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Backpack & Budget

Bunking Down in Britain's Barns

January 04, 1998|LUCY IZON | Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. She can be reached at

One of the charms of Britain is its gorgeous, rolling countryside, which is perfect for walking. You can take a break from the expensive cities and enjoy the countryside economically. Youth hostels and bed-and-breakfast inns are plentiful, but a third option, not as well known, is camping barns.

Camping barns are owned and operated by farmers. They provide basic lodging for $5.15 to $7.50 per person, per night. Most barns have wooden sleeping platforms, tables, benches, cold running water and a flush toilet. The buildings are not usually heated, so you will need a warm sleeping bag.

You can check into a camping barn after 4 p.m. and you must be ready to leave by 10 a.m. Guests are expected to do their own tidying up.

The Youth Hostel Assn. of England and Wales has developed networks of camping barns, but you don't have to be a youth hostel member to use the facilities. There are 12 camping barns in North Yorkshire and North Pennines. The latter lie between the national parks of the Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District and Northumberland. It includes Alston, the highest market town in England, Barnard Castle and the Bowes Museum, a French chateau with artworks by El Greco, Goya and others.

For information and booking camping barns in this region, you should contact YHA Northern Region, P.O. Box 11, Matlock, Derbyshire DE4 2XA, tel. 011-44-1629-825850. Make bookings well in advance. Similar YHA networks of camping barns are in the forest of Bowland in North Lancashire and Exmoor, Dartmoor and Devon. For further information, contact YHA, Trevelyan House, 8 St. Stephen's Hill, St. Albans ALI 2DY; tel. 011-44-1727-855215.

A similar network of inexpensive basic accommodation exists in the Scottish Highlands. The bunkhouses, hostels and unfurnished dwellings (called bothies) offer lodging for less than $16 per night. You can expect a communal living and cooking area and sleeping facilities for four to 34 people.

A leaflet with further information on Highland bunkhouses, and barns is available at local tourist information centers in the Highlands or by contacting Highland Bunkhouses, Bothies and Barns Ltd., 1 Achlauchrach, by Roybridge, Inverness-shire PH31 4AW; tel. and fax 011-44-1397-712315.

Other deals: If you're under 26 you're eligible for special rates for National Express bus passes in Britain. Its Explorer Travel Passes are valid for unlimited travel on this system. The National Express coach network stretches through England, Scotland and Wales.

A regular Explorer Pass, good for unlimited travel on any three days within a five-day period, costs $93.22. Travelers under 26 get a special rate of $71. For seven days of unlimited travel within a 21-day period, the cost is $174 or $134 for youth. For 14 days of travel within 30 consecutive days, the cost is $268; young travelers pay $205.

Scotland Explorer Passes are also available, which are valid for unlimited travel on Scottish Citylink coach services within Scotland. A three-day pass is $71; young travelers are charged $53 . The seven-day version is $95, reduced to $71 for young travelers. The 14-day version is $118 reduced to $95 for travelers under 26. National Express Explorer Passes can be purchased through more than 2,000 agents in the United Kingdom. Information is available on their Internet site at:

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