A good war

A short history of youth hostels and the second world war. As youth hostels define a role for themselves, in the crisis of Covid 19, here's a look at their history in an earlier crisis, which may or may not be helpful, as the times and the challenges faced then were very different to those... Continue Reading →

Floods and common space

The changing places of youth hostels On a flying visit to Cumbria, we managed a night at the hostel in Keswick. We stayed in a balcony room with a view of the town's Fitz Park, and the river that, in recent years, has flooded twice. Twice the flooding river wrecked the hostel's ground floor and... Continue Reading →

How hostels began

On 26 August 1909, while on a walking tour from Altena with pupils, a violent storm fired the imagination of Richard Schirrmann, a school teacher who loved taking his pupils on walking holidays. When accommodation he had arranged for the night fell through, Schirrmann headed with his group to the small town of Bröl, where... Continue Reading →

Principles, discovery and magic

Youth hostels were always magical, dreaming but practical places, run by locals but accommodating guests from far away places. They required generous spirits, and hard work, of the people who ran them and a willingness to welcome visitors from anywhere. They have always been international, places where the world and young people met. I’ve always... Continue Reading →

Changing youth hostel democracy

Heading to London on a weekend set to be one of the hottest on record seemed to be a mistake, or an act of stupidity. Especially as it meant leaving my home in the lovely Derbyshire Dales, a garden that needed watering and that wanted to be sat in, under a shady umbrella, accompanied by... Continue Reading →

Youth hostel values

Youth hostels conquered the world. When travel was beyond the pockets of many and impossible for many young women, even if they could afford it, youth hostels opened the world. Youth hostels taught the world to travel, to journey, not to have a holiday, not to tour, but to travel using your own resources. Youth... Continue Reading →

Working for peace

Image courtesy HINI In the offices of the youth hostels association of Northern Ireland (HINI), they hold an album of photos, in old brown fabric. The album is full of pictures taken in a post-war world out of which people climbed, away from the horrors of total war, holocaust and nuclear armageddon. The people in... Continue Reading →

A celebration

I've searched for a photo of the YHA celebrations at Ashridge Park in Hertfordshire, that marked YHA's 21st birthday in 1950, for a long time. And, when I least expected it, one turned up... The photo shows Jack Catchpool, YHA's first national secretary and the equivalent of today's chief executive, seated on the left of... Continue Reading →

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