Eight Hostels to Close

YHA have announced that eight of their youth hostels will close at the end of this year. The hostels in question are:

  • Capel Curig
  • Exeter
  • Grasmere Thorney Howe
  • Hunstanton
  • Kendal
  • River Dart
  • Saffron Walden
  • Scarborough

These closures result from an in depth review of YHA’s financial position and future strategy carried out by the management team over recent months. The money required for essential repairs and refurbishment of these hostels could never be repaid by their likely levels of occupancy, hence the need to let them go. Sadly, this is unlikely to be the last set of closures in the next few years, as YHA seeks to batten down the hatches and see off the recession.

It’s not all bad news though:

The two major investment schemes for this year will be at YHA Castleton (Derbyshire), supported by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and at YHA Oxford Street in London.  In May YHA’s Board of Trustees will look at opportunities for further funding this year at popular small country hostels.

Expect interesting times ahead as the new strategy makes itself felt.

33 thoughts on “Eight Hostels to Close

  1. Lounge Lizard

    Some of those hostels go back to the early years of the YHA,
    Grasmere 1933,
    Scarborough 1936,
    Exeter 1939,
    Saffron walden 1943,
    Capel Curig 1946.
    .
    I’ve stayed at most of the nine, but none for more than three nighta.

    Reply
  2. Andrew S

    Here we go again then. No attempt to let us know before the decision has been made that certain hostels are underused and might be closed, so we could have chosen to stay there rather than the busier ones. (Remember the plan to close the Settle/Carlisle railway line, which resulted in so many people discovering it that usage shot up and basically saved it)
    YHA has now pretty much abandoned the east of England – the Norfolk coast was one of a decreasing number of areas where you could actually spend a few days walking or cycling between hostels. Presumably the hostels were not suitable for the private room/en suite-isation that we are all apparently crying out for despite our contradictory wish for budget accommodation.

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  3. Chris Hunt Post author

    These hostels would need major investment to bring them up to scratch, investment that could never be repaid by likely overnight numbers. The efforts of a few YHA die-hards making a few extra bednights is not going to change that.

    You (and I) might deplore the changes to hostels demanded by their new customers, but if we don’t meet those demands the Association will go bust. The founders of the YHA in the 30s would probably be equally disparaging about our need for luxuries like hot water and heating in youth hostels. Times change. You either change with them or die.

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  4. mark w

    i stayed at thorney howe only a few years ago and it didnt look like it was falling to bits. if the yha continues to put prices up by massive percentages every year then i can see alot more hostels being closed down.

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  5. Kevin Smith

    I have had numerious dialogue over recent years with the YHA regarding closures and pricing etc and each time the reply has always been negative and some what arrogant at times. The YHA seem to have forgotten what they were set up for ie “People on limited means” also to encourage individuals to get out into the country side and enjoy its beauty.When steying at hostels you are encouraged to “Enjoy” there home cooked food which at first looks very attractive but most of the food comes from frozen food wholesalers like 3663 and if you do decided to have dinner breakfast packed lunch and along with your overnight fee is £40.00 cheap ? the YHA are making money even the managers say so but they are freightened to voice there opinion in case of reprisal. How many more unique buildings will bite the dust it seems staying at a unique hostel has now become a thing of the past even being a member isnt worth anything any more. If the SYHA can run there organisation more productively why cant the YHA ? ?
    There are now much better B&Bs and independant hostels around which are also better value as well.

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  6. hostelman

    Interesting comments about pricing. SYHA (hostelling Scotland) seems now to be following the same approach. Reducing the number of properties owned and run and dramatically increasing prices. They now appear to have given up on the youth market, note youth dropped from the organisations name.

    They have a new hostel facility at corrour station near the famous Loch Ossian, a family room (2 adults 2 kids) with NO SELF_CATERING FACILITIES is £118 per night!! or the famous carbisdale castle, again 2 adults and 2 kids is £69.90 a night!! Since when did staying in a youth hostel cost more than a 4 star hotel???
    Who are SYHA hostels for? Middle age, wealthy folks enjoying memories of days gone by. I only wish I could afford to take my kids hostelling. A weeks in a 4 star self-catering house is so much cheaper!!! What a sad state of affairs that SYHA has been led down this flawed and unsustainable route.

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  7. Marie

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m a life member but no longer go hostelling because of the YHA’s high prices and the feeling that they are constantly trying to extract even more money from their existing (and possibly dwindling) customer base. With a partner and two children, it’s cheaper to stay in a Travelodge (if you book far enough ahead) or in a caravan on a holiday park, from where we can do day trips. I miss the cameraderie and walking from hostel to hostel as I did in the past, but hostels now are simply too expensive.

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  8. Lounge Lizard

    “I’m a life member but no longer go hostelling” and then moan when hostels close !!!!

    Reply
  9. Marie

    I no longer go hostelling, Lounge Lizard, because, as is the case with many lapsed hostellers, taking the family is now TOO EXPENSIVE! Maybe that point hasn’t sunk in. Nowadays it’s financially more attractive to stay in Travelodges and caravan parks rather than in hostels with fancy bars, designer murals and posh carpets. I do miss the good old days of affordable hostelling within an extensive network and don’t like hostel closures, but it appears that the YHA has chosen to go down a path of self-destruction and consequently has priced out and alienated many of its formerly loyal but distinctly ‘old hat’ members.

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  10. Lounge Lizard

    Discussing the likes of murals and carpets and perpetuating the life of seriously underused loss making hostels is what I remember some regional councils of old doing, not least North Wales region which on the verge of bankruptsy had to be bailed out by YHA nationally if my memory serves me correctly.
    It’s a long time now since I’ve been on regional council, national council or NEC and although I spoke my mind back then don’t feel informed enough now to argue exactly what level of comfort, amenities or price should be set now.
    I have never stayed in a Travel Lodge and never want to as there’s more to staying somewhere than the price.
    Even if as an aging ‘old hat’ life member I have more disposable income than I would care to admit I don’t begrudge sometimes paying a bit over the odds for a bed in a Youth Hostel because I know I will also be getting a common room, a members kitchen, a cycle shed and everthing else unique to the YHA – and perhaps even a nice mural on the wall ! – and I still like to support an association that has meant a lot to me for nearly forty years even if it has not evolved exactly how I would have liked it to have done over recent years.

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  11. mark w

    a question that comes to mind regarding pricing is how can they not be making money when one room can take in as much as £200 per night, possibly more.

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  12. JOnathan Witty

    Hi , I am a life member and probably stayed 2 years of my life in total in Youth Hostels. My family with two young daughters now hostel, one aged 2 and 6. There is not much better than YHA as you can prepare the milk in the kitchen. Children can play and make friends as we can too. There is always a cycle shed, common room, kitchen (except Crowden). What we do not like is children exposed to lines of alchoholic drinks, expensive rooms for families and expensive meals. The recent offer for families on meals was a great idea, and should continue. A 2 and 6 year old eat so little, but to pay £6 for a one course kids meal is OTT.

    We stayed at Scarborough for the last time three weeks ago – Fantastic. We stayed at Osmotherly last week, was a group doing Lyke wake walk for Heart foundation so they had only one choice of meal, beihng chilli. – NO THANKS so had chips instead as a picnic up near Black Hambleton at 8pm!

    Next weekend we are going to Lockton YH for one night. I helped with Brian Witty my father to do some work on that to get it up and running , decades ago!! Next week off to Crowden and booked all Summer in yha at weekends. Ravenstor, Ilam (3 nights) Boggle, Whitby. Sadly not Grinton as taken over by group all Summer – SHOULD NOT HAPPEN!

    We did not go hostelling last two years and stayed at cottages instead, due to cost. We cannot afford two weeks holiday in yha, at £50-£80 a night. ten nights 500-800 pounds. Nothing justifies that, plus meals. Families cannot afford it and I cannot see who else can! I suppose adult groups would share costs or use dorms. Under fives cannot use dorms anyway.

    Only reasonb we have gone back to YHA this year, to try it out again but because I run meteodale .com selling maps and books at great prices. I cannot leave my business for a full week anymore, so yha isgood for one or two nighters.

    Hope to see some of you hostelling….
    Jonathan Witty
    Meteodale.com or
    stores.ebay.co.uk/meteodale

    Reply
  13. JOnathan Witty

    Yes Brian still cycles over 100 miles a week on his battery powered touring bike. Who is Lounge Lizard he may remember you? I remember as a child going all round Yorkshire YHA’s most weekends, either on working parties or committees. Selby YH was a favourite, Burley Woodhead, Beverley Friary as part of a huge car factory, what a mess that was. etc etc Still open though. YHA Hull group was very active as volunteers.

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  14. Lounge Lizard

    Selby was the boat Sabrina if I remember correctly and very damp too when I stayed there about thirty years ago.
    Is Hull YHA Group still in existance ?

    Reply
  15. JOnathan Witty

    No idea about Hull Group, probably not. Sabrina always had that odour. Certainly was a place to go as a boy, had hours of fun pushing the hostel away from the bank. Must be the only hostel I have actually moved – Haha.

    Reply
  16. Lounge Lizard

    ‘Odour’ – yes, that’s one word for it, all part of the character that modern Youth Hostels lack, but that’s progress I suppose !
    I seem to recall a Norman Witty and a Lee Witty representing Hull Local Group at the 1992 Local Groups Conference in Sheringham and dare say that these were related to Brian too.

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  17. Dave Plummer

    Very sad to hear that our local hostel in Saffron Walden is closing – the last hostel in Essex, the oldest inhabited building in the town, and the destination of many happy cycling weekends for Chelmsford Local Group. Sadly, it seems the few of us who enjoy staying at traditional hostels are not enough to keep them going.

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  18. JOnathan Witty

    I stayed at Saffron with my wife and one child at the time. They gave us the full upper room upstairs. The mens washroom was appalling, shower did not work and major damp and mould issues. The beds creaked so much they were not suitable the sleep in. Terrible experience and I am not sad to see that one close. We left at 5am as was so uncomfortable.

    I have stayed at hundreds of hostels over 46 years and this was the worse.

    Reply
  19. Lounge Lizard

    There was nothing wrong with Saffron Walden YH the three nights I stayed there, but that was back in the 1980s, and it was just £2.30 a night in July 1982, and convenient for a few pints in Sun of an evening too.

    Reply
  20. JOnathan Witty

    Stayed at Lockton YH this weekend. WOW! what an amazing transformation. Absolutely worth every penny. Jenny the warden was very welcoming and everything clear, power showers also clean, rooms all no odours and basically brilliant. Crowden next weekend

    Reply
  21. Lounge Lizard

    Locton just shows how some appropraite investment pays off but it all costs money.
    Do you think that a while back at Saffron Walden when “the mens washroom was appalling, shower did not work and major damp and mould issues, the beds creaked so much they were not suitable the sleep in, terrible experience” this was because the YHA charged too little and kept unprofitable hostals open to the extent that it simply didn’t have the money to get the likes of Saffron Walden up to an acceptable standard ?

    Reply
  22. moleman

    “This is unlikely to be the last set of closures in the next few years”

    Too true – there are plans to close another 22 in the next few years.

    Surely if YHA spent less on their constantly changing menu schemes, focus groups, marketing seminars, etc they might have some spare cash to spend on hostels. As an organization they just seem to be haemoraging money!

    Also, what happened to promoting local produce?
    It seems now that everything is centrally sourced from the midlands – no more lovely local sausages and bacon but some bland factory produced stuff.
    Even no more local milk from the friendly milkman!

    I’ve heard that all local trades people – plumbers, joiners etc are soon to be replaced by a large national organization – what’s going on?

    Rant over for now but you just wonder what the YHA is up to don’t you?

    moleman – deep in lancashire

    Reply
  23. Cat Bells

    The YHA shut down at least profit making hostel in 2006 that did not need renovation and was popular enough.

    Also, they exploit their staff as they break the law wrt working time directives.

    Reply
  24. Chris Hunt Post author

    You’re going to have to back up those accusations with some facts, Cat Bells. Which hostel are you talking about, and where/when/how is the law being broken?

    Hostels are not closed for fun. If a particular hostel was closed, it must have been for a reason – though that reason may not be obvious to the rest of us. YHA could do a better job of communicating (and is doing a better job than it was doing in 2006), but it’s foolish to imply that they’re closing hostels at random.

    Is it possible that the hostel in question was in a leased property, and that the landlord would not renew the lease? Name the hostel and I’ll try to find out what happened.

    The working time directive presents a real challenge to the YHA, and costing them a packet in terms of meeting it. It’s why there are so many hostelling assistants now in places that just used to have a warden in the olden days. It’s also one of the factors driving up the cost of hostelling. If YHA are falling short in this regard, you should probably talk to somebody about the specifics of the case, rather than writing vague accusations on a web site.

    Reply
  25. steve kay

    The YHA has become far too conservative. It used to be a great way to meet interesting people. Rich people wanting to get away from the stresses of materialism used to mingle freely with other like minded outdoor people of all classes requiring just a simple shelter, a simple healthy meal and offering to do some chores kept prices low. When the hostels went upmarket they started to attract less outdoor wardens only interested in rivaling hotels. The prices as a result are not in keeping with the original aims of the YHA. A new organisation is needed now. Many campers would love to pay for a shelter open from 5pm until 10 am the next day when they could walk on to another 1980′s type YHA dwelling meet other outdoor types and enjoy simplicity. Why should someone who doesn’t require the internet, room service, giant sized car parks pay the extortionate fees of today?
    Yes there are bothies but not everyone wants to carry camping equipment with them. Hostels 40 years ago were perfect for the many and would be still.
    Today I stay in Caravans they are cheaper for families than hostels.

    Reply
  26. Anna

    I just wonder what will happen to yha in the future they will have to sell more hostels off just to keep their heads above water some of these hostels were left to the yha in peoples wills they close the small hostels and open giant ones example Castleton and before Conwy they close Buxton and say they will reopen another,even lots of local groups have closed it seems to be chasing its tail does Black Sail need all that money spending?

    Reply
  27. Andrew Parry

    Just found out that Saffron Walden has closed. Stayed there two years ago. No problems with their facilities but I can understand that being so historic it would have been impossible to modernise. (Sell it and buy something more suitable?)
    IMHO YHA need to understand their competitors are not the likes of Travelodge etc, so stop competing. Strengthen the YHA niche instead. I use YHA in two ways:
    1) For cheap accommodation during work travels. I work for a charity so watch the pennies whenever I can and hate the isolation of Travelodges or B and B. I also dislike eating out alone, even in a nice restaurant.
    2) For affordable accommodation for a holiday. Here YHA is competing with our caravan – great companionship on some campsites. However some of these sites are expensive and the effort involved in packing up the ‘van, hitching up , towing, unhitching, setting up etc, is not something to look forward to. A hostel can be an easier and more tempting option.

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  28. aida butler

    What alot of rubbish the YHA is becoming.I am a life member and when I joined you could walk or cycle from hostel to hostel. Some years ago I noticed that they Changed their policies, and made YHA b/b in towns for TOURISTS.Recently I rang the YHA in OXFORD and was told it is booked up for the next 3 months!!THEY do not put the stations or milage in the books now.These people who sit on the commities evidently do not use the YHA as the philosophy meant it to.If you want a family holiday you can try the Independant hostels or Universities,in the school holidays .EASTBOURNE is the cheapest UNI

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  29. Chris Hunt Post author

    I’m not quite sure what alternative you’re proposing, Aida. There are still parts of the network where you can walk or cycle from hostel to hostel, but by-and-large people don’t. I’ll grant that it’s not easy to disentangle cause from effect in this case, but I suggest that wider car ownership and the prevalence of foreign holidays has changed the usage pattern for youth hostels – they’re now used much more for weekend trips where people travel to one hostel and stay there. Changes in the network reflect this change in hosteller behaviour.

    The fact that YHA Oxford is booked up solidly for the next three months implies, to me, that it’s a good place to have a youth hostel. Shouldn’t we be providing accommodation in places that people want to go to?

    I agree that the information in the handbook was insufficient – I said so on this site when it was published. It’s uncertain whether there’ll be another handbook, there’s certainly none planned, so the matter’s somewhat academic.

    You seem to be of the view that there’s some proper way of hostelling set down in the past, and that anybody going to a hostel today should be forced to do so “as the philosophy meant [them] to.” I refute this utterly. The association could not have lasted 80 years without reinventing itself regularly to respond to changing times. Things that worked in the 1950′s won’t necessarily do so in the 2010′s – the trick is to stick to the values and not to get too hung up on the details.

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  30. Lounge Lizard

    As a life member with 450 overnights in England and Wales over the last forty years I, like Aida, have seen considerable changes in the YHA’s hostels over this time. I welcome some improvements, especially showers, but am indifferent about many others. On reflection though I suggest that YHA has changed no more over this era than other great British institutions. I’ve frequented public houses regularly since 1971 and, with so many closures and the extensive refurbishment of and higher prices in nearly all those remaining, would argue that pubs have changed, largely for the worse in my opinion, even more than Youth Hostels have. Similarily the High Street, which in the early ’seventies had a grocer, butcher, baker, greengrocer, fishmonger and other welcoming, useful little shops all now gone, is no longer worth a visit.

    I don’t think anyone would suggest that YHA has always got everything right but I am thankful that it has survived into the twenty-first century with a network of hostels and similar aims to those of its founders. I may have preferred the YHA of the ’seventies and ’eighties to the YHA of the ’teenies but that’s not really relevant. Rather than being bitter about changes that don’t suit old fogies like myself I am just thankful that I was active at a time when ‘simple accomodation’ was all anyone needed and that, in providing it, the YHA gave me so many great memories that last into my twilight years.

    As for Oxford Youth Hostel being “booked up for the next 3 months” this surely suggests, firstly, that it’s a good place to stay, and from my five nights there I know it is, and, secondly, that its prices are affordable.

    With just one modest wage coming in and three adult mouths to feed I could claim to be of ‘limited means’ but I have never considered staying at a University, an independent hostel or one of those new chains of characterless budget hotels, believing as I do not only that it’s worth paying that little bit extra for the common room and everything else still unique to the YHA but also, with a use-it-or-lose-it attitude, that the YHA still deserves my custom.

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  31. Graham Rounce

    I can’t speak for the UK, but having just returned fron Switzerland, I can report that the so-called Youth Hostels there, upgraded to expensive standards, now exist for the benefit of the Hostels themselves, and those who work in them. All sight has been lost of the mainly young people, seeing a little of the world on a shoestring, that they were intended to cater for.
    All we need is a big room with a load of beds in it, and cheap-but-ok food. Is that hard to understand? Or just hard to justify a high salary on the back of?

    Reply
  32. Kiat Huang

    Reading through the comments its become apparent that there’s a defensive streak running through responses to genuine customer concerns and feedback. That concerns me. It echoes the feeling I’ve read also elsewhere that the YHA is not listening to its core customer base. For some reason it doesn’t seem to really want back exactly the kind of people that the YHA was set up to provide for: youth and people on limited incomes, to enable better discovery and appreciation of the countryside.

    I totally agree with the comments about pricing strategy effectively being self-destructive. I youth hostelled quite a lot as a teenager, then as a father with young children, but every time bar one over the past 10 years I have been put off by the prices and commercialisation of the YHA. For instance today I’m planning a few days away with my wife in the West Country and apart from the usual accommodation websites I tried the YHA and was shocked to find the minimum per bed price around the Dorchester area was £20 per person. For two of us £40 minimum – that is pretty much the bulk of the price of a B&B where we’d get our own room, bathroom and cooked breakfast for maybe £10-15 more total. So, the YHA has just lost my business yet again.

    One day they will realise that they need someone in charge who will enthuse a back-to-basics approach, build the tremendous spirit that used to pervade youth hostels and make the YHA the first choice for youth, explorer types and those on limited budgets.

    Reply

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