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9 hostels for wildlife watching

With properties scattered across England and Wales, we’re lucky to have a portfolio packed with variety. Whether in the mountains, along the coast or in the countryside, each of our hostels has its own unique appeal – something that applies not just in terms of each setting, but the creatures that creep, crawl, swim and soar close by. With this in mind, here are nine hostels primed for a wildlife-themed break.

Lakeland fauna

YHA Borrowdale exterior

Sitting in the Lake District valley of the same name, YHA Borrowdale still exudes a woody, hidden-away charm, despite being one of the most popular spots in the network. Bring your binoculars to try and spy peregrine falcons – the world’s fastest bird – or seek out the valley’s owls, rabbits, and wild red deer. If your luck’s in, you might even spot an otter.

Visit YHA Borrowdale

The Welsh wilds

YHA Brecon Beacons exterior

The hefty, wide-open contours of the Brecon Beacons give home to all manner of native wildlife. This converted farmhouse sits almost bang in the middle of the National Park – well positioned to spot red kites tilting through the skies or, in summer, reed warblers singing from the reedbeds. The rivers, meanwhile, are breeding grounds for trout and salmon. 

Visit YHA Brecon Beacons

Seabirds and seals

YHA Berwick exterior

England’s northernmost town is a historical gem in its own right (Exhibit A: the handsome 400-year-old bridge across the River Tweed) but it also serves as a fine base for a boat trip to the nearby Farne Islands, where the resident grey seals are joined each spring and summer by numberless guillemots, razorbills and – yes – bright-billed puffins.

Visit YHA Berwick

Coastal delights

YHA Sheringham exterior

The North Norfolk coastline offers famously rich wildlife pickings. Sheringham itself is all about old-school seaside charm, but close by you’re in a realm of birds such as avocets, marsh harriers and goldcrests, not to mention colossal (and noisy!) winter flocks of pink-footed geese. Thrillingly, sea eagles are occasionally spotted here too.

Visit YHA Sheringham

Animal activities

YHA National Forest exterior

The eco-friendly YHA National Forest is well placed for any number of animal-themed excursions, from native wildlife-watching in nearby woodlands to llama-trekking – yes, really – and, in Bradgate Park, the chance to experience a modern incarnation of a medieval deer park. Twycross Zoo, which supports conservation projects worldwide, is 15 minutes away.

Visit YHA National Forest

Butterflies of the Bard

YHA Stratford upon Avon exterior and grounds

It’s not just Shakespeare quotes that flutter around Stratford-upon-Avon. Billed as ‘the UK’s largest tropical butterfly paradise’, the town’s highly rated Butterfly Farm brings a touch of the exotic to the Midlands, with year-round displays in zones such as the Rainforest Flight Area, which at any given time has around 2,000 free-flying butterflies.

Visit YHA Stratford-upon-Avon

Wildlife on the downs

YHA Truleigh Hill exterior

This countryside hostel offers outdoor escape on its doorstep, sitting as it does on the route of the South Downs Way. The varied habitats close by make it well placed for spotting wildlife ranging from barn owls to chalk hill blue butterflies. Thanks to funding from the South Downs National Park Authority, the hostel now also has a dipping pond on site.

Visit YHA Truleigh Hill

A Cumbrian hideaway

YHA Eskdale exterior

A real jewel in the YHA crown, this beautifully located Lake District hostel is well assimilated into its surroundings, with a mapped-out nature trail, a wildlife pond and even its own secluded nature hide. Look out for green and great spotted woodpeckers on the feeders, or gaze skywards to spot buzzards, kestrels and peregrines. The hostel has 15 acres of private grounds.

Visit YHA Eskdale

Experience wild nightlife

YHA The Sill at Hadrians Wall exterior

This modern Northumberland hostel has a spectacular location at any time, but come nightfall it takes on a life of its own, with a stargazing net (on which you can recline and stare skywards) and a plum setting in one of the country’s best known Dark Skies Reserves. Look out for owls, as well as the nocturnal mammals that snuffle through the local countryside.

Visit YHA The Sill at Hadrian’s Wall

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