Tuesday, 29 April 2014
Anyone who has spent any time travelling with a backpack will know that there are hostels and there are hostels. The term can encompass the very best of friendly and fun accommodation, or nights of noisy, dirty and sleepless hell. However, it can now mean a whole load more, as there's a growing movement of hostels that are borrowing some of the good looks and charm more associated with boutique hotels. It's a trend that's actually bigger outside the UK, but we're catching up. These stays offer a budget stay that doesn't mean you have to totally abandon your style at the reception desk.
Let's start in London, because god knows budget accommodation is useful here. King's Cross' Generator hostel (part of a chain of eight around Europe) has just been given a multi-million pound facelift. The result includes communal areas where you can play spot the designer furniture and bright street art inspired pieces on the walls. Ah, and a double decker bus parked in the bar that doubles as a DJ booth. With different floors themed around famous Brit characters such as Austin Powers and Ali G, you know this isn't a place for wallflowers.
Nearby is Clink 78, set in the stunning surrounds of a converted courthouse with a rich history: Charles Dickens worked in the building and The Clash were put on trial here for shooting a pigeon - an event now remembered through the magnificent name of the hostel's Clashbar. You can book a stay in one of the original English Heritage-listed prison cells, or there's the calmer female-only 'birds nest' rooms in the quieter part of the hostel. Prices for a dorm bed start at £12 a night.
Safestay is located in south London's Elephant and Castle. The area has something of an unlovely reputation so this makes this find all the more unexpected. Housed in an 18th century building, it now provides guests with enviable facilities such as a heated gardens, as well as thoughtful touches such as reading lights and curtains for privacy on each dorm bed. Prices for those start at £18, or £66 for a double room.
Moving out of London, head up to Liverpool to sample the delights of Hoax. Larger-than-average beds and en-suite facilities, regardless of whether you are in a dorm or a double, help lift this above the usual hostel standard. There's plenty to keep you entertained too - the photo above shows Hopskotch, the cool downstairs bar and cafe, and there's a live performance space in the basement too.
Visitors to York have a choice of boutique hostel accommodation, depending on your design preferences. The Fort definitely goes for a contemporary street art-influenced look, with each room decorated by different design graduate...
... while the Ace Hotel is housed within a Georgian building and is all high-ceilings and ornate details agogo. Dorm beds are available from £16.
Vagabonds in Belfast receives a huge amount of love in online reviews. Perhaps it's because they provide their guests with free breakfast and tea and coffee. Or perhaps because it's got a really nice fresh and modern feel. Doubles start at £13, while £40 will get you a double room such as the one above.
If you want to get away from it all, go off grid at Bivouac, part of the Swinton Estate in the Yorkshire Dales. Built and run on strict eco credentials, the accommodation illustrates a stylish use of recycling and reuse. Shacks and yurts are available, or grab one (or all) of the twelve beds available in the bunk barn for £22.50 each.
And for more retreating into the great outdoors in style, I'm rather taken by these camping pods at Grinton Lodge in Richmond, North Yorkshire. It's one of the YHA hostels that has been given a makeover in recent years - check out the refurbished section on their website for more. And while they might not have street art or a DJ booths on site, they do have some amazing buildings to explore. Just take a look at Beverley Friary or the Elizabethan splendour of Wilderhope Manor for starters.
Have you staying in a brilliant hostel in the UK? Let us know in the comments. And check out our boutique hotel map for more inspiration.