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New book by author Dave Goulder tells tale of 'rebel hostel' near Torridon in Wester Ross that was a magnet for musicians and mountaineers

By Caroline McMorran

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A MANwho ran the first truly independent hostel in the country more than 50 years ago has compiled a book with friends about his experience and that of people who stayed at the secluded Wester Ross spot.

Dave Goulder (83) and his then wife Liz Dyer opened up Glen Cottage in Torridon as a privately-run hostel on August 4, 1967, after negotiating a six-year lease on the property.

Dave Goulder holds up a copy of his new book.
Dave Goulder holds up a copy of his new book.

His new book A Torridon Portfolio – Rebel Hostel in the Glen tells the fascinating story of the birth, short life and death of the hostel which became a magnet for musicians and mountaineers.

The 108-page illustrated paperback has been compiled by Dave from the recollections of regular users of the hostel in the late 1960s and early 1970s – and the tales are both comic and tragic.

Well known in Sutherland and beyond as a true creative, Dave is a master craftsman dry stone dyker, folk singer, composer and author with a passion for motorbikes. He has had a varied career including working in a variety of roles on the railways. He spent four years running hostels for mountaineers and before opening Glen Cottage, he was the warden at the original SYHA hostel at Achnashellach.

Dave went on to become the instructor to the Highlands and Islands Agricultural Training Board.

He has recorded a number of LPs and CDs and written song books, including a collection of railway songs and a book of verses on birds and stone walls.

With no membership ties, rules or curfew, Glen Cottage quickly established itself a place in history. Guests were told they could bring their own drink if they wanted to – but had to bring common sense too.

Soon, well known names in mountaineering and folk singing were beating a path to its door.

The hill walkers and climbers came first, but then because of Dave and Liz’s place in the then folk music revival, musicians began to drift in, followed by their friends and fans. There was also a scattering of characters and eccentrics who were just passing through. Ceilidhs at Glen Cottage became renowned.

Dave said: “Aly Bain brought his fiddle, Tom Patey brought his accordion and Chris Bonnington – and Chris brought Hamish MacInnes. Guitar royalty Davey Graham, composer William Sweeney and even the Magic Roundabout man Eric Thompson trod the floor boards.”

Glen Cottage as it is today. It is in the ownership of the National Trust for Scotland. Picture: Hector Mackenzie
Glen Cottage as it is today. It is in the ownership of the National Trust for Scotland. Picture: Hector Mackenzie

The book recalls the research chemist turned gillie who carried deer offal down his welly boots, and the tramp-like character who adored Mozart and sang selections in his own mouth music.

As one visitor said: “Glen Cottage needs a record. So many of us grew there.”

To purchase the book (£8 plus £2 p&p), visit www.davegoulder.co.uk or email: goulder4929@gmail.com

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