Destinations, Winter Guide

Banish the January blues with four ideas for a weekend break

It sometimes feels as if winter is cut into two distinct seasons: the one characterised by twinkling lights, mulled wine and carol singing, and the one that follows full of cold, icy mornings and questions like “how long until the clocks go forward?!”. We all need something to look forward to at this time of year, so here are our suggestions for four different types of weekend breaks to keep you going over the next couple of months.

The outdoors adventurer

If there’s one thing we can appreciate at the beginning of a new year it’s the utter gorgeousness of Britain’s great outdoors, and the fact that it’s all around us. This section could be written about any number of places in England and Wales; all of our 13 national parks, 38 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or 291 national nature reserves would make the cut (and given the extent of our hostel network the possibilities are endless).

Let’s take a look at the Peak District, where you can walk, run, climb or cycle to your heart’s content and still be within a stone’s throw of a hearty meal and a pint of real ale at one of our 10 properties. Just 10 minutes from YHA Hathersage, the long gritstone crag of Stanage is something of a pilgrim site for climbers, with more than 2,000 routes stretching over a mile. Up to 20 metres high, Stanage’s irresistible grooves, crack lines and slabs are the ultimate playground for trad climbers and boulderers of all abilities.

For walkers, the peak district has a route to suit every walking boot; from the spectacular heights of Kinder Scout to the deep valleys of Dovedale and the dark caves of Poole’s Cavern, you can’t put a foot wrong. Similarly, runners will be in their element; the Peaks’ trail running routes are unparalleled and often have well-marked, well-maintained paths that leave you free to focus on the stunning views.
One such route takes you through the dramatic gorges of Winnat’s Pass to the summit of Mam Tor and across to Lose Hill, before descending right to the doorstep of a warm welcome at YHA Castleton Losehill Hall.

If an outdoorsy weekend sounds like just the thing to see you through January, take a look at our suggestions for some ‘whatever the weather’ winter adventures.

The avid historian

For history lovers, a weekend break in the UK is about as good as it can get. From Vikings to Victorians, William the Conqueror to William Shakespeare, you can’t turn a corner in this country without encountering some sign of our rich heritage. At almost 90 years old, the history of YHA is still relatively brief compared to the history of some of the extraordinary buildings that house our hostels; for example, YHA Ironbridge Coalport which sits in a refurbished Victorian ceramics factory and the incomparable YHA St Briavels Castle, a bona fide medieval castle with over 1,000 years’ worth of stories to tell.

But when it comes to history, you can’t go wrong with a weekend in the Roman town of Bath. The star attraction for heritage lovers is the iconic Roman Baths, which has had people flocking to ‘take the waters’ since it was built around 70AD thanks to the curative powers of the natural mineral water. There is a museum on site dedicated to the city’s Roman history, which rounds off the experience nicely. You can then pop next door to the beautiful Bath Abbey, which has been a site of Christian worship for over 1,200 years and, in a ceremony that set the precedent for all future coronations, saw the crowning of the first king of all England, King Edgar, in 973AD.
More recently Bath has been the envy of the world for its striking Georgian architecture, such as the picturesque Pulteney Bridge (one of only four of its kind in the world), the Masonic designs of John Wood, the Elder and the stunning symmetry of the Royal Crescent. It’s no wonder that titans of British literature like Charles Dickens and Jane Austen were so inspired by Bath, it’s hard not to take the city to heart.

YHA Bath is perfectly placed for a weekend of exploring the city’s 17 sites of historical interest and its Roman-inspired architecture is complemented by its stylish modern facilities thanks to a £2.5m refurbishment in 2018.

The old romantic

All you need is love. True. But sometimes you also need to get away, escape your day to day and actually make time to be together. Because, while being in love is good, spending a romantic weekend laughing, making memories and connecting with the special person in your life makes being in love with them even better.

And where better for a romantic getaway than a 17th-century manor house in the heart of the English countryside. YHA Hartington Hall is nestled in a picturesque village in the Peak District and comes with all the creature comforts a romantic getaway requires. Cosy log fire perfect for cuddling up with a warm blanket? Yep. Honeymoon-style suite set away from the main building? Yep. And, for those ready for a truly magical experience, Hartington is licensed for weddings, so your weekend can be the most romantic and memorable of your life. But if you’re not quite there yet (or if you’ve been there, done that, and got the ring to prove it) there’s plenty to do at Hartington besides getting married.

YHA Hartington Hall is surrounded by beautiful walks, one of which will take you both down a winding country lane to the local pub where the roaring fire, delicious menu and friendly regulars make for a thoroughly enjoyable evening and a delightful weekend.

The Urban Playground

A city break in the UK doesn’t get more city-like than a weekend in the capital. The best restaurants, the tallest buildings, the most iconic sites. But aside from its world-famous and well-documented landmarks, London’s urban playground of art, markets and culture make for one seriously cool weekend break. And, if you’re a card-carrying social media junkie, a few days of on-the-pulse city life will give you plenty of material for your Instagram feed.

You might think you know art, but you’ve never been to a gallery like God’s Own Junkyard in Walthamstow. Half an hour from YHA London St Pancras, this East London warehouse space is a treasure trove of dazzling neon signage and is the work of the late British artist Chris Bracey, whose designs lit up Soho in the 70s before Hollywood beckoned and he was commissioned for films including ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Batman’ and ‘Eyes Wide Shut’.
But if art’s your thing, the whole borough of Shoreditch is your gallery. This trendy area of East London has long been a canvas for generations of creative minds, with a wall, door or entire building adorned with colour around every corner. YHA London St Paul’s is a 10-minute bus ride away from this ever-evolving outdoor exhibition, which includes a work of Banksy himself on a wall in Rivington Street.

And while you’re in Shoreditch, tuck into street food from one of the many units in Boxpark, a refitted shipping container complex that’s been an authority the street food scene for nearly a decade. No matter where you explore on your metropolitan weekend, with seven London properties to choose from we’ll be just around the corner to make sure your stay is as wonderful as it is affordable.

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