Tag Archives: hostel

How we adapted to make you welcome

21st August 2020


Manager Nick explains what we’ve done to bring visitors back to Elterwater and make you welcome, and reflects on a strange season in the Lakes 


‘Furlough’ and ‘lockdown’… the first, a word that if asked previously to define I would have suggested something agricultural. The second, a word I’d normally associate with a second-rate sci-fi movie. But not anymore… now words firmly embedded in my vocabulary.

If I’m honest, lockdown in this beautiful part of the world with very few people around and almost zero traffic was blissful. I certainly can’t complain. Instructions from our glorious leaders to exercise locally didn’t place too much of a burden either. Ever-present were all the same challenges as for everyone else, i.e. seeing family and friends and all the usual social interactions. Skype, Teams, Whatsapp, social media… where would we have been without them?

View from Loughrigg: always here to make you welcome

Elterwater from the summit of Loughrigg: amid all the changes, the Lake District remains glorious

It was certainly odd seeing the place so quiet. The last time that even comes close to comparing was the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001. The obvious difference was that this was affecting human health, and the financial impact was global rather than to a few mainly rural areas.

I was furloughed at the end of March having enjoyed a week-long holiday earlier that month, skiing, walking and exploring in Norway. I arrived back to the early stages of the UK response, managing one trip to Liverpool for a concert before lockdown.

Then I spent about a week ‘closing down’ the hostel, dealing with cancellations of bookings and then preparing the hostel to shut down… a surreal experience especially as we’d only just fully reopened after the switch from our winter business pattern.

Much of the rest was played out in everyone’s lives and on the news.

A return to work in June was welcome and I enjoyed the challenge of making the hostel ‘COVID secure’.   The ‘reopening’ of the area was a very mixed bag. The hostel was still closed under the restrictions, but rapidly growing visitor numbers caused mixed feelings among the local population.

Hostel front

The hostel looking lovelier than ever

There was a feeling of isolation and vulnerability among some of our older and isolating residents and the emergence of an apparent new type of visitor. These new visitors seemed unaware of the need to clean up after themselves and respect the environment, causing some conflicts with more careful visitors and residents.

This still prevails now in August, with significant problems caused by litter, poor parking, damage caused by portable barbecues and trespassing. I admit to be looking forward to the end of the holidays and the return of our ‘normal’ visitors who respect the area. It’s great that new people are getting to see the Lakes, but I’m not sure all appreciate it in the way our traditional visitors do. Hopefully there’s a balance to be found; we certainly want to make you welcome.

Nick Owen, ready to make you welcome

Manager Nick Owen

The boost to some elements of the local economy is welcome but others, including ourselves, are still severely restricted in how we can operate (none of which I disagree with) but it does make for very challenging times for a small business

The regulations prevent us from having the self-catering kitchen open, showers have to be allocated to ‘bubbles’ to reduce the chance of cross infection, guests affirm that they are COVID symptom free and we have a programme of frequent disinfection of touch points e.g. light switches, door handles etc.

We have portable screens that we can use to separate and protect guests and sanitiser stations located around the building and, in accordance with most recent changes, are requesting that guests wear masks in public areas when not eating or drinking. So far everyone has been happy to comply and a fairly relaxed atmosphere prevails.

During all this I have been involved, as usual, with my local mountain rescue team. That too has presented many challenges, not least the need to protect team members and the team operation from the virus while dealing with a fairly significant increase in incident numbers.

We’ve been pushing our #beadventuresmart hashtag and www.adventuresmart.uk via social media to try and alert visitors to the need to keep safe. The jury is still out on whether that has been successful or not.

So where are we now? We’re up and running, albeit in a limited way but there’s little by way of light at the end of the tunnel. It’s good to be able to make you welcome again and though it’s a different experience than any of us are used to, we’re trying to make it as normal and enjoyable as we can.

Feedback so far suggests our guests are generally as happy as usual, happy to comply with restrictions and feel safe and comfortable. It looks like we’re in this for a while yet, and the next challenge is how to function efficiently and sustainably through the winter season, since it’s looking unlikely our normal successful model of welcoming groups will be possible.

And then to 2021… the challenge continues …and we won’t speak of home haircuts!


Welcome to the bottom bunk club

11th September 2019

This is not an age-related offer, but……

We know that life can get a bit more challenging as you get older.

We know that the young at heart, of all ages, love coming to stay here at the hostel. They love our home cooking with a glass of wine or good local ale available, and they love coming away with friends for a few days of companionship in this beautiful location.

But when they need to get up in the night to go to the loo (maybe a little more often than in their youth), the climb back to the top bunk can be more, well, challenging, than it once was.

Which is why we’ve launched the Bottom Bunk Club.

This is aimed at those groups who are happy to share a room but fight to avoid the bed ladder.

So here’s the deal. Get together a group of at least ten people, and the whole hostel can be yours for a mid-week break (Monday to Thursday) in November or December.

You need to book a minimum of two nights, but we’re offering a great bargain: bed, breakfast and dinner for just £80 per person for TWO nights. That’s with sole use of the hostel for your party…and no bunk ladders to climb.

front door
Welcome to Elterwater
Dining room
Time for dinner

Our dormitories are small ones, so it’s just three to share at most. There are good hot showers and a great drying room if you are back from a day on the hills and the cosy sitting and dining area for scrabble, reading, knitting or parlour games, if you prefer to stay ‘home’. For dinner you might be offered homemade steak pie or mushroom stroganoff, followed by Nick’s fabulous sticky toffee pudding; and the next morning there will be a Cumbrian full cooked breakfast available.

So, whatever your age, however your group is made up, book the Bottom Bunk Club for a great deal. Call us on 01539437245 or email bookings@elterwaterhostel.co.uk for more details.

Bunk beds
Avoid the ladder

Twenty three before tea: can it be done?

11th September 2019

Twenty three before tea? Well, we were certainly fortified by a hostel breakfast before we set off on this challenge, inspired by Paul Tierney’s record-breaking run around all the Wainwrights.

Place Elterwater at the middle of the map, take a photo, and there are 23 Wainwright tops in the rectangle. And when some fellrunners on social media wondered if they could be linked to form a challenge route, we decided to give it a go.

However, when a friend and I tried it recently, a combined bad ankle and a lack of proper training scuppered us right from the first peak.  So although we had near perfect conditions, we only managed 14 peaks (42km). We could probably have done more – but not the full 23, and it would have taken longer and it’s highly unlikely that we would have made it back in time for tea!

The real challenge is the amount of up and down. To do the 23 (even with the adjustments we made) requires doing valley-floor to top-of-Wainwright at least four times. We did three of these (not counting Wrynose pass between Great Carrs and Cold Pike) and still covered over 3000m of climbing.  Looking at Paul Tierney’s route, he covered these on very different sections of the run and maximised staying high in a way we couldn’t on this run.

We certainly weren’t at full fitness, but I do think it’s a big stretch to do those 23 in a day. More doable, perhaps, would be to allow people to pick their own 23 – I’ve eyed up a route that goes further including Crinkle Crags and Bowfell, for example, and wouldn’t necessitate the drop-downs and back-ups into Great Langdale, or the Grasmere valley.

So it’s over to someone else to find a good list of 23 that can feasibly be linked together in a day. Or a 23-mile route (or 23k) that doesn’t necessarily include lots of summits?

Meanwhile it might also be good to have something that “mortals” can achieve, or have a good crack at. Maybe “how many can you do in 12 hours from the gate”, or “Nine Before You Dine”? For less extreme walkers, there are wonderful potential challenges from here. A waterfalls walk, perhaps..

Let us know when you come to stay…we can have a leaderboard here on the wall, as well as a record on our Instagram pages.

A family Christmas at Elterwater

14th January 2019

Christmas is a magical time of year. People tend to be a bit nicer to each other, families reunite and it’s generally acceptable to eat amounts of chocolate that at any other time of year would be considered grossly ridiculous.

And what better place to spend it than in the Lake District, surrounded by mountains (some of them snow-capped) and greenery, good pubs, and the great outdoors. For the last few years, my family have spent Christmas at Elterwater Hostel. This converted barn sleeps 38 and so is the perfect place for a big family to reconnect, especially if you have relatives all over the country.

Ready for Christmas dinner

For us, with family in Kent, Liverpool, London, Birmingham, and abroad, the hostel acts as a kind of middle meeting place. It means no one person has to “host”, and you don’t have to worry about who’s going on the sofa. Having 11 bedrooms also helps, meaning there’s lots of space to escape to and lock the door if family arguments get a bit much or there’s too many cooks in the kitchen.

I’ve been lucky enough also to stay at the hostel during the summer months alongside other guests. This is lovely and creates a really nice community atmosphere, but nothing beats having the whole place to yourself. Hide and seek anyone? Over the years we’ve had Mum’s family, Dad’s family, cousins, grandparents, the lot. This year was a relatively quiet one in comparison; just me, the parents, my uncle and some of his family, and our 91-year-old Grandma.

The main event of Christmas, if we’re honest, apart from the birth of the baby Jesus of course, is dinner. Christmas dinner is a big task and usually requires a whole family effort. In this family, my job is chief peeler. Carrots, parsnips, potatoes, – you name it, I’ll peel it. The one thing I won’t do is cut onions. That’s Dad’s job.

In the kitchen

The American side of the family took charge in the kitchen…

Luckily this year, the American side of the family was on cooking duty, so I took on the role of ‘Front of House’. The hostel’s kitchen is well stocked too with two ovens. The only thing missing was an electric whisk, but this led to an enjoyable communal effort to hand-whisk the cake icing – more effort than your average gym workout and we had already burnt off the calories before we ate it.

The hostel lounge feels super homely at Christmas, despite none of us actually living there. There’s an electric fire and a lovely Christmas tree, which we added our traditional edible (chocolate) decorations to. Santa even managed to make it despite a lack of chimney and filled my stocking which I’d left out (shh, at 22 I’m just about young enough still).

There’s no TV so it was good to escape from all the technology of normal everyday life. We brought a laptop with us for the Queen’s Speech (to keep Grandma happy) but other than that it was a lovely few days of board games, chess and even bridge for the oldies.

Stickle Tarn

Alan Thomas and the press-up challenge on the wall at Stickle Tarn

Having Christmas in the Lakes also means you’re spoilt for choice for the traditional Boxing Day walk. For ours, we went to Cathedral Caves, a nearby disused slate quarry with a cavernous cathedral-like interior. If you’re adventurous like me and Uncle Michael, you can climb through the back and come out the other side – with a torch though. Christmas Eve had us up Stickle Tarn, with Dad’s traditional press-up challenge at the top, while the day after Boxing Day we tackled Loughrigg Fell, with lunch in Grasmere. All in all, a lovely break from the city. Elterwater, we’ll be back soon.

Alison Thomas

Mountain Safety

19th November 2017

Hostels have a long tradition of coming to the rescue. Once upon a time they were the refuge for those at the end of a long day’s hike, or even a dry alternative when the camp site got too wet and muddy.

We still welcome last minute bookings and walk-ins but here at Elterwater we are more expert than most when it comes to rescue. Our manager Nick is the leader of the local mountain rescue team, Langdale Ambleside, and at the time of writing they have so far attended 115 rescues in 2017.

Other areas in the Lake District are reporting growing numbers of call-outs, too, so earlier this month a meeting was called to look at ways to address the problem, with representatives of the police, the National Park Authority and the National Trust.

Our manager Nick has some thoughts on this from his considerable experience. He says:

A proportion of these incidents (none injured) are avoidable with some preparation and thought. Check the weather, make sure you can navigate (there are NO signposts on the hills) and aren’t solely reliant on Google maps (or similar) on your phone, get a FULL set of waterproofs and some warm clothing. None of these things need to be expensive if you’re starting out. Ambleside is well known as the outdoor kit mecca! You can get everything you need to climb Everest here, so kit to climb Bowfell in a safe and enjoyable manner is an easy task.

Key things:

  • Dark means dark… not orange street light dark, but pitch black, can’t-see-the-ground dark
  • A kilometre uphill over rough ground is about 5 times harder than a flat kilometre in a town
  • Downhill can be just as hard as uphill!
  • The people you meet up there may have no better idea of where they are than you
  • Have a safe and enjoyable experience and turn back if things get difficult… the hills have been here for about 10,000 years, so will be here next spring if you have to change your plans