How an 85-year-old bike and hostel holiday inspired a Scottish sustainable tourism campaign

Teenage Mary Harvie cycled through Scotland on a cycling holiday with her sisters Jean and Ella in 1936.

After setting out from Glasgow, Mary Harvie and her older sisters covered 558 miles in two weeks of adventures through some of the most spectacular scenery in the country.

At the end of each exhausting day in July, 17-year-old Mary would painstakingly record the ups and downs of their journey – from the thrill of meeting new friends, to admiring the scenery and the generosity of strangers, to battling the wind , rain and gnats, and dealing with agonizing sunburn, running out of food, accidents and flat tires.

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Now their two-week odyssey has inspired a new sustainable tourism campaign in Scotland after Mary’s holiday diary was unearthed by her son during lockdown.

The three Harvie sisters Ella, Mary and Jean on their cycling holiday in Scotland in 1936.

Harvie Paterson transcribed extracts from the diaries and gave them to Hostelling Scotland, formerly the Scottish Youth Hostel Association, whose three cyclists used the guide for their holiday in 1936.

The organisation, which celebrates its 90th anniversary this year, is to honor the efforts of the Lanarkshire teenager, who had also saved photographs and postcards from her trip, in working with three endurance cyclists to recreate her route.

The new campaign is expected to highlight how hostels can be used as comfortable and affordable bases for cycling holidays in the Highlands, promote cycling as a form of sustainable tourism and raise awareness of the mental health benefits of cycling. adventure and outdoor activities.

Hostelling Scotland, which has published excerpts from Mary’s diaries in its new handbook, has teamed up with an all-female collective, The Adventure Syndicate, to create a modern equivalent of Mary Harvie’s diaries for the social media savvy generation.

The three Harvie sisters were joined by two carpenters on a climb of Ben More, near Crianlarich.

Lee Craigie, Alice Lemkes and Phillipa Battye will leave the Glasgow hostel on Thursday and embark on their own on and off-road adventure.

Their seven-day journey will be documented on social media and then turned into a promotional film for Hostelling Scotland, which will launch in early 2022 to coincide with the start of the storytelling’s first official year in Scotland.

Graham Sheach, Marketing Manager at Hostelling Scotland, said: “The project grew out of a chance conversation between Mary’s son, Harvie Paterson, and Karl and Lorna Wollinger, who run Hostelling Scotland’s Port Charlotte hostel in Islay.

‘Harvie has been Hostelling for many years – and has made regular trips to Islay on his bike for the past 12 years.

Mary Harvie kept a daily diary of her cycling trip through the Highlands in 1936.

“Last year he told Lorna that, as part of a lockdown project, he had transcribed extracts from his mother’s diary of his mother’s cycle tour of Scottish inns in 1936, which she said made with her older sisters when she was only 17 years old.

“Courtesy of Harvie, we have published the journal entries in the 90th anniversary issue of our membership manual. He was thrilled to see his mother’s story come to life in print.

“What appealed to us the most was how they captured days gone by and the spirit of the hostel. We hope the excerpts will help inspire and educate young and old today’s adventurers at the hostel.

The original journey undertaken by the Harvie sisters, from Shotts in Lanarkshire, took them to Skye, via Glencoe, Fort William, Glenfinnan, Lochailort and Mallaig. Their return trip took Invergarry, Fort Augustus, Spean Bridge, Dalwhinnie and Pitlochry.

Gairloch Sands Youth Hostel will feature in the recreation of the Harvie sisters’ journey in 1936.

Mary’s diary entries described how “the sun scorched us” on a trek to Ben More, with a group of carpenters they had met at Crianlarich, and how “the next morning we were like lobsters “.

Describing a search for food and water in Skye, Mary writes: “Where a baker’s van stopped, we bought a loaf. The first house we went to get water told us they had none. The next, a decent soul made us a pot of tea and refused to charge for it.

Describing a trip through the Cuillins, she writes: “Returning to mountain roads down and up some very hilly parts.

“Ella skidded on loose gravel and was quite annoyed because her dignity was hurt although there were only sheep to see her.

“We drove for miles with the Cuillins to the right and the lochs to the left. What peaceful country. But it would be very lonely in the winter. The wind started to pick up and worse the rain came. We looked for a truck but it was in vain.

A diary entry reminiscent of a youth hostel in Perthshire states: “Formerly a sanitarium it looked very pleasant with a sensible caretaker, good company, boiling kettles, good accommodation, what more reward than that .” We enjoyed our dinner and our bed. Sleep under glass roofs with the moon shining through. Riviera didn’t take a look.

Mary Harvie kept postcards of inns she visited in 1936, including Crianlarich.

The modern journey, which is also expected to cover over 500 miles, has been designed so that Lee, Alice and Phillipa can stay at hostels in Crianlarich, Glencoe, Rattigan, Portree, Torridon, Gairloch and Aviemore.

Lee, Founder of The Adventure Syndicate, said: “We are delighted to be inspired for our next challenge by a journey between the hostels of Hostelling Scotland, which was first established in the 1930s, and to add our own modern touch,

“Bicycle technology has evolved since the 1930s, but the mentality of exploration and adventure has always been present.

“People have been using bikes to explore remote places for generations, so now with the increase in traffic on our roads since this journal was written, we want to explore off-road alternatives where possible.

“Our ambitious route will take us to many remote places that cars cannot access. It might mean slower travel and wetter feet, but it will make arriving in the evening at our warm, dry accommodation all the more welcome.”

Linda G. Ibarra