The Independent Hostel Guide began in 1993 when Sam Dalley, cyclist and traveller, decided that the list of Independent Hostels she had gathered on her travels had the makings of a book. Fifteen of the twenty hostels on the list agreed to fund the booklet and the Independent Hostel and Field Centre Guide glided off the photocopier.
Distribution was tricky but lots of new bunkhouses and hostels got in touch. In 1994 Cordee Books and Maps agreed to distribute the Independent Hostel Guide through the UK’s bookshops. Sales quickly rose into the thousands and the professional guidebook was born.
In 1995 Irish hostels were invited to join and in 2000 Continental Europe hostels were incorporated. By this stage the guidebook had a coverage of 280 hostels and bunkhouses across Europe.
The Independent Hostel Guide website was introduced in 2003 and featured all the details that were found in the guidebook. Despite this sales of the guidebook, now printed on recycled paper, continued to grow.
In 2007 a grant from the UK government funded the creation of Independent Hostels UK. IHUK is the UK’s network of independent bunkhouses, hostels, camping barns and group accommodation. The accommodation in the Independent Hostel Guide became members of IHUK and the Independent Hostel Guide become IHUKs handbook.
After IHUK was formed less Irish and Continental Europe hostels featured in the Independent Hostel Guide and in 2009 the guidebook changed to feature exclusively UK hostels.
In 2010 Independent Hostels UK began a four year partnership with Berghaus. The annual Independent Hostel Guide cover photoshoots were launched with Berghaus funding and these photoshoots continue to project fresh new images into IHUK’s marketing each year.
In 2012 IHUK and the Independent Hostel Guide embraced social networking.
In 2013 Independent Hostels UK held a conference, to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the first Independent Hostel Guide. Held at Hatters Hostel Liverpool and attended by 70 delegates.
In 2014 IHUK gained the GOLD award from the Green Tourism business scheme and in 2018 Ordnance Survey agreed to mark the locations of the Independent Hostels in the network on their maps.
2019 saw the launch of a new website, the third redesign in the history of the guide. The network now includes 350 places to stay.
Independent Hostels UK’s continues to be the largest hostel network in the UK. It is larger then the Youth Hostel Association (YHA plus Hostelling Scotland). The network aims to promote all accommodation providers equally from small rural setups to the large city hostels. IHUK offers a broad marketing package that targets the UK’s outdoor market and independent travellers.
If you operate independent hostel or bunkhouse style accommodation and would like to join IHUK you can find out more here.