We don’t get a lot of freedom about when we take holidays because my husband has to apply up to 18 months in advance to get dates for time off. This year he was assigned a couple of weeks in July which is not a great time for us to go away. The places we like best are just too hot at that time of year and I’d been away so much already this year that I wasn’t in the mood for more airports. When you fly several times every month, getting a break from the airports is a holiday in itself. We decided to spend a week in the UK and take things easy. My husband had been banging on for some time that he wanted to go to York and I kept putting off the onerous task of looking for a hotel. Finally, just a few days before we were due to go, I knuckled down to the hotel hunt.
We’d picked this week to have time off because the main English school holidays hadn’t yet started and we wanted to avoid going when the streets would be full of over-excited kids and their fraught parents and we hoped that we’d beat the annual price hike that goes with the school break. I searched around a bunch of hotel comparison sites, rejected everything over £100 and everything that looked like a chintzy B&B or had lousy photos (it’s amazing how many hoteliers post photos on their websites that were taken without straightening the bed covers properly). For some reason I couldn’t recall, I knew I’d heard the name Marmadukes and the sites were telling me I could probably pick up a double for around £79 for the night without risking chintz poisoning or bed bugs and with free parking thrown in. I checked their website, loved what I saw and decided to give them a ring and talk about prices.
The lady I spoke to was lovely. Very ‘Yorkshire’ in all the most positive senses of the word; friendly, down to earth, encouraging and very pleasant. She reassured me that parking was included, that breakfast was also in the price and that it was fine if we turned up before the check-in time and just wanted to leave our luggage. I asked the price and she offered a large deluxe double for £79, immediately matching the best price that any of the booking sites had offered for Marmaduke’s much smaller so-called ‘petite’ doubles. I was really happy with the price and gave her my credit card details, took down a booking reference and printed off the ‘how to find us’ instructions from the website.
We spent the night before in Cheshire and followed the Tom Tom to York in under two hours. The route avoided any need to go through the centre of the city and we arrived at 1 pm, an hour before the advised check-in time. The car parking spaces were a bit of a puzzle with just five simple single spaces and the rest of the spaces were doubles. If you take a double parking slot, you will either block another car or get blocked yourself and the hotel asks you to leave your keys so they can move you if anyone needs to get out. The term ‘Not bleedin’ likely’ sprung to mind and I happily grabbed one of the single spaces.
Hovel or Heaven?
First impressions from the outside were very positive. The hotel was based in two large red-brick, probably Victorian, grand old houses with high ceilings and lots of character. The hotel is on a quiet side street near to St Peter’s School and there’s no noise from the street or the school. We entered through the reception door on the side of the building and I noticed on the way in that the hotel has a Johansens plaque on the wall. I’ve always rated hotels that get into the Johansens guide so I was reassured to see that accolade although I’ve subsequently been able to find Marmadukes on the Johansens site so maybe it’s not currently listed.We stepped inside to a tiny reception area that’s housed in what’s little more than a lean-to on the side of the house. The lady on reception knew who we were and said she was pretty sure that our room was already cleaned and we could take it immediately if we wanted. They already had my credit card details so there was no need to give them my card and all I did was sign the registration card and give them the car details. She then left the reception area and led us through the ground floor, past the bizarre sofa you can’t sit on because it was a favourite of Princess Diana (yes, I’m not kidding on either point), showing us the lounges, the bar and the breakfast room and then leaving us at the base of the stairs with instructions where to go. As we climbed the stairs we were really impressed with how classy the hotel looked with lots of beautiful paintings, gorgeous curtains and bright fresh colours. Our room was on the top of the building so probably not the best choice for anyone who’s not good on stairs, but if you have mobility issues, there are several rooms in the annex building which are on the ground floor.
I’d seen the room photos on the website so I was optimistic that we’d get a nice room and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a lovely high-ceilinged room panted in dark Wedgwood green with a white dado, skirting board, doors and windows. The floor was a dark wood laminate that was slightly warm underfoot. The soft furnishings and curtains were in a cream and green fabric and the curtains were room height and swooped all the way to the floor and were tide back with big tasselled tie-backs. The bed had smooth fine white sheets and a dense quilt in a white cover. There was a fabric throw over the bottom half which matched the curtains, as did the three big cushions that sat in front of a mound of white pillows on the enormous wooden bed. The mattress was slightly softer than I like but still great. More of the fabric was draped on the wall above the bed.
To either side of the bed were tall ‘pot’ cupboards in lieu of bedside tables. They didn’t match but were clearly antique. Attractive pale green Chinese-style lamps were placed on either side of the bed. There was a really big wardrobe with long mirror in the middle and little tassels on the doors and inside was a room safe.
A small wooden table held a tray with tea and coffee and a kettle and the furniture was completed with a gorgeous antique desk with pair of Chinese vases and a brass lamp. Above the desk was a small flat television (small enough that I needed to keep my glasses on in bed to watch it) and there was a CD/DVD beneath. The folder with room and hotel information told us that DVDs were available on request from a list that was provided. In winter the room would be heated by the two radiators but that wasn’t necessary in July. The final touch was an attractive glass chandelier.
The bathroom was a long narrow room with a nice old-style sink, a toilet and a fancy shower with multi-jet system. The toiletries provided smelled beautiful and there were plenty of towels although for some odd reason, these had been left on the bottom of the bed instead of on the towel rail.
Our room was on the side of the hotel and looked out over neighbouring gardens and down towards the breakfast room below. The hard-wired broadband connection didn’t work at all and the wi-fi signal was a bit on the weak-side due to us being at the top of the building but was strong enough to make contact and do some basic net-activity.
Off to the City
We headed off into York with instructions from the receptionist to turn left at the main road and just keep going. In less than 10 minutes we were at the Bootham Gate entrance to the walled city and just a couple minutes more brought us to the Minster. The location was a key factor in our choice of hotel because we wanted to be close enough to the city without actually being inside the walls where parking has always been an expensive nightmare when I’ve visited before.We stayed out all afternoon and returned at about 8.30pm. We had originally planned to go to York with some friends who couldn't make it due to work commitments, but if we'd been with them, I'm sure we'd have taken advantage of the bar and the public lounges which were attractively furnished with lots of antique furniture. Being on our own, we didn't really need anywhere to site and chat so we headed back to our room.
We slept like corpses
I slept really well and couldn't get over how quiet our room was. We live in the countryside and tend to think we’re in a really quiet spot but when you stay somewhere like Marmadukes you suddenly realise just how much background noise we live with – the constant sound of running water from our pond pump, the gobby blackbirds who like to wake us most mornings and of course the comings and goings of three opinionated cats. I’ve not slept so soundly in ages.
Next moning I was keen to try out the shower with it’s multi-jets and a little wary after reading a review on one of the sites about the ‘nipple-attacking’ power of some of these shower types. I can’t say I could stand still with cold water being shot at me for long enough to report on the latter but the main shower was powerful and had plenty of hot water. No mean feat on the top floor of an old building.
Breakfast was served in a conservatory on the side of the building and was well worth getting out of bed. I had a toasted English muffin with scrambled egg and smoked salmon, whilst my husband went for the Yorkshire breakfast. I’d been quite tempted by the vegetarian breakfast which boasted ‘vegetarian black pudding’ which sounded intriguing until I reminded myself that even in my meat-eating days I’d hated black pudding so it was hard to imagine how removing the main ingredient (blood) and replacing it with who-knows-what was going to make it any better. In addition to the hot food, cereals and yoghurts were available along with juice and jams and toast was brought to the table. My coffee was served in a small stainless steel cafetiere and was really good.The hotel offers a three course evening meal for £20 which seemed like pretty good value although I wasn’t at all tempted by the menu. As an alternative, they also recommend a sister hotel/restaurant close to the Minster called the Guy Fawkes where Marmadukes’ guests get some kind of preferential treatment.
After breakfast, we returned to our room, packed up and loaded the car and asked if we could leave it in the car park whilst we went to the Minster. The receptionist said it was fine and the check in time for the arriving guests wasn’t until 2 pm so it was ok until mid afternoon if we needed somewhere to park.
All in all we were really impressed by Marmadukes. If you search on line for reviews of the hotel they are almost universally positive with the exception of one ‘gentleman’ who seems to have a bit of a vendetta against them based on a visit several years ago. I’ve stayed in several places in York before, including the Hilton and a 4-star close to the Minster, but this is the only one I’d choose to return to and I recommend it without reservations. Just be sure to call the hotel direct and ask them for a price instead of assuming that you’ll do better on the hotel booking sites. We saved at least £20 by going direct and got a better room.
I triple checked and it really is called Marmadukes and not Marmaduke's so the lack of apostrophe is intentional
4-5 St Peters Grove,
Bootham, York YO30 6AQ
Telephone: 01904 640101