A guest post from John Martin

Descriptive studies of individual hostels are one of the most popular features of this site. John Martin, YHA’s hon archivist, has kindly put together a guest blog about these profiles with a full list of all those available at this time – the list grows constantly – and where you can find them.

Youth hostel at Colwyn Bay, one of the many hostels John Martin has written about.

YHA Profiles by John Martin

YHA Profiles are descriptive historical studies of individual hostels or groups of them. They are snapshots at a point in time, designed to be adaptable and revisable in the light of YHA’s ever-expanding Archive resources and new materials, rather than definitive histories.

The list of completed profiles now runs to 155, covering over 300 YHA E&W hostels. A descriptive chart (Y950000) is available using the link below.

The files are all stored at the YHA Archive, Special Collections, Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham, an open resource where usually all may visit and study, though the facility is unavailable at the moment.

Each profile is available to view there both as a hard copy print out and as a pdf file. YHA Head Office also keeps copies. Note that profiles in the chart below that are marked revised / new 3/2020 have not yet made it in hard copy form at the CRL.

The list is backdated to 2020-03-01, a reasonable point near the start of the Covid outbreak at which to take stock. Since then, a further eight or so profiles have been completed as drafts, awaiting finalisation by YHA hostel staff, and are best left in abeyance at the moment.

These profiles include Broad Haven and Marloes Sands; St David’s (both); Conwy and Colwyn Bay; Kington (both) and Leominster; Brighton and Patcham; Medway; Milton Keynes and the Briary, Stony Stratford and Ivinghoe; National Forest and Upper Midway, Charnwood Forest, Bardon Stud Farm and Copt Oak.

Further work has seen the full completion of profiles for early Northumberland hostels at Wallington, Great Bavington, Rothley Shiel and Wholehope. These should be available for you to view via Duncan’s Simply Hostels post in the near future.

For personal study

If you are especially keen to view any profile pdf from the chart below, I am happy to send it to you by WeTransfer (instructions included), though I think I’d normally draw the line at more than three!

The Profiles are strictly for personal study only and not for any republishing or transmitting – they are copyright. My work is free of charge; any donation to help YHA’s charitable funding would of course be welcome – and equally of course entirely voluntary (

Historical listing of hostels

I’ve been compiling this listing for at least 20 years. It includes all of YHA’s 90-year 1,150 properties, ranging from regular ownership and tenancies to adopted hostels, Enterprise hostels, camping barns and even the occasional B&B. A good number of unsuccessful projects is included too.

I update it almost every day. A new version is sent to the CRL at least once a year, and you can view and download the latest full pdf (over 500 pages) by simply Googling Y900003. Top of your search finds will be the file in question on the CRL website.

One feature in the Historical Listing that I am particularly keen to expand on is the inclusion of personal memories and anecdotes about each hostel – wardens, duties, oddities, layouts, etc. You’ll find these in the grey boxes at the foot of many entries. They are of great interest and an invaluable resource in the profiles, but there’s a lot of the YHA story still to tell. Your contribution of new material would be valuable.

Corrections and additions

Any corrections or additions to either the Historical Profiles or the Historical Listing would be greatly appreciated.

You can email me at Once correspondence is established, I prefer to give out and continue with my own email address.

Image of Colwyn Bay above, courtesy of YHA archive at Cadbury Research Library.

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