This week marks the 85th anniversary of the opening of one of YHA’s most loved and cherished hostels, YHA Black Sail. Having opened to the public on the morning of 14th April 1933, the hostel has since provided a haven of warmth, shelter and delight to generations of intrepid explorers enjoying breaks in the Lake District fells. Indeed, it was a busy three days for YHA’s Executive, as YHA Keswick was also opened on 12th April.
Whilst Black Sail is YHA’s most basic and rustic building, its simplistic charm and unique location beneath the north face of Great Gable means interest has remained high throughout the decades.
In the 1970s, Black Sail’s instant and continuing popularity was described as follows by YHA’s Regional Officer:
‘Its incomparable situation ensured the immediate success of the hostel, and only a year later it was reported that a great number of bookings had to be declined. The demand for accommodation at Black Sail has continued unabated for over forty years.’
It’s now fair to say that this demand has since continued for a further forty years. The small building has grown slightly, with the addition of a rear annexe in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until 2013 that the largest batch of improvements were made to the hostel. £250,000 was spent to weather-proof the building and reduce running costs through new energy saving measures and energy generation on site. These works will ensure Black Sail’s future environmental and financial sustainability, meaning the hostel can be enjoyed by generations to come.
It is this enjoyment and sense of adventure which a trip to Black Sail conjures that the hostel is most famous for. Every person who has stayed at or visited YHA Black Sail will carry away their own personal memories of what they consider makes up the atmosphere of the place, whether it is the ultimate sense of isolation, the nostalgia brought about by the basic nature of the building or simply the unbeatable views of one of the most stunning areas of the Lake District National Park.
We are sure that for many years to come the words ‘Black Sail’ will continue to provide poignant memories of the very essence of the true spirit of hostelling.