Activities

Great Adventures with Alan Hinkes

Alan Hinkes was the first Briton to climb all 14 of the world’s 8,000m peaks. He was awarded the OBE in 2006 and is the first YHA Ambassador – he’s also a past recipient of the coveted Yorkshireman of the Year title. Here he chooses his nine greatest adventures in England and Wales.

“Picking nine hostels for an adventure is easy – but which nine? I could easily pick 20! My adventures are mostly in the hills, fells, mountains, dales, becks, lakes, caves, forests and beaches of the north: they’re spread across Yorkshire, The Lake District and North Wales.”

1. Go fell-walking and climbing in Borrowdale, Lake District

YHA Borrowdale is a delightful, purpose-built wooden building hidden away in the secluded hamlet of Longthwaite. Fell-walking on the surrounding hills can be done straight from the door. There’s plenty of rockclimbing in the Borrowdale valley too, from extreme options to easier beginners’ climbs on cliffs such as Shepherd’s Crag. There’s the annual Borrowdale Fell Race too. And Keswick and Derwentwater are only seven miles away if you fancy an easier stroll or lake cruise.”

2. Discover the marvels of Malham

YHA Malham is ideally situated for gentle strolls and exciting, dramatic walks. You can wander along beside a gentle beck, passing the delightful Janet’s Foss waterfall, or you can scramble through the vertical-sided gash in the limestone landscape that is Goredale Scar. It’s essentially a giant cave system where the roof has collapsed. Nearby, Malham Cove is Yorkshire’s answer to Niagara Falls – without the water. It’s an 80-metre amphitheatre of sheer white limestone. Walk up the stepped track at the side to experience the limestone pavement with its clints and grykes, and the breathtaking view over Malhamdale. You might recognise the scene from a Harry Potter film. If you feel adventurous and don’t suffer from claustrophobia, try a show cave and experience the underground sights of stalagmite and stalactites.”

3. Get wild at England’s most remote hostel

YHA Black Sail is the archetypal remote mountain hut, a hideaway in the mountains of Cumbria. It can only be reached by walking or mountain-biking and it’s surrounded by the wild fells of Upper Ennerdale and the impressive Pillar Rock. Stay here if you want a wild, ‘off -the-grid’ getaway experience. It is one of my favourite locations.”

4. Scramble along an airy Lake District ridge

Helvellyn is a mountain situated near Ullswater and the village of Glenridding. It’s ideal for fell-walking and climbing and is by far one of my favourite mountains — it’s among the first that I climbed as a teenager. It’s a gnarly scramble along Striding Edge or Swirral Edge to the summit, and both of these are airy and exposed ridges with big drops. They’re not to be underestimated. Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team is often called out to rescue people and, sadly, to recover bodies. An easier stroll can be taken as far as Red Tarn, or you can descend to Ullswater to ride the steamer, visit Aira Force waterfall and stroll round the lake. In winter there’s a ski slope and tow on Raise – it’s 45 minutes or an hour’s walk with skis to get there.”

5. Take to two wheels on the Yorkshire Moors

YHA Grinton Lodge is a majestic old shooting lodge on the Moors above Swaledale near Reeth. Kids love the camping pods and it’s a great location for walking, mountain-biking and roadbiking – the Tour de France went up the hill right past the hostel when I was last there. Try the Dales Bike Centre in Fremington for bike bits, as well as coffee and cake. Nearby, Richmond has an imposing Norman castle and Reeth is very picturesque with lots of lead-mining history.”

6. Be beside the seaside in Yorkshire

YHA Boggle Hole has a fantastic seaside location tucked away in a smugglers’ cove. It’s a great place for children, with sea, sand and fossilhunting on the Yorkshire coast. The North Yorkshire Moors Railway is nearby and the town of Whitby – with its cliff top abbey, harbour, fish and chips and Dracula connections – is close by too. For a bigger seaside experience try Scarborough, a short distance south along the coast. And if you want a break from the sea, nip inland and experience the vast expanse of the North York Moors National Park.”

7. Explore the Peak District from Castleton YHA

YHA Castleton Losehill Hall in the Peak District is a grand modernised Victorian Gothic mansion in extensive grounds, another superb location for families. There are plenty of easy valley strolls or pleasant walks on the surrounding hills, such as Mam Tor. They call it ‘The Shivering Mountain’ because of the landslips on its slopes. Castleton is also well placed to explore the rest of the Peak District. Try the show caves such as Blue John Cavern, or even a trip to Sheff ield if you need a city fix. And as a bonus, the Hope Valley microbrewery is run by the hostel manager.”

8. A city break in God’s Own County

YHA York has a great city location in God’s Own County, with plenty of attractions for children and adults. York Minster: say no more. You’ll also find the York National Railway Museum, the Jorvik Viking Centre, as well as a whole range of dungeons, castles, river trips, shops and great little cafés – try Bettys Café Tea Rooms. And as well as being close to the North York Moors National Park, it’s also well placed for James Herriot country, as well as the gentle rolling Yorkshire Wolds.”

9. Walk in the footsteps of mountaineering greats in Snowdonia

YHA Pen y Pass in North Wales is a superlative hostel in an extremely dramatic location, with lots of history. When it was a hotel in the late 18th century to early 20th century it was used by mountaineers and rock climbers such as George Mallory, who disappeared on Everest in 1924. It is situated at the top of the Llanberis Pass ready for the serious Crib Goch scramble up Snowdon, or the gentler Pyg or Miners Track (see p18 for details of the Snowdon Horseshoe). It has a great bar with bottle-conditioned local beer and views of the rocky ridges.”

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