10 of the best UK hostels for adventures – and the rule of six
The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland
The YHA hostel at the National Landscape Discovery Centre opened in 2017 after an extensive project to replace the former, 80-year-old hostel. It’s a five-minute walk to one of the best-preserved stretches of Hadrian’s Wall, as well as access to the 267-mile Pennine Way. Short circular walks nearby include the four-mile Steel Rigg route, passing Sycamore Gap with its famous tree, and glacial lake Crag Lough. Takeaway meals are being served onsite and there are several communal outdoor spaces open, including the grassy roof terrace and stargazing hammocks.
Close to Penrith town, Wayfarers is a great option for cyclists embarking on the C2C route, a 137-mile challenge from the Cumbrian coast to Tyneside, via the Lake District, the Pennines and County Durham. There are several bikes available to book in advance, or if walking and hiking, take your pick from the surrounding Eden Valley, Ullswater and the grounds of Brougham Castle. There are no meals onsite at present, and, like most hostels reopening under current restrictions, the kitchen is off limits, but there are several pubs, cafes and restaurants close by and takeaways are welcome.
Glen Nevis, Highlands
At the foot of Ben Nevis and 10 minutes’ drive from Fort William, this large, timber-clad youth hostel is a good base for high- and low-level walks, mountain biking, kayaking, quad biking and canyoning. The hostel was recently refurbished, and although most of the communal indoor spaces are closed there’s a large outdoor terrace, where the hostel’s takeaway breakfasts and packed lunches can be eaten while enjoying the panoramic mountain views. The wild landscapes of the West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way are also within easy reach.
Lands End, Cornwall
A group of converted farm buildings is now home to a hostel in the small village of Trevescan, 10 minutes’ walk to Lands End. It’s close to the South West Coast Path, and the start/finish line of the Lands End to John O’ Groats cycling route, as well as Penzance town (20 minutes by car). Beyond the surfing, kite surfing and paddleboarding at Sennen beach and Mount’s Bay, the coastline also has more secluded beaches, such as Nanjizal – a tiny, sandy cove accessed only on foot, via fields and farmland, in just under an hour. In-room breakfast baskets are available on request, and there are several pubs a few minutes’ walk.
A converted Victorian mansion in the heart of the Peak District, YHA Castleton Losehill Hall is in a prime location for walks around limestone dales, ridges and open moorland. There are circular routes around Mam Tor, or Mother Hill, so-called due to its presiding over several mini hills, caused by landslips; as well as the Great Ridge path and the start of the 46-mile Limestone Way. The hostel has a limited food and drinks menu available for takeaway, and there are restaurants and cafes in nearby Castleton village – also known for its caves and caverns, such as former semi-precious mineral mine Blue John Cavern.
The Old School House, North Yorkshire
This new hostel in Robin Hood’s Bay, in the North York Moors national park, opened its doors just a few weeks before lockdown. It is just two minutes’ walk to a sandy beach that is backed by craggy cliffs and a popular spot for fossil hunting, as it’s part of a Jurassic coastline. Also nearby is the Cleveland Way National Trail, for walking routes to Whitby and Scarborough; and the end of Wainwright’s 182-mile coast to coast trail. Book breakfast in advance at the hostel, or head into the historic fishing village, which has several options for meals.
A town-centre hostel a few minutes’ walk from the coast, Cohort works closely with the St Ives Surf School (10% off lessons for hostel guests), which runs sessions on Porthmeor beach. Other watersports and outdoor kicks can be booked through the hostel, including at nearby Gwithian, with its three miles of golden sands said to be one of the best kitesurfing beaches in the UK. Like many on the list, the hostel is aiming to extend the season if the demand is there – prices are being kept low, so it’s a great option for a cheap private room this autumn compared with the pricier accommodation in town.
Perched on a clifftop, YHA Manorbier feels remote, but it has easy access to coastal paths and the golden sands of Shrinkle Haven are just 10 minutes away on foot, making it a good option for families. Clifftop walks along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path offer breathtaking views, and lead up to Tenby. Outdoor children’s play centre Heatherton World of Activities is also nearby. Limited food and drink is being served onsite, and alongside private rooms there are also several wooden camping huts outside, heated and sleeping up to four.
Portrush Holiday Hostel, County Antrim
Surf’n’Stay breaks here in collaboration with Portrush Surf School make the most of the swell along the North Antrim and Causeway Coast. Along with one-on-one coaching and group lessons (from £40pp, two hours in the water, including all equipment), there are opportunities to try paddle boarding, bodyboarding and “giant supping” – where a group paddles together on a single board. The hostel is located at Ramore Head, between the east and the west strand beaches of Portrush, and is 15 minutes in the car to Giants Causeway. Currently, there are timed slots for the continental breakfast (included) and for use of the communal kitchen.
Cheddar Barton, Somerset
Working closely with Mendip Outdoor Pursuits, this hostel is a good base for a multi-activity break – from raft building and bush craft to abseiling, caving and axe throwing (activities from £10). The 250-acre woodland site also has a snowsport centre for skiing and snowboarding lessons, and tobogganing. The large Victorian hostel and annexe is a few minutes’ walk to the spectacular natural landmark of Cheddar Gorge, with walking and cycling routes nearby, and within easy reach of Bath and Bristol. For a break from the adrenaline rush, head to Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company visitor centre to watch cheesemaking in action (book ahead for timed slots).