This month, it’s phones off, tablets away and a return to the enriching experiences afforded by an escape from the stress and strains of the everyday. Whether with a trip to a remote spot or a hidden hideaway, give yourself room to breathe and free your senses from their enslavement to the screen. Here are four superb out-of-the-way stays offering solitude and the best of life’s simple pleasures.
If you’ve missed an edition, take a look in The Wanderer Archive to discover a wealth of inspiring destinations.
“The country for easy livers, The quietest under the sun”
So Poet A. E. Houseman described this tranquil valley of springs and rivers, castles and hillforts. Take a break at our beautifully restored, Grade II-listed water mill and surround yourself with sensational Shropshire scenery. Retaining much of its original machinery, the mill is charming, characterful and really rather unique. There’s camping available here too and, in the summer months, the grounds make a serene setting for a family BBQ.
There’s plenty to explore in the area and, not least, the lovely landscape. If you’re a keen walker, pick up Offa’s Dyke Path just 4 miles from the hostel and hike along the only National Trail to follow a man-made feature. Alternatively, nearby Craven Arms is the start point for a number of cracking circular trails. Check out the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre for walks, local information and family activities.
For a superb day in the saddle, ride the 27-mile Bury Ditches Dynamo. A mix of road and forest track, the route takes its name from one of the best preserved Iron Age hillforts in the country. Dismount to reach the summit on foot and enjoy fantastic views. Other highlights along the way include 14th-century Hopton Castle (site of a bloody siege during the English Civil War) and Hopton Wood, home to over 15 miles of magnificent mountain bike trails.
And if you prefer pure rest and relaxation, simply take a stroll beside the Clun River to spot kingfishers, dippers and perhaps even the odd otter. Finally, round off an idyllic afternoon with a climb up to the Clun Castle ruins to enjoy a picnic and a fine panorama.
Insider tips from our Hostel Manager Abbie:
1. Just outside Craven Arms, Stokesay Court mansion was used as one of the main locations in the film adaptation of Atonement. Book a house tour and get 2-for-1 entry on nearby Stokesay Castle, one of the most magical medieval manor houses to be found anywhere in England.
2. The Land of Lost Content at Craven Arms is a great local museum with an intriguing collection of everyday items from the past. It’s fun to wander round and a nostalgia trip for those who remember the 70s and 80s.
3. Clun Heritage Trail is a great way to get acquainted with the history of the town through the ages. As well as our former mill, the trail also takes in the Clun Castle ruins, almshouses, places of worship and old craft workshops.
A sanctuary for centuries
This cheery, traditional hostel on the south side of the Chilterns offers both a convenient rural escape for Londoners and a quiet country cabin for those who want to be close, but not too close, to the capital’s awesome attractions. Pick up the Chiltern Railway from Seer Green and Jordans station, and central London is a mere 30 minutes away.
The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, at 1/5th woodland, is characterised by its trees and biodiversity, as well as famous names from the 17th century. Explore the 6-mile loop from Jordans to Beaconsfield via ancient Hodgemoor Wood to get a comprehensive introduction to the locale.
In 1688 the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, built a Meeting House in Jordans and it became one of England’s most important centres for non-conformist worship. Visit between Easter and October to discover more about the house’s history; there’s an exhibition and an audio tour. The grounds also hold the grave of William Penn, founder of the state of Pennsylvania.
Bekonscot Model Village, Beaconsfield, dates from 1929 and is the world’s oldest. Like a time-travelling Gulliver, you’ll step into the past to admire tiny 1930s settlements, farms, castles and churches. You could couple this with a trip to the ritzier LEGOLAND Windsor (13 miles away) and you’re sure to be a huge hit with the kids!
If you’re on two wheels, follow the Milton Route (one of three Chiltern Heritage Cycle Trails) to visit Chalfont St. Giles via spectacular valley scenery. John Milton, poet and polemicist, settled in the village for a time, seeking sanctuary from the ravages of the Great Plague. Step into his cottage to see the place he wrote Paradise Lost, and learn about his life and times.
Insider tips from our Hostel Manager Nicola:
1. Enchant the children with a visit to the Harry Potter Tour at Warner Bros. Studios. It’s only a 25-minute drive away, and the route takes you via Black Park Country Park which is fantastic for families with a play area, picnic spots and cycling available. The park is also, incidentally, next door to Pinewood Studios where parts of Harry Potter were filmed.
2. The Thames Path passes by eight miles away and this stretch, from Marlow to Windsor, is amongst the most picturesque. Prestige homes pepper this section – not least Windsor Castle, Stanley Spencer’s home at Cookham, and the Cliveden Estate of Profumo affair infamy.
3. Celebrate the Magna Carta’s 801st birthday and join the National Trust’s Anniversary Guided Walk at Runnymede next month. There are still spaces available on Wednesday 15th and Saturday 18th June 2016.
Affordable Half Term Holidays
Half Term is the perfect time to get away with the whole family and explore more of England and Wales.
To help you decide where to go (because there are so many great locations to choose from!), we’ve pinpointed some of our best value beds and rooms.
A lesson in relaxation
Claim your own corner of heaven in North Devon with a stay at this former school on the Hartland Heritage Coast. This cosy complex lies out of the way in a glorious spot where the sun always seems to shine. If you like the idea of simple, honest and low cost accommodation close to a myriad of activities and marvellous scenery, this is the one for you.
Rugged, rocky and dramatic, this area’s coastline is notorious for shipwrecks and celebrated for its stunning views. And the best way to see the sights is from the South West Coast Path which passes nearby. The Hartland Quay to Bude section is reputed as the toughest, most isolated and rewarding part of the entire coast path. At three miles in, Elmscott is perfectly positioned if you want to shave a little off this 15-mile section.
If you’d rather a short ramble than a heavy hike, head north to Hartland Quay. Once there you can admire the Atlantic Ocean’s beauty and power. When the tide is out, the beach at Hartland is brilliant for sandcastle-building, sunbathing, rockpooling and paddling. If your visit coincides with high tide, drop anchor in the Wreckers Retreat to take refreshment and discover the history of local wrecks and rescues.
Set back from the coast, Hartland Abbey dates from 1157 and boasts a fine collection of art and artefacts that’s been built up over the centuries. And the gardens are gorgeous. Be sure to pay a visit to this lived in and loved estate.
When it’s time for tea, beat a retreat to the bunkhouse to cook up something scrumptious in the well-equipped self-catering facilities. And finally, relax in the sun-soaked garden and enjoy views over green pastures and beyond to Lundy Island.
Insider tips from our Hostel Manager Thurza:
1. 20 minutes by car brings you to the cobbled streets, gleaming white cottages and deep blue harbour of Clovelly, a private village clinging to a 400 ft cliff. It’s a unique daytrip destination with museums, craft workshops, gardens and guided tours.
2. Go and see the waterfall at Spekes Mill Mouth. Two streams converge and plummet over a sheer rock face, through a series of staggered falls and finally to the sea. There’s a quiet surfers beach here too.
3. Visit Docton Mill Gardens and Tea Rooms to enjoy all the romance of the wild flower garden, work up an appetite with a scenic river stroll, and then tuck into the best cream tea in North Devon.
Soothe your soul in South Wales
Following recent renovation, this cosy 19th-century farmhouse is now brighter, airier and more inviting than ever before. Nestled in the centre of the National Park and enjoying 14 acres of ancient woodland, this Welsh wonder is the perfect place to recalibrate, recharge and rediscover the sheer joy of nature, pure and simple.
With both dormitory and private accommodation, hot showers, comfy beds and a roaring log fire to keep guests warm on wilder nights, YHA Brecon Beacons makes a fantastic base for activity breaks. Fresh from a great night’s sleep, you’ll be longing to get out and about to explore. Step outside with your morning cuppa to drink in breath-taking views towards Pen y Fan, the highest peak in southern Britain, and dream up the day’s adventures.
If you like a challenge, aim high and take on the mountain using the trail that starts right from the hostel door. There’s a real range of alternative walking routes in the vicinity too – from low level short walks to demanding full day or multi-day hikes along the Beacons Way or Taff Trail.
The Taff Trail is open to cyclists as well as walkers. Join it to travel traffic-free former tramways and railway lines, riding across towpaths and moorlands as you wend your way south through town and country. Bring your own bike or hire one locally. And if you’re in the market for a thrill ride, BikePark Wales is just a short drive from the hostel and caters for absolutely everyone from rookie to pro – so why not have a go! Just don’t leave your stomach behind, flying over the jumps; you’ll need it to make the most of our perennially-popular Supper Club at 7pm.
Insider tips from our Hostel Manager Rich:
1. The market towns of Brecon, Abergavenny, Crickhowell and Hay-on-Wye are all within easy reach and offer rainy day alternatives on those occasions when the weather stops play. There’s even a bus stop nearby that links us directly to Cardiff city centre.
2. Visit Penderyn Distillery for a glimpse of how award-wining Welsh whisky is made. In addition to a range of whiskies they also offer their unique Gin, Vodka and Cream Liqueur.
3. New for 2016, we now have two large camping pods for those looking for quirky accommodation. Alternatively go wild camping in our unspoilt woodland for an awesome and authentic back-to-nature adventure.
The countdown has begun
For some lucky, plucky youngsters, a summer of adventure lies just around the corner. YHA Summer Camps start in just a few months’ time! If you’re yet to book the kids an experience they’ll remember, tarry no longer! Whether it is mountain boarding or quad biking, archery or abseiling, bushcraft or raft building, there’s so much in store in the great outdoors. Choose from three all-inclusive, five-night camps and five inspiring locations.
GO Outdoors – the UK’s Biggest Outdoor Stores
Make the most of the outdoors and the benefits it has to offer, whether that’s taking in the fresh air, achieving a healthier lifestyle or seeing more of our beautiful countryside. At GO we can offer you all you need to do this and more at prices that cannot be beaten with our Price Match Plus offer. Sign up for a GO Outdoors Discount Card, costing just £5 per year, and you can enjoy at least 10% off the retail price.
As a YHA Member you will benefit from an additional 10%* discount on top of this saving.
Feel the benefit
From up to £3 off overnight stays to savings on high street shopping, partner promotions to discounted days out, YHA Member Benefits offer a wealth of opportunities to save money. We really want you to take advantage of all that’s on offer.
So, if you’re having trouble accessing your benefits, please visit the YHA Membership pages of our website for a step-by-step guide to logging on and getting money off.
Next edition: Going solo
Here’s one for the individuals. If you’re tired of reading about family-friendly breaks (and we know that some of you are), look no further than next month’s edition. We’re taking a leaf out of new YHA Ambassador Alex Staniforth’s book and going in search of the best places to take on epic outdoor challenges and meet like-minded adventurers. Oh, and we’ll be giving away a couple of signed copies of the inspirational Icefall too. Look out!