Holiday accommodation available to individuals : What is a Hostel

Self catering bunkhouses & hostels
self catering hostel

A hostel is a friendly place to stay where fellow guests will chat to you in the kitchen. Hostels are the only form of self catering accommodation where you can book by the night for stays as short as one night. Hostels provide self catering accommodation with shared living areas. Sleeping accommodation is often in bunks and private bedrooms are available or friends will share a dorm. Youth hostels were always available to individuals but now some hostels can only be hired by a group. The maps below shows all the hostels and bunkhouses in the Independent Hostel Guide which welcome individuals and couples.

Hostels and bunkhouses, available to Individuals.
Click markers to view hostels and bunkhouses

View all hostels & bunkhouses

What is a hostel or bunkhouse

A hostel provides self catering accommodation.  A hostel can be booked for stays as short as one night.   A hostel has shared living areas.  A hostel will often have bunk beds and sometimes have dormitories. Traditionally hostels were always available to individuals but now some hostels can only be hired by a group.  This page shows all the hostels and bunkhouses in the Independent Hostel Guide which welcome individuals, couples and small groups.  You can find group accommodation using our online group accommodation service.

A bunkhouse can be considered to be a hostel in many ways.  It for fills all the criteria above.  There is a huge crossover between the accommodation calling itself a hostel and that which is named as a bunkhouse.  The hostels in the Independent Hostels UK network take many forms.  Bunkhouses, Camping Barns, Backpackers Hostels, Boutique Hostels and Group Accommodation Centres all have a shared aspect to their accommodation which makes them unique from Hotels, B&Bs and self-catering cottages.

Hostel Accommodation Types

Hostel accommodation is a unique form of accommodation where living areas are shared, and sometimes sleeping rooms too. The majority of the accommodation in the Independent Hostels network have private sleeping rooms so it is possible to have privacy at night and be social in the daytime. The hub of the social areas is often the self-catering kitchen or dining room.  There are over 400 independent hostels on this site.

A  cheap Hotel or B&B cannot be a hostel because they do not have self-catering facilities, there are no shared areas where the guests are welcome to mingle. A self catering house or self catering cottage cannot be  a hostel if you have to book for a whole week in order to stay one night.  In hostels you can move around the country one night at a time, self-catering as you go.   You can stay in a hostel as an individual and have a chat with those around you,  no need to dine alone.

This is a hostel : Big Mose National Trust Hostel National Trust Group Accommodation

Hostel accommodation: HOSTEL

A typical hostel often has dormitories but many will also have private rooms. It is safe to say that any place with hostel in the name will provide self-catering facilities and some kind of social area (dining room/lounge) to relax in. A typical hostel would be in a house as opposed to a barn, although I do know of hostels in barns, factories, warehouses and lighthouses.   A hostel will welcome outdoor enthusiasts and international travellers, depending on where they are.  City Centre Hostels tend to cater for international travellers whilst rural hostels tend to be more popular with outdoor enthusiasts.  Hostels generally provide all bedding and linen, but bring your own towel and toiletries.

This is a Hostel : Bridges Youth Hostel
Hostel Accommodation at Bridges Youth Hostel

Hostel accommodation: YOUTH HOSTEL

A youth hostel is a hostel which has affiliated to the YHA enterprise marketing scheme, or is owned by the YHA.   All the Youth Hostels in the Independent Hostels network are privately  owned but affiliated to the YHA


A bunkhouse (or Bunk Barn)  is more likely to be a conversion of a barn or outbuilding.   They are generally in rural areas and  cater mostly for outdoor enthusiasts, with sole-use bookings from groups quite common.  A bunkhouse will be self-contained with toilets, showers, cooking and dining facilities. Sleeping will be in dorms or private rooms and you will need to inquire whether you need your own sleeping bag.   Depending on how recent the conversion, bunkhouses can be very swish with under-floor heating and all mod cons, or more traditional with cold floors and solid fuel stoves.   Look out for the SIMPLE logo when researching bunkhouses.   The simple logo together with the price will help you work out if the accommodation you are looking at is modern or basic.

A bunkhouse is not to be confused with a bunkroom.  Bunkrooms are often outbuildings attached to a pub where low cost accommodation is provided in bunks.  Bunkrooms generally have their own toilet/showers but no kitchen. The idea is that all eating, drinking and socialising take place in the adjacent pub.

This is a hostel : Clink City Centre Hostel
Hostel Accommodation at Clink City Centre Hostel

Hostel accommodation: CITY CENTRE HOSTELS

There are some fabulous city centre hostels opening up.  With stylish decor and designer furniture they are often referred to as Boutique Hostels.   Keeping the shared social areas that we all love, but often with bars instead of self catering kitchens. Who needs to cook with the city on your doorstep?  The key to these brilliantly located hostels is dormitory sleeping, which keeps the price of the prime city centre locations affordable.

Hostel Accommodation at Underbank Farm Camping Barn
Hostel Accommodation at Underbank Farm Camping Barn

Hostel accommodation: CAMPING BARNS

Camping barns offer very basic accommodation and are often known as a stone tent. There is no bedding and often only a hard sleeping shelf. Guest need to bring a sleeping bag and sometimes a sleeping mat too. It is also quite common for the food preparation area to have no cooker or utensils; again the camper is required to bring their own.  Camping barns are very rural and sometime so remote they have no electricity. Aimed at the walker who might walk from barn to barn, these barns are also sometimes booked by groups of outdoor enthusiasts and because they are often small (from 6 beds) and cheap  they can also be surprising fun for families.

Hostel accommodation for groups
Hostel accommodation for groups

Hostel accommodation: Group Accommodation Centres

Although every hostel on this website would be delighted to accommodate a group, this category is unique in that they will not accept individuals and minimum group sizes are specified. Group accommodation centres are often outdoor centres but they can also be large houses.  They are different to holiday-lets in that they provide much better value and generally have less expensive decor and  there is always the possibility of dormitories which would not be expected in a holiday let. Group accommodation can sometimes organize the catering for your group and they often provide outdoor activities and other courses or training.