Down a short path from the hostel at Idwal Cottage, in a grove of trees, is a piece of YHA history. In the grounds of one of YHA’s longest serving hostels, it’s also a link with the days when architects designed hostels for YHA.
Today there’s a boom in designer hostels but the idea isn’t new. When YHA was beginning it involved architects, some of them famous, to develop its hostels.
Sir Patrick Abercrombie is best known for planning London after the second world war. He suggested breaking the city into four rings. A suburban ring and a green belt of countryside would surround the inner core of city. He became a vice president of YHA.
Another famous architect, Clough Williams-Ellis, built the village of Portmeirion in North Wales. He had already begun this work when he designed a small youth hostel at Maeshafn in Wales.
Colwyn Ffoulkes, a colleague of Abercrombie, planned a simple wooden building, like a plain, little chapel. It provided extra accommodation for the youth hostel in the church rooms at Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr on the Denbighshire / Merionethshire border. In 1931, fifteen could sleep in the hut on triple tier bunks.
But an innkeeper protested that a youth hostel was incompatible with rural life. The vicar refused continued use of the church rooms and the hostel closed. YHA dismantled the wooden dormitory and moved it by lorry to Idwal Cottage, at a cost of £20.
Since then it has been in the wood at Idwal. It’s been a dormitory, a wet weather refuge, a cycle shed and a store. Now it’s restored to use as a sleeping shelter for seven, it’s called the Anglesey hut. Today it sleeps seven. You can hire the hut for a night.
It’s a living link to early YHA days when famous architects lent their skills to design hostels, an idea that is back in vogue today.
You can read a profile of Idwal Cottage here, written by John Martin. Click on the following link to open the profile as a pdf Y950001-Idwal YH Profile rev2015-10-01
You can also read more about architect designed hostels in Open to All – how youth hostels changed the world.
Since I first wrote this piece, in February 2020 a storm brought trees down on the hut and demolished it so if you’re inspired to visit the oldest YHA in Wales and wanted to consider a stay in the Anglesey Hut please contact the hostel to find out more. Follow this link to find out more or to book the hut.