Looking for a bed? - Accommodation in the 1950s

23rd March 2018

Guest blog by Chris Sainty, Author of: The Pennine Way. A Walker’s Guide

Planning your overnight stopping points and accommodation is an essential part of the preparation for undertaking a National Trail such as the Pennine Way.  Whether you favour camping, B&B, Hostels, hotels or something else, having relevant accommodation at key locations can be vital to ensuring the daily mileage is realistic for your capabilities and timeline.

Accommodation was certainly an issue that was on the agenda back in the 1940/50s during the development of the Pennine Way as a long distance footpath.

Mr Silkin, Minister of Town and Country Planning in Clement Attlee’s Government spoke to the House of Commons on 30th March 1949 – ‘It is intended that in the provision of these facilities which I have mentioned – accommodation, camping and refreshments – the fullest use should be made of voluntary associations such as the Youth Hostels Association, the Workers’ Travel Association, and others, by means of a subsidy, where necessary, from the local planning authority.  But the local planning authority can provide these services where necessary where they are satisfied that no other body is able or willing to do so.’ (Hansard Col. 1480).

In March 1952, the National Parks Commission, who had also been giving a ‘good deal of thought’ to the matter of accommodation, wrote to the Peak Park Planning Board saying ‘where this kind of facility seems to be most needed is the stretch of the route that lies within the Peak District National Park.’  Tom Stephenson, who was then Chairman of the Long Distance Routes Committee, was also concerned about the lack of accommodation for Pennine Way walkers between Edale and Marsden and had highlighted that there was an old mill in Old Glossop which could be acquired, converted and let to a voluntary organisation to run.  What eventually happened was that a long terrace of former stone-built quarrymen’s/railwaymen’s cottages was acquired in Crowden and converted into a hostel.  It was opened on 4th June 1965 and had a public café attached (the café was closed in 1983).  The hostel was open to the general public with YHA members paying YHA rates.  This hostel closed in 2006 and was converted back into private homes.  A new hostel was opened in 2007, not too far away which was managed by the YHA.  When the hostel lease expired in March 2014 it ceased to operate as a YHA hostel and was taken over by Rotherham Borough District Council and is now used for group bookings only.

If you were walking the Pennine Way in 1956/57, before it was officially opened, the approximate distance and typical accommodation which would be available to you as a walker, using primarily youth hostels, might have been as follows:

Edale – Reaps (Torside) 15miles

Reaps – Holmfirth YHA 7½ miles

Holmfirth – Mankinholes YHA 20½ miles

Mankinholes – Jerusalem Farm 16 miles

Jerusalem Farm – Malham YHA 17 miles

Malham – Stainforth YHA (over Fountains Fell & Pen-y-Ghent) 13½ miles (+ 4 mile bus)

Stainforth – Dentdale (over Ingleborough & Gaping Ghyll) 20 miles

Dentdale – Garsdale YHA 17 miles

Garsdale – Keld YHA 9 miles

Keld – Barnard Castle YHA 13 miles (+ 5 mile bus)

Barnard Castle – Langdon Beck YHA 21 miles

Langdon Beck – Dufton 13 miles

Dufton – Alston (over Cross Fell) 20 miles

Alston – Once Brewed YHA 18 miles

Once Brewed – Bellingham YHA 16 miles

Bellingham – Cottonshope Farm (Cheviots) 18 miles

Cottonshope – Kirk Yetholm YHA 20 miles

Total = 274 miles


Whilst many of us may mourn the loss of the Pennine Way Bureau (launched in 1983 they would book your accommodation in the then 17 hostels along the way for a small fee!) and those traditional YHA hostels now closed, such as Marsden, Baldersdale and Bellingham, other alternatives have in many cases emerged. 

Without a range of accommodation being strategically available walking the full length of the Pennine Way, as a single journey, would become less feasible.  There are undoubtedly business challenges for many of the smaller accommodation providers along the trail.  However, for those of us who have arrived on their doorsteps, on occasions very wet and weary, they are perhaps among the ‘unsung heroes of the PW’ - their existence and hospitality can make your trip (or trips!) of a lifetime, a reality.

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Pennine Way Hostel Stamps
Crowden Youth Hostel
Keld Youth Hostel
Baldersdale Youth Hostel
Bellingham's original Youth Hostel