While I currently look across the rooftops of Madrid from my fifth floor home-office, I cherish my many memories from staying at hostels around the UK. And I dream of new adventures to come as soon as it is safe to travel again.
Waking up in a new city, returning to a beloved region and meeting new like-minded people with a need for adventure high on their priority list. That is some of the many things I dearly miss from my many hostel experiences. Since 2015, I have stayed in various independent hostels from the south of England to the west coast of Wales and to the Scottish Highlands – and everywhere in between. I have also enjoyed writing about many of them for the Independent Hostel Guide’s blog.
Now, while the pandemic is restricting us all from travelling, I dream of the days we can once again pack our backpacks and hit the road. Like when my girlfriend and I went volunteering at The Old School Hostel in the tiny village of Trefin, Pembrokeshire, and got hostelling under our skin.
It was an extraordinary way to get to explore the stunning natural area that Pembrokeshire is while meeting the many travellers, mostly walkers, who came there to stay. We ended up returning the following years, and the (now former) hostel owners became friends for life.
Elsewhere in Wales, we had a very memorable hostel stay at the excellent Greenman Backpackers in the bordertown of Chepstow, from where we got to visit the impressive ruins of Tintern Abbey. It was on a misty autumn day, which only added to the melancholic atmosphere between the ancient and roofless stone walls. And it is a memory that has stayed with us ever since.
In Northern Wales, I also have fond memories of staying at the cosy Totters Hostel in the walled town of Caernarfon which offers a unique atmosphere near the banks of the Menai Strait. Besides the town itself, Totters is the perfect base for exploring nearby Snowdonia and the island of Anglesey.
Through the years, I have gotten to stay at some truly unique hostels too. The first one coming to mind is the beautiful hostel boat Kyle Blue at Bristol harbour. I love Bristol. A place where there is always something going on, and to be able to sleep on a houseboat in the heart of the city is as authentic as it gets. I can especially recommend Bristol to street art lovers like myself, as large parts of the city is practically a free open-air gallery.
I have also “slept on both sides of the law” through my hostel stays. Most recent was my stay at the beautifully renovated Bristol Wing that is set in Bristol’s former police headquarters. Here you have unique facilities and an excellent location, right in the centre of the city with everything within reach. Don’t miss the St. Nicholas Market, just a short from the hostel.
Before “joining the police” though, I also got to spend time behind bars in London. That was in 2017, when I spent a night in an old cell at Clink78. A funky hostel set in a 200-year old courthouse at King’s Cross. It was indeed a memorable stay (luckily I’m not claustrophobic), and this is the perfect location from where to go exploring the city on foot or to catch The Tube.
One year later, I returned to the capital to stay in and write about three of PubLove’s London-hostels (The Exmouth Arms, The Steam Engine and The White Ferry), which I can highly recommend, if you’re looking for great locations, pub-atmosphere and the perfect chance to meet new people while exploring the city. And by choosing a different one each time, it makes you see the city from different perspectives.
The past year and the ongoing pandemic has made me see everything in a different perspective too. It has made me cherish my past trips and adventures even more and has taught me that freedom and opportunities can’t be taken for granted. I miss places and I miss people – and all the wonderful moments that occur when they’re combined.
I cross my fingers all the lovely hostels and their passionate staff will make it though these tough times. Whether it’s gonna be in a big city or in the countryside – I just can’t wait to check in for my next hostel stay.