Category Archives: Hostels

Closures, openings and other matters relating to the hostels themselves

New Hostel Planned at Eden Project

Planning permission is being sought for a new youth hostel next to the Eden Project in Cornwall, according to reports in the Cornish Guardian and in the Western Morning News.

 The hostel will replace nearby YHA Golant, whose closure was announced last year, and would be run in partnership with the Eden Project – who own the land on which it would stand. A third partner to the arrangement is Snoozebox, who specialise in providing high-quality temporary accommodation at music festivals and sporting events. The new hostel would comprise 58 of Snoozebox’s freight container-based rooms and remain in service for two years. Unfortunately, due to limitations in the Snoozebox format, it won’t include such hotelling staples as a self catering kitchen.

The reasons for taking this approach are both to get something on the ground quickly, and for YHA and Eden to test the market and explore options prior to committing to a permanent building. I hope and expect a properly equipped conventional hostel to be in place before too long.

Tongue Hostel Becomes Affiliate

News just in from north of the border, about as far north of it as you can go without going to Shetland! Tongue YH has sold to a local family and will now operate through SYHA’s affiliate scheme, according to a report in The Northern Times.

It’s not obvious from the news story whether this hostel was another one quietly put on the market by SYHA, or whether the Mackay family simply made them an offer. Either way, the SYHA now have a pile of cash in their bank account, and the hostel is staying in the network for hostellers to visit. I call that a win/win.

You can read more about what is now the Kyle of Tongue Hostel and Holiday Park on their own website.

A New Hostel for Brighton

Eight years ago, the YHA hostel in Brighton was one of 32 hostel closures announced in one of the most radical shake-up of recent years. Although several of those hostels were subsequently saved or transferred to the Enterprise scheme, Brighton YH closed its doors in October 2007. Ever since then, YHA have been looking for a replacement hostel in the popular South coast resort – and that search has finally borne fruit.

Yesterday, Brighton and Hove City Council granted planning permission for the conversion of the former Royal York Hotel into a 180-bed Youth Hostel. The Royal York is a Grade 2 listed building in a great location close to the seafront, the pier and the Royal Pavilion.

The forthcoming youth hostel will add a new chapter to a long history. Built in 1771 as a private residence, the building first became to a hotel in 1819, going on to host such distinguished guests as Charles Dickens and Benjamin Disraeli. It was converted to council offices in 1930 (including the town’s registry office for a while), and back into a hotel in 2006.

How have YHA conjured up the £4.5M needed to buy this splendid property? The answer is they haven’t. The building has been bought by a company called Development Securities Plc with whom YHA have signed a 100 year lease to operate the hostel. You can read some details of the deal in the Wall Street Journal.

Local reaction to the news has been mixed, if this story in local paper The Argus is any guide. Nick Head, former chairman of Visit Sussex, is quoted as saying “It’s not a good use for such an important and historic building [...] it would be a real shame for it to become a youth hostel.” Dare one suggest that, as manager of a rival establishment he’s afraid of the competition?

Fortunately, this skepticism did not extend to the councillors on the Planning Committee, who were glowing in their praise of the Association. Councillor Graham Cox, for example, saying:

I had a great time as a teenager through the YHA. It is a wonderful charitable organisation. It’s been an anomaly since Patcham Place closed that we don’t have a youth hostel. I think it’s great that we’ve got this and a real asset to the city

No announcement has yet been made on when the new hostel might be expected to open, I’ll pass on the news when I hear it.

Investment in Edale Announced

News of a substantial investment in YHA Edale emerged in a story in Travel Daily News International published today. The iconic Peak District hostel will receive a £250,000 makeover over the next few weeks, with the washrooms, self-catering kitchen, lounge, dining room, reception area and most of the bedrooms all being upgraded and/or redecorated. The hostel will be closed whilst the work takes place, but will begin to reopen (on a phased basis) starting on 7th February.

Speaking about the work, YHA CEO Caroline White said:

YHA Edale is one of our most popular locations for groups looking for a great activity break. The refurbishment of the Youth Hostel is part of our continuing investment in our hostels to ensure they offer the great welcome and friendly stay of which we YHA is rightly proud.

Having seen some brilliant work done at Ambleside and York, among many others, I look forward to seeing the results of this project later this year.

Hostel Sales Roundup

On Tuesday, YHA announced that YHA Ingleton has been sold to a new owner who will continue to operate it as a hostel within the YHA Enterprise scheme. This is great news, as it means the hostel will remain in the network, meaning YHA maintains a place on the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales.

Across the M6, they announced last week that YHA Elterwater had also been sold to a private buyer (it was also reported in the Westmorland Gazette). My understanding is that this time it won’t be operating within the enterprise scheme, but will be retaining the services of the existing hostel manager. Whilst it’s a shame to see a hostel leave the network, it’s good to see that it will continue to operate as a hostel. I wish both operations good luck under their new owners.

Meanwhile, north of the border, it appears that Broadmeadows YH has also finally been sold. The hostel has disappeared from the SYHA website, and is marked as sold on the estate agent’s site. I haven’t heard what use the new owner plans to put the building to – but note that it was on the market as a residential property.

Gradbach Mill Sold to Local College

The BBC is reporting that YHA Gradbach Mill has been sold to Newcastle-Under-Lyme College to be converted into an outdoor education centre (which is more-or-less what it is already, of course). The hostel is one of six selected to be sold off earlier this year.

It’s sad to lose what is the last remaining hostel in the Western Peak District, but at least the building will continue to be used to get young people into the countryside. I’d love to see YHA move back into the region (they’ve been looking for somewhere in Buxton for over 10 years), but everything depends on finding the right building and the right finance.

A story about the sale also appeared in the Buxton Advertiser.

Queen to Visit YHA South Downs Today

YHA’s patron, Her Majesty the Queen, is to visit YHA South Downs today as part of a royal visit to Sussex. According to a report on the Heart website:

The Royal party will [...] head to the YHA South Downs where they will tour the newly refurbished facilities viewing the new ‘Glamping pods.’

The Royal couple will meet staff and Duke of Edinburgh Award students staying at the centre before unveiling a plaque to mark the opening of the new facility.

The last time Her Majesty visited a Youth Hostel, I believe, was to open YHA Alnwick in 2011. Hopefully there’ll be many more for her to open in the future…

Virtual Ambleside

A recent tweet from the Chief Executive has tipped me off about another hostel to have received the Street View treatment:

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So take the chance  to take a virtual walk around YHA Ambleside, fresh from its refurbishment earlier this year, and looking utterly fabulous. Ambleside always did have one of the country’s finest views outside the front door, but it’s looking almost as good inside now!

If a criticism can be made of these virtual tours – and only a curmudgeon like me would even raise this – it’s that showing these hostels clean, pristine and empty doesn’t give any feel for the wonderful people you meet in youth hostels, both staff and fellow hostellers. To get that, I guess you’re just going to have to visit the hostel the old fashioned physical way!

A Spooky Tour Around St Briavels

I’ve always felt that YHA St Briavels Castle is one of the (many) jewels in YHA’s crown. Who could possibly resist the chance to stay in a genuine castle built for bad King John of Robin Hood fame? Place that castle in the beautiful Forest of Dean and you have a truly great place to stay.

Over its 800 year history, the castle has time to pick up a ghost or two – which makes it a natural for YHA’s “Spooktacular” Halloween competition. All you have to do is wander around the hostel and find the creepy eyeballs that the ghosts have left behind. Find them all, and you have a chance of winning a two-night stay at the hostel for four people.

Wander around the hostel? This is the best bit of the competition in my view. The hostel has been photographed using Google’s Street View technology to allow you to stroll around the hostel without ever leaving your desk. It’s absolutely brilliant.

I’m sure we’ve all struggled to explain how marvellous hostels are to skeptical friends and family, and how their preconceptions are only truly overcome when (or rather if) they actually walk into a modern youth hostel. Well, this technology makes it possible for them to have that experience straight away. I believe St Briavels is the first hostel to receive this treatment, I can only hope there’ll be many more.