Hostelling with nature – YHA style

Debra Petts is a YHA life member

In recent years, YHA has embraced camping and glamping, introducing products such as bell tents, tipis, wooden cabins and pods at many hostels. YHA National Forest recently joined the band, to offer two bell tents within their spacious grounds.

I took the opportunity to try out this upmarket glamping option and had quite an experience. As I unpacked my car to settle in for the evening, I felt a mix of excitement, and adventure, but also a dose of trepidation, as it had been many years since I had spent a night under canvas, having given it up for the luxury of a hostel bed on my many YHA visits. Added to this, it began to rain!

On check in, Tracey the hostel manager gave me all the information about the tent and its facilities. The hostel plans to offer tent guests a torch to assist with night time bathroom visits. Luckily, I had my own but fortunately didn’t need to use it.

YHA bell tents interior

On entering the tent, I immediately felt a sense of space and height as the tent lining fell from the centre out to the sides of the tent. A double and three single mattresses on wooden plinths, were positioned around a central space. There was a solar powered lantern with sI ufficient light to read my book; a lockable wooden chest for storage with a hidden surprise of a USB port within; comfy bean bags on Indian patterned floor mats and a low, colourfully decorated table next to the double bed. Tibetan prayer flags draped the sides of the tent and together with all the décor for a moment, transported me to an exotic foreign place on the Indian continent, on a great adventure. However, sight of the YHA standard green bedding soon returned me to reality, but I must say I did appreciate the clean crisp sheets. This was more luxury than I could ever have with a tent of my own, and the great bonus was not having to erect and dismantle the tent in the rain.

The tents have their own bathroom facilities in a portacabin, located a few meters from the tent and tucked away near trees. With a keypad to open the door, I had to remember the door code and my torch to navigate my way to the cabin. Luckily, I didn’t need to go during the night. Ample hot water meant a refreshed start to my day the following morning.

Sitting quietly in the tent, the birdsong seemed to grow louder, then tailed off.  There was something quietly comforting about the gentle tapping of raindrops on canvas that added to my childlike excitement and sense of adventure. The smell of earth mixed with new canvas added to the experience. There was a chill in the air, but I had come prepared with woolly hat, hot water bottle and warm socks, dressed for bed and tucked up under the double duvet, I felt ‘snug as a bug in a rug.’ I was lulled to sleep by nature’s sounds and slept well. I felt I was deep in the forest. Yes, I was, in the National Forest.

YHA National Forest exterior

Tent guests have full use of the self-catering kitchen and other hostel facilities. YHA National Forest accept dogs in the tents (£5 per dog per night), catering for families who want to bring them along. Each tent sleeps a family of five and is available until the end of September.

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