A Family Hostel Stay At The Buttermere YHA
It’s always a bit of a puzzle to figure out accommodation for a family of six.
If we stay in a hotel, we need two rooms, since our kids are growing like weeds and cannot be bundled together as easily anymore. Getting two hotel rooms for several nights can sometimes be prohibitively expensive. We’ve found apartment rentals to be a better option, because we can cook all our meals, and save what we would have spent eating out from a hotel.
One option we had not tried as a family was hostels. I have heard so much about hostels since moving to Europe, that they are not just for 18 year-olds traveling the world anymore. Also, there are all different kinds of hostels and some are actually catering more to families and to those of us who are a bit past the student age (even though my husband is still a student).
But I was fascinated.
So I contacted the Youth Hostel Association (YHA) in England and told them we were going to visit the Lake District for part of our school holidays. Most of the hostels in the Lake District were booked up for the autumn holidays, but the somewhat remote Buttermere YHA had room for us. However, we were to be booked into separate rooms. Mary Polly and I would stay in a girls’ dorm, while the boys would be all together in a boys’ dorm. This plan was met with varying levels of enthusiasm by my family, but as always, we are up for something new and we were all glad to be going away for a small portion of our two week holidays.
As soon as we pulled up to the Buttermere YHA, I knew I was going to love it. Already completely enchanted by the drive there through green valleys and over gorgeous mountain passes, we were all taken in by the gingerbread house feel of the building itself. Happily situated just up from the tiny village of Buttermere, the hostel sits across from Buttermere Lake.
We arrived around 6pm, and everyone was hungry and anxious to be out of the car. I was a little worried we would be overwhelming as we all piled chaotically into the reception area, but the host was incredibly warm and welcoming. We were able to quickly put an order in for dinner before we even checked in, and they had a table ready for us with our name less than an hour later. Also, the hostel was not going to be full until our last night there, so for the first part of our stay, they arranged for us to be all together in one six bunk room, which was wonderful.
Our room was at the front of the hostel, so we could peek out our window and see a waterfall pouring into the lake below. And since our kids have been sharing beds at home, they were thrilled to each have their own.
It was a treat to eat dinner in the hostel that night after driving all day! Everyone chose differently, except for Taido and I both had the vegetarian lasagna, the special of the day and so delish. Our meal was super reasonable for a dinner out for six (and kids under 10 eat free with an adult, so Simon’s dinner was free), and it was lovely not to cook or clean after the day in the car.
Buttermere also does a big breakfast and even packed lunches for your days of walking if you don’t want to be bothered with bringing along any food at all.
However, cooking our own food is always the most economical way to go for a family of six. For most of our meals, we bought groceries in town and made use of the self serve kitchen. You just label your bags of groceries and leave them on the shelves or in the refrigerator.
In the mornings, Simon and Ben would be with me in the kitchen making tea and toast, and we would get tickled when we heard a sheep right outside the window. As other folks wandered in, we would all exchange our plans for the day, often getting new ideas for where to go.
The staff were also wonderful about giving us suggestions and checking on us before we left for the day and when we came back at night. When you finish hiking for the day, you enter the hostel through a wonderfully warm back room that is just for drying all your wet things. It rains a lot in the Lake District and everyone is outfitted for it when they leave for the day. For the most part, we had the proper rain gear and waterproof boots, except for that we all have jeans instead of waterproof pants. It’s funny how we stood out in our jeans, and how they were always wet at the end of the day.
Whenever we were in the hostel, I was wearing my pajama bottoms, because my jeans were hanging in the drying room. Of course, I had not brought extras because apparently, I am trying to win an award for the lightest packing job. The wonderful thing about being in a hostel is that you only feel a weensy bit awkward about having a drink in the hostel bar with your husband while wearing your pajama bottoms.
All our things would be cozy and dry by the time we went back out into the wide wet world of the Lake District!
And of course it goes without saying that the most wonderful bit about staying at the Buttermere YHA was being smack dab in the middle of some of the most beautiful countryside in the world.
More to come on this land of poets and wanderers. We are but a handful of those who have been bewitched by its beauty over the centuries.
We are super grateful to the YHA of England and the kind folks at Buttermere for hosting our family for a long weekend, which is a part of a partnership with YHA to encourage family stays in hostels. I’m curious to visit more hostels as a family now.
I would also love to hear how others have found the experience of trying hostels post-student days.
While we were getting ready to go, I happened upon another blogger’s visit to a Lake District hostel, and it looks lovely too! You could easily make a holiday of seeing all the lake country via hostels, even taking longer walks to get to each one, as some folks do when hiking from coast to coast in England. I’m sure the drying room and dinner specials are even more welcome sights when you are making your way all the way across the country!