Laurie joined as a SIH Chair in 2019
Dominique joined as a SIH Director in 2017
I moved from Yorkshire to Aberdeenshire with my husband Daniel in August 2016 to take over Ballater Hostel. I previously worked in banking for 11 years – so a slight change in career but we have never looked back.
Originally called Habitat @Ballater, the hostel has 29 beds and is set in the beautiful Cairngorms National Park. We’ve slowly put our mark on the place – officially changing the name in May 2017.
We’ve always been enthusiastic hostellers (first night of our honeymoon was spent in a hostel - Skiddaw House) and we don’t just rely on feedback from guests either – we cook in the kitchen, eat in the dining room and have slept in every bed – we test out noise levels, comfort, usability - all to enhance the customer experience. We love spending time talking, sharing stories and mixing with our guests. I personally jumped at the chance to join in a onesie party and we even had one group run a ceilidh from our living room! I’m a keen walker, caver (although not many caves in Scotland!) and outdoor enthusiast, dabble in running, occasionally cycle, orienteer when I can, and am keen to learn the bagpipes!
Richard Eccles has run Abernethy Bunkhouses with his wife Patricia (ex chair of SIH) since 1983. Drawn to the area by skiing, Richard remains a qualified ski instructor, they started with their 65 bed Hostel, Nethy House. The smaller Nethy Station, 26 beds, was purchase almost 20 years ago. Nethy House was sold a couple of years ago as it was in need of massive upgrade. The Station continues as a pre-booked groups only Hostel catering for a wide variety of clients from universities, schools, colleges, scout parties and stag and hens! As a side line, Richard is the Chairman for the Castle Roy Trust which is currently consolidation Scotland's oldest masonry fortification.
Abernethy Bunkhouse - Nethy Station, is a conversion of the railway station that served Nethy Bridge until 1963. The station has been used as a bunkhouse in various guises since the line was closed by Beeching in 1965. The Speyside Way runs past the old platform.
Nikki joined as an SIH director in 2018. She runs Loch Ness Backpackers Lodge in Drumadrochit, with her husband Patrick.
They spent their younger years travelling extensively and working overseas – between them they've been to over 40 countries. They have now been back in Scotland since 2016 and are enjoying a calmer pace of life, with two young children and a dog (all often present at the hostel). Nikki combines running the hostel with her ‘other’ job as a freelance book editor.
Nikki’s favourite thing about running a hostel is the variety of guests who come through the door – from European families to solo Japanese backpackers, Scottish Munro baggers to Australian adventurers. Every day is a new chance to meet someone with an incredible story!