Several members of the 300-strong network of UK Independent Hostels occupy unusual buildings that used to be something else. These include lighthouse keepers’ cottages, railway carriages, schools, Methodist chapels and a courthouse. A large number have also been converted from old farm buildings and barns. They generally provide self-catering facilities and are suitable for singles, couples and groups seeking friendly, clean and inexpensive accommodation. Prices are from around £10 per person per night.
The two former railway carriages are also located in Scotland. Adjacent to Glenfinnan Railway Station, which is on the West Highland Line, near Fort William is the historic GLENFINNAN SLEEPING CAR; there’s also a dining car next door if you prefer not to self-cater. This is an ideal location for exploring the mountains of Lochaber, Rough Bounds, Moidart and Ardgour or a good stopping off point on the way to Skye. A night’s stay here is £14pp or you can book the entire carriage which sleeps ten for £120. At SLEEPERZZZ.COM, Rogart Station midway between Inverness and John O’Groats you can stay in three first class carriages or a showman’s wagon, which have been tastefully converted retaining many original features. Four trains per day pass through the small crofting community which has a shop, post office and pub/restaurant. Beds are from £9 per night for under 12s and £14 for adults, and there’s a 10% discount if you arrive by train or bike.
Several members of the UK Independent Hostels network are located in unusual buildings in town and city centres. In the heart of London at King’s Cross, the aptly named CLINK78 is a restored and converted 200 year old courthouse with accommodation for up to 200 people. With its stylish, cool interior, modern facilities and high-tech pod beds, the Clink is far removed from the traditional perception of a youth hostel. Chill out in the Courtroom Lounge where The Clash were on trial, enjoy nightly entertainment and happy hour in the bar and sleep it off in a real prison cell all from £10 per night including continental breakfast.
Unusual building also include former chapels and schools. Once a Methodist chapel, KIRKBY STEPHEN HOSTEL in Yorkshire has retained the original stained glass windows, pews, pulpit and organ in the communal living areas with the bedrooms and dormitories in a building at the rear. It’s located in the town’s main street close to restaurants and food shops while Wainwright’s coast to coast path and the W2W cycle trail pass by the town. Prices at Kirkby Stephen Hostel are from £14 . Many of the hostels were once village schools; these include BRIDGES LONG MYND YOUTH HOSTEL near Shrewsbury, Shropshire; HARDRAW OLD SCHOOL BUNKHOUSE, Lancashire and OLD SCHOOL HOSTEL FORMERLY YHA TREFIN in Pembrokeshire Wales. Prices are from around £15 and Hardraw Old School Bunkhouse offers group only accommodation for up to 30 people from £200 per night for sole use.
To help you choose the hostel that’s right for you, the Independent Hostels network produces a neat, annual handbook that will fit easily into a rucksack, or large pocket. At least one page is devoted to each hostel with a full description of facilities, price guidelines, contact details and colour photographs of the unusual buildings. Details of the hostels are also online on this website with excellent search facilities and maps plus special offers and competitions.