In this week’s issue, there’s a feature celebrating 90 years since the establishment of the England and Wales’ Youth Hostel Association.
That’s nearly a century of providing bargain accommodation in some of the most spectacular parts of our countryside.
For some, Youth Hostels were a formative part of their young adulthood.
My dad, for one, regularly visited them with pals to explore the Lakes and Scotland.
Some of the early principles have fallen by the wayside. Previously you couldn’t drive to one, for example.
Nowadays, as well as split male/female dormitories, you’ll find family rooms and private rooms, too.
What’s not changed are the big communal kitchens and living areas. These, for me, are really the heart of the Hostels.
It’s here you meet people, share stories and glean important local info while you’re prepping your ham sarnies for the day’s adventure.
Probably my last visit to one was the spectacularly located one in Torridon — a Scottish Youth Hostel.
It shuts for the winter, and I went just a week or two before it closed.
I’d driven up the four hours from Fife, and was assigned a dorm with two other gents. One was roughly my age, and was taking some time out to go walking in the hills.
The other was an older gent, maybe late 70s, and we had three bunk beds in the room, so we took one each.
It was my first visit to this mighty part of the country, and I was so grateful for the advice of the man at the front desk.
With info on everything from the weather forecast to local cycling routes, he was very useful.
With the whole kitchen to ourselves and a huge living room, the three of us had a wee chat before retiring.
The older gent explained that he was following a route around Scotland he’d done as a young man, staying in the same hostels. He was driving himself the hundreds of miles of a wonderful trip down memory lane.
However, it wasn’t my best night’s sleep! Still, the chat before and after made it a memorable experience for all the right reasons.
I’ve since slept in bothies and mountain huts with groups of other people, and I’ve discovered it’s just me — I’m the princess with the pea, and I need everything just so for a good night’s sleep.
My friend Dan can sleep through anything.
He puts earphones in, drifts off to music and barely budges all night. But then he spent years hostelling in Australia, and developed an immunity to other people’s odd sleeping habits.
My dad always loved his experiences in Hostels, and I’m glad I tried.
However, after a few goes and a couple of even less successful attempts to sleep in my van, I had to face the truth. I need my own space at night!
Nowadays I’m a big B&B fan. You get the local knowledge of the owners and you often get a good chat going with anyone else that’s staying there, too. But you also get your own bed!
But everyone should try hostelling at least once.
It’s such a wonderful, sociable experience.
Have you been hosteling? Do you have fond memories of trips away? If you do, we’d love to hear from you!
Send us an email and any pics to firstname.lastname@example.org!
For more from Features Ed Alex, read his blog here.
For more on the England and Wales’ Youth Hostel Association, visit its website here.