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YOUTH BEAT

Bundle Up and Save a Buck at British Hostels

November 01, 1998|LUCY IZON

Special fall and winter budget lodging packages are being offered by Hostelling International facilities in key cities in England and Wales. In London it adds up to a savings of $11 per night for a hostel bed, plus free local transportation.

For example, the Rotherhithe Youth Hostel, which is located in London's Docklands area, is now offering accommodations with breakfast and a rail card for local transportation for $25 per person, per night. It's a clean, safe place to stay and a way to get to many of the key city sights for a lot less than the regular summer hostel bed rate of $36 per night. Accommodations are in shared dormitory rooms. If you want bed and breakfast without the local transportation, the special fall and winter rate is $20 per night.

The Rotherhithe hostel is not really central. It's about one mile from Tower Bridge and a quarter-mile from the Rotherhithe subway stop at 20 Salter Road. All rooms in this modern building have bathrooms and two to 10 beds. Guests have use of a TV lounge, self-catering kitchen, cycle storage and licensed bar.

The rail card included in the package is valid for travel in Zones 1 and 2 of the London underground system. This will get you to most of the key sights, including Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, the Soho area, Trafalgar Square, the British Museum, the National Gallery, Harrods, St. Paul's Cathedral, London Bridge, the National Portrait Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, the National History Museum, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, No. 10 Downing St., Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Speaker's Corner at Marble Arch.

This special package is available until Feb. 28, but excludes the period between Dec. 20 and Jan. 2.

Portsmouth Youth Hostel, a former Tudor manor house, is another city hostel that is offering special fall and winter price breaks. If you stay three nights, the fourth night is free, the total price adding up to $44. Also available are seven nights for the price of five, a total of $74. Portsmouth is of special interest to those who are curious about naval history. At the historic dockyard you can visit three famous warships: the H.M.S. Victory, Lord Nelson's flagship; the Mary Rose, Henry VIII's favorite battleship; and the H.M.S. Warrior, the world's first iron-hulled warship. The hostel is located at Wymering Manor, Old Wymering Lane, Cosham; telephone 011-44-1705-375661.

You can get more information on these and other winter bargains from the Youth Hostel Assn. of England and Wales by contacting YHA Customer Services, tel. 011-44-1727-845047, fax 011-44-1727-844126.

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For five years Slow Coach has been operating a hop-on-hop-off bus service around Britain and Ireland for backpackers. Now the company has been taken over by the operators of the Kiwi and Oz Experience, backpacker bus services in New Zealand and Australia.

The new name of the British service is the Stray Bus. The new operators have added activity stops along the route. (Where there is a price for an activity, there is always a free alternative.)

A Stray Pass to cover the circular route around England and Wales is sold in Britain for about $200. During the winter months, Stray buses will continue to travel London to Edinburgh and back to London at least three times per week.

It takes a minimum of six days to complete the whole route; however, you can stop as long as you like anywhere, and take up to six months to complete your trip. The buses pick up and drop passengers at hostels en route, and the driver-guide provides a commentary and can prebook accommodations.

On the first day, the bus travels from London to Bath, allowing passengers to view the mysterious ancient stone circles of Stonehenge and Avebury. Then there's a cider tasting and, upon arrival in Bath, a walking tour. The second day of the Stray route covers Bath to Llangollen in Wales, including a visit to Wells and its cathedral, cheddar cheese tasting, a visit to the Wye Valley and Tintern Abbey, and a canal cruise. Day 3, from Llangollen to the Lake District, includes a visit to Liverpool and Chester.

Day 4, the bus travels from the Lake District to Edinburgh with visits to Loch Lomond, the Wallace Monument, Rob Roy's resting place and back to Edinburgh in time to take in the night life. Day 5, the trip from Edinburgh to York includes a walk on Hadrian's Wall, a visit to York Minster and the opportunity (for an extra fee) to join a ghost tour. Day 6, the bus travels to London via Sherwood Forest with stops in Cambridge and a beer tasting.

The Stray Bus departs London on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. You can contact the company office in London at 171 Earls Court Road; tel. 011-44-171-373- 7737, fax 011-44-171-373-7739, Internet http://www.straytravel.com.

Stray Passes also are available in North America through STA Travel offices. You can contact them at (800) 777-0112, Internet http: //www.sta-travel.com.

Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. She can be reached at http://www.izon.com.

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