What you need most of all when sleeping in a lighthouse keeper’s apartment on the east coast of the North Sea, is warmth and comfort. And that’s what we found at the Eco Hostel at Rattray Head Hostel. Built of solid blocks of granite the hostel was warm and welcoming when we arrived in a freezing fog. It felt secure and solid when the weather turned stormy in the night and was transformed by a new spring day the next morning. Sadly Rattray Head is no longer in the Independent Hostel Guide but here is a map of close by hostels in Aberdeenshire and along the Moray Coast and a map of other Eco Hostels.
The dunes, ruins and seals of Rattray Head kept us away from the hostel the next day as we enjoyed the peace and history of the location. Come evening a whole crowd of us made very good use of the endless hot water, showering off all the sand. There was no real need to light the wood burning stove (fired of course by chunks of waste wood from broken pallets) but we turned the radiators down and lit it anyway, just to enjoy the glow.
It is no mean feat for a remote eco hostel to maintain such warmth in a solid old stone building but Rob and Val have achieved it by installing a waste wood biomass system. It was a substantial investment in 2006, but it has repaid itself more than twice over in eight years. A 2014 Energy Performance Certificate has rated both buildings as a reasonable E for energy efficiency, and a very impressive B for environmental (CO2) impact. Burning five broken pallets a day in the depths of winter and only a few a week in warm weather, the thousand pallets a year of waste wood provides endless hot water and generous central heating for the three lighthouse keeper’s apartments and Rob and Val’s own home.
If you are thinking of installing something similar you will need plenty of space and enjoy working with a chainsaw. You will need space to store and cut the wood and space for a tank and a large square waste wood boiler. The system requires a huge hot water tank, ten times the size of a household tank, which stores the hot water for the radiators and through which passes the pipes for the taps. Mind you, your waste wood burning system may not have such a demanding building and location as RATTRAY HEAD ECO-HOSTEL.
You can find out about more Eco Hostels here.