The Pentland Hills lay just beyond my radius when I was living on the border, so I was glad when a walking friend offered to introduce me to this lovely area in January of this year. The area is a straightforward bus journey from Edinburgh. I was just on the verge of venturing out to feature the area on this blog when the restrictions were introduced, so this is just a taster of an area I hope to focus on in future posts. I hope you are safe and well.
This post was created from my phone so I hope the layout is without issues.
Although my first complete year in Scotland has been a relatively quiet year since losing my father in July, I think I have made the right decision to move here after living on the border for 10 years. I have had some great day walks, trips and life experiences, which only living in Scotland could have afforded me. I wish you all a very happy and successful year for 2020 and hope you will return to my sites in the New Year.
The Youth Hostelling Association for England and Wales, the Scottish Youth Hostelling Association for Scotland, Hostelling International NI for Northern Ireland and the many private hostels & bunkhouses springing up around Britain can be a hidden treasure.
If there are rooms available when you need them, hostelling can enable you to stay in or near places where accommodation prices are at a premium, as well as places which are only accessible on foot. In comparison to the blandness of some budget hotels, hostels embrace a cornucopia of styles and periods, from humble cottages to grand mansions.
Unfortunately there has been a recent tendency towards whole hostel letting by the YHA which has had the effect of sidelining individual and family customers like myself. In spite of the name, I am told that you do not have to be young to stay at a youth hostel. Apparently the remit of the YHA is aimed at people of all ages.
There is no such thing as a “typical” hostel which is why they can be such a pleasure to stay in.
Hiking can become an expensive hobby by the time you have spent money buying your kit, paid high season B&B prices & possibly employed a courier. I was told by many hikers that camping was the answer, and to some extent it is. Keeping open the option to camp will mean that you are never stuck for somewhere to stay.
However there will sometimes be days, even when you camp, when you need some rest and recuperation, as well as some first world facilities such as warmth, power supplies, hot showers, laundry facilities, cooking facilities, meals, a bar, wifi and even an en-suite private room. These are some of the facilities sometimes on offer when rooms are available.
Some routes and areas are more generously appointed with hostels and bunkhouses than others. The Pennine Way and the Lake District for example, because of their popularity, are very well provided with excellent places, but Northumberland has very few.
One advantage of joining one of the hosteling organisations is that you can get a discount on the cost of a room and membership of the International organisation Hostelling International.
In addition to YHA hostels, a huge range of independent hostels and bunkhouses can be found on the independenthostelguide website. They are sometimes easier to get in to than the YHA hostels.
I was quite a late starter to hostelling, so in case you are like me, here are some pointers about what to expect when you stay at a hostel:
What to expect.
Rooms are sometimes only available at weekends or in high season for individuals and families because of block booking.
You will usually have the choice of a shared dormitory room with bunkbeds (usually but not always single sex) or a private or family room.
You may be expected to make your own bed up when you arrive and put your used bedding in the laundry baskets when you leave.
Youth hostels sometimes close during the day from about 10am until 4pm for cleaning so it is unwise to arrive during these hours.
You may have the choice to self cater or eat meals provided by the hostel. It is worth indicating your intention before you arrive
There are usually lockers available on request for your gear.
There is sometimes a curfew time when the doors are locked but you should be given a key or code which will enable you to get in after hours
Three things which are often useful in shared dormitories are a little torch for creeping in after other people have gone to bed, an extension lead as there are sometimes not enough sockets for recharging if the room is full, and ear plugs if you are easily disturbed during the night.
Staff are normally knowledgable about the local area and are happy to suggest facilities, walks or climbs nearby.
You can wash and dry clothes and boots at most hostels and they are usually willing to hold parcels for you until you arrive.
Wifi is available in most hostels except those in remote locations.
Most hostels are relaxed and friendly but the ethos is fairly DIY.
This is an updated re-issue of a page originally published in 2013 following a couple of years of using hostels on long distance walks and some shorter trips.
This post is intended to be an occasional feature showcasing some of the websites which I have enjoyed recently. I would welcome your suggestions about good sites.
Chris Townsend Outdoors Blog by a very experienced backpacker with an impressive outdoor CV. Unparalleled knowledge of gear and environmental issues.
Grough Magazine An independently owned site featuring news and features about the outdoors and outdoor activities.
Hiking in Finland A European backpacking blog in English written by the multi skilled Hendrick Morkel
Homemade Wanderlust Blog and Vlog following trailhiker Dixie’s interesting and involving attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail and become a hiking triple crowner.
John Muir Trust Founded in 1983 with the aim of conserving and protecting wild places for the benefit of present and future generations
Northumberland National Park This site is growing into a well researched and interesting website about the area. They are quite responsive to comments and criticisms from users.
The Outdoors Station Podcast A professionally produced podcast covering many aspects of the outdoors from the Cartwrights at Backpacking Light UK
Tramplite Ultralight long distance hiker who designs and makes his own line of hiking equipment when he isn’t hiking trails around the world
Walk Highlands All aspects of walking in Scotland are covered in this engaging blog which has a good mix of trail data, downloads and long form posts. It is supported by accommodation providers who want to appeal to the outdoor market.
Rucksack Readers: Coast to Coast, St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay (2018).
This new edition of the Coast to Coast walk guide is produced in line with the range of Rucksack Reader editions from this Edinburgh publisher.
This Coast to Coast Guide is printed on weatherproof, biodegradeable paper and the spiral bindings enables the user to open it out flat. It is published in high spec full colour with photographs by Karen Frenkel. It also contains introductory sections to aid planning and preparation, well researched background information and a thorough final section of further information and references.
The walk is divided into 16 daily stages with concise directions, route options, altitude profiles and 1:55,000 colour maps by Lovell Johns. At 220mm x 150mm and 295g, the guide should fit in most garment or rucksack pockets, although it is slightly on the tall side for me. There is the option to download the Daily Stages section of the guide as a pdf which could be used during the walk as an alternative to carrying the book. There is also some additional content and a downloadable GPX file available from their website.
On the whole the book has been thoughtfully produced, addressing some of the physical problems many walkers will have experienced with walking guides (rain damage and spine deterioration). I also appreciate the thoughtful extras such as the downloadable pdf guide and GPX file which allow the walker to get everything they require in a one stop shop.
Many walking books are self consciously low spec on the reasonable assumption that they will take a bit of rough handling during a walk. It is therefore quite nice to find a guide that subverts the trend by proving that quality doesn’t have to be sacrificed to durability.
This was a free review copy available on request from the publisher.
3 years ago I moved from the borders back to Newcastle. Because I wasn’t sure whether there would be demand for urban walks on my site, I made some videos of my Tyne and Wear walks, but I delayed uploading these walks onto Outdooractive / Viewranger until now.
Sometimes life limits the options we have open to us for outdoor pursuits. I hope you will enjoy these walks. They are all accessible by public transport – one advantage of city walking.
The arrival of the Summer Solstice always reminds me not to take for granted my favourite season. This is a reminder of why I love late spring as it unfolds into summer and is intended as a response to Ben Dolphin’s regular vlogs in praise of winter.
Like many followers, I measure the year by the appearance of certain sights and sounds such as Primroses, wild Garlic, Bluebells, Cuckoos, Larks, dawn choruses, Hawthorn blossom, Swallows, Buttercups and so on. I sometimes wonder whether this is tied to my birthday, which often coincides with the arrival of the bluebells.
From the Primroses to the Brambles the summer creeps in and builds to a magnificent climax if we are there to witness it. I have lost the last vestiges of school taught religion as an explanation for it all now. However I remain unfailingly impressed by the show which is put on for us if we spend time outdoors.