If there is one nationwide charity in the travel sector that has almost uniformly terrific locations, we'd have to say it's YHA. What's more, youth hostels are no longer as you remember them, with accommodation that includes everything from cabins and glamping to some of the country's best-value and most comfortable private rooms.
The best hostels also not only offer easy access to some of the country's most memorable landmarks and landscapes, and have a range of amenities that typically includes bars and restaurants, laundries, cycle hire and storage. You can even book out the whole place if you have a big party, with the result that you may just have an iconic sea view, a lakeshore beach or mountain peak completely to yourself, plus they currently offer a cast-iron Covid flexibility (with full refunds if restrictions get in the way) - private rooms from £29, Camping & Cabins from £12 and Exclusive Hire from £299 per night this summer. Read on for some of our favourite YHA locations to spend time this summer....
Situated in the heart of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, despite being so close to London this is an extraordinarily bucolic place, in the middle of some 4000 acres of beautiful woodland countryside. Facilities include a bar and dining room and cycle hire, and if you don't fancy the hostel you can pitch your own tent in the grounds or go glamping in one of their well-appointed bell tents. There is lots to do in the surrounding area – the Edwardian stately home of Polesden Lacey, Box Hill, where you can walk or cycle to your heart's content, or any number of other walking options throughout the Surrey Hills AONB.
Recently refurbished YHA Cambridge is a perfect spot from which to explore the city on a budget, with a wide choice of accommodation from private double rooms to multi-bedded family rooms. Many of the rooms have en-suite facilities, there is a lounge and TV room, a café and bar (serving a full menu all day). There's also free wif-fi and a 24-hour reception. You're only ten minutes' walk from the city centre, making it an excellent budget option in a city not overflowing with such alternatives.
YHA has plenty of Lake District hostels for walkers, but YHA Borrowdale is a particular favourite. Set in large grounds on the banks of the River Derwent and surrounded by the high fells, it's a recommended stop on Wainwright’s Coast-to-Coast walk and has private rooms, a drying room and laundry, and a terrific bar and restaurant. There is camping in the grounds during summer, as well as 3 camping pods, each of which has its own decking area. And the location? It's situated in a landscape of epic proportions, perfect for climbing, hiking and family-friendly walking holidays.
Housed in a fabulous Georgian mansion in its own extensive grounds, this is not your average hostel accommodation, with private and family rooms, half of which are en-suite, while the grounds are home to a variety of glamping options, from camping pods with private decks to bell tents with wood-burners, and all with proper beds for a decent night's sleep. There is a restaurant and a bar within the hostel, as well as a number of nearby pubs and restaurants just a few minutes' walk away.
A beautiful Gothic-style castle situated on 84 riverside acres of National Trust land, this is one of the YHA's most historic properties, a fabulous 17th-century manor house that enjoys a unique location with stunning views of the picturesque village of Ilam in Derbyshire. It has private rooms and facilities that include a games room, bar and lounge. Inevitably it's the building that steals the show, but the area is also a gem, with loads to do for families in particular – watersports at Carsington, the stepping stones at Dovedale and the 3-mile gorge trail to Milldale. It's also just a twenty-minute drive to Alton Towers!
YHA snagged an absolute beauty in Grinton Lodge, a 200-year-old former gentleman's shooting lodge standing high above Swaledale. The views from most of the rooms are breathtaking while the building has retained much of its grand period detail. Most of the rooms follow the usual hostel configuration, sleeping 2 to 8 people, and while showers and toilets aren't en-suite they are certainly better than you have any right to expect at these prices. There's a lounge and dining room and the grounds have camping pitches and a series of camping pods. The nearest pub is a 15-minute walk downhill in the hamlet of Grinton; Richmond is 10 miles away, or there are wonderful off-road bike routes straight out of the door.