Hostels, Bicycles and Sheep...oh my!

Comrie Travel Blog

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I knew it was the right decision to come to Comrie Croft the minute I arrived. Comrie is a tiny Scottish town, about an hour and two bus rides away from both Glasgow and Edinburgh. The Croft is an old farmhouse and buildings that have been converted into a country hostel, complete with bike rentals and camping facilities.

I found them through an organization I now belong to called Help Exchange. It's a web community that posts opportunities to work in exchange for accommodations. For three hours of work a day, five days a week, I could stay for free, use the amenities and take a bike whenever and wherever I wanted.

A New Zealand couple, Carly and Adam, beat me to the punch in applying. As a result, they were housed in the personal caravan behind the hostel.
comrie
I knew coming into the situation that I'd be staying in the second option: a tent. After a month of feeling cold and wet in Ireland, I was a little weary but decided to give it a shot. In the end it was really no big deal. They hooked me up with a mansion of a tent. Larger than some of the apartments I'd been staying in with couchsurfing. And most importantly, it was mine all mine. I spent most of my waking hours in the hostel, anyway. Making use of the gigantic kitchen or two common rooms, complete with a tv and board games. There were even a couple random nights where the hostel was more or less empty, and I had the whole thing to myself.

The work was reasonable, if not mentally challenging. Toilet scrubbing skills won't exactly be added to my design resume, but it was enough to make me feel useful again.
croft courtyard
As much as I love having a vacation from the real world, I've found myself desperately in need of a purpose. Something deeper than determining which country makes the best chocolate milk. (Germany is winning, by the way.) And working along side Carly and Adam, the three hours flew by and we were left with our afternoons to play.

The three of us took advantage of the bike access and free afternoons with rides across the countryside. Sometimes it was just riding into town (3 or 5 miles away, depending on how big of a town you wanted) to get our groceries and carrying them home on our back. Sometimes it was purely for exercise or the act of going on a long ride. Our bosses Andrew, Colin and Fee knew the area and trails well, and would map out different paths for us.
my alarm clock and lullaby
We could have used their expertise in person, though, on one long ride that was supposed to loop us back by the river. We made it to the turning point with (uphill) ease, but then spent the next two hours following 4x4 tracks in a sheep field that looped us in circles. When it reached the point of threatening rain and nightfall, and we were covered in mud from all the puddle hopping and more confused than when we started, we decided it would be best to make our way back to the road and return the way we came. It was somehow equally perplexing to find that return route, but once we did, it was all downhill. Thank God.

It was a blessing that Carly and Adam were there at the same time. To share the workload, for one, but more importantly, for their company. It could have been a quiet week and a half, had a I been there alone.
But instead, I had someone to bike ride, eat dinner and play scrabble with. (Which I, somehow am reigning champion in, even though Carly knows word like "Qi".) They even let me hang out in their caravan when I'd get a little lonely in my tent or the big empty hostel.

On my last night, our boss Andrew and his wife (whose name I shamefully was never sure of) invited us all down to their house for a barbeque. In Scotland, however, it's always best to have a back-up plan for barbequing. And true to this country's personality, it did indeed rain, so oven cooking it was. Colin, Fee and the permanent housekeeper all joined us as well, and it was a great night of dinner, wine and an archaic (but very fun) board game Andrew so enthusiastically suggested we play.

I was actually really sorry that I had to leave Comrie so quickly, toilet cleaning duties and all. It was a really nice mix of company, purpose and relaxation. I didn't feel like I had to walk around all day, check out museums and play the part of the perfect tourist. I could just be. But I had found the job too late and there really wasn't anyway I could stay. For the first time, I had an approaching deadline and place I needed to be, so off towards London I went.
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comrie
comrie
croft courtyard
croft courtyard
my alarm clock and lullaby
my alarm clock and lullaby
my home
my home
this is scotland
this is scotland
carly and adam
carly and adam
reception and main lodge
reception and main lodge
view from my front door
view from my front door
serious gaming
serious gaming
the comrie crew
the comrie crew
beware!
beware!
Comrie, Scotland. pop 2,010
Comrie, Scotland. pop 2,010
very clean kitchen, thanks to the …
very clean kitchen, thanks to the…
fashionable day wear
fashionable day wear
the endless 4x4 looping tracks
the endless 4x4 looping tracks
Comrie
photo by: afredrix