Cumbria: Hope Memorial Camp (Review)

For a walking weekend, we stayed at the Hope Memorial Camp near Braithwaite (close to Keswick) in the Northern Lakes and the centre itself is a convenient location for walks in Whinlatter Forest and around Bassenthwaite with some walks able to start from the centre itself – Very handy! Set in 35 acres of land, the centre has heating, showers, dormitory accommodation and is self – catering.

This is the second time I’ve stayed here with a group of around 20+ people (we all know each other) and were able to spread out across all the rooms with around 2-3 to each room. Rooms vary from singles to one or two bunk beds per room or 1 or 2 rooms with 3 bunk beds. Each room is named after mountains/lakes in the area with each room having a window, lighting, a radiator and a shelvng unit for everyone to place their belongings with larger bags fitting underneath the beds. Whilst none of the dorms appear to have plugs, their are plugs to be found in the common areas and the corridor.

6 bed dorm

As well as the dorm rooms being off the main corridor (pictured below), the top part of the corrdior (kitchen end) is where the bathrooms for males and females can be found, as well as three individual showers which have a limited amount of hot water so please consider others when showering. The lights for the showers can be turned on by a seperate key and box, located on the wall before you walk in so check before you undress. There is also another shower further down the corridor if needed.

Due to severe flooding that affected many parts of the UK over winter 2015/16 including Cumbria, the centre had a temporary boot room in the second common area as the previous boot room was drying out from the previously mentioned flooding and was being rebuilt as the time of our visit. We still used this common room for evening activities including board games and watching films (all equipment was ours, not a service provided by the centre).

Corridor to common area & kitchen, shower and boot room/common area 2

With the kitchen not really being my department as I am not the best cook, particularly compared to other people I travel with, the kitchen is well stocked with plenty of bowls, cups, dishes, cutlery etc to cater for a fully occupied camp, it does fall a little on the small side when preparing and/cooking and during this visit we seemed to have issues with the oven but as this didn’t happen previously, we muddled through it as it meant heating the oven up just took longer than normal.

You do have to pay for your electricity before you depart which is on a meter, the owner will visit to check this and collect the money for usage. There is wi-fi in this remote location, £5 for the stay regardless of how many people connect but as this camp is in the middle of nowhere, don’t expect it to be fast.

Would I stay here again? Yes!

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Budapest, Hungary: Baroque Hostel (Review)

On trips with friends I am usually in charge of organising the accommodation, however this time whilst I searched and had an opinion, this hostel was not my first choice but I accepted that and went with it. Everyone can cope with different things and I came prepared… with earplugs!

The Dorm Room

4 bed female dorm

A bed is a bed, a place to lay your head and get some sleep. However, as I am getting more travelled and of course, older, my tastes and comforts are changing, feeling that I am on the cusp of changing some of my travel habits etc, but I think I could continue for a few years. We’ll see.

Sorry for the diversion, but if the photos give you an impression of small and cramped… you would be correct. Little floor space, with lockers for storage for personal items but not for the typical luggage that travellers often bring, therefore unable to stuff under beds. Luggage stored down sides of beds or taking up the valuable floor space.The floor space is valuable, so if one person is up and using the lockers / using the space to check luggage / get changed, you’re confined to the bed. The small space does force you out of your room and into the common areas which is a good thing if you want to experience the social side of the hostel.

Linens are provided, clean and kept me warm even if the duvet was a bit short – I am short in height, so usually this isn’t an issue.

The room was well heated considering it was late December / early January which suited me but could be too warm for others. The dorm has a window which you can open if it gets to stuffy although this means the additional noise of the outside near a busy road, not to loud to disturb but it is there.

 

And Beyond….

The kitchen directly leads onto the living room then the reception with the kitchen leading to the bathroom with showers and a toilet, so everything flows really well. There are also two other toilets for males and females off the kitchen so expect a lot of footfall.

Starting with the kitchen, the kitchen has one central island in the middle furnised with a sink on one side, an oven top opposite and a place to prep your food. Underneath are lots of cupboards and drawers with various utensils you can use whilst cooking as well as eating. The only downside is that is small and limits the amount of people whom can use it at a time – Usually one group at a time as we found. Depending on the size, you could be waiting a while.

There is a fridge that guests can use, just make sure you label your items with your name and leaving date and a pen is provided for this. Of course being a kitchen, there are chairs and tables to eat, mainly for two peope but there is also a larger table to accommodate larger groups.

Moving onto the bathroom, none of the shower stalls have handles but they used to as there is a small hole from the remains that have not been filled in with a lock just above it – Someone could easily peek in, have a look even with the additional curtain and that made me a little uncomfortable. I ended up placing my towel over the door so it hung down to cover it as I showered. The knobs to regulate the temperature were very tempramental.. 1cm in either direction seemed to make a huge difference in temperature. I’m not a fan on showers (I’m a bath person) but I got washed, but with the above… it wasn’t exactly pleasant.

From what I discovered, there are only three toilets (1 male / 1 female / 1 unisex) for the entire hostel (not including ensuites) and their placement means the kitchen and bathroom are busy areas to access them.

 


 

Staff? The staff were friendly at all times of the day and super helpful, usully busy as you expect: Manning reception, laundry, cleaning and a whole host of things that go on behind the scenes that I can’t begin to fathom. Despite the pressures that inevitably come with the job, at all times the hostel felt calm, relaxed and welcomed from wherever you came from in the world.

Cleanliness? Overall, I would say very good throughout the commonn areas whilst the dorms less so – Our bin wasn’t emptied throughout the time of our stay. That’s 6 nights and we weren’t the only ones staying in the room, people coming and going as people in hostels often.. returning home or adventures elsewhere. Linens were changed when guests left, that was evident. With the room very small for the amount of occupants at maximum with little place to store belongings, could the room ever be properly cleaned whilst it had even had a single guest staying in it?

What About The Cost? 

For 6 nights in a 4 bed female dorm with no additonal benefits, we only paid 56 Euros each for the duration  of the stay, so price wise for what we got I would say we got very lucky. The hostel isn’t in the middle of the city but a few minutes walk away from the nearest metro (Heroes Square), it is only an additional few minutes until you reach the last stop slap bang in Budapest. No complaints on this front. Stretching the price range would have probably solved  a few niggles we had.

Anything Else?

Whatever room you book, most of the rooms come directly off a common area whether it is the kitchen, the living room or reception, which means whenever someone enters or leaves a room noises from conversation or the TV are going to float through. The doors and walls seem paper thin as most noises carry through the building which is why I was so glad that I had brought earplugs with me! My friend didn’t sleep well throughout the trip and they can usually sleep through anything…

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Door on the right – Entrance to 4 bed female dorm.

 

Would I stay here again? Probably not.

London: Smart Hyde Park Inn (Review)

In all our travel experiences, unless you have been extremely lucky, we all have that accomodation that after researching throughly (or not), made our decision to go ahead and book, secure in the knowledge that we have a bed/room for as many nights we have booked. Sorted! However, on the ocassion how ever rare, we enter a accomodation and immediately, your gut is telling you that something isn’t quite right. Smart Hyde Park Inn hostel in London, was that accomodation…

Located in Bayswater, London, a stones throw away from the tube station (Circle and District Lines), the Smart Hyde Park Inn is a building filled with original features and décor brushing up more modern additions which doesn’t always work well.

As you can tell just from this review, my first impressons were not great and did not improve beyond that. Upon arrival, I was told to pay extra for a deposit which was not notified on the website and that lockers in your room were £1 a night. The lockers are a very generous size and whilst I didn’t take this up on my first night, I did the following day as I needed to secure important documents and stuff I would miss if they were to go missing. Maybe I am just used to lockers where you bring your own padlock?

Anyways, I’m not one to dwell on not so good times but your breakfast, the typical hostel offerings of toast, cereals and hot drinks which I have nothing to complain about 😀

Staff? Helpful to a degree, but very to the point, short and not at all welcoming. Locker not opening? A nice little torrent of words of how I shouldn’t put too much stuff in it and it was my fault… thanks – First day of using it and trying to open it to put stuff in and discovered I couldn’t. Not going to lie, if I break something, I will admit it and maybe it has happened before, but come on… Beyond this, there was not much interaction.

Cleanliness? To be desired… Certain areas of the hostel smelled appauling, dust evident everywhere, toilets and sinks seemed that they hadn’t been cleaned in a while etc. Not good.

What About The Cost? For four nights in a mixed dorm for 15 people, I paid around £128 (£32 per night) for a bed, linens free of charge. Breakfast was included in the rate, as well as free Wi-Fi in pubic areas.

Anything Else? Bayswater is a lovely location, so don’t ignore the area based on this one accomodation review – There are other places to stay near by!

After looking through my emails, turns out I left a review for this hostel on the website I used to book my accomodation, a few days after my return. Mysteriously, it has disappeared from the website and my account profile. Unfortunate, the email that confirms my review doesn’t contain the review itself.

They need to change mattresses/flip them more often or get better quality as on the third night onwards, I suffered from a bad back pain – A first for me!

Would I Stay Here Again? Now, this review is based upon my experience a couple of years ago so the hostel could have upgraded, standards improved, new owners etc but once burned, twice shy… No thanks! Also, recent reviews on well-known review sites seem to indicate that not a lot has changed …

Edit: All Smart Hostels are currently being refurbished, according to the website.

I did learn from this experience though, don’t get me wrong. Always one for hoping for the best, I am now more cautious of things I read online, particularly if something seems to good to be true or presented with mixed reviews from a variety of websites. I am always aware in life that people are more likely to tell you something when it is negative, rather than positive so I read lots of reviews, weighing up my needs and wants compared to the reviewer.

London: Clink78 Hostel (Review)

Clink78 hostel is just one of a few Clink hostels in London and is just a 5 minute walk from Kings’ Cross train station. There are many places to stay in this area, including the Kings Cross & St Pancras Underground and St Pancras International train station are all close proximity so the area is always going to be busy.

Arriving at the hostel nearly three hours later than I had originally informed them due to an issue on the train network which meant a two-hour diversion on the train on an already delayed train, I was glad to arrive into a bright, positively teaming reception area filled with friendly faces from staff and other customers alike. When I checked-in, the staff on reception told me that I couldn’t sleep in the room I had originally booked… Why? Due to over-booking, they were going to upgrade my room for free and I thought… 8 bed, 6 bed, slight wishful thinking 4-bed female dorm. How I was so wrong… a twin private room all to myself – Winner!

As I made my way up to the first floor, I had no idea what was waiting for me on the other side of my room door as I weaved through some corridors, pass some toilets, seperate showers and to the other side of the building. I didn’t even look at these rooms as I have never stayed in one before in a hostel, so I was going to be in for a surprise. A surprise it was! A bunk bed still, but all to myself with the bottom section slightly wider than the top – I had not seen that before. Also, I didn’t have to debate with someone who wanted top or bottom because this entire room for just for me. I opted for bottom due to the slightly larger size and being neaer the door meant nearer to the bathroom, just in case I needed to make a middle of the night journey…

What the biggest surprise was that there was a kettle with two cups –  Any coffee/tea drinkers dream! Sachets for both, with sugar and a couple of milk cartons to boot. After a long day or travelling, a brew just had to do. Perfect. I eventually went out to a local shop to buy a small carton on milk because you know… why not? For two people the room is small, but adequate for two people to comfortably store items, negotiate space in relation to the sink provided and if you are in a twin, private room you usually book this with someone you are familiar with anyways. That, and if you book a private room for 2-3 people, hostels will charge you the rate for maximum occupancy whether you use it like this or not.

Breakfast is held in the basement of the hostel, self-service consisting of cereals, toast, hot and cold drinks as well as tons of space to eat and get to know your fellow guests. The same hight, smart and fantastically creative designed interior continues on into this area.

Like many hostels, plug sockets are at a premium wherever you find one, so there is no surprise that even at 7.30am, people are searching for them at breakfast and jumping on a free one like it is life and death. (Note: I’m not a technophobe, I am not that plugged into technology compared to many others out there.)

The hostel has a bar located within the building, which I didn’t take the opportunity to use as it is not my kind of thing but only two floors above, I can tell you that I couldn’t hear a sound and had peaceful, undisturbed sleep throughout.

Staff?  The staff were great, very hospitable and knowledgeable about the area and what to see, places to go off the beaten track etc. It was no trouble to get my room card re-done, as it would no longer open up the door to my room.

Cleanliness? Very high standard, I could tell that had been in my room whilst I was out during the day and not just from the bin being emptied daily 🙂 This cleanliness was evident throughout the hostel too from communal areas to showers and toilets.

What About The Cost? For 1 bed in a 10-bed female dorm for four nights, I paid £83 (£20.75 per night). However, I was upgraded for free (due to over-booking) to a private twin room by myself which would have cost around £290. Linen, towels, breakfast and wi-fi is included in the price, plus a walking tour of London.

Anything Else? Since my stay, the hostel has been refurbished throughout, rooms redesigned with new additions including additional shelving and lighting. However, it seems that the private rooms no longer have a kettle with cups and coffee/tea/sugar sachet available. Shame. You did have to store your milk (because I bought a small carton from the local shop… yes, yes, Brits and their tea) in the sink, filled with cold water to stop is going off.

Would I Stay Here Again? Yes I would, if I need to be near Kings Cross and other transport connections that I have booked, or will need the following day. Maybe I’ll end up in a dorm next time? Hehe.

Like always, if you have any questions et al, just let me know! 😀

Images coutesy of Clink Hostels.

London: Equity Point Hostel (Review)

Like many hostel selections, a key factor in our decision-making is the location and this was no different. For the first time, I was arriving in London by coach rather than the train which I usually opt for due to cost as well as timing, which meant that I was arriving into London at a different location than normal. Also, when selecting this hostel I also used its location to identify how easy it was to get to from my arrival destination as well as when I needed to be the following day (the airport).

Now, I have been to London on several occasions by this point so the Tube didn’t daunt me as much as it used to, so being more comfortable with this means I can be more adventurous and seek out others areas of London to stay in on a visit even it requires 2 tube changes from my arrival destination. Previous visits have been a no tube change, or  1 tube change and usually arriving and departing from the same destination.

Situated in the Paddington area of London, the hostel is an 18th century building but do not let the Georgian architecture fool you, as inside is as modern as they come to meet the demands and needs of young travellers. Bright, but not to in your face decoration was welcome after a long and event filled coach journey down to the capital to lift the move with the very pleasant, helpful reception staff just adding to the overall great first impression of the hostel.

The reception staff were very informative, proving through information about times for breakfast and checkout (10am), whats on during my stay, as well as how to find my room and there is a lift if you do not fancy the stairs. There is wi-fi at a charge which I didn’t opt for, mainly because it was only for one night and I don’t need/want to be constantly ‘plugged in.’ You also pay for your bed/room on arrival, either by cash (GBP) or my debit/credit card.

For the night, I stayed in an 8 bed female dorm which contained 4 bunk beds all numbered including the lockers, so each individual has an identifiable locker just for them. Remember to bring your own padlock. The lockers are very spacious, my little luggage all able to fit in, the doors silent to the ears upon opening and closing. Each bed came with its own sheets and blankets so no need for that sleeping bag, as well as a lamp on the wall so not to disturb others during the night.

My room was also ensuite containing a shower, bath, toilet and basin with a small cupboard above it. Everything appeared spotless, all working and as I arrived late and was departing early, I only used the WC and basin elements of the bathroom which worked perfectly fine.

I wasn’t in my room for long periods of time (except sleeping) and went out to explore the area, following some of the Paddington Trail that was in the area before returning for the night.

As part of the cost you pay, a free breakfast is included. The breakfast works on a self-service basis, eat as much/little as you want and it is a typical hostel breakfast including drinks (coffee, tea, hot chocolate, juices etc), cereals, toast, yoghurt etc. Don’t expect hot food.

Not really a big fan of breakfast even though it is the most important meal of the day, but I did venture down to the breakfast area, decorated and cleaned to the same high standard as the rest of the hostel. There is lots of room for everyone, I was down early enough that it wasn’t too busy, having around 3 bowls of cereal (Coco Pops) and a Latte. Everything is well spaced out, easy to find and your hot drinks are dispensed by easy-to-use machines.

I didn’t really explore the common areas, so I can’t comment on them but if they are anything like my impression of the hostel overall, they should be up to the same high standard.

Staff? As mentioned, excellent and very informative. You could tell that they wanted to be there.

Cleanliness? Very high, had no issues.

What about the cost? For one night with free breakfast in an 8 bed, female dorm with ensuite bathroom I paid £17,85 (includes 20% tax) and for London, this is a very good price. Most beds and places are typically higher per night, easily.

Anything else? Not that I can think of, but you can find more out about the hostel here. If you have any questions about my experience, just let me know.

Would I stay here again? Absolutely, yes!

Photos from ‘Equity Point.