Confetti canons at the ready! It’s our 50th edition! To mark the milestone, and because Valentine’s Day falls in February, we couldn’t help but take love as our theme. So what does that mean? Well forget chocolate hearts and wilting flowers, this is about true love for travel. From romantic destination inspiration to our sheer passion for places, in this ode to the outdoors we tour four properties from YHA’s 1930s portfolio to explain their enduring appeal.
And if none of these locations set your heart a-flutter, we’re sure you’ll find your perfect match in The Wanderer archive.
From Bonnie Prince to beautiful brides
YHA Hartington Hall
Hartington has a history of hosting extraordinary guests. Built in 1611, this Peak District manor house put up Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Jacobite Rising of 1745. More recently, with the granting of a wedding license and the creation of its very own honeymoon suite, The Roost, YHA Hartington Hall has cemented its place as quite our most romantic retreat.
Spend the night in The Roost and you’ll have the run of two floors. Downstairs you’ll find a private kitchenette and sitting room, while upstairs the cosy en suite double bedroom is all blankets and rustic furniture. Fresh from a wonderful night’s rest, you’ll be ready to move beyond the hostel’s extensive grounds and out to explore the local landscape, hand in hand.
The River Dove is a mere 15-minute stroll away and its banks are home to all manner of birdlife including ducks, herons and the odd kingfisher. If you fancy a real leg stretch, pick up the number 442 bus service to Tissington, walk the Tissington Trail to Thorpe and then follow the river valley back to the hostel. If you’re feeling adventurous, make an early detour to the top of Thorpe Cloud to take in the scene.
Alternatively, explore the area by bike. Join the Manifold Way at Hulme End and snake your way along the River Manifold. Following the old light railway track, the route is superbly scenic and mainly traffic – and stress – free. Six miles in, it’s almost time to turn back but first park the bikes and scale the 250-foot stepped path to Thor’s Cave for spectacular views over the rugged landscape.
Insider tips from Hostel Manager Cat:
1. The course of true love never did run smooth. Nearby Lover’s Leap is named after a heartbroken maiden’s failed attempt to throw herself off the precipice. On a happier note, it’s also one of the best places to take in the local topography including the rocky spires of the Twelve Apostles.
2. Derbyshire’s awash with romantic spots but the Chatsworth Estate takes some beating. Take a walk to explore the grandeur of the house and huge estate before stopping into the café for a spot of tea.
3. The Tissington Trail runs right past Hartington. Make or break your relationship with a tandem bike ride! We can put you in touch with local bike hire.
Stand, stare, breathe the sea air
YHA Land’s End
We’d go to the ends of the earth for you… well the end of England at least. Next up, YHA Land’s End, a former guest house nestled in the peaceful Cot Valley and a home-from-home for hostellers since 1939. What’s love got to do with it? Well, let’s start with that view!
Pitch up on our front lawn campsite in the summer months and you’ll wake up to a coastal view that’s sure to set your spirit soaring. Enjoy a coffee in the company of the wild rabbits that share our garden then lace up your walking boots for a day on the trail. The South West Coast Path is less than a 10-minute walk away, making this the perfect place to spend a couple of nights in the company of like-minded hikers.
Footpaths head in all directions from the hostel door. Go west to discover ‘dinosaur egg beach’ – Porth Nanven is so called because of its extraordinary geology and beach littered with large, round stones. Follow the path north for 40 minutes to Cape Cornwall – England’s only cape – to watch waves crash from the lookout station. Finally, stroll south along the Penwith Heritage Coast to Sennen Cove for incredible views out to Longships Lighthouse and the Isles of Scilly.
Golden sands, Atlantic swell and crystal clear waters make Sennen Cove one of the area’s most popular surf spots and a fantastic place to learn. Book a beginners’ class and within two hours the local school will have you catching waves and – at least for a second – standing!
As evening falls, head back to the hostel in time for Supper Club to break bread with other hostellers and then perhaps pop along to the ever-popular Star Inn pub in St Just for their Open Mic or Folk Night sessions.
Insider tips from Hostel Manager Chris:
1. Visit Kurt Jackson’s gallery in St Just. Jackson’s paintings capture the landscape and seascape of Penwith. He’s also been the artist in residence at Glastonbury Festival.
2. Go wild swimming. Cot Valley and Cape Cornwall are top spots. Cot Valley boasts a natural pool at low tide, whist at Cape Cornwall there is a manmade rock pool if the cove is too rough.
3. Watch the sunset from Carn Gloose over the Atlantic Ocean. You can see the coastline south to Land’s End and north to Cape Cornwall. There is also a Neolithic burial mound to explore.
For the love of hostelling
YHA Holmbury St Mary
All of the hostels featured in this edition date from the 1930s, yet it’s YHA Holmbury St Mary that caused the biggest stir in YHA’s earliest days. As far as the spirit of the movement was concerned, this purpose-built show hostel fit the bill; at 30 miles from central London, it offered the opportunity to escape the smog for a healthy weekend in the countryside. But its state-of-the-art features seemed too posh for the purists. In 1939, four jokers even sat down to dine in full evening dress!
Today, YHA Holmbury St Mary is a beloved centre for hiking and biking in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are plenty of ways to stay, from traditional dorms to dog-friendly premium bell tents in the grounds. The site boasts a large garden bordered by 4000 acres of woodland; trip out of the front door and you’ve started your walk.
The Hurtwood is an extraordinary landscape of pine wood and glade, heath, ponds and wilderness. Acquaint yourself with the wood and its wildlife on a circular walk that takes in the summit of Holmbury Hill and astonishing views over the Weald and out to the South Downs. Alternatively, jump in the saddle to ride some of the 60 miles of paths and bridleways that make up this regional centre for mountain biking.
Beyond the wood, take the 6-mile trip to the Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden to see art and nature in exquisite harmony or visit Leith Hill and climb the viewing tower to reach the highest point in South-East England and then stop in at the childhood home of Ralph Vaughan Williams before you return home.
Insider tips from Hostel Manager Dan:
1. Meet some real love birds at Birdworld. With 26 acres, aviaries housing an incredible collection of feathered friends, an aquarium and children’s farm, this attraction is awesome.
2. Visit the extraordinary Watts Gallery Artist’s Village in Compton. View a permanent exhibition of Victorian paintings and sculpture, admire the Arts and Crafts architecture, explore the grounds and enjoy quiet contemplation in the inspiring Chapel.
3. The Boileroom in Guildford is a community hub run by a collective. Pop in for a drink and a bite or make a date to see some live music. With a diverse events programme and plenty of heart, it’s a fantastic little venue.
Fall for the Western Fells
YHA Black Sail
Single or just sick and tired of Valentine’s vulgarity? Here’s the perfect antidote. Get a gang of mates together and take a trip to England’s most remote hostel. You’ll have no choice but to fall hopelessly in love with the Lake District.
Usually we recommend adventures from the hostel, but the beauty of a YHA Black Sail break is in the getting there. This part of Lakeland has been returned to a wild state so it’s traffic free and your only option is to arrive under your own steam on foot (or bike).
But which route will you choose? Set out from YHA Buttermere to Gatesgarth and then up over Wainwright’s favourite Haystacks, “the best fell-top of all”; navigate your way from YHA Honister Hause, picking your way through the industrial archaeology; walk from YHA Wasdale Hall to Wasdale Head and trace the base of Kirk Fell; or, finally, follow the route of the River Liza through the valley between Pillar and High Stile to YHA Ennerdale.
After a long day’s hike, you’ll arrive at the splendid isolation of our former shepherd’s bothy. There’s room enough for just 16 per night which only adds to the charm. After a hearty Supper Club meal, buy a beer and settle on the bench outside to watch night fall. It’s just you, the moon and the mountains.
Insider tips from Hostel Manager Mark:
1. Complete a classic. The high level horseshoe at the eastern end of the Ennerdale Valley is an amazing walk.
2. Don’t hike to YHA Ennerdale, bike! The quiet southern side of the Ennerdale Valley offers a gentle and enjoyable ride.
3. Get to grips with Great Gable with a walk up Windy Gap and then down again to Styhead Tarn. Before the return leg, dispense with boots and socks for a quick paddle in the Derwent.