There is little reason, as a resident of South London, why I should need to book a bed in the city. However, when I was asked by the lovely people of Clink Hostel if I fancied coming down to their Kings Cross branch – Clink 78 – I couldn’t refuse. The hostel is held on the site of the Clerkenwell Magistrates Court, a Grade II listed 200-year-old courthouse steeped in history with legendary writer Charles Dickens once working as a scribe here. Thankfully, many of the building’s unique features remain, with six of the original prison cells available to spend a night in…
Naturally, I wanted in on that, and booked myself a cell room (which start at £50 per night) and dragged Kasha along to see what it would be like to spend the night in prison, albeit a slightly more cosy one.
Located just nine minutes from Kings Cross St Pancreas station, the hostel has a truly enviable position. The area itself is perfectly situated for visitors travelling via Eurostar or any of the London airports. Surrounding the hostel are cheap eats, bars, the British Library and plenty of good old fashioned British boozers.
As soon as you step foot into the hostel, you are greeted by colourful artwork, and tounge-in-cheek phrases sprawled across the wall, making it that much easier to forget the criminals and lawyers who once walked through these hallways. Groups of young international students and backpackers are spread out across every shared space, making it a relaxed atmosphere to meet people.
As well as the many shared spaces, the hostel’s late-night bar downstairs means it can feel like a party hostel. Luckily, the staff are happy to help if you need a good night’s kip, and can offer you ear plugs and close off doors to keep the noise down.
The cell room itself is wonderfully preserved, with the original heavy metal doors (note: very heavy), serving hatch, toilet (thankfully non-working), barred windows and bunk beds.
The beds are comfy, there’s space for a couple of backpacks and there is a little vanity mirror on the wall. The heavy door has an emergency release button, so you needn’t worry about ever getting trapped in! Overall, a simple intimate space to spend an evening and a cool story to tell, always tell the story thusly:
“So, I spend the night in jail yesterday…”
Outside the room, there is much to explore in this warren-like Victorian era building. My favourite places to explore were the wood panelled court rooms which were converted into a chill-out room and internet lounge.
These English Heritage listed courts actually hold some fascinating history, with the most notable trial held here in 1978 when the punk rock band The Clash were put on trial, and convicted, for shooting a pigeon. The band were fined £30 each and made to pay £700 in compensation. Rock and roll.
One big plus of the hostel is the free breakfast in the morning. There is always a big turnout for this, naturally, so get down reasonably early and secure yourself a brekkie of toast, cereals and hot drinks in the self-catering kitchen and open plan dining room. Right next to the kitchen is the late night party venue the Clashbar.
Named after the aforementioned punk rockers, this is a great place to wind down after a hard day of sightseeing and enjoy some cold, cheap drinks.
Far from a destination intended exclusively for young people or nostalgic ex-convicts, this hostel has all the hallmarks of a well-run, cheap and most importantly fun place to stay no matter your age or criminal record. The excellent multilingual staff run a tight ship keeping everyone happy and can help with anything from travel plans to attraction tickets. If I was travelling solo, this ticks all the boxes for having social space, cheap room rates and a nightlife culture.
Even families and couples will enjoy the novelty of staying in a heritage listed magistrates court, and the great value of the rooms mean that even those visiting on day trips to London have the option of relaxing in a great value private room or dorm.
If you can hear London Calling or you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to spend a night behind bars, but can’t quite commit to a life sentence, this hostel is a fun way to achieve your goal, and keep your freedom.
Our stay at Clink 78 was provided by the hotel in exchange for this review. All opinions, as always, are my own and genuinely reflect my experience at the hostel.
Like a little quirky in your life? Check out my experience at the stir crazy Cereal Killer Cafe.