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National Forest YHA

Child friendly hostel, Leicestershire – Swadlincote, Derbyshire, National Forest

About National Forest YHA

Fantastic hostel for a family break right next door to Conkers with green credentials

This eco-friendly hostel offers purpose-built ensuite accommodation next door to the popular Conkers visitor centre, ideal for cheap family breaks and friends get-togethers. Family and double rooms available, all ensuite, as well as a self catering kitchen, bar, restaurant and coffee shop. Local food and ale is served in the bar/restaurant. Covered secure bike storage is available. Nearby attractions include the Snibston Discovery Park, Twycross Zoo, the Museum of Brewing at Burton, and birds of prey, archery and laser clay shooting at Rosliston Forestry Centre. Families can combine their stay with a range of activities to stimulate and challenge all ages. This can be Sno-Tubing, Tobogganing and Skiing at Swadlincote Ski Centre or hunting for Mini Beasts, Discovering Underwater Wonderlands and Shelter Building at Conkers.

On a typical British bank holiday Easter Weekend with Storm Katie predicted to throw everything at us, we arrived at The National Forest Youth Hostel with a certain trepidation. Our gathering was a family get-together of 7 adults, 7 children aged from 3 to 15 and a rather exuberant baby and we were staying in a combination of 3 bed and 4 bed ensuites. As any parent knows, travelling with little ones can be quite tricky but with a quick phone call and a promise that a cot will be assembled in one of our bedrooms and that our party was allocated within the same corridor put us at ease. Our room was very practical, clean and warm with two bunk beds sleeping 4 and a shower and toilet ensuite. The windows closed with wooden shutters that have small slits at the top and bottom which do let a little light in with sunrise.  You could only access the corridor you were on with a code that you are given on arrival so that you felt quite secure at all times.

The National Forest Youth Hostel

The hostel has been purpose built in 2011 with 23 ensuite rooms over two floors and can accommodate 3,4 and 5 guests in each with three rooms being accessible. Its eco credentials are down to the fact it has been designed to collect rain water to flush the toilets, it uses the suns rays to heat the hot water and it sustainably sources local timber for the biomass heating system. The building has been designed to reduce the effect of your stay on the environment.

The shared social area was brightly lit and spacious, with numerous large squishy sofas in which to sink into.  The café bar was where you could order a coffee and cake throughout the day for £3 or a bottle of beer should you wish. There was an area underneath the wide screen TV where there was a stash of baby and toddler toys which did keep our little ones engaged while we chatted. A pool table seemed to be a hit with the teenagers and there was plenty of space to enjoy card games or twenty questions. For a £2 deposit you could also borrow bored games from reception. On an evening it was a good place to chill out with the family but the ambience could be improved if the lights could dim later on. Wi-fi was freely provided by requesting a code from reception. Should you run out of clean dry clothes then there is a super laundry room opposite the reception that you can use.

Ordering Food and Self-catering

Breakfast is served daily with cereals or fully cooked English to set you up for the days activities. Meals on an evening were ready to serve from 7pm but you had up to 5pm on the day in which to pre-book. For any full paying adult you could get a child’s meal for free if they were 10 or under which worked our very reasonable. A typical three course meal costing just £8.50 would start with soup of the day, followed by dishes like chilli or lasagne with a pudding to finish. As it was such good value we ate here two nights out of the three. There was a spacious dining area for guests that had ordered food.

The self catering room in comparison was a little on the small side but it did depend on timing as to how busy it was. There was a large boxed shelfing area in which to store your dried goods, two fridges and one freezer. Two sinks, a microwave and two ovens were contained in the kitchen area and if someone was cooking for their family it did feel a bit cramped. However the choice is yours should you take a chance to come back later when it may be less busy. The self catering room is definitely not designed for large gatherings and I think this was the case to encourage you to order food from the supper club.

Outside space

Although there was no children’s outside play equipment there was plenty of space outside in which to kick a ball, play tig or even go on an Easter egg hunt. The hostel is also popular with cyclists as it boasts its very own dedicated undercover secure bike store. And with a maze of traffic free cycle paths surrounding the area it would be silly not to enjoy it on two wheels. Bikes can also be hired from Just Bikes at Ashby De La Zouch or Hicks Lodge which is the National Forest cycle centre. Hicks Lodge is set in beautiful young woodland at the heart of The National Forest, it has been designed with the whole family in mind with a variety of trails to explore

We went on a weekend where it was forecast winds, lightening and lashes of rain however we were rather lucky with the weather. In fact on the first night we managed to eat outside where there was numerous wooden tables and benches in which to enjoy the unpredictable British weather.

Things to See and Do around the National Forest

Adjacent to the hostel is the popular family attraction Conkers which we thoroughly enjoyed and it occupied a whole day out. Our favourite part was the train ride and and the Barefoot Challenge. The following day we decided to use our National Trust cards and visit Calke Abbey which was a 20 minute car journey from the hostel. The kids enjoyed the Easter egg hunt around the grounds and we sat and had a picnic under cover. There was a delightful looking tearoom which seemed in high demand. The kids enjoyed having races in the sheltered enormous walled gardens and a tour around the stately manor house gave an insight into how the occupants lived in another era. You could get a taste for history with the national trust volunteers sharing their knowledge and we all got a bit spooked following the extensive underground tunnel.

For another slice of history you can visit the Castle in the nearby village of Ashby de la Zouch, owned by English Heritage. There are 97 steps to the top of the Great Tower so nothing like a bit of exercise to enjoy the view at the top. Otherwise if you like your feet to stay on the ground you can venture underground to the tunnel between the Kitchen Tower and the Great Tower and explore the mysterious castle garden. Or if you need a day undercover, sheltering from the elements then you can always plump for visiting the nearby National Space Centre in Leicester.

And finally...

All-in-all the National Forest Hostel was an ideal place for us to provide our extended family a centrally convenient welcoming break, that was friendly, relaxing and good value for money. With so much to see and do in the area we would not hesitation to book again, as from first hand experience we know it was a perfect base for us to enjoy each others company and for the kids to bond together through play, sharing days out and hopefully creating happy childhood memories. 

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