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Five hostels off the beaten track

Whether it is a bucket and spade holiday you are after or frolicking through a forest, we have the perfect escapes with these tucked-away hostels.

Dolphin spotting in Wales

View of YHA Poppit Sands over the sea
Sssh, don’t tell anyone about this fabulous location, or they’ll all want in on it. A former inn overlooking the Teifi Estuary, YHA Poppit Sands is the picture-perfect holiday spot on the coast. Standing in five acres of grounds that reach down to Poppit Sands beach (a Blue Flag beach) and at the northern end of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, there is plenty of space to escape the crowds. If you’re lucky, in the summer months it’s possible to see bottlenose dolphins, porpoises, and Atlantic grey seals with boat trips available along the coast. Upon the craggy cliffs keep an eye out for feathered friends too, you could spot peregrine falcons, red kites and the rare red-legged chough. You might even see a gannet dive into the sea for its supper, they have an impressive six-foot wingspan. Down in the sand dunes, there’s a wide range of wildflowers such as the Common Spotted Orchid. Once you’ve finished building sandcastles, spotting wildlife, riding the waves (as there are plenty of water activities available too), you can mooch around Cardigan town along the medieval walls by Cardigan castle or sample some tuck in one of the tasty restaurants or cafes, as well as checking out the vintage shops, art galleries and antiques.

Stay at YHA Poppit Sands

Enchanted forest in Sherwood

YHA Sherwood Forest exterior
Explore the legend of Robin Hood in Sherwood Pines Country Park when you stay at YHA Sherwood Forest. Go with a gaggle of friends and family as you can book the entire hostel for your group. Set on the edge of the area famed for being the home territory of Robin and his band of merry men, is a hostel with cosy social areas, high quality facilities and a quirky exterior. With en-suite rooms and a well-equipped kitchen, it’s the perfect base. Head out for a day’s hike along the Robin Hood Way and refuel with homemade soup at the Sherwood Pines Café in the heart of the forest.  If you need to hire a bike, you can with a selection of trails of varying difficulty. Go off the beaten track and look out for the ancient oaks and abundance of wildlife in the forest. For little monkeys there is Go Ape and bushcraft or why not try some Nordic walking? Clumber Park, a National Trust property with 4,000 acres of parkland, farmland and woods is another place to escape to. There are over 120 different types of tree, with an avenue of cedars leading to the pleasure grounds and there’s the serpentine lake – all very Bridgerton. For those who enjoy life on the water, there’s Holme Pierrepont Country park close by which is home to the National Watersports Centre where you can kayak, canoe and white water raft. Once you’ve built up your appetite pop to the small town of West Bridgford which has some great restaurants and bakeries. Plenty to get your teeth stuck into.

Stay at YHA Sherwood Forest

Reflection and twitching in Somerset

YHA Street exterior
Opened in 1931, YHA Street is the oldest YHA hostel still in operation and is a great location for a Somerset activity break, with easy access to cycling and walking routes, the charming Swiss-style chalet is surrounded by National Trust land. Things we love to do whilst in the area is to visit the scattered ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, climb the hill up to Glastonbury Tor, and walk the paths around the Chalice Well & Gardens. The iron-red waters from the 800-year-old well are rumoured to have healing properties (good for everything from eczema to, erm, smelly feet, allegedly). Once you’ve roamed around the town, refuelled on vegan treats and perhaps bought a crystal and a kaftan then another hidden gem is the 11th-century (built in 1070) St. Margaret’s Chapel and Almshouses, tucked away in the centre of Glastonbury, they are housed on quaint manicured grounds and are open for private reflection and respite.  If you’re after secluded paths and more mystical landscapes RSPB’s Ham Wall Nature Reserve is the place to go, a wetland swarming with wildlife — from rare species like water voles and otters to glorious birds like bitterns and kingfishers with stunning views across the marshes to Glastonbury Tor to boot. Available as Exclusive Hire.

Stay at YHA Street

Folly in the picturesque Peaks

View of the countryside
You could stay in a Victorian folly resembling a tiny turreted castle, perched on the hillside above the historic village of Eyam if you fancy it? YHA Eyam was built in 1887 and is a perfect base for exploring the Peak District National Park. The quaint village is well-known for its historic links to the plague, you can find out about how the villagers of Eyam sacrificed themselves to the Plague in the 17th century at the Eyam Museum. It’s a fascinating tale of how the Plague was brought to the White Peak village in a bolt of infected cloth from London in 1665. In the village you’ll also find 17th century Jacobean manor house Eyam Hall, the village stocks which were used by Eyam’s Court to regulate the wrong-doings of local lead miners and the church of St Lawrence which dates back to Saxon times with an eighth-century Celtic Cross in the church yard. Once you’ve finished stepping back in time, head up to Curbar Edge for stunning views of the area. There are easy walking routes and a vintage Citroen van serving freshly ground coffee and home-made cakes – it truly is the perfect spot. Don’t miss out on local delicacy, the Bakewell tart, from The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop. If the weather is warm, head to local village Hathersage for a dip in the outdoor public swimming pool dating back to the 1930s, it really is a well-kept secret. It’s rather special swimming with the views of Stanage Edge and surrounding hills.

Stay at YHA Eyam

Digital detox in Surrey Hills

View of the countryside fields
YHA Tanners Hatch Surrey Hills is a rural retreat, accessible only on foot and surrounded by National Trust woodland. It sits in the heart of the North Downs Way – a long-distance footpath that runs through Surrey and down to Dover. At the hostel it’s back to basics — phone reception is rare and there is no WiFi or TV so it really is a digital detox. You can spend idyllic hours wandering the fields and footpaths around the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and on an evening cosy down in front of the fire listening to owls whilst playing board games. If you’re taking your bike (there is a cycle store) discover Surrey’s closest thing to an alpine climb by cycling up Box Hill, which hosted the 2012 Olympic men’s and women’s road races but has been popular among cyclists as far back as the 1890s. It has been maintained by the National Trust since 1914, with plenty of rare wildlife habitats, including the Adonis blue butterfly and bee orchid. Go early for the quietest times. Walk the chalk of the White Peak with a wander around Denbies Hillside. The stunning chalk escarpment is home to fascinating flora and fauna as well as several Second World War pill boxes designed to defend against Nazi invasion. Or visit Denbies Wine Estate for an outdoor vineyard train tour, find out about (and perhaps sample?) the homegrown tipple! Local town Dorking is awash with antiques and objet d’art ranging from the medieval to the art deco. It’s chock full of curiosities and a place of pilgrimage for collectors. Available as Exclusive Hire.

Stay at YHA Tanners Hatch Surrey Hills

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Written by Jo Avery

Jo works in YHA's communications team, writing about travel and adventures for all. She loves curling up with a good book and a large mug of tea, ambling through wheat fields in Derbyshire with her family and dog and holidaying beside the seaside.

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HostelsFive hostels off the beaten track