NI Youth Hostel History
We were founded in 1931 and are looking at our 90th birthday next year. We have been collecting photos, stories and memories from the past decades and are more and more convinced that it’s worth sharing with everyone out there.
We are still in the process of curating an archive collection. In the meantime we will share bits and pieces with you which we think really stand out. Enjoy!
The following diary transcript and photos was sent to us by Mary’s son. Mary (who was 17 years old at the time) went on a cycling trip with her two sisters Ella and Jean from Scotland to Northern Ireland. Here is what they were up to.
Mary, Jean, Ella (Unfortunately we don’t know the order)
TOURING IN NORTHERN IRELAND July 1936
DIARY KEPT BY MARY M. HARVIE
On 17th July on Friday morning we left home. Going to Garrion Bridge, then Strathaven, Darvel, smell of morning rolls. Gee it was cold in the early hours. Galston, Mauchline and Ayr. Visited Woolworths then on to Maybole. Breakfast here at 10.30. Down to Girvan. Ella bought cape here for it was raining at times. Along the coast road from Girvan. A bit hilly nearer Ballantrae. Had tea at Cairnryan then down to Stranraer. Arrived 5 p.m. Went to harbour and bought tickets. Then back to the shops and gardens. Had a wash up at a place then back on to the boat.
Trainload of Glasgow people arrived, crowded a bit. Lowered cars and bikes on to steamer. Took ages to get away an hour late! When leaning on rail of deck we commenced (Jean did) a conversation with three Irish boys. Ella and I were talking to a lady from Cushendun who had been motoring in Scotland for holidays. Then we all started talking and at the invitation of the lads we went down to the saloon. No seats but sat on floor. Awfully decent boys. Had tea and pie. Great fun. They had been to Scotland for three weeks motoring and had a great time. They helped to find a place to sleep in as the affiliated hotel was full. They gave us their coats as it was raining heavy. We met Dr. Ryan who told me to take Halibut Cod Liver Oil and gave me his sunglasses and his phone number.
The next morning we went to the harbour for the bikes. On our way out of Larne the car came along with the two boys. They stopped and had a chat. We then pushed on for Glendun (hostel). Stopping at Cushendall to look for the signpost, who appeared but the two lads again? We saw then at the hostel that night again and on Sunday morning we said Goodbye to them.
Going through Cushendall we heard someone hailing us. Mr. Coular from Shotts. We were surprised. He treated us to chocolate. Queer old Irish warden at Glendun expressed her wish to have her hair cut and to wear shorts. We could not get potatoes here.
On Sunday morning it was raining heavily. We left first and made for Ballycastle. Hostel meal here.Then on to Giants Causeway.Very interesting but also very wet. Paid 4/- for a guide to explain all the points of interest. Carried on to Coleraine. From there the people were so stupid they couldn’t tell us the hill road to Stradreagh. We had to go right to Downhill. Had tea in the P.O. here. Over the Bishop’s road. We met two Derry boys en route they told us where the hostel was.
Arrived after 9 p.m. The warden was about to be going to bed. We bought provisions and in the pouring rain arrived at the hostel. Only a married couple there. The door was locked. The man came down in his pyjamas he apologised for not being able to put in our bikes. We got in eventually, ate washed and went to bed.
They were away before we were right up the following morning. Jean attempted to light the primus with my reading the instructions. Horrors, it would do nothing but flame up. It burned all the paraffin out before it stopped. Ella still in bed. We attacked another one with the same result. I ran for the Warden. Ella appeared to say that it was going. What a joke. We were soot from top to bottom. We eventually got our breakfast made, leaving about mid-day. When the rain had gone off we made tracks for Draperstown Affiliated Hostel. Going through Dungiven we took the mountain road to Draperstown. We did have a climb up among the Heather, sheep, hills and peat, very rough going down but we managed it. Very nice place had a lovely supper, rested and off to bed. Supper, tea bed and breakfast for 3/6d each.
Taking the road through the Six Towns then alongside Lough Fea in glorious sunshine very rough in parts but lovely scenery. We arrived at Cookstown had tea and biscuits here. Then on again through Moy to Armagh. Market day here roads very busy. Small boy said “Jiggers they’ve got the trousers on them too.” Two lads on a lorry tried to speak to us but an old gentleman was trying to explain the district to us at the time. The lads were so disgusted with him they threw cherries at him.
Along a lovely road still in lovely sunshine we arrived at Ballymoyer House. Eight Glasgow boys here and the Lone Wolf. We had great fun all evening. We washed the dish cloths in the river while the boys tried their best to put us in.They had off our socks and shoes and carried us upside down and made us walk on the stones. Then we went for a walk through the grounds. The was a part of the huge house which was closed. The boys got the key from the Warden and we all went to investigate. They were making the handles shake and a dish of water was balanced on top of a door. One of the boys went in but luckily as the dish came down he caught it with both hands. Then we climbed through the sky light on to the roof had a marvellous view. When we came to get down Ronnie had moved the ladder away. One of the boys dropped down and put it back. Just then Ronnie appeared and asked if we had been calling for him. He got bumped on the stone floor.
That night they made supper for 11 of us 1 lb. cheese and 8 eggs. When eating same one of the lads turned to Jean. (Her nose being very red.) He remarked in loud tones “That’s a terrible whisky snitch you’ve got.” (Then casually) “I hope you’re no offended.” We howled for half an hour. Ronnie was kidded he had to sleep with us. More laughter. In the morning we had a shot on their tandem. Then goodbye at the crossroads.
We continued down to Newry weather lovely. Next Warrenpoint a lovely seaside village. Had tea here very nice place. Speaking to some Glasgow boys. On to Rostrevor. The sun shining great. Then into Kilkeel. From there we had a little difficulty in finding Aughnaloopy Hostel and it wasn’t really worth finding. No warden key kept at a shop. Called for provisions at shop. The girl asked Jean to cut the bacon. We could not get potatoes they were not ready. Three Belfast girls very uppish and Lancashire couple the opposite. After the three had gone to bed we had a nice sing song round the fire.
A postcard Mary bought at the hostel
The next morning Thursday 23rd it was pouring rain. Luckily we were only doing a short run to Bloody Bridge Hostel. We stopped at Annalong a lovely wee Irish village. The harbour had small fishing boats in and the Mountains of Mourne looked down to the sea. The water was stormy and the breakers were coming right in over the wall. Had tea in a nice house. Some Glasgow folk here too. Their speech was recognisable almost everywhere you went. Spent quite a time in Annalong then the sun came out again. The scenery really is picturesque in the district. After a short run along the coast and fuchsia hedges we came to the Y.H.A. sign. It really is a mountain climb before you reach the hostel. A small path leads up through the Mountains. You reach the cycle shed half way up. Gladly you leave the bike. Another corner still going up and you reach the Warden’s house. Mr. and Mrs. Felix O’Neil very typically Irish. Two kids who refused to wear shoes. Quite a nice store then on at last to the Hostel. A nice company here. Two Glasgow scouts complete with kilts. A Welshman, a Londoner, Lancashire and Scotch, but not an Irishman. One of the scouts, Colin, was a great singer. He entertained us. We spent the next day (Friday 24th)here too. Walked to Newcastle in the morning about 4 miles distant. Bought our provisions, carrots, liver, sausages, bread and sponge. Potatoes!
On leaving Newcastle to come back to the hostel the rain came on. A motorist passing very kindly gave us a lift the gate at the foot. He was an insurance agent.
Having a good meal we all went out to climb Slieve Donard. However the grass was very wet and the whins very jaggy. I slipped and got the seat of my shorts soaken. We had a bracing wind blowing round too. Retracing our footsteps we arrived at the Hostel soaken. After having a hot rub down we gathered round the fire. Then an Eightsom Reel (Scottish ceilidh dance) followed. Jolly good fun.
Sat. 25th . Sun was early up. Raining about 10. Had breakfast and took some snaps. Then off through Newcastle, for Belfast. Stopped at Ballynahinch for tea. A C.T.C. (Cycling Touring Club) place. We were wet. The lady was awfully decent. She kindled a fire in a very nice room. Bacon, eggs and bread we did justice to it. Waited till the rain cleared then off again. Busiest road we had been on in the north of Ireland.
Reached Belfast in the afternoon. Only inquired once for the Waverley Hotel. Very nice place. Signed the book then shown our room. Went out and had a look at shops. The people had a good look at us. Quite a wet night turned, so back to the hotel had a lovely supper of fish and chips. Very nice dining room. Heaps of bread, butter, jam and marmalade. Before retiring and after a bit of arguing Jean rang up Dr. Ryan. He was not in. So she said it was one of the three cyclists. The girl said he would be in, in an hour’s time. 10 p.m. Jean went to bed and saucily told me to phone. After a bit of swithering Ella and I went down. I rang him up again. The girl said he wasn’t in but he had been ringing and was anxious to see us. So I told her where we were when I mentioned C.H.C.L.O. she gave a chuckle. So Ella and I went up to the bedroom again. I had my pyjamas on and Ella was struggling with 2 curling pins. When a voice and a knock said that Dr. Ryan on the phone now. Ella nearly fell on the floor in a heap but she recovered and ran down. I hastily donned my shorts again and followed. She gave me the phone when I appeared. He was ever so nice and arranged to call at lunch time on Sunday (the next day). We eventually got to bed.
The rain had gone. We had breakfast then out and had 2nd run in the car to see Belfast. Explored a wee park. Then back to the centre of the town. Twelve thirty, so we made tracks for the hotel again. A wash up then the maid announced a gentleman to see you in the lounge. Ella and I went down he came across the room with his hand outstretched. He was rather nice then he produced tablets and ointment to cure my eye. He was very sorry to see it was not better and told me I should have three weeks holiday. (What a hope). Jean then arrived so we had a pleasant talk. He had some patients to see and it was lunch time. So very sorrowfully we said goodbye.
Very nice lunch with the proprietess at the head of the table dividing it out. Everybody sat down together.
We then took a tram for Bellvue. Zoo, rock gardens then Hazelbank, with a lovely dance hall and café. An indicator on the hill and a duck pond. We returned in the evening. Then went to look for Percy Street where Miss Major lived. She wasn’t in however, so back to the Hotel. The people were most ignorant especially the kids in the poorer parts of the city.
On coming down to breakfast a Lancashire lad was sitting. He started talking immediately. So he invited himself to come with us to Stormont. We cycled over cobbles and very busy traffic. Lovely Government building. Beautiful ceilings with the light formation in squares and floodlighting system. The windows where Parliament sits are opened by pressing a button. Electricity. Jolly good idea. The building itself is like a palace. The upstairs apartments are used as offices. The City Hall, Belfast, is also very nice and like Stormont is also used as offices of all kinds. In the banqueting hall there is a huge carpet. Hand woven Donegal tweed. A statue of Queen Victoria stands outside.
Belfast was very busy Monday morning rush. We went back to our hotel, collected our bags and off. Through Carrickfergus old castle here and also a lovely view from the shore. The sun was shining gloriously. The Lancasheer was still with us, but it was most annoying as you could not make out half of what he said. We arrived at Whitehead where the road goes straight to Larne and the other goes on to Islandmagee. We tried to persuade Lancasheer to take the main road but to no avail. He came on to Islandmagee with us. After three or four attempts to get out of the village of Whitehead we had to enquire. Every road we took was a Cul-de-sac.
Lovely scenery and lovely sunshine made the run most enjoyable. He left us about 5 miles from Whitehead. While we took the road to Mullaghloy. A short run and we arrived at Port Muck Hostel. Very nice too. A farmhouse and the farmer’s wife acting as Warden. Lovely milk and eggs. Another girl arrived from Glasgow. Quite nice. Two Dublin boys very nice and later that night a Glasgow lad. We rested ½ an hour after dinner then took the bikes and bathing costumes a 2 ½ miles run to the famous Brown’s Bay. It was now 8 p.m. and a bit chilly but we doffed our clothes and wore our costumes. We ran across the road then in. Oh…. It was cold. However once in and over we were o.k.
Thoroughly enjoyed it then back again to the Hostel. We had supper a talk then off to bed… The hostel had a clock no less. So we went with the resolution to up early. As we had phoned and found there was only the 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. boats. We were up at 6.30 a.m.
Had breakfast, packed then back to Brown’s Bay around to the pier. Where the small rowing boat took us across to Larne 1/- for bikes and ourselves. We bought some things in Larne, had a look round then on the boat. The bikes went in beside some luggage this time instead of going away down to the bottom.
A quiet sail back to Stranraer. It was a lovely morning in Ireland but on arrival in Stranraer the rain was pouring. We got our bikes off, capes on and away.
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One of the sisters with some acquaintances in front of an unknown hostel