A holiday in a hostel may sound like a contradiction in terms — once you reach a certain age. The look that my husband gave me on hearing we would be spending time in three this year was priceless. But with holiday cottage prices so high, needs must. And when you start to look into it, you soon realise there are some rather snazzy hostels about these days.
For those travelling with children (in our case, our 13-year-old son), they are also a great way to inject some adventure that does not involve a computer or television screen, Cycling, hiking and generally exploring in a rural setting are what you ‘do’. The YHA (Youth Hostels Association), with more than 150 hostels in England and Wales, is a great starting point (yha.org.uk). Here’s our guide to some of the best…
PEAK PERFECTION – YHA HARTINGTON HALL
En suite private rooms in the Peak District’s Hartington Hall, pictured, begin at £79 per night
Guests staying in the 17th-century YHA Hartington Hall can enjoy a ‘brilliant’ full English breakfast
In the Peak District, YHA Hartington Hall is a 17th-century mansion with oak panelling, beams, large fireplaces and stone flagged flooring. You can book rooms with en suite shower — traditional dorms are closed for social-distancing reasons.
Good to know: The full English breakfasts are brilliant.
How much? From £49 for a private room that sleeps two (or from £79 for a private room with en suite).
SLEEP LIKE A CENTURION – YHA THE SILL
YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall is a new 26-bed hostel hidden away in the hills of Northumberland National Park. It looks like a fancy Scandi-hotel, with its simple beech and white aesthetic, gleaming wood floors and a double-height, glass-roofed atrium. From the rooftop vantage point, there are great views of the wall.
YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall has a ‘simple beech and white aesthetic’, Esther Oxford notes
Good to know: This hostel is in Europe’s largest Dark Sky park, so bring a torch.
How much? From £59 for a private en suite room sleeping two.
WELSH MOUNTAIN VIEWS – YHA SNOWDON PEN-Y-PASS
An 1850 former coaching inn, YHA Snowdon Pen-y-Pass in North Wales is a 13-bedroom hostel at the foot of Mount Snowdon. Mountaineer George Mallory stayed here when it was a hotel before his ill-fated Everest expedition. There is a bar and areas to relax in after a hard day’s climb.
Mountaineer George Mallory stayed at the YHA Snowdon Pen-y-Pass – back when it was a hotel – before his ill-fated Everest expedition
Good to know: There is no internet access, so bring a book.
How much? From £59 for a private room sleeping two (or from £79 for an en suite private room for two).
TO THE MANOR BORN – YHA ILAM HALL
If you have Downton Abbey fantasies, YHA Ilam Hall in Derbyshire is for you. This is a 25-bedroomed, 17th-century Gothic manor house in 84 acres of National Trust parkland. There’s even an old-fashioned dining room seating up to 80.
Guests can avail of the old-fashioned dining room in YHA Ilam Hall, pictured, or they can go next door to Manifold Tea Room
Good to know: Visit the excellent Manifold Tea Room next door (perfect for sustenance after a hike).
How much? From £59 for a private room sleeping two (or from £69 for an en suite private room).
YORKSHIRE DREAM – YHA BOGGLE HOLE
Set in an 18 39 former water corn mill in a tiny cove at the end of a wooded valley, YHA Boggle Hole in North Yorkshire has 88 beds. It is a perfect base for fossil-hunting and rock-pooling on the private beach nearby. Some rooms have sea views. It also has cosy wood fires and a pleasant cafe.
Breathtaking: A hiker surveys a view of the North Yorkshire Moors, home to YHA Boggle Hole
Good to know: Visit the charming village of Robin’s Hood Bay.
How much? From £39 for a private room sleeping two (or from £119 for a private en suite room for three).
CLIFFTOP SPLENDOUR – YHA WHITBY
YHA Whitby is a 26-bedroom Grade 1-listed historic mansion, which is perched on a cliff beside the ruins of Whitby Abbey, overlooking the North Yorkshire town. It is surrounded by magnificent gardens including an award-winning ‘physic garden’ — plus its own Abbey House tea rooms.
There are 26 bedrooms in the YHA Whitby, with prices starting from £29 a night for a private room sleeping two
Good to know: You’ll need to climb 199 steps from Whitby town centre to get home after a night out.
How much? From £29 a night for a private room sleeping two (or from £59 for an en suite private room for two).
DEEP IN THE LAKES – YHA WASDALE HALL
In a splendid, 20-bedroom National Trust-owned house dating from 1829, YHA Wasdale Hall in the Lake District is surrounded by mountains and beautiful gardens that extend to the shores of Wastwater. Expect log fires (in winter months), oak panelling and Chesterfield sofas.
Climbers can tackle the Napes Needle during their stay at the YHA Wasdale Hall in the Lake District
Good to know: There are excellent walks all around and expert climbers can tackle the famous Napes Needle.
How much? From £119 for a private room sleeping up to four.
SURFERS’ DELIGHT – YHA TREYARNON BAY
Just 50 yards from the sea and offering great coastal views, YHA Treyarnon Bay in Cornwall has 71 beds and is a great base for surfers — or hanging out in the cafe watching the waves. Padstow is four miles away.
Ideal for surfers, the YHA Treyarnon Bay (the second building to the left) is just 50 yards from the sea
Good to know: It’s so close to the sea, you fall asleep to the sound of the waves.
How much? From £69 for a private en suite room sleeping up to three.
HIKERS AND BIKERS – YHA SOUTH DOWNS
YHA South Downs in Sussex is a 17-bedroomed farmhouse conversion in the South Downs National Park. Parts of the building date back to the 13th century, but the rooms are modern and bright. Enjoy a coffee at its buzzy Courtyard Cafe. It is a three-minute walk from Southease train station.
Parts of YHA South Downs date back to the 13th century, though the rooms are modern
Good to know: Take a ride on the Bluebell steam railway (bluebell-railway.com).
How much? From £59 a night for a private room sleeping two (or from £69 for a private room en suite sleeping up to three people).
A STATELY AFFAIR – YHA WILDERHOPE MANOR
Shropshire’s Wilderhope Manor features multi-bedded rooms with beamed ceilings and mullioned windows
Esther describes YHA Wilderhope Manor, where rooms start from £29, as ‘one of the UK’s grandest hostels’
Set in the rolling Shropshire Hills, YHA Wilderhope Manor is one of the UK’s grandest hostels. Multi-bedded rooms with beamed ceilings and mullioned windows are available alongside plush private rooms with four- poster beds and roll top bath tubs. There’s also a field for tents and a BBQ terrace.
Good to know: Bring wellies — the grounds get muddy in wet weather. There’s no phone signal (but wifi is available).
How much? From £29 for a private room sleeping two.
SET UP IN 1930, STILL GOING STRONG
- The aim of the YHA (Youth Hostels Association) is to provide simple accommodation to ‘help all, especially young people of limited means, to a greater knowledge, love and care of the countryside’.
- YHA was set up as a charity in 1930 with a focus on simplicity, community and service.
- In 2019/20 more than a million guests stayed with YHA; just under half were under 26. This includes 150,000 school pupils on trips in the countryside.
- Supporting families with challenging lives is integral to YHA: 4,875 young people and families received free or supported holidays in 2019/20.
- Since 2010 more than £40 million has been invested in YHA’s network of accommodation as well as acquiring new hostels.
- England and Wales now have 153 youth hostels. Two new YHA properties opened in Newcastle and Liverpool in 2019.
- For hostels in Scotland see hostellingscotland.org.uk or visitscotland.com. For details about hostelling in Northern Ireland at hini.org.uk and hostelworld.com.