Since we bought The Hostel in Jan 2015 it is safe to say that we have been pretty busy. We have seen at least couple of thousand guests, made thousands of breakfasts, made thousands of beds, spent hundreds of hours painting, decorating, designing, making, cooking, more cooking, fixing things, whilst still finding time to be a happy family in the meantime!
Although we have been here two years we still think of ourselves as new owners of this place, partly because we haven’t finished unpacking our belongings in our house, and partly because it still feels like there is more to be done than we have done already. We are trying to be steady custodians of the place, our aim is to improve rather than overturn.
We have always had a strong vision for the place, the way it should feel to be here, the way we hope that people will interact with the building and the surrounding area, we want people to come here and feel like locals for a while or even just a night! The part of the building that I like the best is the lounge, whenever we have no-one in the hostel we go in there to play games and sit in front of the woodturning stove, it feels good, comfortable, sort of old fashioned but in a Scandinavian kind of way I imagine.
The question that we really had to answer early on is; ‘what’s the point of a Youth Hostel in the modern day?’, rather ‘what is the point of this Youth Hostel, here in Kettlewell?’ The previous owners ran it at a loss for a number of years, so I guess that was a hint that something had to change. Certainly we could bring some design expertise to the place, and make better food and have better drinks that would get more people to stay here,
We have been finding some groups that have used the place as a base for team building and business events, it turns out that banks, investment organisations, insurance companies and the like actually have real people working in the who don’t get a chance to get to know each other and maybe if they could get together to go for a walk and a talk, followed by some great food and a beer or two and a night away, maybe they would be able to work better together. At the minute, our part in these Net-walking events is providing the food and the drink and accommodation, but maybe we could look at hosting events in a more organised way in the future, maybe, but for now we are happy to be the hosts.
In the meantime, individuals, family gatherings and walking groups continue to enjoy our lovely village and the area that surrounds us! The bestseller in our bookshop is ‘Walks from Kettlewell’ the walks you can do without driving out of the village, a week should just about do it! I always prefer days where I don’t touch the car.
Our menu has really worked out as I have come more practiced as a chef, my ‘8 Hour Beef Stew with Proper Mash and Peppered Cabbage’ is still just about the best meal you could have after a long walk! Harissa spiced Lamb stew with couscous and herby salad has proved to be a popular wholesome lighter choice. Counter to much advice I have been given, vegan and vegetarian meals do sell and are even enjoyed! Even gluten free catering has proved to be an interesting exercise, one that has been well worth the effort!
Luckily for us, we have found a great butcher and baker in the nearby town of Grassington, by using the local guys, not only can we get the best meat available, we can be sure that it has travelled the least distance and has been taken great care of. Better ingredients make better food!
Our commitment to source locally has brought us into contact with some great producers, not just the amazing Weatherheads butchers, and Walkers Bakery and Ian Taylor Eggs who we have been working with for some time now, but last year we have started using ‘Yorkshire Dales Ice Cream’ from Bolton Abbey. Next summer we will be selling Northern Bloc Artisanal Ice cream from Leeds, their Black Treacle Ice Cream is really, really good.
We have done really well selling Dark Horse Brewery beers (brewed in a barn, in a field down the road) and Wharfedale brewery beers. Last year we started selling ‘Colemans Yorkshire Cider’ which has been a real pleasure to have on the menu, they planted the apple trees, picked the apples, brewed the cider and then drove it to us to sell! Wonderful. Well worth trying if you get the opportunity.
Social media has been a real asset to us, Twitter (@thekettlewell) has been my favourite, a little picture of what we have been working on that day and maybe a few words about what we have been doing has built up to be a nice record of our time here, one that I hope to continue. We have it set up so that what we put on twitter also appears on Facebook, which is really helpful. Floss has been in charge of Instagram, consequentially our two cats; Hector the hostel cat and Pretty cat have become increasingly famous!
This winter (2016/17) we have taken the bold move to close for a while, in order to get some jobs done, some of it behind the scenes in our house at the back, but most of the work in the Hostel. Work started on Jan 3rd, just after a really lovely group from London left us after their new years stay, the new rooms will be for one, two or three people (replacing big dorm rooms for 6!). We are having new windows put into the roof which will not only bring in light but reveal new views of the amazing landscape around us. We have fallen in love with the area, and I am sure that plenty more people will too, once they have stayed here. We are reopening on the 16th Feb 2017.
A game that we sometimes played whilst working for Rohan would be along the lines of what would it be like if Rohan made a…… Car? House? what-ever really? The answer would be something along the lines that it would be reliably good, versatile, considered, not flashy, it would be well worth the money, I guess that we are trying to achieve something along those lines here, but we would never be so bold as to say it out loud….
Kettle well Hostel – Whernside House, Kettlewell, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 5QU. Call: 01756 760232
Saul – Kettlewell Hostel
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