To celebrate a new collaboration with the Youth Hostel Association (YHA), which sees the creation of Ramblers Routes routecards from their accommodation across England and Wales, Andrew McCloy checks out some of Britain’s best-placed hostels, where you can step straight from reception desk onto trail.
Rowardennan Lodge, near Drymen, Stirling
HOSTEL HISTORY: Located on the banks of Loch Lomond’s quieter eastern shore, this
62-bed hostel has its own jetty and is served by regular ferries. There are stunning views across the water to the Arrochar Alps from many of the rooms. The hostel is also on the route of
the West Highland Way and
is a popular stopover for long-distance walkers.
BEST WALK: Rowardennan is the start of the well-walked
path up Ben Lomond – at 974m/3,196ft, the most
southerly Munro in Scotland and from where the views over the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park are magnificent. The route is straightforward
in good weather, but still take
the usual precautions. Return the same way or, for a slightly rockier descent, follow a path along
the Ptarmigan Ridge. It’s approximately 8 miles overall.
FURTHER INFO: www.walkhighlands.co.uk/lochlomond
HOSTEL HISTORY: Wells is a lovely north Norfolk fishing town popular with walkers, naturalists and getting away-from-it-all types. The self-catering hostel is housed in an old hall that once belonged to the nearby parish church of St Nicholas. There are plenty of good pubs and cafés just a short walk away.
BEST WALK: An easy, linear outing along the Norfolk Coast Path, the route is flat and well waymarked. Head eastwards around the saltmarsh to Stiffkey and Blakeney, before a seaward loop beside the creeks to Blakeney Eye. Look out for seals on the mudflats and the abundant birdlife, culminating in the nature reserve at Cley Marshes (pictured). It’s a 10-mile route with big skies and wide horizons, but since the return is via the route of the regular Coasthopper bus service, it can be shortened.
FURTHER INFO: www.nationaltrail.co.uk/peddars-way-and-norfolk-coast-path; www.yha.org.uk/hostel/wells-next-sea
Port Eynon, Swansea
HOSTEL HISTORY: A peaceful hostel on the south coast of the Gower, which was once a lifeboat station and whose two boats saved more than 50 lives. Its shoreline position provides sweeping views across the bay and evening campfires on the beach in the summer.
BEST WALK: The 7-mile, cliff-top walk west to Worms Head and Rhossili Bay is popular. But for a more satisfying circular route of similar distance, head eastwards on paths and lanes through Oxwich Green to the small village of Oxwich. Here you’ll find a castle (pictured), hotel refreshments and a national nature reserve, all crowned by a simply glorious, award-winning sandy beach – one of the finest on the Gower. Return on the Wales Coast Path via Oxwich Point and a visit to the 13th-century St Illtyd’s Church.
FURTHER INFO: www.visitswanseabay.com
Black Sail, Ennerdale, Cumbria
HOSTEL HISTORY: Sitting at the remote and mountainous head of Ennerdale, this tranquil Lake District retreat is a hillwalker’s paradise. The former shepherd’s bothy is inaccessible by road and has no mobile phone signal. Recent refurbishment – including new oak-framed, double-glazed windows – has made the building highly eco-friendly, but it retains its character and simplicity, with a common room doubling up as a drying area, and cosy bunk-bed accommodation.
BEST WALK: From the hostel, head straight up Scarth Gap and over the bumpy top of Haystacks. Beyond Blackbeck Tarn, swing southeast to reach Brandreth and join the popular path to the summit of Great Gable. There’s a fantastic mountain panorama all the way, but make sure you’re properly prepared. A more direct return via Windy Gap or Beck Head makes the route about 6-7 miles in length.
FURTHER INFO: www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/visiting/thingstodo/walking; www.yha.org.uk/hostel/black-sail
Castleton Losehill Hall, Derbyshire
HOSTEL HISTORY: Located in the heart of the Peak District National Park, Losehill Hall is a Victorian Gothic mansion, set in extensive parkland. It’s encircled by hills, including the Shivering Mountain, or Mam Tor, while across the valley are the ruins
of a Norman castle and the spectacular limestone ravine of Winnats Pass.
BEST WALK: From the hostel, this undulating 8-mile route climbs steadily to Lose Hill for the spectacular Great Ridge path west via Hollins Cross to Mam Tor. There are magnificent views across Edale to Kinder Scout, and from the top of Mam Tor there’s a complete panorama of the Peak District. Now head south to join the Limestone Way, finishing in dramatic fashion via the narrow gorge of Cave Dale to emerge at the foot of Peveril Castle in Castleton.
FURTHER INFO: www.visitpeakdistrict.com/see-and-do; www.yha.org.uk/hostel/castleton-losehill-hall
For the full version of this article featuring more hostel walk suggestions, pick up the Spring 2014 issue of Walk Magazine from Cotswold Outdoor or why not join the Ramblers and get it delivered to your door four times a year?