It's been a few years since I've staid at a hostel and I was a little apprehensive. I thought maybe I was too old or that maybe the place wouldn't be very secure. But I wanted to do some hillwalking in the Cairngorms and hotels seemed rather pricey, so I took a chance and booked with Habitat. When the time came, I hopped on the 201 out of Aberdeen and arrived in Ballater 2 hours later. I was welcomed and shown around as soon as I arrived.
It turns out my fears were ill-founded. Habitat was a wonderful, modern hostel. The other guests were friendly and respectful and I certainly had no issues with security. Each bunkroom has a unique security key, so only the people in your bunkroom are able to enter. Perhaps the best feature at Habitat is the kitchen. They have a big old restaurant stove with 6 large burners (as a previous reviewer mentions, it can be tricky to light at first, but once you get the hang of it, it takes just seconds), 2 fridges, lots of pots and pans, more dinnerware than could be counted, and lots of counter space. Just across from the kitchen are two large tables with benches. Each has cushions for 6, but they could easily seat 8 each or even 10 if stools are added to the ends. There are two large couches near a 50ish inch flat screen television. If I had any complaint, it would be the size of the bunks. I'm only 5'11", but I felt as though my feet were constrained by having rails at both the head and foot of the bunks. Also the mattresses were rather soft for my taste. These are quibbles, though, compared to some other places I've managed to sleep. And, to be honest, I slept fairly well, all told.
So, if it's time for you to summit Lochnagar, I would highly recommend staying at Habitat. In fact, even if I intend to do hikes in the nearby towns I might consider Habitat. The main deterrent would be bus prices. According to another guest at the hostel, making a quick hop down the road is likely to cost 5 pounds each way. That seems a little steep compared to the 10 pound ticket from Aberdeen and it might cause me to consider staying in Braemar. If I decide to that on the next trip I will be sure to write up my experiences there as well.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Thank you very much for your review and I am delighted you enjoyed your stay.You are correct that the bus fares are extremely expensive on Deeside and it is definately something we try and warn guests about in advance if we know they are planning on using public transport.
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