I love travelling and exploring new places both home and abroad – there are still so many places within the UK that are on my ‘to visit’ list (especially if they have a good castle nearby!) but accommodation can end up being seriously expensive. That’s why this year I found myself having a family break in a Youth Hostel Association hostel for the first time, and I was so impressed I became a YHA member. Perhaps you’ve never considered staying in a Youth Hostel before, so I’m here to tell you why you should!
I have stayed in hostels a couple of times before – I love to go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and stay centrally and hostels are pretty much the only affordable thing at that time of year. However, that has been adults only and a case of literally just having somewhere to crash at night; I’d never considered hostels as somewhere I would stay as a family with a view to spending a reasonable amount of time in the hostel.
Then I heard someone talk about the great time they’d had staying at the YHA at Boggle Hole (a teeny cove in between Whitby and Robin Hood’s bay if you’ve never heard of this intriguingly named place). This is one of my favourite bits of coastline so I decided to check out what was on offer in the area.
I ended up finding a private family room for 3, with en-suite bathroom, at the Whitby Abbey YHA for a bargain price of £25 per night. I think I had some vague misconceptions about having to help in the kitchens or make up beds, which may have been the case back in the day but is long gone from the modern YHA experience. Oh and despite the name, staying in Youth Hostels is in no way just for young people at all.
I was still a little nervous about our stay but once we arrived all doubts were laid to rest. The room itself was one I was more than happy to stay in – basic of course, you don’t get TVs and kettles etc as all such facilities are in communal areas, and furniture is minimal but it was nice and clean and generally pleasant.
The hostel building itself and location were both absolutely fantastic. The building is a Grade I listed mansion largely built in the 17th century and there’s lots of old portraits and bits of information on its history throughout the building which is cool if you’re into that kind of thing like I am.
It had a play room full of toys, a TV room and a nice dining area, and in addition to cooked meals being available to buy there was of course a self-catering kitchen available as at all hostels. There were lovely grounds to wonder around and you could visit the Abbey for free.
The Abbey – that was one of the best bits, having those dramatic ruins which inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula right on the doorstep, especially at night when they are lit up and look incredible. You can see how close we were from the courtyard here.
On the basis of this visit and seeing a map of the many YHA locations across England & Walkes, I then decided to buy a family membership for £25 for a year, which gets me a nightly discount of £3 per adult and £1.50 per child plus access to various other benefits and offers. Also, there are reciprocal membership arrangements in place with 90 other Youth Hostel Associations around the world, from Scotland to Australia.
I soon booked our next stay at Grinton Lodge in the Yorkshire Dales.
This is a converted 19th century hunting lodge, set amidst some truly spectacular Yorkshire Dales scenery, with various leisure rooms – lounge, games room, TV room – and a large outdoor play area for kids. We bought our evening meal from the hostel on this occasion – basic but good value and as at most YHA hostels kids under 10 eat free. The bedroom here was quite spacious with a few nice pieces of furniture. Check out the view from our window! This place is very atmospheric.
A sheep greeted us outside the window in the morning.
Rooms in a YHA aren’t necessarily the absolute cheapest accommodation you can get. If you compare some of the rooms to, say, a Premier Inn, they can seem expensive, however a majority of YHAs are in places where there won’t be a cheap hotel available, and compared to local B&B or similar in the area you will tend to find the YHA is quite a bit cheaper. If you’re prepared to be flexible where you go and book quite late on you can get some good deals as prices drop if rooms are not filled. ome YHA sites have camping pods or serve as campsites too, which can also be cheaper options.
Also, many of the YHA buildings have such fantastic character! I think that’s evident from my photos but if you need further persuasion check out the YHA St Briavel’s castle:
You’ll never find a Premier Inn that looks like that!
They also have really nice communal areas in which to relax and often have play areas, they’re especially good for allowing kids to meet and play with other kids which is why I’d highly recommend them for families – far more child friendly than most hotels or B&B. S
If you’re a solo traveller happy to share in a dorm you will of course get much cheaper rates, typically £10 – £20 per night. There are often special discounts and flash sales too, offering 10 – 25% off. It’s worth signing up to the newsletter or following on Facebook to hear about these. I’m eyeing up some stays for October half-term using the 10% early bird booking offer currently on.
A lot of hostels can also be hired out exclusively, so if a large group are getting together this could be brilliant value – for example, I found dates when you could hire out this 19th century mansion with 30 beds from £240 per night, which is just £8 per person!
Just to be clear, this post is not sponsored or benefitting me in any way, I am just a YHA fan with the zeal of the recently converted! It’s also good to remember that YHA is a charitable organisation and any profits get reinvested into the hostel network and also fund their Breaks for Kids programme, which allows disadvantaged children to have trips away. The Breaks for Kids programme seeks to positively impact the lives of young people across the country by getting them engaged with the great outdoors.
If anyone has any hostelling recommendations please do share in the comments!