Staying in English independent hostels, bunkhouses and camping barns is a great way to tour England on a budget. Self-catering accommodation with stays as short as one night enables couples, individual travellers and families to experience landscapes as varied as the North Norfolk Coast, the Lake District and Cornwall right up to Northumberland. The cities are also well provided for with boutique hostels and backpackers providing great value city centre accommodation. English bunkhouses and hostels also provide ideal accommodation for groups, particularity those looking for outdoor activity breaks, with sole use of large kitchens and dining rooms. There are nearly 200 privately run English hostels in the Independent Hostels UK network, providing accommodation in England’s classic countryside, National Parks and historic towns and cities.

English bunkhouses and hostels

History of Hostels and Bunkhouses in England

The idea of the Youth Hostel was first developed in England in the late 1920s with Youth Hostel Association (YHA) being formed in 1930. The YHA’s aim was to encourage access to the best of our English countryside for young people from the industrial cities. The network of YHA hostels was designed such that each hostel was a day’s cycling distance apart.  The web of hostels developed by the YHA provided low-cost self-catering accommodation in some of England and Wales’ most iconic locations. Throughout the 20th century the YHA developed into a countrywide network with links to SYHA (Scottish Youth Hostel Association) and Hostelling International (HI). However, the impact of the loss of visitors to the countryside as a result of the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak resulted in a change of direction for the charity.  Since then the YHA has concentrated on larger more accessible hostels in cities and honeypot locations such as the National Parks.  In some cases providing basic camping barns in remote rural locations.

hostels in england
hostels in england

Throughout this time the English Independent Hostel network, which began in the surfing towns of Cornwall and the walking areas of England, has grown. Independent hostels have sprung up where the YHA have left, with many ex-YHA hostels being taken on independently by management or local business people. The network of English Independent Hostels now numbers nearly 200 hostels, bunkhouses and camping barns. The 200 members all provide great value self-catering hostel and bunkhouse accommodation in all the prime English outdoor locations. There is a high density of independently run hostels and bunkhouses in the English National Parks including The Lake District, The Peak District, The North Yorks Moors, The Yorkshire Dales and The Northumberland National Park. Many of the English cities including Newcastle, Nottingham, York, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Hull, Plymouth, Exeter and London now have independent hostels.  These city hostels are often boutique in style and  are always in prime city centre locations.

English Bunkhouses and Hostels

When it comes to defining accommodation the line between hostel and bunk house is very blurred.  Originally a bunkhouse was more basic than a hostel and was often found in converted farm buildings.  Nowadays however, with modern conversions and mixed usage of the names, there is often very little difference between a hostel and a bunk house. The term camping barns is still mostly retained for very basic accommodation, however in some cases, like Dacres stable situated near Kendal in The Lake District, the term camping barn has been used to name accommodation which could just have easily be called a hostel or bunkhouse.  One thing we do know is that is was once a stable!

Dacras Stable Bunkhouse in England. Hostel or Camping Barn?
Dacres Stable Bunkhouse in England. Hostel or Camping Bar?

Accommodation for Groups.

All the hostels and bunk houses in England are well equipped to provide  self catering accommodation for groups, with large kitchen pans and dining areas to accommodate the entire group.  You can send an enquiry to a list of hostels and bunkhouses with exactly the facilities your group requires, using our group accommodation enquiry service.

Group accommodation in England at Pindale Farm Bunkhouses
Group Accommodation in England at Pindale Farm Bunkhouses

Touring England and  Independent Travel.

There are now independent hostels in many tourist towns and cities of England. You will find independent hostels in the cities of London, Liverpool, York, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Nottingham, Plymouth, Bristol, Exeter and the 2017 European City of Culture, Hull.  There is also self-catering hostel accommodation in many of the popular  tourist towns including, Brighton, Weymouth, Falmouth, Bude, Minehead, Canterbury, Hathersage,  Alnwick, Carlisle and  Keswick to name but a few.

Many other independent hostels are in wild areas of the National Parks or along Long Distance Trails and are surrounded by stunning scenery.  English independent hostels are a great resource for those touring England by car, by bike or on public transport. Bunkhouse and hostels are unique in that they provide self-catering accommodation where you can stay for as short a period as one night. Ideal for touring on a budget.  What’s more very many of the hostels and bunkhouses in England have facilities such as drying rooms and bike/canoe storage which are often not available at hotels, B&B’s or self-catering cottages.

Eco Hostels.

There are a growing number of hostels in England which have embraced sustainable energy and recycling in their business.  Look out for the Green Tourism symbol.  A stay at an ECO Hostel will educate and inspire you.

Star Bunkhouse, an ECO hostel.
Star Bunkhouse, an ECO hostel.

Hostels for Adventurers

With so many of the English independent hostels situated in our National Parks and along our magnificent coastline they are very popular with cyclists, mountain bikers, canoeists, climbers, hill walkers, cavers, surfers and other watersport enthusiasts.  Use the map above to find the best areas for your adventure sport and all the local hostels and bunkhouses will be flagged up.  This map is also really useful for those planning to cycle or walk along one of the long distance routes, for instance you’ll find plenty of hostels along  the Coast to Coast Route or Hadrian’s Wall path.

Hostels for Wilderness and Tranquility

There are other hostels and bunkhouses situated in some of the truly wildest parts of England.  Some can only be accessed on foot, like Skiddaw House which sits at 1550ft on a mountainside near Keswick, Cumbria.  Some don’t have electricity, never mind a mobile signal and others are situated in the Dark Sky Parks of Northumberland and Exmoor. Perfect for those of you who want to escape from modern living for a few days and go back in time.