It's but a mere Youth Hostel for me!
YHA Buttermere (Cumbria)
Member Name: apuskiduski
YHA Buttermere (Cumbria)
Date: 12/03/09, updated on 12/03/09 (749 review reads)
Advantages: Location, great food, comfy rooms, hot showers, family friendly
Disadvantages: Getting over the Honister pass to it, make/strip your bed, not wheelchair friendly
Because it's in such a remote location, however, driving to it can be a challenge especially in winter. You have two main options. From Keswick, you could travel on the B5289, a mountain pass known as the Honister pass which links Seatoller, in Borrowdale, to Gatesgarth at the southern end of Buttermere.
This is a tough decision to make as it's a very scary road as roads go. If you don't like heights (it reaches 1167ft), hairpin bends, steep inclines (it's a 1 in 4 hill) dramatic drops, tight squeezes or have anywhere near a dodgy gear box, forget it. This road will seriously put your car to the test. It's full of mad bikers in summer and misguided idiots in winter.
If this isn't the road for you, travel to Cockermouth on the A66 and head south on the B5292 and then onto the other end of the B5289 into Buttermere.
Stupidly, we took the misguided idiot's route, in January and in the dark no less. We never passed another car, the wind was blowing a force 8 gale and it took every ounce of energy out of us. I wouldn't recommend it! But, we made it in the end.
Learn from our mistake here and think carefully about your journey before hand, especially with children in the car. There's no mobile reception and you can't imagine how dark it is at night.
For us, the hostel was a sight for sore eyes- literally. We arrived at about 9.30pm after a 4 hour journey, but our check in was dealt with quickly and the warden offered to rustle up something simple for us to eat even though dinner had finished an hour before. What a star!
The welcoming atmosphere was brilliant. We quickly unpacked and settled down to a well-deserved pint and a game of 'Balderdash' that we hired from reception for 20p. But the game was postponed due to exhaustion.
So, what's the hostel like once you've battled the road and the weather to get there?
We were surprised to see gates on the car park, but then realised that it's to keep the sheep out - they're everywhere! There was parking for 20 cars and as the gates are closed you know it's fairly secure.
Reception is open 8-10am and 5-10.30pm. There doesn't seem to be anything that's too much trouble for the wardens. Order all your meals and give sandwich choices for the next day's lunch here, check out the weather forecast, have your YHA members card stamped if you've got kids like ours, hire games, buy chocolate and other essential items that you may have forgotten or just get a few tips of where to go for a great day out. Oh, and remember to pay your bill too. They won't like you much if you don't.
There are 70 beds in 14 rooms over three floors at Buttermere, that's:
1 room with 2 beds
6 rooms with 4 beds
6 rooms with 6 beds
1 room with 8 beds
There are no ground floor rooms.
We've stayed at Buttermere twice, on the first and second floor of the building. Both rooms were excellent, with stunning views of Red Pike and Sour Milk Ghyll directly opposite the hostel. They were both spacious and clean, with a sink, an electrical socket, shaver point, individual reading lights, plenty of storage and hooks and we were given two keys for the room which we had access to all day.
There was no 'livestock' in the room only a spider that caused post traumatic stress disorder in our youngest daughter, for which she's received counselling these last six months and now, thankfully, appears to be fully recovered.
The wind howled through the sash windows in January and we had to stuff cardboard in the gaps to stop them rattling, but in July they provided adequate ventilation for a good night's sleep on such a hot night.
===Toilets and Showers===
There are toilets and showers dotted around the building and all of them were decent quality. All five of us tried a variety of cubicles over the three nights we've stayed there, comparing notes - and all of them ticked the three boxes for space to change in, hot water and cleanliness. Some are more modern with greater privacy than others.
A tasty and filling buffet breakfast, which is included in your overnight package, is served from the bar area in the newly refurbished dining room, consisting of all the usual continental breakfast items as well as a good cooked selection. We had the standard three course breakfast - cereals, full English, followed by toast/croissants and jam. Tea/Coffee and orange juice are freely available and I was pleased to see that the YHA are fully involved in Fair Trade products.
After breakfast you take your dirty dishes to the hatch where they are quickly washed by one of the wardens. Wish I had one at home!
These are available in two sizes, as in most Youth Hostels and provide enough calories for a long day out on the hills. Last year we had a long walk ahead of us to Derwentwater YHA, over three Wainwright peaks and so we ordered bumper packs with two sandwiches plus five other items including the most delicious chocolate homebake or crunchy flapjack. We couldn't finish them, they were so filling and very reasonable at a fiver each.
These are served in the dining room between 7 and 8.30. Table service is offered at this hostel, letting you rest your aching legs after all that walking.
I ordered humous, olives and home made bread (£2.25) and a Borrowdale Trout (£8) which were both perfect. The kids couldn't believe I could tuck into something that still had a face, but there you go, that's kids for you. It was delicious and the potatoes and veg were also better than some I've tasted at YHA establishments.
I hadn't enough room for a dessert but the crumble and custard wolfed down by everyone else got the thumbs up. (£2.50)
There is a sitting room at the hostel where you can read and enjoy the elevated view from the first floor window. It seemed a bit like a library in here and way too quiet for my liking, so we spent the rest of the evening having a saunter to the pub down the road and on our return, accompanied by a glass of wine from the bar, we finished the game of Balderdash - hurray!
If, after climbing the nearby peaks or visiting the Honister Slate Mine you still have the burning desire to cook your own food, then you are well catered for in the members' kitchen. Lots of counter space, a couple of sinks, plenty of storage, cookers and fridges as well as washing up liquid and dish towels - might want to take your own though, they looked a bit dubious to me - await you in the hub of the hostel where many a tale of compass error and benighting are told.
There's also something about YHA drying rooms that mean you learn so much more about your fellow travellers than you might wish to. I think it's something to do with sharing the space for hanging up your undies that does it. But, hey, I waffle - with massive racks for boots and a plethora of rails and coat hangers for everything you would wish to hang up there, this is one of the better drying rooms. Sadly, for all you addicts, there's no washer - you have to make do with a huge sink and drainer. It was OK for us in July when we had to do some handwashing. Lovely and warm in winter too so a great place to just sit awhile, if you don't mind the smelly, steaming boots, to get warmed through again. I know what you're thinking!
Individual costs at the hostel are £17.95 per night for adults and £13.50 for under 18s. This includes an all-you-can-eat breakfast however, which I think is very good value.
We have booked to stay again, in May, for £88.95 a night. For this we get a six bedded room, so we could take an extra person. Breakfast is included in the cost, so if 6 of you stay it's £14. 82 ish each per night B&B. A great group rate no doubt.
For more info about the hostel, see www.yha.org.uk
The walking nearby, at all levels, is amazing. You can head out straight from the door in several directions and be as challenged as you want to be. We enjoyed a walk to the Kirkstile Inn in January. Well, I say enjoyed in the loosest sense. I enjoyed arriving at the pub after being blown around in a gale all morning. For more info on the pub that has its own brewery see http://www.kirkstile.com/
We also enjoyed a leisurely stroll around Buttermere which must win the award for most scenic lake in the district. Stunning. For more information and amazing photos see http://www.visitcumbria.com/cm/butterm.htm
The pubs in Buttermere offer an eagerly anticipated, local pint at the end of your walk and a beer garden if it's pleasant weather. Try http://www.bridge-hotel.com/
If you're into fishing, April and May are the best times to go and there's no doubt a record fish to be caught in Crummock Water.
If you want a really interesting day out the Honister Slate Mine will give you all the excitement you need, you can also travel Via Ferrata up to the top of Fleetwith Pike(2126ft), which isn't the easiest of Wainwright's peaks to climb otherwise. This is a once in a lifetime thing I would say, but only if you can stomach the heights. For more info see: http://www.honister-slate-mine.co.uk/via_ferrata.a sp
There's no doubt about it, this YHA hostel takes the "best view from the dining room" award and maybe the packed lunch award too. It's great for young families, but not so good for anyone with mobility problems; Borrowdale is a better bet if you are a wheelchair user.
I would heartily recommend this hostel if you are walking to and from the door. In July we walked the 4 miles from Ennerdale and then onto Derwentwater about 9 miles away.
It's perfectly located to also walk to/from Black Sail Hut 3.5 miles, but taking in Haystacks would add to that. You could also go to Honister Hause which is 4 miles away, or Borrowdale, a hilly seven miles away.
The nearest railway stations are at Penrith, 27 miles Workington, 20
Bus services to and from Keswick (Easter - end of October). 'Dial a Ride'
bus service to/from Cockermouth (except Sundays).
The bus stop is located in Buttermere Village, some 400m from the hostel.
However, you get there, get there if you can. (A slight twist on Oleta Adams there, for all you music buffs)
Enjoy Buttermere - it's but a mere drive away for some lucky devils!
Summary: Brilliant Buttermere - we love you!