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Britain's Weirdest Hostels


Britain is renowned for its eccentricities and its budget accommodation scene is no exception. Quirky cheap digs in the UK include a First Class train and a lighthouse.

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. Its 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.com 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. Its 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 Britains 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 Kings 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.

Suite101.com - Journalist: Luke Waterson
17/12/2009