This five-star hostel really Rocks

If your image of a hostel means you’d rather stay anywhere other than venture inside, then The Rocks is the place to change that perception.

Set in the heart of the stunning Snowdonia National Park, this family-run, five-star hostel sits just off the A5, the area’s main artery.

The Rocks at Plas Curig, to give its full name, is just minutes from quaint Betws-y-Coed, the Ogwen Valley and the Snowdon Horseshoe. It boasts breath-taking walks direct from the door, meaning you can be on top of a mountain in the morning and on a sandy North Wales beach in the afternoon.

And while it may be the great outdoors that attracts people in the first place, this unique hostel has plenty to offer those wanting to stay in style and comfort without breaking the bank.

Christian and Annie Wynne took over the former Youth Hostel Association (YHA) property almost a year ago. The intervening months have seen them busy putting their own stamp on it – part of their drive to encourage people to think again about hostelling.

The Rocks is the only five-star hostel in Wales and among its amenities offers a library and TV room, self-catering kitchen, drying room, bike store and free high-speed wi-fi.

In the dorms, the built-in wooden bunk beds have fitted curtains, a personal power point and individual reading light.

It’s a dog-friendly place too, with Ralph the labradoodle often on hand to greet new arrivals. And the communal firepit area has become a favourite place for guests to relax and share tales of the day’s activities with fellow adventurers.

Snowdonia hostel’s luxury touch

Christian and Annie left behind city living to de-camp to Snowdonia. They’re delighted with how guests have reacted to a touch of luxury.

Christian said: “We want to change the definition of a hostel. We want it to be nothing like people imagine a hostel to be. Nothing like a youth hostel they may have stayed in when they were kids.

“The word has a stigma in the UK, but if you look to the continent it’s very different. Some hostels are nicer than hotels.

“People come and realise it is a new way of looking at things. You’re not cooped away after a day out on the mountain. Guests sit downstairs with a beer or glass of wine and share experiences with like-minded people.

“It’s a place to unwind. When people come, they normally do something quite adventurous like mountaineering or kayaking. What we try to do is create a nice atmosphere, which is sociable but it’s very relaxed.”

The couple are passionate advocates for the area, its beauty and traditions.

The idea for taking on the hostel came during many trips to North Wales, where Christian has family. Returning to London they’d find themselves talking about how good the lifestyle was and espousing the virtues of Snowdonia to friends and colleagues who until that point barely knew it existed.

Their hostel was originally built as a large private home in 1903. It became a hotel in the 1920s and part of the YHA in 1946.

Christian said: “It has a huge amount of heritage and history behind it and it’s in a great location. It was all still fully-functioning when it came on the market, so it looked a bit of a no-brainer.

The right time

“The outdoors is becoming more mainstream with more people than ever wanting to go out and get wet – paddle-boarding, kayaking or mountaineering and the like. With that rise in popularity, we just thought it was the right time.”

With Christian’s background in finance and Annie’s expertise in clothing design they’ve brought complementary skills to the operation.

Christian added: “We asked the guests what would make it even more comfortable, more helpful to them. We’ve done lots of little things that have made it nicer.

“We have altered the design, made it more of a home-from-home, cosy and practical, such as shelves in the bunk beds. The TV room and library have been re-upholstered and décor changed.

“The decked firepit area is very popular with guests watching the sun set in the evening.”

Firepit at Snowdonia hostel The Rocks at Plas Curig
Promoting crafts

The couple are passionate about promoting businesses and crafts in the area. They sell locally brewed ales and cider and will soon have the landscapes of a local artist brightening the walls.

In the future they hope to put on showcases with cheese, coffee and gin producers.

They’ve also built up links with lots of experienced businesses such as gorge walking guides and mountain leaders who can help visitors get the most from their trip.

And who is their typical guest?

“We don’t have one really. We could have a party of 10 from Norwich kayaking, a ramblers’ group from London up to do Snowdown, or Spanish and French families visiting the area. It’s a real mixture.

“It’s not forced, but people have a higher opportunity to speak to other people.

“You come down in the evening and see people sharing their experiences of what they’ve done in the day, pointing out on the map where they’ve been and chatting away. Hopefully they take home with them wonderful memories and a deep want to return soon! That’s what we really like about it.”

The Rocks is a popular stay for those visiting the nearby Zip World, for which it offers a 10% discount. The hostel can be booked out in its entirety for up to 59 guests. It also offers an adjacent seven-person cottage which can also be added to the exclusive hire if required.

Christian and Annie Wynne

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