Like most of the UK, the Lake District had a very wet February. We had many families staying for a half term break and we were very impressed that they just put on their waterproofs and carried on with their plans. The Beer family share the story of their stay at Derwentwater.
'Our girls are Millie (age 8, nearly 9) and Maisie (age 7). We had a great mini holiday at Derwentwater Independent Hostel in February Half Term. We brought the bikes and cycled into Keswick with our swimming gear, en route to the local leisure pool the girls had a go of the BMX track. After swimming we then cycled up to Greta Bank Boarding Kennels where we had left our dog, it was great as the kennels allow the owners to take their dogs out for the day and is in easy walking distance from Keswick town centre. We walked Chester, collected our bikes back from the kennels and set off back to the hostel.
The next day we set off in the other direction towards Grange, carried along the Borrowdale Valley to visit the Bowder Stone which the girls (and us) loved. They had a proper explore around the little house and stone area. It was very fine drizzle all the way but we had no complaints!! Back on the bikes for a welcoming hot chocolate from the cafe at Grange.
We all loved the hostel, a great safe place for the children to run and make new friends (which they did) - this was the girls’ highlight of the hostel. Millie loved the views also. We took advantage of their beautifully prepared breakfasts, croissants were amazing!! The views from the hostel are amazing, Derwentwater to the front and great waterfall to the back - along with regular visits from the Red Squirrels, also saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker on the feeding box - fantastic. We loved the tranquillity of its position, with lots on its doorstep.
The hostel itself was so well kept and all the hard work which has taken place over the winter has certainly paid off - it looks great. Many thanks for the warm welcome we received and good luck for a busy year.'
Last weekend we had a party of more than eighty people all gathered together to celebrate a number of milestone birthdays. They had lots of food, wine, cake and a live band. Nothing particularly unusual in that you might think, but this party took place between 11am and 5pm on a Sunday!
Helen Marshall is no stranger to the hostel as she is a vicar in Keswick. Helen and her husband David have both reached their half century this year and their son Tom has just celebrated his 18th birthday, with his brother, Simon, turning 16 in the Autumn – clocking up 134 years between them! To join their special celebration they brought together friends and family from all over the country - from London to Carlisle, and a good few places in-between, as well as from Leipzig and California.
Their elder son Tom made a very eloquent and moving speech which started with these words:
'A 134th birthday party, celebrated here in the halls of Barrow House, on the road that goes ever on to Borrowdale ...it sounds exactly like something by Tolkien. Forgive me if you aren’t an avid fan of the Lord of the Rings; that will be my one and only reference. But this is a marvellous little corner of England and the view outside is one of our favourites. We’d particularly like to thank Kathy and Dave, who run the hostel here, for all their help and kindness along the way, and for allowing us the use of Barrow House; it has made the day very memorable indeed.'
Younger son Simon was the keyboard player in the jazz band, Black Velvet, with his friends from Keswick School contributing drums, saxophone and lead vocals. They played timeless classics as well as more contemporary tunes, much to the enjoyment of everyone gathered in the dining room with their tea and homemade cake. Later on, everyone had a two course hot lunch, followed by a walk up past the waterfall to Ashness Bridge. Finally, before everyone left there was more tea and cake to send them on their way (you can never have too much tea and cake…!)
It was a very happy affair and everyone looked thrilled to see each other and all be gathered together in one place. Helen Marshall said, 'Thank you SO much for all your hard work in making our party such a success. Everyone said what a lovely event it was and what a wonderful venue to have it in - we found it worked so well. Even with a large number of guests it didn't feel crowded. It was great to have the use of all the different rooms and to be able to use the large dining room for the band and to get everyone together for the speeches. Everyone commented on how delicious the lunch was and what wonderful cakes!' We loved Helen’s Aunt’s comment that the hostel was 'perfect - so many nooks and crannies and different corners to relax in'!
It just goes to show that our hostel can be used for all sorts of gatherings and events – not just school trips and weekends away. A daytime party of this scale is certainly a first for us!
It’s always nice to hear of families who add a little bit of adventure to their hostelling holiday, and Derwentwater Youth Hostel regulars, the Sherburn family from Howden, East Yorkshire are certainly up for that!
A couple of years ago, Colin and eldest son Harry, 17, camped near Styhead Tarn and spent the following day going up Scafell Pike. Last year, youngest son George, 9, and his Dad Colin camped out at Tarn at Leaves, just below Bessyboot, and loved it so much that this year they decided to bring his Mum, Lesley, too. They shared all they needed to carry - tent, sleeping bags, food and drink - between the three of them. Colin also volunteered to carry up the five litres of water that they needed for cooking and hot drinks, in his trusty old-school frame rucksack.
Once they had made camp by the tarn they feasted on a meal of baked beans and then, Lesley says, 'We just took off our boots and climbed into our sleeping bags! It was a lot more comfortable than we thought it would be; the ground was a bit boggy which made it nice and soft to sleep on.'
The thing they noticed was how peaceful and quiet it was and how lovely the fells looked, especially when the sun was going down: 'The amber glow on the top of the fells was beautiful, although fleeting' said Lesley. It was quite chilly once the sun had disappeared, but it was cosy and warm with the three of them in the tent - 'I was sandwiched in the middle!' said George. In the morning, whilst they were packing everything up the sun started to burn through and warmed everything up.
The camping trip was voted a great success as they started their descent to the valley floor and from there walked on to our hostel. They had two nights booked here, with a canoeing trip planned for the next day. They thoroughly recommend a wild camping trip with the family mixed in with a hostel stay - it takes a little planning but it is more than worthwhile.
The weekend before Christmas we were visited by a group of 5 families. Barrow House is a great place to meet up with friends. This coming year we have a few different bookings for family and friend gatherings – a chance to celebrate big birthdays, anniversaries and weddings. Being last minute sort of people ourselves, we were intrigued and impressed by the story of the folk from Buckinghamshire who have an annual pre-Christmas break. This is what they told us.
'For the last six years a group of friends from Old Stratford near Milton Keynes have avoided the pre-Christmas hubbub by escaping to the country to stay at a youth hostel. Admittedly it takes a bit of planning and in some cases some nerve, especially when there is snow on the ground, to pack the winter warmers and the children into the car and head off to the countryside to start the festivities with some winter walking and a Christmas dinner provided by the ever hospitable staff at the various Youth Hostels.
Our tradition started in 2007 when 10 families 'took over' Wasdale Youth Hostel during the weekend before Christmas. It was a place that many of us had enjoyed over the years but had never visited all together and certainly never during the festive season.
We had such a fantastic time in Wasdale that a tradition had begun and since then we have stayed in Youth Hostels in Derbyshire, Shropshire, Hawkeshead and then most recently this year, in Derwentwater. We have never been disappointed, with each year bringing fresh ideas and experiences. None of us will ever forget the thick blanket of snow that covered the ground at Eyam making everyone feel particularly festive and adventurous that year.
This year our group stayed at the Derwentwater Youth Hostel where we were fantastically well looked after by Kathy, Dave and the team. The weather was typically 'lake district' but as usual this added to the adventure as we donned our wet weather gear and after gently bribing a few rebellious teenagers, we made our way up Cat Bells and then on the following day up Latrigg. Dave excelled himself in the kitchen by putting on a wonderful Christmas dinner, even bringing in a Christmas pudding liberally doused with a spoonful of flaming brandy. After dinner, everyone retired to the living room to play games, sing songs and drink beer in front of a warming log fire.
If anyone finds themselves feeling a bit jaded by the Christmas preparations, the office parties and the shopping then we certainly recommend a short break at a youth hostel to reenergise you and help work up an appetite for the big day!'
So we waved goodbye and wished them all Seasons Greetings on 24 December then headed out to do some Christmas shopping ourselves marvelling at how organised they were to have done it all in advance and having had time to enjoy a few days with friends in the Lake District!
In mid-March, the hostel was the venue for the wedding celebrations of Emma and Ben. It was a wonderful occasion and we asked the bride and groom to tell us how and why they chose our hostel.
'When we started planning our wedding we knew we wanted to do something a bit different. A couple of friends had previously married in a hostel and said how much fun it was to have everyone staying with them; we thought we might like to do the same for ours. We looked for hostels that had hosted weddings before and found 3 or 4 we wanted to visit. They were all around the country and we honestly thought the Lake District would be too far for our predominantly London-based friends to travel.
However, when we arrived at Barrow House we realised there was nowhere else in the country like the Lake District. We were still unsure but when we found out there was a 3 hour train direct from London we realised the distance was not a problem at all and the decision was made. It was equally as easy for our overseas friends who came far and wide – from China, Mexico, Abu Dhabi, America, Australia, Russia and Italy. Everyone, particularly the overseas contingent, loved the rural countryside setting and enjoyed exploring a new part of the UK, and many turned it into a long weekend or even a week-long break.
We wanted an original day to reflect us as a couple rather than a standard 'cookie cutter' wedding – Kathy and her team couldn't do enough to help us and we were free to plan the weekend exactly as we wanted. The fact that Barrow House wasn't registered for marriages was a blessing in disguise: we did the legal bit in our local town hall the week before and were then free to do the ceremony as we wanted – outside in wellies with a close friend of ours conducting the service!
We would strongly recommend a do-it-yourself wedding to anyone who wants to do a wedding on a budget or who just wants to do something a bit different. We had lots of people join us the night before and having a few drinks and decorating the hostel brought people together and extended the festivities. The hostel really felt like it was our home for the weekend and it felt incredibly intimate and relaxed. Having the whole weekend allowed us to spend time with each one of our guests.
All our friends and family commented on what a personal event it was and many were surprised by how easy the train journey was. The service that Kathy and the team provided was excellent in every respect – even getting in early on the Sunday morning to clear up for us before breakfast.
Derwentwater now feels like such a special place to us and we will definitely be coming back in the future.'
Thanks Emma and Ben and many congratulations on your marriage. We’ve also had special wedding anniversary parties at the hostel by the way!
On Saturday 22nd March Mal and Anna celebrated their wedding at the hostel, with spring flowers and ceilidh dancing warming up a chilly day. Mal’s family live locally and Anna’s family have stayed here previously, and we were delighted to welcome the rest of their friends and family to Derwentwater.
Mal and Anna met through the mountaineering club at Edinburgh University, and their love of walking, climbing, skiing, and outdoor camaraderie shone through the weekend, from the post-ceremony fancy-dress fell run to the wonderful idea of naming the dining tables after ‘mountains which are special to us, and which we had fun climbing together, from Scottish hills during our time in Edinburgh, to those further afield in the Alps and New Zealand’.
The ceremony itself took place in the dining room, where Anna was played in by two of her best friends: Alice on Clarsach (Celtic harp) and Jo on violin, playing Loch Roag, a piece that Alice learned while she lived on the Isle of Lewis. Mal and Anna told us: ‘we chose a humanist ceremony because it reflects our outlook on life, and from attending friends’ humanist ceremonies we were struck by how personal they could be. We also wanted to have a ceilidh in the evening because we have had loads of great ceilidhs with friends over the years. The Cumbrian ceilidh band, Rascal Fayre, was recommended to us by a friend, and we were lucky that they didn't seem to mind enthusiasm over skill!’
Mal’s mother decorated the hostel beautifully with spring flowers and Anna’s mother made some rather special Damson Gin, both of which we were able to enjoy in the week after the wedding. The happy couple told us how much they valued having ‘a relaxed venue where all of our guests could stay, and where we didn’t have to conform to a standard wedding package. Everyone loved the amazing location and view, how friendly and helpful the staff were, and how nice it was to have everyone staying in the same place’. We too were delighted to be the venue for Mal and Anna’s wedding, and we send them our very best wishes and congratulations.
Our first family activity holiday of the year was a great success, with Glaramara providing the adventurous activities. Here is a wonderful holiday diary from the Sale family:
After a long drive we arrived to a very warm welcome from Kathy and the Derwentwater team. The kids immediately started exploring, going up the beautiful waterfall paths, and we got even more excited when we met Tom, our instructor from Glaramara, who talked us through his plans for the 4 half-day sessions of adventure activities. We have 3 kids (aged 13, 10 & 8) and the eldest is visually impaired, but nothing phased Tom.
We also got off to a great start with the very tasty hostel dinner (and after our first day of activities we realised why the meals are so substantial: people who stay here burn serious calories!) and throughout the week the cooked breakfasts and packed lunches far exceeded our expectations.
So what did we get up to?
Day 1 am: rock climbing and abseiling. Great location but that can be applied to the whole week. Tom taught us how to tie the necessary knots and to safely belay each other. Everyone successfully completed 3 different climbs.
Day 1 pm: down to the lake to meet John and Ann of Plattyplus. Life jackets on and a choice of kayak / canoes, which we decided to pair up in. As we toured the lake, John provided a very informative and entertaining natural history commentary, and he guided us safely through the wake of the passing launch: we managed not to capsize! We were all now tired and ready to put an even bigger dent in the hearty hostel dinners.
Day 2 am: into the ‘Jaws of Borrowdale’ to find Tom at the Glaramara Activity Centre, starting us off with 30 minutes of competitive orienteering, racing each other to locate 20 codes around the grounds. Next up was archery, with everyone hitting the target once or twice. Then we built 2 coracles (adults versus kids) in which we would later race across the river.
Day 2 pm: after lunch it was into warm suits and waterproofs (provided by Glaramara), dragging our coracles to the water. Most stayed upright, though I did manage an early capsize and a face plant in the chilly waters! Wet, we now marched up to a rocky section of cascades, ready to try ghyll scrambling. We all loved this. Clambering over rocks and through shallow waters warmed us up, while the odd waterfall or deep pool crossing cooled us off again!
All of the activities were a fantastic challenge for the whole family, and we gained a great sense of achievement together. Everything was done in a very relaxed, safe, and fun way, and we unanimously declared it ‘our best holiday ever’.
We booked one extra night at the hostel so that we could attempt some proper hill walking: from the hostel there are fantastic views and walking options in every direction. All of the hostel staff are very knowledgeable and keen to help, and so with their advice we decided on a Cat Bells walk: just right for us on Day 3.
And then… for the cherry on top of this cracking holiday, Dad (me), wannabee ultra trail runner, even got to meet legendary US trail runner and author Scott Jurek (Scott was staying at the hostel for the High Terrain trail running weekend and the Bob Graham Round).
Thanks to the great Derwentwater team, and to John of Plattyplus and Tom of Glaramara for a fantastic family holiday. I think you’ll be seeing more of us at Derwentwater!
We really enjoyed having the Sale family to stay – thank you for this great report.
2014 has been a busy year for wedding receptions at the hostel, and the celebration of Lindsay Veitch and Oli Smith marked the half-way point in our grand total of 6 receptions: double our usual annual tally!
Lindsay’s brother Will held his wedding reception at the hostel in 2009, and so we were delighted to welcome back some familiar faces.
During a beautiful sunny ceremony on Ashness Jetty, Lindsay and Oli said their vows and popped bottles of Prosecco to celebrate. Then fishing nets were handed out to the children, with the challenge to collect as many corks from the lake as possible, in return for chocolate caterpillars: a great way to keep the environment clean!
Back at the hostel everyone was able to admire the creative table decorations that Lindsay had made. She said, ‘the loose theme for the wedding was woodland and lakes, in keeping with the venue, and so I made animals, birds and fish that you would find there. I also go walking around Bollington, where I live, and in the lead up to the wedding I saw lots of frogs, herons, kingfishers and ducks, which all gave me lots of ideas’.
The original ceilidh band had to cancel, but a fantastic replacement was found, with ‘Over the Moon’ travelling from Northumberland to get everyone dancing round the dining room.
Lindsay told us: ‘it worked so well having lots of us staying in the hostel, as everyone was really involved throughout the whole weekend. Everyone at the hostel was incredibly kind and helpful and made sure everything ran smoothly for us. Thank you all!’
Congratulations Oli and Lindsay!
Back in June Alina and Euan held their wedding reception at the hostel, with a beautiful array of Polish and Scottish dancing and costume (quite a contrast from the outdoor gear that Euan wore when he first stayed here as an Expedition Medicine participant!). They also planted a tree in our grounds, commemorating their marriage and providing us with a beautiful reminder of their wedding weekend. Here is Alina to tell us a bit more about their special occasion:
'Euan and I met in 2004, on an island on Lake Titicaca in South America. We only spent a day together, but coincidentally we met again in Peru about a week later. We exchanged email addresses, and now ten years later we are married!
We are both big fans of youth hostels and the Lake District, and as soon as we visited Derwentwater (Euan for the second time after his Expedition Medicine course) we knew it was the perfect place for our wedding celebration.
Euan has Scottish and Welsh roots, while my family are a mixture of British and Polish. My Dad and several of our family friends used to dance for a folk group in London and so our initial idea was for a Scottish-Polish 'dance off' during our wedding weekend. However, as things panned out, everyone got involved in the different cultural traditions: we had the ceilidh on Friday, and the Polish dancing and vodka on Saturday! Completely undecided as to what to wear, my brothers wore kilts to the ceremony, Polish gear for the dancing, and shirts and ties for the evening.
Some of our friends and family had never danced before (apart from the many rehearsals for our big occasion!) and my Dad suddenly realised that it was the first time he had danced with all five of his children at the same time. We borrowed costumes from the Mazury Folk Group in London and everyone rehearsed very seriously. The main dance was called the Hajduk, from the mountains of south-east Poland, and then there was a women-only dance, where my veil was exchanged for a shawl to represent the loss of youth! The unmarried female guests were then invited to dance around me to catch the veil, much like throwing the bouquet.
With lots of friends bringing food, helping to decorate, and contributing to the entertainment, everyone really got into the spirit of the wedding.The hostel looked beautiful, the food was amazing, the outdoor ceremony and tree planting were personal to us, swimming in the morning was a hit, the music was fantastic...I could go on all day. But a huge, huge thank you to Kathy and everyone at Derwentwater for making our wedding so wonderfully special. It will remain such a happy few days for us, full to the brim with fantastic memories.'
We are now going to let the pictures speak for themselves (well, as far as we can resist a few oohs and aahs here and there):