LINTON is to lose its youth hostel but an alternative facility could open in the Grassington area.

Kettlewell has also been granted a stay of execution after being earmarked for closure.

The closures were part of the Youth Hostel Association's cost-cutting measures following the foot and mouth crisis.

"Linton was chosen above Kettlewell because of the amount of investment it would need to bring it up to standard," explained Duncan Simpson, the YHA's corporate affairs manager.

The hostel will remain open for the summer season, and is expected to close once a buyer has been found.

It was opened in 1943 and has 36 beds run by two members of staff. Overnight stays average 4,500 per year.

However, the blow to Linton has been softened with a further announcement that the YHA is looking for an alternative facility in the area.

Rachel Mann, chief executive of Craven District Council, said she had been in talks with her counterpart at the YHA, Roger Clarke, who said the news was not all bleak.

"Mr Clarke told me that the area is to retain its facility and the YHA is looking for an alternative location within the Grassington/Linton area which is very good news."

The news coincided with a visit to the Dales by rural affairs minister Alun Michael as part of the Government's "Your Countryside, You're Welcome" campaign.

He addressed a meeting of the Youth Hostel Association, met local charities, travelled on the Settle to Carlisle railway line and enjoyed a walk around Ribblehead.

Mr Michael also met members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, and spoke to representatives from Settle Chamber of Trade and Craven District Council's Foot and Mouth Recovery Panel.

National park chief executive David Butterworth said: "By coming up to the national park and joining us on a walk, the minister is helping to promote a vital message - the countryside is open and ready to welcome visitors."

Miss Mann, who also met the minister, said the message was a positive one.

"The Minister clearly recognised some of the problems that rural areas like ours are facing and said he would take our views back with him," she added.

Speaking about his visit, Mr Michael said: "With Easter coming up and most of us having a few days' break, we wanted to remind people that the English countryside is open for business and offers a diverse range of things to see and do, whatever your age or interests.

"Yorkshire is the UK's largest county and its diverse countryside offers something for everyone."