Welcoming guests since 1939

An early photo of the Hostel, sometime after 1939.

Originally built as a barn towards the end of the 17th Century and first opened by the YHA in 1939, Elterwater Hostel has a long history of welcoming guests and providing a comfortable bed in the heart of the Lake District.  An adjoining cottage was once used by writer and social reformer John Ruskin as a small lace-making factory.

During the Second World War the Hostel was used as accommodation for workers of Shorts of Sunderland, who were involved in building flying boats on Lake Windermere. Bernard King, son of the first wardens of the hostel, remembers the times:

“things were a bit primitive there then, and when the water froze in the winter, or ran out in the summer, the men living with us had to go down to the river to wash and shave … There was no electricity in the Hostel and we used candles to go to bed with and paraffin lamps in the main rooms”

Fortunately, things have progressed a little since then!

In 2013, when the YHA announced their decision to sell the property and close down the hostel there was widespread disappointment amongst hostellers and the local community alike. At the time the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, Tim Farron, was quoted as saying  if you can’t make a decent go of a Youth Hostel there, by God you’re not trying very hard.

Owners, Alan and Christine Thomas purchased the property from the YHA in 2013

The Thomas family, long time lovers of the Langdales, and Elterwater in particular, were able to successfully bid for the property, and decided to continue the hostel business, forming a new company, Elterwater Independent Hostel Ltd, and taking on the Hostel’s existing staff.

The new business invested in updated facilities, including these sinks in the ladies bathroom

The new business initially invested in some essential structural repairs, necessary to ensure the long-term health of the building, including strengthening the roof and replacement of the unisex showers, as well as a sprucing up of the interior décor, facilities and gardens and adding WiFi in the public areas. 

More recent investment has included complete refurbishment of both the mens and the ladies bathrooms and the addition of an ensuite family room, individual bed lights, personal charging points, and high speed internet.

Since the change of ownership the business has tried to stay true to the spirit of hostelling, while aiming to continually improve for our thousands of customers, many of whom come back year after year. 

We’ve received numerous awards and nominations, including being recognised by Cumbria Tourism in the Customer Service and Employee of the Year categories, and by The Great Outdoors magazine in their annual awards, notably winning Bronze in the Best Hostel category in 2021. Importantly for us, we have also progressed through the Green Tourism Award levels, first achieving Silver in 2014, and then Gold in 2017. We continue to strive for sustainability with the help and advice from Eco I and funding grants from the Lake District Foundation.

Like so many, Covid-19 dealt the business a severe blow. We are now on the road to recovery and as a family owned business remain committed to ensuring Elterwater Hostel continues providing quality, affordable accommodation in the heart of the Lake District for many years to come.

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