Americans spent 734,266 overnight stays in foreign youth hostels in 1985, says the annual report of the International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF). Often these were in ordinary hostel rooms but in some cases the lodging was rather novel, such as a lighthouse, a tree house, a Pullman train car, a clipper ship and many castles.
The tree house youth hostel is in the Mission Beach area of Queensland, Australia, just south of the coastal city of Cairns. If you really want to try staying Down Under, head for the Australian opal mining town, Cooper Pedy. Temperatures there can be so harsh that homes, hotels and even the youth hostel are located underground.
You can find lighthouse youth hostels in New Brunswick at Campbellton or down at Cape Vincent, N.Y. Lighthouse lodgings are also located along the San Francisco coast at Montara and Pigeon Point. In Bridgewater, Mass., a Canadian Pacific Pullman railroad car is used as a dormitory. In Stockholm, Sweden, the youth hostel is a majestic old clipper ship that sits in the harbor across from the Royal Palace.
The IYHF offers lodging in castles for less than $10 per night. For example, the Netherlands added Westhove Castle to their youth hostel system last year. It dates back to the 9th Century, is located near Domburg and can accommodate 116 travelers.
"Europe, in particular, has a vast array of different types of buildings that are being used as youth hostels . . . while many are genuine castles, others might be considered near castles and what are generally referred to as stately homes," according to Dennis Lewis, secretary-general of IYHF.
Here are some locations Lewis notes for castle and castle-like youth hostels:
Austria has castle hostels at Admont and Hallein. In Germany look for them at Burghauser, Diez, Dillenburg, Lichtenburg/Tallichtenberg, Pforzheim, Pullach, Saldenburg, TrausnitzBurg/Trausnitz, Waldmunchen and Wernfels. In Switzerland they're located at Brugg; Arosa; Rotberg; Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall; Schloss Schwandegg, Waltalingen; and Winterthur-Hegi. In France try Lille; Marseille Bois-Luzy; Montargis, Cepoy and Paimpol.
Scotland offers Carbisdal Castle and castle-like buildings at Loch Lomond and Ayr. In Ireland you can stay at Foulkstrath Castle in County Kilkenny. One of the most unusual in Britain is St. Briavels Castle; this youth hostel at Lydney in Gloucestershire claims to have a resident ghost that haunts the women's dormitory.
Other countries with castle-like youth hostels include Italy, Spain and Portugal.
Not all youth hostels would please every traveler. If you use the system check youth travel guidebooks and ask fellow travelers for their opinions on which are the most comfortable. The foreign countries in which Americans spent the most nights in youth hostels in 1985 were Germany (121,365 nights); England and Wales (72,129); Switzerland (60,999); Israel (50,306); France (47,915) and Australia (44,854).
Several factors can influence these numbers, including good facilities, total number of hostels and lack of suitable budget alternatives.
Most youth hostels do not impose age restrictions but many limit lodging to members of the IYHF. When you join in your own country some of your membership fee is used to support international development of the IYHF system, which now stretches through 54 countries.
For example, last year IYHF funds were used for a Latin American staff training center in Mexico City; to help purchase a building in Buenos Aires; to help upgrade hostel facilities in Montevideo, Uruguay; for a new youth hostel in Lima, Peru; and for a loan for the purchase of a building in San Jose, Costa Rica.
The annual fee for senior IYHF membership (18 and above) is $20, junior membership (age 5 to 17) is $10. For further details contact American Youth Hostels, 1502 Palos Verdes Drive North, Harbor City 90710.