Hostels: All mod cons… plus bespoke bunks

As a Welsh hostel is awarded five stars, Simon Calder reports on a reinvention

Insert the letter “s” into “hotel” and the cost of a night’s sleep falls sharply. Inexpensive accommodation is the traveller’s best friend. The cheaper the bed, the more exploring you can do.

If you haven’t been inside a youth hostel for a couple of decades, you might imagine it’s only one up from a young-offenders’ institution: chilly and bleak, with the unappetising prospect of contributing free labour for chores.

Thanks to fresh thinking in the Youth  Hostels Association, plus intense competition from independent hostels, that image is thankfully outdated.

In response to the commoditisation of accommodation by chains such as Premier Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Travelodge, hostels are demonstrating that you can get comfort and character on a budget.

Wales has just acquired its first “five-star” hostel, in the shape of Plas Curig – promising “modern decor, free Wi-Fi, 14 stylish bedrooms” within Snowdonia National Park.

All very Mr & Mrs Smith, until you get to the bit about “bespoke bunk beds”. But at £22.50 per person, you could stay for a pleasing 22 nights for the cost of a single night in the cheapest room at the Lanesborough in London. And if the prospect of sharing with the Australian national snoring team does not appeal, double and family rooms are available.

To sleep amid history, head for North Yorkshire. Ace York occupies a Georgian town house just a hop and a skip from York station. It’s as smart as can be, with an imposing staircase, panelled rooms and a rococo ceiling. You don’t get that at easyHotels. At just £16 a night, it could take the owners a while to recoup their £2m investment in refurbishing the property. But for that price you could be sharing with up to 13 other dorm-mates.

On the coast, the best address in Whitby is YO22 4JT, the postcode for the youth hostel right next to the ruined abbey. The hostel itself is a historic building, with fragments of original frescos on display.

More recent history is on offer at another Georgian building, in what is described as a “poshtel”. The location is described as “central London”, which will amuse the neighbours on Walworth Road near Elephant and Castle.

To enter the Safestay hostel, you walk up the steps where Neil Kinnock conceded defeat in the 1992 general election – because this is the former Labour Party headquarters, later known as John Smith House. The classless apparatchiks have moved out, to leave room for classy backpackers.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?