Summer is a wonderful time to tick things from your bucket list and this Summer I was determined Stonehenge would be ticked from ours! Stonehenge is almost 350 miles away from our home in Northumberland and as I have discussed previously, it can be difficult looking for places for a family of 5 that do not break the bank or involve us sleeping apart.
During our research, we stumbled upon the YHA website and I was pleasantly surprised to find YHA Cholderton which was only a few miles away from Stonehenge. We could book a six bedded family room with private en-suite for £100 in August including bedding which seemed very reasonable to me. I especially liked how we weren't restricted to a 2-3 night stay as you often are during peak travel times and that we were all able to stay together in one room. This particular hostel is based on Cholderton Charlies farm which really appealed to us as we were able to visit the animals and playbarn at no extra cost whilst staying at the on site hostel (entry to the farm would normally cost £7.95 each).
It is worth noting that YHA Cholderton is an affiliate of the YHA and is managed independently.
I had huge pre-conceptions of what I expected a Youth Hostel to be like - in some cases these were true. Yes we had to make our own beds, strip them in the morning and take our sheets to a laundry cupboard and sleep in bunkbeds on beds that weren't as comfortable as our bed at home. However I can cope with all of that as the facilities on offer for families were simply amazing.
Family en-suite room
We stayed in an 8 berth private en-suite room which was very spacious. We had gorgeous views over the Wiltshire countryside, lots and lots of space, our own bathroom, plenty of plug sockets and individual reading lights. We were given our own keys for our bedroom and the main front door and I was more than happy with how safe the place was.
What I loved about YHA Cholderton was that you had the best of all worlds - there was a cafe serving pre-booked meals and snacks, a clean and well equipped kitchen for you to cook your own food, a nice bar area, a conservatory dining room and main dining room and lounge (with FREE WIFI) and lots of outdoor seating too.
We arrived fairly late in the evening (too late to order an evening meal from the hostel) so headed to the local pub instead which was about 1.5 miles up the road.
The Crown Inn is everything you would want from a Country Pub - cosy corners with homemade food and friendly service. My lamb and mint pie, chips and vegetables were very homely and just what I needed after 10 hours in the car with kids. Children's meals were decent too - homemade, fresh and plentiful. Hubby decided to treat himself to a Sirloin steak which was £18 and bumped our bill up considerably. Overall though, £50 for a hearty meal and drinks for the 5 if us was good value. If it hadn't have been raining we would have probably stayed for another drink whilst the kids played outside too.
Facilities for children
Most of the time if the kids are happy, we are happy and they were more than happy with the facilities on offer at YHA Cholderton. Inside there was free wifi in the lounge, a well-stocked bookcase and toy basket and a TV. Outside there were huge gardens with good quality play equipment including decent trampolines, sand pits, play frames and much, much more. Unfortunately it was raining on the evening of our stay but I can imagine how wonderful if must be for parents in the summer to sit out on the terrace with a bottle of wine as the kids play.
Free access to Cholderton Charlie's Farm
Staying in the Countryside does have it's downsides (being woken up by a Cockerel for example) however having free access to Cholderton Charlie's Farm directly from the hostel, even when it was closed to the public was such a treat for the kids. Getting up at 8am didn't seem so bad when it meant we could visit the farm's animals as they were waking up - we had the farm completely to ourselves which was fantastic. The happy piglets in particular were a delight!
You can pre-order breakfast at the hostel for £5.25 per adult and £2.99 per child which includes continental and cooked breakfast, cereals, fresh juice, tea and coffee. Bargain! You can of course make your own too and the smell of people cooking their own bacon sandwiches as we left certainly made our mouths water! On this occasion though, we decided to visit Cholderton Farm Shop which is less than 2 miles up the road. We were the first customers of the day as we waited outside for them to open their doors at 9am. Some friendly chickens from the farm kept us entertained.
Cholderton farm shop is small and friendly - the staff were very accommodating and welcoming - moving tables for us and bringing the children their own 'Cholderton Farm' word searches which were very well received. We ordered an Americano, pot of tea for one, 3x juice for the children, 2 bacon sandwiches, 2 children's sausage sandwiches and a round of toast which set us back a very respectable £17. Not expensive at all considering the quality - you really can tell the difference when you buy from a butcher I think. The bacon was thick and crispy and the sausages were perfect too.
Finally.....our visit to Stonehenge
I will be blogging about our trip to Stonehenge seperately however I will say it was such an amazing feeling to finally experience a trip and tick something from our bucket list together as a family. It is advised to pre-book a time slot to visit Stonehenge. We had booked 10:30am-11am but it wasn't a problem when we turned up just after 10am. It took us about 10 minutes to drive to Stonehenge from Cholderton however I have heard it can take longer if you visit later in the day.
Definitely worth the 700 mile round trip!
After our morning at Stonehenge, we stopped off at Oxford for lunch and then stayed overnight at the YHA Sherwood Forest on our return journey home to Northumberland which was a completely different experience to Cholderton - I guess every hostel is unique! Look out for a blog post in the next few weeks featuring our Sherwood adventure.