time exploring a new area of the country."

In 2018, 34 young people from all over Scotland took part, staying free overnight at youth hostels and visiting unique buildings taking part in Doors Open Days.

This year, the partners are also opening up Braw Buildings to families with at least one child aged up to 15.

Some 24 rooms in six hostels have been allocated by Hostelling Scotland, a self-funding charity which was first founded in 1931.

Lois Marshall, the youth and families engagement officer, explained: “This year we will offer at least 24 weekend trips for both families and young people, across six youth hostels.

Amelia Masters from Edinburgh stayed at Glasgow Youth Hostel last year and enjoyed visiting the Tramway, where this stunning picture was taken. (Pic: Amelia Masters)

Amelia Masters from Edinburgh stayed at Glasgow Youth Hostel last year and enjoyed visiting the Tramway, where this stunning picture was taken. (Pic: Amelia Masters)

“We will support more than 70 young people and family members in total.

“They will all receive a two-night stay in a private room with breakfast in one of our youth hostels during the weekends that Doors Open Days is taking place.

“But it’s not being done on a needs basis this year.

“To allocate the trips we will take into account where families and young people are from to try to ensure a fair spread across the country, as well as where they wish to stay and visit.”

Participants can opt for Inverness Youth Hostel on August 30 and 31; Aberdeen and Pitlochry on September 6 and 7; Stirling on September 13 and 14; Glasgow on September 20 and 21 and Edinburgh on September 27 (one night only allocated in the capital).

Hostelling Scotland is looking for applications from young people in Scotland who are aged 16 to 25 or families with at least one child aged up to 15 years.

The aim is to encourage people to explore landmarks that are a little further afield.

Lois added: “Braw Buildings will give people the opportunity to explore some of Scotland’s most fascinating buildings, while at the same time exploring a new area of the country.

“For young people, it’s a great chance to perhaps take their first holiday without their parents.

“The feedback we received from participants last year was fantastic.

“The young people enjoyed their hostel experience, as well as getting the chance to visit some very unique sites.

“It was a huge success but we wanted to open it up this year to families with children too as it’s a great way for us to showcase all that Hostelling Scotland has to offer.”

Sarah Gowanlock from Edinburgh was between jobs last year when she decided to apply for Braw Buildings.

As she is originally from Connecticut, Sarah was keen to visit Inverness ... and she wasn’t disappointed.

But the 25-year-old didn’t follow the usual tourist pack – visiting Inverness Cathedral to try her hand at bell-ringing before taking a tour of Allanfearn Waste Water Treatment Works!

She said: “We took a tour up into the belfry at the cathedral before getting a chance to ring the bells.

“It was quite difficult as you had to use a circular motion to get it to work so it was really interesting as well as being a lot of fun.

“I decided to go to the waste water works because it’s something you don’t usually have the opportunity to visit. I’m interested in the environment so I was keen to find out how it all worked.

“It was fascinating and the staff were all incredible; they were delighted to have visitors and let us see what goes on behind the scenes.

“The average UK resident pays £1 a day for water services but, like me, probably never thinks about what that money is used for.

“Doing the tour gave me the chance to find out. It really was an eye-opening experience.

“The plant captures gases that power a turbine, which in turn provides the plant with 80 per cent of the electricity it uses. And the final solids product, known as cake, is used as agricultural fertiliser.

“I thoroughly enjoyed both visits as they were each unique in their own way.”

Now working for a charity, Sarah has nothing but praise for the Braw Buildings scheme.

She added: “I’d never been to Inverness before and, as I was between jobs at the time, I wouldn’t have been able to visit otherwise.

“I was absolutely thrilled to be given the opportunity and the hostel was lovely too.

“I’m more than happy to recommend it – people should give it a go. It was a fantastic experience.”

Amelia Masters from Edinburgh stayed at Glasgow Youth Hostel last year and enjoyed visiting the Tramway.

She said: “Taking part in Doors Open Days gave you the feeling that you were being let into a secret. All these doors that we see everyday and suddenly we’re invited to walk inside them, instead of passed them!”

The deadline for Braw Buildings applications is midnight on Monday, July 15, so young people and families are being encouraged to get their bids in now.

To apply, visit www.hostellingscotland.org.uk/braw-buildings.

Hostelling Scotland has more than 30 youth hostels, offering great value, flexible accommodation in some stunning locations. Visit www.hostellingscotland.org.uk for more details.

Celebrating 30 years of open doors

The Scottish Civic Trust is this year celebrating 30 years of Doors Open Days.

It was first staged in Glasgow and Ayr in 1990 where it formed part of the European City of Culture celebrations.

The success of that event encouraged other areas to participate the following year and it has now grown to cover almost every area of Scotland.

Around 1000 buildings are expected to open this year, generating more than 200,000 visits to sites and hidden architectural gems of all kinds in locations across Scotland. The full list of properties will be unveiled next month.

The aim is to ensure that Scotland’s built heritage, new and old, is made accessible to people living and visiting the country on weekends in September.

Dr Susan O’Connor, director of the Scottish Civic Trust, said: “Doors Open Days gives over 100,000 people free access to more than 1000 venues and events across Scotland every September.

“This year, we are celebrating 30 years of Doors Open Days with an incredible programme of events – from swimming pools full of flowers to tours of Scotland’s finest buildings hosted by refugees.

“Braw Buildings is a chance for young people and families to explore unknown parts of Scotland and learn about our shared cultural heritage. We can’t wait to learn about what they discover.”

For more information, visit the websites www.doorsopendays.org.uk or www.scottishcivictrust.org.uk.