Whenever I’m running away from home my dad usually nods and says “Great, when are you leaving?”
When I told him I was going to London for a week he practically forced me to carry a rape alarm. No kidding.
So in all areas of safety and being the ever-street smart solo female traveller, I booked my stay in to Clink78 Hostel, a former prison in King’s Cross. A former prison.
Okay, so actually Clink78 used to be a courthouse; but there are still prison holding cells and a courtroom, and most probably a few ghosts of Jack the Ripper-ish former criminals who didn’t quite make it from the courthouse to the jail. That happened a lot back in the day.
Despite the fact that cells still exist and the computer room still resembles a courthouse, no one has actually been tried here since 1998. Unless you count those people caught by the traffic police that used the building until 2003…but they don’t really count.
Which means before I even arrived, Clink78 was looking like a pretty fun place to stay for the week! A large quirky hostel with a big bar (more on that later!) and little chance of having to socialise with traffic police. Winner winner, chicken dinner.
As I’ve already mentioned the Clash Bar (didn’t take me long!) I may as well fill you in on the basement cocktail bar tucked away from the majority of rooms so as not to disturb guests with their DJs and customers of the ‘daily deals!’ That’s right…each day at 5pm one of the bartenders takes up the role of loudspeaker-announcer and lets the whole building know what deals they have on that day! On my final night they were:
- Carlsberg Beer – £2
- White Riot Cocktail – £4.50
- Double Shot Tequila – £3.50
So. Cheap! But telling you about my final night is fruitless…what you really need to know is how I liked the bar on my first night, as that’s usually the scariest when you don’t know a soul and have to put yourself out there and make friends!
Walking in to the Clash Bar can be a little daunting on your first night, as you have to walk past a few rows of long bench tables where other guests will be having dinner together and chatting. Turning to the right though you are instantly welcomed in to a cosily lit bar area, with two soft sofa areas enclosing the long bar. And on the bar…bar stools!
Bar stools are effectively the best way of getting to know people when you’re travelling alone! I propped myself up on the bar that first night, got chatting to one of the bartenders and before you know it you’re chatting away to everyone else who comes to get a drink. But by far my favourite thing about Clash Bar was the staff…
Walking in to the entrance hall of Clink78 I was shocked to see not one but three receptionists behind the large reception desk, plus more staff in Clink t-shirts hurrying around. With over 500 beds, Clink78 is by far the largest hostel I have ever stayed in and that first impression of being well-staffed lasted for the rest of the week. Whenever you need a question answered, there is always someone around!
I was also lucky enough to meet a couple of the managers, and it was obvious that they loved their own hostel. You’d think this would be common in the hostel industry but so much of it is professionalised now that passion for the hostel community tends to come last. Luckily – this is not the case with Clink78; the staff were both professional but they also felt like friends after even just one meeting.
Most of all, I loved loved loved the bar staff! Behind Clash bar each night you had a mix of the crazy Aussie (essentially the Australian Jack Sparrow – but less rum & more coffee), the laid back German, the Italian with the cheeky grin and the sweet Portuguese (who I liked to think was there to keep all the boys in check)! I could easily sit and chat with any of these four and they definitely helped make you feel like a local in a pub, and not just a guest in a hostel.
Finally, I have to mention the security and cleaning staff. The fact that the hostel even had security staff made the place seem secure, especially in a city like London, but they were also welcoming to those guests who were just going about their way, and pleasant to see on the way in and out of the hostel. Similarly, I only experienced the cleaning staff as we all tried to manoeuvre our way through the hostel but they would always stand aside and let guests pass with a big smile.
Clink78 hostel is such a great location for anyone new to London, and even for those of us that are old hats at getting around. There is a bus stop directly outside with great links to the city, and the hostel is only a 10 minute walk from King’s Cross & St Pancras Station which has some of the best tube cross-links in the city!
It took me five minutes to get to Oxford Circus on the tube from King’s Cross, and just over that to get to Tower Hill. During the week, I also had to get the DLR to East London so it was easy enough to switch at West Ham after 20 minutes on the Hammersmith & City line.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about then click here for a link to London’s Underground Tube map, and take a look below for walking directions from King’s Cross to the hostel.
Recently I had a mini debate (with myself) over the price of hostels, brought upon by searching for one in London, and Clink78 was the result. Their rates are budget friendly for a big city, and below is what I paid for 5 nights in a 4-bed mixed dorm.
Of course, like any good hostel, they offer a wide range of dorm sizes and private rooms, as well as the option to sleep in an actual converted prison cell for £50 a night! As you can see, the price increase mid-week would have been because the 5th November was Bonfire night in the UK! This flexible pricing happens everywhere and on average I paid £18 a night which I think was a great bargain in London!
I’ll be honest, I forgot to take a decent room photo before my awesome Aussie roommates bundled in (about 10 minutes after I arrived!), so I took this after they had left and you can see a bit more of the floor space! Ideally, the room could have been a little more spacious – when there were four of us in there it was pretty tricky to get in and out with huge travelling backpacks taking up space as is the norm in hostel dorms.
As you can see however, the room had plenty of plug sockets which any 21st century needs desperately! And whilst we didn’t have an ensuite, we did have our own sink for teeth brushing and make up, etc. My favourite thing was the divider between the two bunks; a small addition that really helped bring a sense of privacy when you were sleeping.
The bottom bunks both had a strip that held lights and a small locker, which you could use with your own padlock. If you don’t have your own padlock then they had heavy duty locks for just £3 in the travel shop at reception.
Each room had it’s own key card that also worked for the front door so overall the rooms were secure. However, I have noted that the bottom bunks had small lockers, but the top ones didn’t. I had a top bunk so I then had three options when it came to protecting the lifeline that is my laptop:
- Carry it with me every time I left the hostel
- Trust my awesome roomies and leave it locked in my suitcase (Clink warns against this as they will not take responsibility for anything left unlocked)
- Use the lockers downstairs in the courtroom
As I said I had some great roommates so in the evenings I was happy to leave my laptop locked away in my suitcase. With the smaller size of the rooms, I can see that it would be difficult to add large lockers, however when I told reception the top bunks in my room didn’t even have top lockers they promised to pass it on, then informed me of the lockers in the courthouse and even offered to move me.
One of the deciding factors of hostels is how keen they are to ensure their guests enjoy their stay and it really seemed like the staff at Clink78 were there to make sure you had the best stay ever. As it was I didn’t fancy moving so any other issues I had with security would have been my own!
Cleanliness & Bathrooms
I was really impressed with the cleanliness of the whole hostel. There always seemed to be cleaning staff about, but they only ever seemed to come in to the room once a day – other hostels I have stayed in seem to have cleaners popping in and out a lot but these guys were pretty efficient!
We also had the use of shared showers & toilets on our corridor that were always clean & sparkling! I would still recommend flip flops for the shared showers though just to be on the safe side!
As I bang on enough on The Hostel Girl about the community within hostels and how important the social experience is to the overall experience, it wouldn’t be right to review Clink78 and not mention their very own social app! The app feed is similar to a combination of Twitter and Instagram and whilst I was a bit of a ghost user during my time there I saw plenty of guests checking in to say what time they’d be arriving and making advance plans for their stay!
Probably best of all is the non-social features that the app provides, which include:
- Clash Bar events
- Local restaurants
- London video guides
- Staff top tips
- A wifi-enabled map
- London news
- Travel shop excursion packages…and more!
Overall, I clearly loved Clink78 and the social atmosphere in the hostel! Whilst in-dorm lockers have always been top of my ‘must-have’ list for security reasons, it’s difficult to be completely mad about the lack of these in the hostel when the rest of the time spent there is so enjoyable!
As a final introduction to the hostel, friends of mine over at Hostel-Advisor created an awesome introductory video… just press play below!
A huge thanks to all the staff, I’m sure it won’t be long again until I come back!
Lots of love,
Clink Hostels is a member of STAY WYSE, the only not-for-profit industry association to represent the entire global youth travel accommodation sector, one of the travel industry’s fastest growing niche markets.