“ Address: Greenside / Glenridding / Penrith / Cumbria / CA11 0QR / England „
If you want a mountain in your back garden then Helvellyn Youth Hostel is a must. Located 900ft up the Helvellyn range, you're already a third of the way up to the top, well, almost - Helvellyn is 3117ft actually and the third highest mountain in England.
Three quarters of a mile up a narrow track from the town of Glenridding, Helvellyn hostel is perfectly located for serious walkers to enjoy mountain top views that stretch to the Isle of Man, when the weather is crystal clear, that is. You can also take a leisurely stroll, in breathtaking surroundings, down to the town and enjoy a cruise on Ullswater, passing the Travellers Rest pub, of course, on your steady (but uphill) way back.
The hostel is a basic 2 Star establishment that offers great food, a warm welcome and a comfortable bed.
There are 60 beds available, including some rooms that can be booked as family rooms, these are made up of
5 rooms with 2 beds
2 rooms with 3 beds
8 rooms with 4 beds
2 rooms with 6 beds
Our family of five had a twin room and a bunk room for four, so for once we could actually get away from the kids. Yey!
The rooms themselves are basic, with beds, hooks on the wall and a mirror. Neither of the rooms we stayed in had a sink or, much to the horror of our hair-straightener-addict daughters, an electric socket, but there were plenty of sinks and a socket on the corridor, along with toilets and showers, which had plenty of hot water and were well maintained during our stay.
We stayed for two nights and tried the breakfast, picnic lunch and evening meal while we were there. Breakfast is served buffet style with a range of cereals, porridge, meats, cheese, bread, yoghurts, cooked items, toast and croissants. Fair trade tea and coffee is available as well as a range of fruit juices. For about £4 it was excellent value.
Lunches are around the same price and consist of a sandwich, carton of juice, bag of crisps, homebake, a piece of fruit and a small pack of biscuits. These have to be ordered the night before, when your choice of filling also has to be given, from a selection on the blackboard. Those with big appetites can order an extra sandwich, though where you can fit it all I don't know!
We had to order evening meal before 6pm and it was served at seven. The portions were huge, probably due to the fact that most people there had burnt up a fair few calories during the day.
We ordered a set three course meal for £10 and I have to say that the standard for a small hostel was excellent. I ordered soup and roll, curry, rice and salad with fruit salad to follow, trying to be healthy and all that. I was most disappointed at not ordering the chocolate gateaux, however, as it was delicious- I just couldn't resist pinching some off my daughter's plate - and served with a very creative flourish.
For anyone who wants to self cater and still has the energy to rustle up something tasty to eat, there's a members' kitchen with plenty of pots, pans and utensils as well as shelves and a fridge where you can keep all your food - just make sure it's labelled.
The hostel has a licence to serve alcohol, which means you can't take your own, but I would argue that you're not going to be lingering in the lounge area for long anyway, especially if you've been walking all day. For us, this type of break means there's never an argument about bedtime. The kids are begging to go to bed at about 9pm. Wonders never cease.
However, if you're a party animal and want to go out to the pub in Glenridding or Patterdale in the evening, you will definitely need a head light or hand held torch, as the road is unlit and uneven in places. It's a 20 minute walk down, and a 30 minute return, at a steady pace (roughly).
While you're at the hostel, there are two or three rooms that you can use for your evening entertainment. A TV and games room, a lounge, a dining room that doubles up as a card playing, gambling den if you're anything like us and a garden with BBQ areas.
When we stayed here, there were only four children in the hostel, and three of them were ours. So it didn't seem to attract young families. There was a mixture of couples and groups (mainly burly young men, I have to say, which was fine by me!)
Everyone staying there seemed to be attempting Helvellyn the next day and I was disappointed not to make it when our youngest daughter was ill on the morning of the walk.
Thankfully, as we had access to our room, she was able to rest until she recovered and it gave me a chance to read my book in peace in the lounge. We managed a pleasant walk down to Glenridding and a cruise on Ullswater in the afternoon, which was well worth the effort.
The other three had an amazing time at the top of England's third highest peak. It was one of the few gloriously sunny and completely dry days that I've encountered in the Lakes. The next day, we were going to attempt it again but the weather was rubbish. We'll save it for another time.
Our 2 nights in the hostel cost us £120, room only. This would win the 'cheapest hostel' award of the ones that I've stayed in, but the quality of the food could have also been nominated for a prize.
The going rate is from £11.95 per adult and £8.95 per child under 18. I rang up the hostel for the best deal. I was pleased we had two rooms and this could only have been done over the phone. I couldn't have asked for better customer service from the wardens, they were brilliant!
If you're looking for somewhere to stay so that you can climb a 'big hill' then this hostel is perfect. It's a bit rough around some of its edges, but overall, a diamond.
For great photos of the Hellvelyn walk see http://www.walkthelakes.co.uk/Walks/2004/Helvellyn280704.htm
For information about the hostel see:
YHA Membership costs approximately £22 a year and this saves you £3 per night per adult, £1.50 per child, so ours paid for itself after two and a bit nights.
The card gives you local and national discounts including Blacks Outdoor shops. Worth having I think.
Enjoy a hike up Helvellyn or for a less strenuous walk, try the scenic lakeshore paths around Ullswater. Steam boat trips on the lake are also popular.