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YOUTH BEAT

Free Bed for a Night in Wintry England and Wales

November 19, 2000|LUCY IZON

The Youth Hostel Assn. of England and Wales is offering five nights' accommodation this winter for the price of four when you stay at any of 28 popular locations. The qualifying nights do not have to be at the same hostel, and they do not have to be consecutive. Considering that a single night in a shared room at a Hostelling International location in London starts at $29, it's a substantial savings.

Here are some of the locations you can explore while participating in this offer:

* Check out Windsor Castle while staying at the local YHA hostel, which is within walking distance. Windsor is just eight miles from Heathrow Airport and a 40-minute train ride from central London. YHA beds in shared rooms are $21 a night.

* Explore the birthplace of Shakespeare or enjoy a performance at one of the Royal Shakespeare Company's theaters at Stratford-upon-Avon. The 132-bed hostel here is a 200-year-old Georgian mansion in the village of Aveston two miles from the center of Stratford. Shared-room beds are available for $23.

* Head for Bath to see its Roman ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The hostel here is an Italianate mansion built in 1848. It's about one mile from the center of the city and on the local bus route. From this hostel you could also explore the mysterious sites of Stonehenge and Avebury. The 117-bed hostel offers beds in shared rooms for $21 per night.

* Salisbury, known for its cathedral, would also be a good base for exploring Stonehenge. The Salisbury YHA, a short walk from the center of town, was built in 1820. Shared-room beds are $21.

The university city of Oxford has a YHA hostel in a Victorian house about 2 1/2 miles from the town center. (Next spring this hostel will close and a new one will open.) Shared-room beds are $21.

* The medieval city of York, with its Viking history, ancient walls and tangle of shopping streets, is home to York Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe. Its award-winning 150-bed YHA hostel is a former manor house. Shared-room beds are $23 a night.

* Chester, known for its Roman ruins, is the country's only city still surrounded by walls. You can visit its 900-year-old cathedral or the Rows (two-tiered medieval shopping arcades) and a Roman amphitheater. The 117-bed hostel is a 20-minute walk from the town center. Shared-room beds are $21 a night.

* Beatles fans, travelers on their way north to Scotland or those looking for a gateway to Ireland can stop in Liverpool, where you can walk down Penny Lane or visit the Abbey Road Pub. The 100-bed YHA hostel, which opened in August 1998, is within walking distance of popular city sites. Shared-room beds (four to six per room) are $27.

Seven hostels in London are participating in this program. You can stay at the recently renovated City of London Hostel, former home for the choirboys from St. Paul's Cathedral, in a shared room for $34 a night. This hostel recently was renovated. It's a few hundred yards from the cathedral and close to the St. Paul's subway stop.

The other participating hostels in London are St. Pancras, Rotherhithe, Holland House, Hampstead Heath, Earl's Court and Oxford Street. All of the London hostels have 24-hour access, currency exchange and Internet access.

Other participating YHA hostels can be found in Bristol, Canterbury, Cardiff, Dover, Exeter, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Penzance, Plymouth and Portsmouth.

The offer is valid until March 21, excluding Dec. 24, 25, 30 and 31 and Jan. 1. You can download the passport card from the Internet at http://www.yha.org.uk or telephone 011-44-870-870-8808. Use it to collect a stamp for each bed-and-breakfast overnight stay. Once four have been collected from participating hostels, the fifth night's bed and breakfast is free. You can also pick up a passport from participating youth hostels.

The YHA of England and Wales, which is 70 years old, imposes no age restrictions on guests at its 230 locations. Single-sex shared rooms can have as many as 12 beds, although the trend now is toward rooms with four to six beds. Some hostels have couples' rooms available at a higher rate.

YHA is affiliated with the worldwide Hostelling International network. This offer is available to members of affiliated hosteling associations. For information on HI-American Youth Hostels, tel. (310) 393-3413, Internet http://www.hiayh.org.

Lucy Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Internet http://www.izon.com.

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