Interview: Claire from Morags Lodge

Morag's Lodge, Lochness, Scotland
Morag's Lodge, Lochness, Scotland

In interviewing Claire from Morags Lodge, I found out how Morags in Scotland became part of ‘Europe’s Famous Hostels’.

1) What is a typical day like for you?

We spend the morning preparing breakfast & packed lunches for our guests and give them any advice or tips required for their onward journey. Once our guests have departed the housekeeping team work their way around the hostel whilst the reception team prepare for our new guests, carry out various admin duties, answering calls & emails, hiring out Mountain Bikes, helping our guests book local activities or giving advice on hiking/cycling routes. Late morning, once most of our guests have departed or have left to explore for the day we have an unofficial team meeting where we chat about the plans for the day, such as what entertainment we are going to have in the bar or what home-made meal we are going to make that evening. It is important the staff get together on a daily basis to share ideas and discuss plans as this ensures we are all working with the same ethos in mind and strengthens the team by bringing people together. The success of any business is down to the people working for it and Morag’s Lodge has come up with some its best ideas during these team discussions. The duty manager spends the afternoon welcoming any early guests and carrying out a diverse set duties including HR, Marketing, dealing with suppliers and gathering customer feedback. Late afternoon is when our bar opens & we begin preparing our homemade meals. The majority of our guests arrive between 4pm and 7pm so we do what we can to make them feel welcome and provide them with all the information they need. The general trend is that early evening people are enjoying their dinner, relaxing on our comfy couches and meeting each other; then after a few local beers by around 9pm the atmosphere is a lot livelier! We offer entertainment each night in the bar which could be anything from live music, to a Pub Quiz, to our legendary Tartan Toga Parties! The bar closes at 1am… only a few hours until we do it all over again!

2) How did your hostel get on the list for ‘Europe’s Famous Hostels’?

To become a member of the Europe’s Famous Hostels group the youth hostel in question has to offer great value without compromising on the quality. The Europe’s Famous Hostels team search high and low throughout some of Europe’s most electrifying destinations to find hostels that matched the Famous Hostel standards and ethos: safe, fun, and the best experience. Famous Hostels need to offer top of the range accommodation and a unique user experience that guests will never forget! We applied to join, their team came to visit and loved what we offered and we were welcomed into their network. The goal of Europe’s Famous Hostels is to support each other, share experiences and increase sales throughout the network, which can only be done if all hostels that are part of the network have a similar ethos towards providing exceptional hostel experiences.

3) Did you have to meet certain criteria to get on this list?

In the last 10 years Europe’s Famous Hostels has had 28 new members get involved and join the passionate team making it a unique network spanning Europe. Each Famous hostel is an independent hostel assuring an authentic, local experience in each location. All members are dedicated to offering the best tips and advise for traveling and enjoying their destination. Staying with at a Europe’s Famous Hostels means a safer and smoother journey through Europe with guidance and support along the way. Aside from being assessed by the Famous Hostels team, online ratings on Hostelworld, Hostelbookers & Trip Advisor are also taken into consideration.

4) Who came up with the concept of the ‘people power initiative’?

We came up with the concept at a team meeting when discussing how we could reward those who are taking the time to enjoy the surrounding area, whether it be walking, cycling or kayaking, as these activities have a minimal impact on the diverse environment we are so luck to live in. An important part of our ethos is to communicate our environmental commitments to our employees, suppliers and guests, and seek their support in implementing our environmental policy and in promoting awareness and responsibility for our environment.

5) Was it to get people to enjoy the surrounding area on their way to Morags Lodge instead of rushing to get to their end destination?

Those who get here on their own steam tend to be travelling on a budget and we wanted a way to not only reward their effort but also to encourage interaction with the surrounding landscape. As we continue to develop, the pressures on our planet and its resources have never been greater. It is widely recognised today that the protection of our environment must be among the highest priorities of every business.

6) What would you tell someone who has never been to Fort Augustus before as to why they should choose this place to visit in all of Scotland?

We like to refer to Fort Augustus as the “hub” of the Highlands. It’s a traditional picturesque village on the Southern tip of Loch Ness and lies half way along the Great Glen. Surrounded by stunning mountains, fields full of “Hairy Coo’s” and with the Caledonian Canal at its heart there is no better place to base yourself. The mountains, lochs, rivers & forests provide endless opportunities for enjoying outdoor activities, you can spend your time hunting the elusive monster from the comfort of a cruise boat or try a local beer whilst you watch the boats cruise through the canal locks. Once you have exhausted all possibilities in the village itself within 1 hour you could be on the Isle of Skye or visiting Eilean Donan Castle, or visiting a local Whisky Distillery, or exploring Urquhart Castle, or Climbing Ben Nevis, or visiting Inverness…. The list goes on!

7) What advice would you give someone who would like to run their own hostel or work at one?

You have to be committed to providing the best experience possible for your guests. Ultimately this means maintaining a high standard of cleanliness & comfort whilst creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere. You need your guests to feel like they are at home so employing the right team that can deliver exceptional experiences is key. The great thing about running a hostel is diversity, of both the work involved and the fantastic people you meet!