Discover our favourite UK hostels that are easily accessible by train.
There are many myths attached to the UK’s youth hostels, the first being the word ‘youth’. Although it still goes by its original name, the UK’s Youth Hostel Association (YHA) caters for outdoorsy families, friends, solo travellers and couples of all ages. Hostels also work hard to bash that myth that they are grimy or grim. Sure you won’t have white robes and posh toiletries, but you will have clean linen, bathrooms and kitchens, and many of them have cafes these days too, so you don’t have to do the self-catering thing if you don’t want to. Most hostels also have a mix of rooms so they are not all dormitory style, with double rooms and family rooms and, in some cases, ensuite facilities.
Not all UK hostels are run by the Youth Hostel Association, even though it has been building its collection of havens since 1930. There is also a wealth of independent hostels, and Scotland has its own organisation called Hostelling Scotland. From the eclectic list of hostels out there in the UK, here are our top hostels accessible by train:
Loch Ossian in Corrour is the UK’s most remote hostel, with no vehicle access at all. Just 20 mins walk from Corrour station, step off the train into the heart of Scotland’s Rannoch Moor. This hostel has a strong eco-ethos but all accommodation is dormitory style here. However, if you can get a group of 11 people together you can rent the whole place. With no road access, this hostel is all about trekking, mountain bike riding and just chilling in one of Scotland’s most stunning wild places.
Lee Valley YHA
Lee Valley YHA at Cheshunt in Greater London is just 20 mins from the city centre, but also in the heart of River Lee Country Park. As well as walking and cycling routes, this is home to the former Olympic White Water Centre. So, after some rafting or kayaking you can cycle from here to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford in around an hour.
South Downs Youth Hostel
A favourite with Londoners, the South Downs Youth Hostel is 5 mins walk from Southease station, in Sussex. From here you can walk or cycle straight out onto the South Downs, part of South Downs National Park, the closest park to London at only 1 hr 20 mins by train. You will feel another world away when you get off at Southease.
Sit on the right hand side of the train to Berwick-on-Tweed if you are travelling north to take in one of Britain’s wildest coasts. Then check into YHA Berwick with a mix of dorms, family rooms and doubles, all ensuite, a cafe and even an art gallery. This is England’s most northerly town, on the River Tweed, famous for being the summer residence of artist LS Lowry. Follow the Lowry Walking Trail while you are here, take a boat trip along the Tweed out to sea or catch a bus out to the very special Holy Island.
The Oban hostel on the west coast of Scotland, and gateway to the Hebrides, is listed as a five-star hostel. It certainly has five-star views over the Firth of Lorne and Inner Hebrides. A grand Victorian house with a mix of dorms and private ensuite rooms, don’t just use this as an overnight stay before taking a ferry to the islands. Take time to visit the Oban Distillery, sample some local seafood restaurants or go sea kayaking in Oban for a whole other perspective.
Scotland is no way skinflint when it comes to hostels. Nor on wild landscapes. No matter which side of the train you sit on heading north to Helmsdale from Inverness, you are in for views that are worthy of a toast with your hip flask. Totally refurbished in 2018, Helmsdale hostel is perfect base in this coastal village that lies halfway between Inverness and John O’Groats. It is also a gift to cyclists as it is on the Land’s End to John O’Groats route.
There’s a converted water mill in Scarborough just 3km north of the town centre that’s a cyclists’ and hikers’ favourite. This hostel dates back to the 17th century and is located on the Sea Cut River. From here take a 15-20 mins stroll along the river to the coast at Scalby Mills and then on to North Bay beach.
YHA Beverley in East Yorkshire is a bit of a hidden gem, but this former Dominican friary is one of many important building to have been preserved by the YHA. Recently restored, it boasts many original features. As does this ancient market town, with a magnificent 13th Century Minster and medieval environs.
YHA Penzance is just 15 mins walk from Penzance station, the last stop on the old Great Western Railway line. Stay in its Georgian mansion or in bell tents installed in its south-facing gardens. Check out the town’s lido, the largest in the country, as well as the Exchange Gallery and take the coastal walk to the traditional fishing village of Mousehole. As well as exploring the Scilly Isles of course.
Youth hostels in city centres
There are a few city centre specials that we can fully recommend. YHA York is a lovely walk along the river from York train station, and very family-friendly. London’s Palmers Lodge is in centrally located Swiss Cottage with easy access to Hampstead Heath for some green galavanting around the city too. Code Hostel in Edinburgh is all about the contemporary pod thing, and both the YHA and Safehouse Hostel in Cardiff are great value urban hangouts.
Helpful youth hostel resources
For Loch Ossian and Oban hostels see Hostelling Scotland.
For Lee Valley, Scarborough, Penzance, South Downs, Cardiff, Beverley and Berwick hostels see YHA website.
For Helmsdale see Independent Hostels.
Photo credits top to bottom: Loch Ossian iStock ©marcomanzini, Edinburgh iStock ©georgeclerk, Dawn over Loch Creran iStock ©Bob Douglas, Youth hostel sign iStock ©LanceB, Lanyon Quoit Penzance, iStock ©wonderhorse
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