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Youth hostelling

Youth Hostelling (FS120072)


The aim of the Youth Hostel Association (YHA) is to encourage people to explore the countryside, towns and cities; the provision of hostels is the means to that end.  Camping will always be a popular activity with Scouts, and the YHA has no wish to change this.  There are occasions, however, when the facilities of the YHA enable groups of Scouts to extend their activities, or give individual Scouts the chance to widen their horizons.


All people who stay at a youth hostel need to be members of the YHA.  

People normally join the YHA of the country in which they are resident and their membership cards are valid in all member countries.  The YHAs in the United Kingdom are linked through the International Youth Hostel Federation with similar associations in 60 countries.  For further information, contact the YHA in your country of residence (website details below).

YHA England and Wales and SYHA both offer free group membership to all sections of The Scout Association. Apply for a card for your group by contacting the appropriate national office via their website. It is also possible to join as an individual or a family for a small annual charge. Apply for membership by contacting the appropriate national office below.


None of the UK associations has an upper age limit.  In England and Wales the lower limit is 5 years unless staying in a family room, but there are usually regulations requiring those under 14 to be accompanied by older people. From 14 upwards, there are no such restrictions. In Northern Ireland an adult must accompany young people under 18 years of age. This makes it a great activity for Scouts and Explorers, but remember to check the rooms available to ensure that you are meeting the requirements of the Yellow Card.


There are nearly 300 youth hostels in the United Kingdom offering a range of accommodation in the countryside, towns and cities.  They are administered by three Associations: YHA England and Wales (YHA), the Scottish YHA (SYHA) and the Hostelling International Northern Ireland (HINI). 

The bedrooms are normally furnished with bunk beds and all bedding is provided but you need to take your own towel. In Northern Ireland most rooms are en-suite. Most Youth Hostels have a self-catering kitchen with all equipment provided. Most Youth Hostels in England and Wales, and many in Scotland, also provide cooked meals at reasonable prices.

Staying Safe

The Youth Hostel Association has its own safeguarding policies and procedures, which you should ask about prior any visit to a hostel. When making enquiries you should ask the hostel what facilities and accommodation are available. For example, not all hostels will have separate accommodation for adults and young people or private rooms. You need to make sure you have made appropriate arrangements for sleeping and privacy, that fall in line with The Scout Association’s guidance.

The Hostel Network

There are over 230 hostels in England and Wales.  In the main walking areas, hostels are sufficiently near to¬≠gether for a tour to be planned walking from hostel to hostel.  In other areas, walkers may need to make use of buses or trains to reduce the distances walked, but cyclists can virtually tour the whole country. There are also Youth Hostels in key city locations such as London, Manchester and Bristol.

There are over 70 Youth Hostels in Scotland.  Here again they are concentrated on the popular mountain areas, with hostels more sparsely situated over the rest of the country. 

Northern Ireland has three main hostel chains, one circling the Mountains of Mourne, a second along the Antrim Coast Road and a third in the Sperrin Mountains.  There are also a number of City located Youth Hostels in Belfast, Armagh, Newcastle, Eniskillen, Bushmills and White Park Bay.

Full details of hostels are given on the respective websites. It is not compulsory to book accommodation in advance, but it is advisable to do so to be sure of a bed, especially when travelling with groups.

Adventure Holidays

To introduce members to a variety of exciting activities, YHA England and Wales has licensed activity centers offering multi-activity holidays suitable for all abilities. Similar holidays are arranged by the Scottish YHA and these include skiing.  Full details can be obtained from the Scottish YHA.

Further Information

If you want more information about membership or would like supplies of leaflets to distribute, write to the YHA of the country in which you are resident.  If you want information on specific areas, write to the Association covering that area:

YHA (England and Wales) www.yha.org.uk

SYHA (Scotland) www.syha.org.uk

HINI (Northern Ireland) www.hini.org.uk


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Charity Numbers 306101 (England and Wales) and SC038437 (Scotland).
Registered address: The Scout Association, Gilwell Park, Chingford, London, England E4 7QW