Ever since I experienced the horrors of hostels whilst backpacking down the east coast of Austrailia I've stayed away from any YHA accommodation. I hate the idea of sharing my personal space with complete strangers – it just isn't natural. However, last year when i heard the YHA were introducing camping into some of their hostels I took notice. I stayed at the YHA at Troutbeck last year, camping in their rather overgrown front lawn and since then they have introduced camping to their hostel in Grasmere. Luckily they now accept dogs so that means its for me. Brill.
The YHA in Grasmere is off the main street in the village, up a quiet drive. The grounds are woodland, occupied by the occasion deer. The house (and adjacent lodge) are typically Lakeland in style. The bus stop is two minutes away. There is a Co-op within three minutes and cafes/restaurants dotted about the village if you like that sort of thing. The walks from Grasmere are too much to tackle in even a week. Helvellyn, Helm Crag, Langdale….they would be your first tasks. You can get the bus to Keswick, Ambleside and Coniston from the village. Or just sit by the lake if you wish.
I arrived nice and early (9am!) but check-in is from 3pm – however the lady at reception allowed me to check-in so i could put my supplies in the self catering fridge which was really good – it mean't i didnt have to think about all that sort of stuff after coming back from a day on the fells. She was very friendly and said i could come back at any time if i had any questions.
After staying at the YHA in Troutbeck I wasn't expecting too much from the pitch – Troutbeck hadn't seen a lawn mower in years. But i was pleasantly surprised with the area set out for tents. It is to the front of the main house, and looking online there are only 12 pitches available but the space is much larger than that so it means you get a lot of area to choose from. It is nicely shaded (perfect in the heat which I experienced when i visited) and the ground is reletivley flat. There are picnic benches too which is a nice touch. Top marks. But the downside is that you can not park your car by the tent so in rain this could be quite a problem. It was OK for me when i stayed but in bad weather it would put me off completely.
Well as i write this there is a screaming child outside. This is the downside to camping on a weekend – children. But it can't be helped….so other than screams. I can only hear birds…and maybe the faint sound of traffic on the main road up Dunmail Raise but it isnt distracting at all.
And this is where I feel smug. For the price of car parking for the day in Grasmere I bag myself a car parking space, pitch and all the YHA faciltities – £9 (or £12 without a membership card). This is so reasonable and great value for money.
This is where the YHA excel. You basically get everything a YHA hostel stayer would get, so, a ktichen with all the mod cons, utensils, kettle (hot water bottle!), toilets, showers, lounge, reading material, on-site shop for essentials, dining room (with the option of breakfast – I had to restrain myself from 'borrowing' the cute mini marmites and marmalades), Wi-Fi and parking. I think the only improvement they could make would be a water tap in the camping part but really I'm just being lazy. 4G is available across the site. I was impressed with the cleanliness in general – far better maintained than the YHA at Troutbeck.
I have always wanted to base myself in Grasmere but with the nearest campsite at Loughrigg, 3 miles, I have never managed to, so i was really happy when i heard you could camp here. The downside is the children, and the fact you can't draw your car up to the tent (although this has its postivies too – a much more natural looking campsite). I only stayed one night at the weekend but i could happily spend a few nights here enjoying the beneifits of the more substantial amenities. A hot shower, cooked food, and a hot water should never be under estimated – it is sometimes the only motiviation you have when climbing a huge hill – knowing you are coming back to a cosy base is really nice.
I came here to finish off three Wainwrights I had missed – Steel Fell , Stone Arthur and Ullscalf. The weather was perfect, if i little hot but there was a breeze on the tops which made it bareable. The walk took all day because I decided to throw in High Raise and Easdale Tarn for good measure. And now as i sit in my little tent i feel a great sense of achievement – partly because I have ticked off the Wainwrights in this area…but mainly because I have a knackered Border Collie snoring beside me, and that is an achievement not to be underestimated!
When I was coming back to the village I decided to sit in the park for a few moments. I was surrounded by herdwicks grazing. A girl was walking amongst them with her dad. She asked 'Do they eat humans'…..I couldn't help but smile. Then I thought….she thinks sheep eat humans yet she is quite happy to wonder around next to them. I wish I was 3 again, a totally lack of awareness allows you to escape.