What is it? Whitby YHA, opened in May 2007 after a L3 million refurbishment with Heritage Lottery money. New facilities include en suite rooms, internet access and a restaurant.

Where? Right beside the atmospheric ruins of the 7th-century Whitby Abbey, with spectacular views of the North Yorkshire coast and the Esk Valley.

Description: [view_of_whitby.jpg]It’s time to rethink the draughty dorms and 11 pm lock-out image of the Youth Hostel Association. Jo Waters and her three daughters checked out what the newly refurbished Whitby YHA has to offer families

Family-friendly en suite rooms for L76 per night for a family of five, including a mega buffet breakfast. Need I go on? Youth hostels are also often slap bang in the middle of national parks or stunning coastal scenery.

Everything and anything is on offer as the area is a veritable children’s playground – just make use of the sun, sea, sand and sights!

The YHA doesn’t provide much in the way of nighttime fun, but the area is full of things to do and see – although the bracing sea air is very conducive to a good night’s sleep!

None, but YHAs usually have games rooms and extensive gardens for outdoor play, and there are almost always loads of other children for your young ‘uns to have fun with. Plus, children’s meals are available in the restaurant.

None at the YHA (they haven’t changed that much!) but check out Whitby’s chi-chi shops and galleries for a spot of retail therapy, or ring the Tourist Board on 01723 383636 for numbers of beauty parlours in the town. The bracing North Yorkshire air beats any facial for putting the colour back in your cheeks!

Local activities: Robin Hood’s Bay, www.robin-hoods-bay.co.uk, is a quaint village with loads to do. Or visit Bram Stoker’s Dracula Experience on Marine Parade, 01947 6019 2301. The town of Scarboroguh is also within striking distance.

Wish we had known: The Dracula Experience Show down on the quayside is truly terrifying. We paid our money and our daughters, aged ten, six and seven, ran out screaming after two minutes when Dracula appeared and started chasing them. Definitely not for the faint–hearted!

Our top tip: Take a boat trip on the Esk Belle II (leaves from the harbour). For the bargain price of just L2 each, you get a 30-minute cruise along the coastline and some fantastic photo opportunities. For more information go to www.whitbycoastalcruises.co.uk

Kids say: No more Dracula – please!!! they all shouted.

Getting There: By car, Whitby is on the A171 20 miles north of Scarborough on the north Yorkshire coast. National Express run a daily service to Whitby from London and there are daily trains to Middlesbrough. Depends on the room size and occupancy, but a five-bunk room with en suite bathroom cost us L76 a night, including breakfast. Call 0870 770 6088 for prices and bookings or visit www.yha.org.uk

About our stay: On my last visit to a youth hostel 25 years ago, we walked everywhere with backpacks and cooked every night in the YHA kitchen. It was very wholesome – but also very hard work. “Why the YHA?,” my friends asked when I said we were about to whizz up to Whitby, north Yorkshire for a long weekend. “Won’t it be all draughty dormitories and lights out at 11pm?” Well the answer is no, not anymore. The YHA is spending millions on refurbishing its accommodation in a bid to attract younger blood into its membership, which is why we were going to check out the home comforts. The YHA in Whitby has had L3 million of Heritage Lottery money spent on it to bring it bang up-to-date. Forget sterile surroundings and communal bathrooms, enjoy instead a great restaurant serving a generous breakfast buffet and delicious three-course evening meals, and comfortable family rooms with clean en-suite bathrooms (one 10-bed room is available if you want to book in a large family group). Our bedroom had wall-to-wall carpets, stunning sea views and a shower room and separate wc en suite (bring your own towels). It wasn’t luxurious (no TV or tea and coffee making facilities in the room, but there is a TV room downstairs and communal kitchen), but it certainly wasn’t the Spartan dorm I remembered from my childhood. Even the bunk beds were surprisingly comfy. When it comes to getting in and out of the building, all you need is an electronic swipe card to come and go as you please. So no worries about being locked out – even if you do choose venture back to your room in the wee hours of the morning. Our first spot to explore was the spooky St Mary’s churchyard right next to the YHA. It’s famous in Bram Stoker’s Dracula as the vampire’s favourite place in the town. My Doctor Who fan girls ( Holly, 10, Annie, seven and Phoebe, six) liked scaring themselves by walking amongst the tombstones at dusk. [husband_and_daughters.jpg] From the church we took the 199 cobbled steps down to the historic town of Whitby below. Apart from all the usual fudge and fish chips shops, there were also loads of interesting boutiques and jewellery shops selling the famous Whitby jet. We wandered through to Skinner Street where we stumbled upon the excellent Botham’s Tea Rooms (established 1865), where the waitresses wear white lace pinnies and the homemade cakes (lemon buns, ginger brack) are to die for. The café was elegant and authentic without being twee and the kids were made to feel very welcome. When it rained we headed for Doodlepots, a pottery café, and spent an engrossing two hours painting mugs, which were parcelled up and posted to our home address the next week. When the sun came out we headed for the brightly coloured beach huts on the promenade and took a bracing walk across the sands. The beach is stunning; a vast expanse of sand with tons of room for beach cricket and sandcastle excavations. At the harbour we saw the bronze statue of Captain Cook (there is also a museum devoted to him in the town) and the famous whalebone arch, a nod to Whitby’s past whaling industry. Then we plucked up courage for visit Bram Stoker’s Dracula Experience on Marine Parade, a walk-through attraction which has 10 spooky scenes using special effects and sound effects. The collection includes a cape worn by Christopher Lee in his second Dracula film but alas, while we grown-ups liked everything, it all proved too scary for our girls who ran out screaming in a matter of minutes. If your kids are older and made of sterner stuff, they’ll love it. Other highlights included a boat trip on the Esk Belle II, where we took photographs of Whitby from the sea, and fish and chips in the Silver Street Fish and Chip Restaurant, an old-fashioned sit down chippy complete with bread and butter and a pot of tea – best I’ve ever tasted!! Close to Whitby is the famous Robin Hood’s Bay, a picturesque fishing village with a steep incline down to the sea and a sheltered beach. We liked the Swell Café and Gift Shop, for baguettes and cappuccinos; it’s a converted chapel with an outdoor terrace overlooking the beach. It also doubles up as a cinema.[jo_and_daughters.jpg] Scarborough is also within striking distance if you want a flavour of the old-fashioned English seaside, with donkey rides on the beach, a funfair and cinema, along with all the fish and chips/beach/fudge rock shops you’d expect. There’s also some impressive Victorian architecture – including The Grand Hotel, a 365-bed hotel which was once the biggest hotel in Europe. Whitby and the surrounding North Yorkshire countryside have tons to see and do and we couldn’t fit any more into our three-day break, but we’d certainly go back again. The YHA is affordable and fun and our Whitby visit has given us a taste for ‘hostelling’ 21st-century style. Watch this space… Jo Waters is a freelance journalist who writes for a variety of publications and has three daughters, aged 10, six and seven.

Created: 2007-06-25 12:18:10.143

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