“You’ve made a great hotel choice with this one!” says the fellow guest beside us at the check-in desk.
His enthusiasm and friendliness reminded us that we were no longer in London, but instead in Yorkshire, an area known for its welcoming nature and hospitality. After an easy train journey from King’s Cross and a short walk from the York train station, we arrived at The Grand York, the 5-star luxury hotel located in a grade-II listed building that was once the headquarters of the North Eastern Railway. Originally erected as a “Palace of Business”, the building started the next phase of its evolution as a hotel over a decade ago. Extensive refurbishments saw the hotel expanding and breathing new life into the historic features that have made the building a beloved city landmark. The independent hotel is a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts and has won multiple awards, including “Best Luxury Hotel in England” from Late Rooms and was featured on Expedia’s “Insiders’ Select List”.
Inclusive luxury with traditional Yorkshire hospitality
We were welcomed in by doorman Wayne, who we are told has become quite the celebrity, known for greeting tourists and locals alike as they walk past the hotel’s entrance on their way around town. “We like to think of it as inclusive luxury that celebrates Yorkshire hospitality,” says Louise Gee, Director of Sales & Marketing. Gee, marketing manager Olivia Odudu, and I discuss how The Grand is held at such a high regard by not just tourists but by locals too, which is a testament to the team’s insistence on providing a first-class experience in a down-to-earth manner. The hotel’s layout celebrates the old and the new—traditional Edwardian architecture can be seen throughout the original building, which is where our room is located, whilst the new wing features more modern design elements. During our visit, the hotel was all decked out for the holidays with lights glistening from the doorway arches and around the bannister of the spiral staircase. The building’s design means that no two rooms are built the same, providing a unique experience for every guest. There are 207 rooms in total and families are especially fond of the 19 suites on offer with double walk-in showers, space for additional beds, and beautiful city views. We also appreciated the little touches in our room like chocolates on our bedside table and and “It Works” sleep sprays to help us get some shut-eye.
Recharge, unwind, and cook up something new
For a well-deserved break, The Grand has a selection of in-house experiences that guests can take part in. We spent some time relaxing tired muscles and unwinding in the hotel spa, which is located within the building’s former vaults. Once used to store millions of pounds of rail revenue within its stone walls, the Spa is now a refuge where guests can enjoy the heated 14-metre pool, steam room, spa whirlpool, dry sauna, or a bespoke treatment or two. Afterwards, we paid a visit to head chef tutor Andrew Dixon, who was heating up a pot of deliciously-smelling curry inside the massive hotel cookery school—wine glasses at the ready for any mid-class tipples, of course! The stations had been set up in anticipation for the evening’s amateur chefs; Dixon tells me they get a good mix of tourists and locals at the cookery school and the classes have made for a popular gift for loved ones. Not only do the students learn how to cook an excellent dish, but they also get to enjoy the fruits of their labour by sitting down to a communal meal with their fellow participants afterwards.
Getting starry-eyed in the North York Moors
If the past 18 months have shown us anything, it’s that we have a deeper appreciation for the great outdoors. But what happens when the temperature drops and the sun is only out for a few hours each day? Many destinations we head to for a bit of fresh air are amazing in the summer, but choices are limited later in the year. Always one for creating experience packages so their guests can learn more about the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, The Grand has teamed up with the North York Moors to create a Dark Skies Experience, which includes a dinner and overnight stay at the hotel with breakfast the morning after.
The hotel’s restaurant, The Rise, has a modern British menu that shines a spotlight on local Yorkshire ingredients. The space opens up into a heated terrace for some al fresco dining and guests can also get a glimpse of the chefs at work in the open kitchen. Every meal we had at The Grand was delicious—it was clear to see that the team went above and beyond to put together an exciting menu that popped with flavour. Some standout dishes from the AA Rosette-awarded restaurant included duck liver parfait with cranberries; pan-seared skate wing with brown butter, capers, trout caviar and brown shrimp; and the “Milk and Honey”, a baked custard using honey from the hotel’s resident bee colony, burnt honey marshmallow, milk ice cream, bee pollen, and crispy milk.
After dinner, we were provided with some hot chocolate for the road before we were picked up by the stargazing team in two mini vans. Once there, we met astronomer Richard Darn who welcomed us into the new star and nature hub, part of the Sutton Bank National Park Centre. Darn’s passion was evident as he gave us a detailed lecture on the different stars, moons, galaxies, planets, and nebulae in preparation for our viewing. Darn was excellent at keeping the group engaged as we sipped on our warm refreshments, taking questions from participants and testing our astronomy knowledge too. The North York Moors was recently given International Dark Sky Reserve status, which means light pollution is controlled and the area has met the criteria for sky quality and natural darkness, making it the ideal location for stargazing. With the aid of a telescope and some binoculars, we spent the chilly evening admiring the different constellations that dotted the night sky, identifying star clusters, and even getting a close-up view of the beautiful craters of the moon. All throughout, Darn was open to answering any and all questions we had and would readily name almost every light in the sky that was pointed out to him. It was a magical experience to be out in the wilderness, gaining a better appreciation of the world that we live in and the galaxies beyond.
A spot of culture in a former Viking hub
The hotel’s enviable location in the heart of York gave us an easy jumping off point to not only the countryside but also the rest of the historic city. We learned about the area’s Scandinavian heritage at the Jorvik Viking Centre, took a stroll up along the ancient city walls, popped into a few independent shops at the popular Shambles Market, and visited some of the movers and shakers of the local food scene (can highly recommend dinner and wine at Cave du Cochon and brunch at Partisan).
The Grand York has accomplished the difficult task of creating an experience that is luxurious yet warm in a setting that respects tradition without being stuck in the past. If you’re after a luxury staycation that provides easy access to Mother Nature combined with a city escape that is rich in English history, book yourself into The Grand York and Wayne and team will take great care of you.
Dark Skies Experience - 2022 dates
10th January 2022 – Enjoy the moon in a perfect phase for viewing
1st February 2022 – View a dark sky, including winter constellations and star cluster – SOLD OUT
9th March 2022 – Enjoy a beautiful half moon in the sky set among the lovely stars of the constellation of Taurus
Cost from £370 per room based on two adults sharing.
The Grand York, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts
Address: Station Rise, York YO1 6GD, United Kingdom
Phone: 01904 380038
E-mail: [email protected]