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Britain’s weirdest hostels


Long gone are the days when hostelling meant bland single sex dormitories. Hostelling has moved with the times. Those on the lookout for bargain rooms beyond the bog standard will be richly rewarded in their travels across Britain, with many hostels offering not merely well-appointed but also rather unique accommodation.

Stay in a Castle at Carbisdale Castle

The jewel in the crown of the UK hostelling network has to be Carbisdale Castle south of the Northern Highland town of Lairg in Scotland. Hung with old paintings and filled with statues, it lends a touch of Gothic grandeur to the world of cheap accommodation, and is well positioned for attractions such as the Falls of Shin waterfall.

Lighthouse Accommodation

One of the best hostels in the country has to be Rua Reidh Lighthouse in the wilderness of Wester Ross in the Northern Highlands. It’s situated up a twenty mile dead-end road near the hamlet of Melvaig, north of Gairloch. The hostel doubles as an outdoor centre, and there are tons of great walks close by, as well as superb views out to the Isle of Skye on a clear day.

First Class Train Carriage Accommodation

Sleeperzzz in the tiny village of Rogart in the Northern Highlands offers rooms or, rather, “compartments” in an old First Class train carriage on a siding of the Inverness to Wick railway line. It’s situated in a gorgeous flower-bedecked garden. Only about four trains pass by daily so tranquility remains the order of the day. Try a spot of self-catering in the dining car, where most of the action centres of a storm-tossed evening.

Haunted Pubs

The 17th century Ship Inn in Kirkby-in-Furness in the Lake District is reputedly one of Britain’s most haunted places to stay, and right alongside is a hostel run by the same people, Duddon Sands Hostel. It is ideally placed for Lake District hikes and the Northwest England coast, with sandy baches on the doorstep.

Stay in an Old Croft House

The Gaitlff Trust Hostels on the Outer Hebrides are typical croft houses scattered across the islands. Black Houses, the Outer Hebridean version of the croft house, had dry stone walls and turf roofs weighted down with heavy stones. Needless to say, on the storm-prone Scottish islands, many have not survived. The ones that have are now protected buildings and the community of them at Gearrannan Village offers a window into what life was like on the islands in centuries gone by.

Camping Bods — Unusual Shetland Accommodation

The network of camping bods on the Shetland Islands really offers you the chance to get away from it all. Bods were traditionally simple rustic cottages for fishermen to stay in and store their equipment in season. There are now nine such bods on on the archipelago including the supposedly haunted (and best equipped) Windmill Lodge on the remote island of Yell.

Abbey Accommodation

Whitby Youth Hostel re-opened in 2007 right alongside the splendid Whitby Abbey in the on-site Abbey House. Right on the cliff tops above Whitby in Yorkshire, the views are sensational and you get free entry to the abbey if you stay.

A Tipi or Yurt Holiday

Fancy a spot of yurt living? Deepdale Farm on the North Norfolk coast offers bargain accommodation in yurts (Central Asian style circular tents) and in wigwams. There is also a hostel on site based in a former granary. The farm is in Burnham Deepdale, near King’s Lynn.

If money is no object, the accommodation scene in Britain gets still stranger. You can stay at a windmill at Cley Windmills in Norfolk or in an 11th century monastery at Buckfast Abbey on Dartmoor in Devon.

Tips for Cheap Travel in Europe

Europe has a reputation as an expensive travel destination. Here are some tips for making a holiday in Europe more affordable.

How to Find Cheap Flights in Europe

Several budget airlines, including EasyJet and Ryanair, offer very cheap airfares in Europe. Some budget airlines fly to small secondary airports, which makes airfares much more affordable. Booking flights online with budget airlines as far in advance as possible can help to find the lowest airfares in Europe.

The Lastminute.com website is a good place to look for last minute travel deals around Europe including flights, hotels and package deals.

Tips for Cheap Train Travel in Europe

Europe has an efficient and extensive rail network, and the InterRail and EuRail train passes make train travel in Europe easy. The passes can include unlimited train travel around Europe for up to a month, but there are several options depending on the length of travel and the countries included in the pass. The InterRail pass is available for EU residents, and non-EU residents can buy the EuRail pass.

Many countries also offer their own discount passes for train travel, and travellers with a valid student ID can get discounted train and bus tickets in some European countries.

How To Find Cheap Accommodation in Europe

Hotels inmany European cities can be expensive, but fortunately there are cheaper accommodation options.

There are hostels in most big European cities, and some hostels are located in beautiful places in the European countryside. Campsites can be a great option in the summer. Couchsurfing is a network of people around the world who are willing to offer a free place to stay to fellow travellers.

Getting a live-in job in a hostel or a hotel can cut travel costs dramatically in places where accommodation is expensive. The pay is usually not great but the free accommodation (and sometimes food) makes up for it. Gumtree is a website that lists hotel and hostel jobs as well as summer jobs and other traveller-friendly positions in the UK and around Europe.

Best Times for Cheap Travel in Europe

The most expensive times to travel in Europe are the peak holiday seasons in July and August, around Christmas, around Easter and during the European ski holidays in February.

Outside these peak seasons travel can be much cheaper. The Mediterranean beaches and the Southern European countryside are still sunny and beautiful in September, but prices are much cheaper than during the summer holidays. Holidays in the European ski resorts can be much more affordable outside the school ski holiday season in February, and except for the busy and expensive Easter holiday weekend, the spring months are a great time to visit Europe.

Finding Out About Free Events in Europe

There are countless free festivals, concerts and other events around Europe during the summer months. These are usually advertised in local newspapers and magazines and often also online. Many large cities in Europe, including London, offer a range of free concerts and festivals during the summer. Finding out about free events is another great way for budget travellers to enjoy a cheaper holiday in Europe.