Newest Review: ... stuff- individual reading lights, a sink and plenty box storage and hooks for your coats and rucksacks. Radiators keep the room toasty and... more
Beg, Steal or Borrowdale?
YHA Borrowdale (Cumbria)
Member Name: apuskiduski
YHA Borrowdale (Cumbria)
Advantages: Location, atmosphere, disabled facilities, great for families
Disadvantages: Wettest part of Britain, make and strip your own bunk, can be noisy
If you're heading to Borrowdale Youth Hostel on foot, you could be doing Wainwright's Coast to Coast footpath, or the Cumbria Way. Either way, it's highly likely that you'll also be very wet, as this hostel in Longthwaite, is a mere stone's throw away from Seathwaite which happens to be the wettest inhabited place in the British Isles with an average of 3,300 mm - that's 130 inches in old money - of cold, wet rain that's invariably horizontal!
But panic ye not, because, if indeed you are drenched to your undies, this hostel has everything that the weather beaten-traveller needs!
The building is a long cedarwood 'cabin' set in beautiful gardens with its very own section of the river Derwent. If you are driving to the hostel, there are ample parking spaces outside the hostel for cars and mini buses, but coaches won't make it up to the drive and over the hump backed bridge, so there's a drop off point some 400m down the road.
There are two dedicated parking spaces for wheelchair users.
A storm porch welcomes you and gives you chance to get rid of your boots and drip all over a non-carpeted surface before you check in. There's enough space here for a dozen people or so, as it's highly likely there'll be a few other drowned rats joining you.
Reception is open from 7.30a.m until 10.30 pm and doors are locked at 11.00 prompt. Occasionally the blind is down. But ring the bell and someone appears within a couple of minutes.
It's here that you check in, order your meals and settle your bill at the end. Thankfully, the YHA now accepts debit and credit cards so you don't have to carry vast amounts of cash with you. You can keep adding bits to your tab, and I have to say they've never got this right yet. They always manage to give us something for free, yippee!
Reception is also the shop and a place where the kids can hire board games, buy a table tennis ball or get their YHA card ink stamped with the unique design of the hostel. The wardens are a gold mine of local information and they post the weather forecast here to help you plan the next day's activities.
Check in is quick and efficient and you are given up to three keys to your room, according to the number of occupants. There are 86 beds at the hostel, organised as follows:
8 rooms with 2 beds
2 rooms with 3 beds
5 rooms with 4 beds
6 rooms with 6 beds
1 room with 8 beds
Two of the rooms as well as toilet and shower facilities are designed for wheelchair users and are situated almost next to reception.
We have stayed here four times now, and the standard has been pretty consistent. The rooms have bunks, which you have to make and strip yourself - all good character building stuff- individual reading lights, a sink and plenty box storage and hooks for your coats and rucksacks. Radiators keep the room toasty and you have a great view of the grounds too.
Some ear plugs might be worth considering if you're travelling independently. There's always someone who snores - for me it's my better half, bless him!
===Shower and Toilet Facilities===
Shower and toilet facilities are great. When you arrive after a long day's walking the best part of the day seems to be standing in a decent, hot shower while you look forward to a tasty evening meal. My kids would argue that it's finding that there's an electric socket to plug the hairdryer and straighteners in. (Yes, they carry these in their rucksacks when we go on a week's door to door walk, can you believe!?)
Food is generally good quality, although I was a little disappointed with my evening meal choices (February half term). The potato and leek soup, £2, was too thin for my liking and when I ordered sausage and mash (£6.95) I was expecting a great circle of Cumberland sausage, but it was a couple of the run of the mill types. The veg and gravy were a bit bland too I have to say. There were traditional puddings, ice cream and fruit salad available for dessert (£2 average). Children's meals were available for about £4.
Breakfast was better though. A selection of fruit juices, cereals including the option of porridge, toast, croissants, meat, cheese, yoghurts, bread and cooked breakfast meant that no-one set off into the cold hungry. As it turned out, it wasn't that cold for February and we had three drays on the trot - that's dry days by the way. Full price of breakfast was£4.50. Children could have breakfast at half price.
Our packed lunches were fantastic. You have a choice of two packs - junior and standard: £4 and £5.10 respectively. The first has five items of your choice and the second has seven. Your sandwich choices have to be given to the warden the night before, and then everything is put on the tables in the lounge for you to choose from. This would win my best packed lunch award if there was one, simply because if you want one sandwich and six lumps of flapjack you can do just that! Providing you get there early enough that is!
If the weather had been fairly typical, and we had returned soaked to the skin, then we could have made use of the excellent drying facilities. The large drying room has two washing machines, plenty of racks and rails with hangers, as well as newspaper for packing your boots out with. There's a huge sink for hand washing your smalls too.
Another award I could present to this hostel is for the best open-fire. The lounge is so cosy in winter, you can catch a few people snoozing away quite happily in their comfy chairs, which, unfortunately, might look like care home chairs if you looked at them in a different light.
There are plenty of games, jigsaws, books and magazines to read as well as a computer for Internet access here, paid for at reception. We enjoyed a decent and cheap( £6) bottle of wine and the obligatory game of cards. There was a loud group of people celebrating a 50th birthday so the atmosphere was quite lively. Usually this room is quiet.
After dinner, the dining room is quite busy with groups of people engrossed in quite serious games of anything they happen to get their hands on at reception. Often these games are played to the death, with very serious competitors arguing about each and every move. Sometimes school groups take a hold of their tables and guard them with their lives until they leave. Occasionally little kids are running around in their PJs, burning up their last bit of energy, you hope, before bed.
A smaller room, off the dining room, has the all important TV and table tennis table. When we were there the French/Scottish rugby was on. Our friend, from Edinburgh, had a vested interest in watching, obviously. But, the TV needed a technical wizard to get it going. So, someone cleverly asked a teenager. Result!
This is off the dining room and there are plenty of shelves, two fridges, three cookers and two sinks as well as a hot water boiler for those people who want to self cater. The number of people staggering in with their weekend's shopping from Booths in Keswick was, indeed, quite staggering. I'm not fond of cooking when I'm away from home and certainly not after I've walked up a big hill. So I didn't use this room much.
The walking available nearby is outstanding. Alfred Wainwright called Borrowdale "the fairest valley of the Lake District" and I would heartily agree.
With Scafell Pike at one end of the valley and Keswick at the other there's something for everyone. There are other smaller, but equally satisfying climbs nearby including Catbells, Glaramara and Great Gable amongst others.
You can enjoy a leisurely stroll on the Allerdale Ramble to Derwentwater, board a launch to take you to Keswick and catch a bus back. The buses are expensive, however, as our family of five paid £18 for a one way trip from Keswick.
If you want to go out for a pint and a meal, the Scafell Hotel, in Rosthwaite, has a bar that serves excellent food and a good pint of local ale. We took this option on our third night and were well satisfied with the food here. The journey back, along part of the Honister Pass, in the dark, needed torches and headlights so bear this in mind.
We stayed Friday, Saturday and Sunday night and the cost was £64.95 for Friday and £72.95 for Saturday and Sunday. This was for a bunk room for six, room only.
We are YHA members, paying £22 a year for discounts on every overnight stay. Without the membership you will pay £3 per adult more and £1.50 per child.
Current prices are £17.95 for adults and £13.95 for under 18s. It's worth ringing the hostel directly to get the best deal or room combinations as the Internet booking system doesn't always do this for you.
Tel: 0845 371 9624
Fax no: (+44) 17687 77393
===How to get there===
From Keswick follow the B5289 to Borrowdale. Look for YHA signs at crossroads after Rosthwaite. Make sure you go past the Derwentwater hostel on your left as you drive around the lake.
Nearest bus stop 400yards. Borrowdale Rambler No. 79 during the day to/from Keswick 7 miles away.
Nearest station is in Penrith which is 25 miles away. You can then catch a bus to Keswick, then bus from Keswick to Borrowdale.
Ordnance Survey Map Number: 90 Grid Reference: 254142
If you're planning a walking route between hostels, there are a few nearby to consider.
Honister Hause is two miles away; Derwentwater is five miles away and has spectacular views of the lake; Buttermere, over the Honister Pass, is 6 miles away and Keswick, in an attractive part of the town is seven miles away.
We walked from Derwentwater to here last year and passed Watendlath Tarn, where the local Borrowdale Trout are fished. It's like stepping back in time, but thankfully to a scene with a tea room and toilets!
I would recommend this hostel for families, groups having a special gathering, independent travellers and those who are wheelchair users.
It's a warm and comfortable hostel with a very friendly atmosphere. Just try to book your stay when the weather's dry and you'll be able to really relish the totally awesome scenery. Good luck!
For more information about the hostel see
For more information on Watendlath, see
Info on Scafell Pike walk from Seathwaite see
For information about Borrowdale see
Summary: The best night on the Coast to Coast walk.