I first visited Ty’n Cornel Hostel just after it was sold by the YHA. Not long before my visit there had been a triangle of three remote youth hostels in the grassy Cambrian Mountains. All within walking distance of each other, connected by footpaths and unmetled old drovers roads across the wilderness. They were called Dolgogh, Tyncornel and Blaencaron, and in 2005 the YHA put them all up for sale. These remote simple hostels had a loyal following of YHA members, people who had escaped to the grassy wilderness many times over the years and did’t want to see the hostels disappear. They formed the Elenydd Wilderness Hostels Trust and bought two of the hostels from the YHA. By the time the Trust was formed it was to late to save Blaencaron Hostel which was less remote and had sold as a family home. TYNCORNEL HOSTEL PREVIOUSLY YHA TYNCORNEL BUNKHOUSE and DOLGOCH HOSTEL remain open and are in the Independent Hostels network
Our visit to Tyncornel Hostel was in early spring in 2006 when our girls were five and six years old. We left the welsh stone houses of the village of Llanddewi Brefi beheind and traveled seven miles into the mountains with only the occasional sheep farm for company. The last mile was along a well made track, easy to drive, but feeling all the more remote for the lack of Tarmac. At this point the girls could not quite believe we were going to find a place to sleep in this wilderness and kept asking how far it was to ” Tiny Corner Hostel”. What a surprise to turn the last bend and see the neat little farmhouse waiting for us.
It was a cold spring day and there was a welcoming fire in the hostel. The girls rushed upstairs to see where we would sleep and found a cute cottage bedroom with a low window where they could gaze out into the gathering dusk. Bob loved the peace of the place, the bird life all around and good company at the hostel. Together we enjoyed the familiar hosteling task of preparing a simple meal. Soon we were tucking the children up in their beds and had an evening to spend swapping stories in good company. Proper travelers tales of miles walked, places visited and plans for adventures to come.
The morning dawned with bright cold sunshine. Green Ted was taken downstairs for breakfast in front of the fire and Orange Ted had a lie-in in the top bunk (you can just see the tip of his nose). The day was all ours, with miles of grass to run around, a track to cycle on and no need to worry about cars. We walked the drovers road that continued past Ty’n Cornel Hostel and saw the Doethie Valley open up before us with stunning views and no-one but sheep. The girls loved the freedom.
In 2006 when the Elenydd Wilderness Hostels Trust bought the hostels they affiliated straight back into the YHA. So to an average YHA member Tyncornel Youth Hostel and Dolgoch Youth Hostel continued to exist just like they always had done. The difference was that the hostels were now being managed and run by the volunteers of the Elenydd Trust and for the following 10 years the YHA acted only as a marketing and booking agency. Over those years, since our visit, the the Trust has made upgrades, new bunks have been installed and the old gas rings have been replaced by electric rings and a microwave, but the air of simplicity remains intact. Heated by an wood burning stove with communal cooking and eating spaces, Ty’n Cornel Hostel is as much a traditional simple YHA hostel now as it ever was.
Only it is no longer a YHA hostel at all. In 2016 the YHA gave 6 months notice to 20 of the simplest properties affiliated to in their network. The YHA had moved on. They no longer wanted to be associated with simple hostels. Not even iconic remote simple hostels that had been preserved by YHA members. From June 2017 the Elenydd Wilderness Hostels can no longer call themselves youth hostels and will receive no more bookings from the YHA.
Luckily Ty’n Cornel and Dolgoch hostels have also been members of Independent Hostels network every since the Trust brought the properties form the YHA, so they have a following outside of the YHA. As soon as the YHA remove the last references to these study little hostels from their website, curious YHA members will begin to find them elsewhere. They wont be hard to find, just a google away, or a quick flip through a copy of the Independent Hostel Guide for those who like paper better. So spread the word, tell everyone you know the story of these valiant little hostels, still battling on, to provide peace and space for those who need it. Support their silent struggle, come for a visit, bring your friends and your family’s. Come and visit and see the lovely Tiny Corner Hostel for yourself.
You can see more independent hostels and bunkhouses on our map of Hostels and Bunkhouses in South Wales. And here you can find out more about EX-YHA camping Barns and YHA Hostels who have joined the Independent Hostels network.