Our recent trip to try out the gorgeous Grays Court Hotel in York was long overdue.
Driving through the city walls, along a narrow lane and under the arch into Grays Court’s cobbled courtyard, it is immediately apparent that this hotel has a location that is hard to beat. Iconic York Minster can be seen peering over the rooftops, only a few metres away.
This is the heart of historic York and Grays Court itself more than holds its own when it comes to character and history. On arrival, we were warmly welcomed and given a quick tour of the hotel and a potted version of the building's fascinating past (a full history is provided in the in-room information and is well worth a read). Parts of this ‘country house in the city’ date back to Norman times (giving rise to the claim that it may be the longest continuously occupied house in Britain), and previous owners and visitors include a variety of royalty and high society across the centuries.
The current owners have beautifully restored the building to offer just eleven charming bedrooms, varying in size but all with lovely décor and character features, great bathrooms for unwinding after a day in the city, and views over the garden and city walls or the cobbled courtyard and Minster.
We were staying in ‘Willoughby’; a large room with four poster bed and fantastic views over the garden and City Walls. After settling in, we made our way to the impressive, panelled ‘long gallery’ for tea and scones to start our stay. The gallery has a stately home feel but combines this with a relaxed comfort, making it a unique place to unwind.
Our stay was a chilly winter’s day, but in the sun the gorgeous garden is an equally wonderful place to relax. Beautifully landscaped, it backs directly onto York’s City Walls and has the only remaining private access to the walls, so you can head straight out for a stroll!
Although it's tempting just to settle into the hotel, with fascinating York on your doorstep, it is worth dragging yourself away. For us, this involved simply wandering around the historic lanes and alleyways, soaking up the atmosphere (which is one of the nicest ways to get to know the city) but, for the first time visitor, sight-seeing highlights include the stunning Minster, a walk around the substantially intact city walls, a visit to Clifford's Tower, the small remains of what was once York’s castle, where a new visitors centre is opening in 2017, or one of York’s excellent museums, including the fun Jorvik Viking Centre and the popular National Railway Museum.
Back at the hotel, it’s time for a pre-dinner drink in the long gallery (where the bar turns into on ‘honesty bar’ once the staff go home, so you can enjoy a glass of something at any time of day!), before heading out for dinner.
York has a wide range of eating options from fine dining to casual bistros and traditional pubs (we headed to ‘the Star Inn the City’, recently opened by well regarded Yorkshire chef Andrew Pern, and well worth a try). However, if you'd rather settle into the hotel, the intimate restaurant offers upmarket meals with a focus on local produce and inventive dishes.
After a good night’s sleep – you’d never know you were in the centre of a busy city – all that’s left is to enjoy a hearty breakfast, with options including a classic full English, kippers or pancakes with maple syrup, either in the pretty breakfast room or out in the garden.
Fully satisfied and our stay at an end, we reluctantly checked out, sure we will be back at Grays Court soon – there are few hotels in the country that manage to combine the service, comfort, character and location offered at Grays Court!
If you are interested in including Grays Court in your trip to Britain, or would just like us to help to plan your trip, please do get in touch.