A REMOTE but revered youth hostel high in the Lake District is to undergo more than a quarter-of-a-million pounds in refurbishment.
Former shepherds bothy, Black Sail, above Ennerdale, is to have £260,000 spent on it, thanks to donations from YHA members.
Those behind the refurb say it will secure its future and enable it to open to visitors all year round.
The YHA has scaled back some of the original plans to ensure Black Sail retains its rugged authenticity, although outdoor purists may have views on double-glazing being included in the plans.
The remote hostel which is put at between two-and-half to four miles from the nearest road, is only accessible on foot or by bike and celebrates its 80th birthday this year.
It has long been used as a stop-over or base for those summiting nearby peaks such as Great Gable, Pillar, Red Pike and Steeple, or on the coast-to-coast walk.
It is popular with a number of walkers and climbers including the mountaineer and Lake District-based Sir Chris Bonington, who has welcomed the investment.
One recent review of Black Sail on TripAdvisor said: "We would give Black Sail five stars even if it was run by Basil Fawlty because of its extraordinary location, deep in the heart of the Lake District with the three great bastions of Pillar, Kirk Fell and Great Gable towering above.
"It may sound odd to say that a combined trip to the outside loo at 3am with snow on the ground was the highlight, but the utter silence, soft moonlight and great mountains were unforgettable."
The former shepherd’s bothy became a Youth Hostel in 1933 and has remained unaltered for many years. It has been described as the most remote and lonely in the country, as well as a refuge from 'any sound even remotely generated by a petrol engine.'
The investment will not only weather-proof the building but also see reduced running costs through new energy-saving measures and energy generation on site, to help its future environmental and financial sustainability.
Work is due to start in late February, subject to weather conditions, and Black Sail will re-open at Easter, which falls on March 29th this year with Good Friday.
Improvements at YHA Black Sail include: • Replacement of an existing extension which will accommodate new battery storage, wood store and cycle storage.
• New oak framed, double-glazed windows will reduce heat loss.
• Re-roofing of the original building in slate, with flat roof areas having a new green roof replacing mineral felt. All areas of the roof will have thermal insulation added.
• Installation of sun pipes to allow natural light into some of the darker areas of the building
• Renewable energy will be generated on site with roof mounted photovoltaic panels. Hot water will be generated with solar panels and a new wood burning stove will provide heat and hot water.
• Electricity use will reduce with the installation of LED lighting • Water will be conserved with the introduction of aerated taps, dual flush toilets and percussion valves on showers
Additionally, the hostel will be rewired and have new plumbing systems and fire alarm systems installed.
There will also be improved ventilation and drainage works. YHA Black Sail will be redecorated internally and equipment replaced where needed.
YHA say it is one of the oldest youth hostels in Britain with 'the warm hospitality, good food and intimate, communal atmosphere,' being much-loved by thousands of walkers, climbers and cyclists who visit each year.
Sir Chris Bonington said: “YHA Black Sail is my favourite youth hostel - its position with its unspoilt environment, sense of being in the wild and its incredible view, combined with warm and friendly wardens who cook you a superb simple meal backed by an amazingly good small wine cellar, make it unique.
"The improvements, which in no way affect the atmosphere, are the cream on top!!”
YHA said it has listened to feedback and scaled back earlier development plans to 'ensure the unique ambience of YHA Black Sail is retained.'
The investment in YHA Black Sail is part of YHA’s capital investment plan and it is one of five other youth hostels to undergo refurbishment, totalling £10 million.
The youth hostel at Waterhead, Ambleside, recently received news of a £1 million-plus upgrade.
Caroline White, Chief Executive of YHA in England and Wales, said: “We’re continuing to invest in our hostels to make sure they continue to offer the great welcome and friendly stay of which we are rightly proud.
“YHA Black Sail is a great example of the diversity of YHA’s accommodation. We have something for everyone, whether it’s a private en suite room in a bigger Youth Hostel or a small remote hostel like Black Sail - the welcome and great social atmosphere is the same.”
The YHA charity has around 150 Youth Hostels throughout England and Wales. For further details of all Youth Hostels in England and Wales, or to make a booking, visit www.yha.org.uk.