Hostel rescued from closure still going strong five years later

Thomas family

A family who rescued a Lake District hostel from closure are celebrating five years in business.

Christine and Alan Thomas and their son Adrian were looking for a potential holiday home in the Lakes when the YHA decided to sell Elterwater Hostel.

The family, with considerable business experience but none in hospitality, stepped in just hours before the bidding deadline.

Now, five years and thirty thousand bed nights later, they have turned around a rather tired and run-down hostel into a bright, comfortable and popular refuge for families, solo travellers and groups.

“Back then, we had no idea what we were letting ourselves into when, from far away in Hong Kong, Christine spotted that the YHA had put Elterwater up for sale,” says Alan a retired banker.


“We’d often thought about, and even looked at, buying something in the Lakes – perhaps a holiday cottage we could rent, and use. Adrian distinctly remembers “wasting” days of family holidays looking at cottages we couldn’t possibly afford.

“But we had always loved Elterwater; we had both stayed at the hostel in our school days, and Adrian took his first steps in Elterwater in the early 90s.”

The family have invested financially, but also given a great deal of time and affection in renovating the hostel.

“Our investment in the business has grown as we continue to push profits back into making the hostel as good as it can be,” says Christine, who works in finance.

“We’ve completely refurbished washrooms and showers, added a new ‘ensuite’ facility downstairs, plus new soft furnishings, carpets, mattresses and duvets as well as Wi-Fi throughout the hostel and individual bed-lights, as well as fixing the roof.”

What stayed the same is the staff team, Nick Owen, the manager, who’d already worked at the hostel for more than 20 years, and Charlie Spiller, “who served our breakfast on our first, incognito visit when the hostel was up for sale. She soon rumbled us.”

Five years on and the business is well established with a wide cross section of people using the hostel for all sorts of reasons.

“We retained a number of regular group bookings and attracted plenty of new ones,” says Christine.

Nick and Charlie are still here, and we have welcomed several seasonal workers including Andy who has just committed to his third season with us next year.

“The hostel has become more than a business for us. It’s truly our home from home, and as a family, we’re all even more in love with Elterwater than ever.”

The challenge now is to maintain this momentum.

“The fundamentals of the business remain unchanged. We continue to offer a great night’s sleep in a wonderful location with a super breakfast, the very things that clinched our decision to buy the hostel in the first place.

“We are indebted to Nick and Charlie, and all our staff throughout these five years, for embracing all the changes and for continuing to provide excellent front of house customer service.

“We are still excited by our new challenge, five years down the line, and look forward to meeting many more new friends in the new season.”