The YHA hostel at Ambleside, due for a refurbishment

The YHA hostel at Ambleside, due for a refurbishment

The charity that runs 150 youth hostels in England and Wales is to spend £10m in a modernisation programme to shed its public perception of rickety beds and compulsory chores.

YHA (England & Wales) will establish a new hostel in the South Downs and upgrade five others including two at outdoor honeypots.

The hostels at Ambleside in the Lake District and Malham in the Yorkshire Dales are set for a major refurbishment, along with those at Stratford on Avon, York and Canterbury.

YHA said it has worked hard to shed outdated public perception of its accommodation involving sleeping bags, compulsory membership and 1960s dormitories by investing more than £19.5m in recent years.

The charity, born as a provider of Spartan accommodation catering for the needs of young people visiting the countryside, has increasingly moved into budget hostels aimed at young families and visitors seeking more modern facilities.

The changes led to YHA London Central appearing in the French edition of Cosmopolitan, the international style bible for women.

All six hostels are currently undergoing extensive refurbishment and will open from February 2013 onwards. They will have en suite accommodation, private family rooms and restaurant and education facilities.

Although they will be available for anyone, YHA members will still get a discount on their bookings.

Caroline White, chief executive of YHA (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.

“We want to make sure that we continue to have world-class hostels in fantastic locations and to make sure that as many people as possible know about what a great time they can have when they stay with us.”

The new South Downs hostel, costing £5m, will be at the Itford Farm site.

YHA provides bursaries to help young people take part in educational or recreational visits with their friends or classmates through its Breaks for Kids scheme. In 2011, YHA provided 5,553 of these funded trips.

In 2011, YHA recorded 1,719,348 overnight stays and had 218,054 members.