“ Address: 4-5 St. Peters Grove / Bootham / York / YO30 6AQ / Tel: 01904 640101 „
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 leave. 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. 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
As some of you may know, I got married in August. We had decided that we only wanted a small wedding, as Mrs. F's family is very, very extended, thanks to the fact that none of them are on their first marriage. Northerners, eh? Still, can't say anything as I am one, now. The divorces and intrigue made for a huge logistical headache, and we couldn't be fussed with it.
Initially we were planning to go abroad, and get married by ourselves as part of the honeymoon, but after much cajoling from parents and siblings, we agreed to get married in the UK. As we are based in York, we wanted to find a small, luxurious hotel, and Marmadukes, a three star hotel just outside the city walls, answered our needs perfectly.
Located in a leafy side road off Bootham, a popular Edwardian road just outside the city walls and Minster, Marmadukes consists of two beautiful old Victorian houses. It used to be part of the De Bretton group, which went into administration early this year, due to unpaid bills. If you search for Marmadukes, you might well find links telling you it is in administration, but fear not! There is a new management structure in place and it is doing better than ever.
Marmadukes is a boutique hotel, and you can tell how much care and attention has gone into decorating it. You find wonderful old antique furniture throughout, including a very valuable old Regency Sofa in the main hall, which create a sense of opulence and comfort. If I had one complaint, it is that the two lounges on the ground floor are quite dark - St. Peters Grove is a very leafy road, and you don't get much sunlight. The lounges only have one window, so I found them a little bit dim.
However, Marmadukes recently had a new conservatory-cum-dining room built. With windows at both ends and a vast skylight, it is a bright and sunny room. With a water feature outside one of the windows, we knew it would be the perfect room for the ceremony. This is also the room where breakfast is served in the morning. Next to the conservatory is the bar, a well-appointed and chic affair that serves a variety of wines and beers.
For conferences, there are several state-of-the-art conference rooms with projectors, etc. We had vetoed the idea of holding a board meeting before the wedding so didn't use them, but we did store things in them and they looked great, with really comfortable leather chairs!
There is a beautiful walled garden outside, filled with lavender. My wife thought it was so lovely she actually based her decision to have the wedding at Marmadukes on it! With wrought iron tables and the pleasant buzz of bumblebees, it is an ideal place to enjoy a lazy light lunch on a sunny day, and sit back and sip at a glass of wine.
There is a spa at the end of the garden, complete with sauna and hot-tub, which are free for use by hotel guests.
There are 20 rooms in total, so the hotel is very quiet, even when full. Each room is decorated individually and is a different size. There are two single rooms, then a number of petit doubles (smaller rooms), deluxe doubles (larger rooms), four poster suites (huge beds!) and finally the Loft Suite, a three room mini apartment at the top of the hotel.
Again, the furniture tends to be antique, and looking at it you can tell it is of high quality; real hard wood, with all the decorations and flourishes in a master carpenter's repertoire. The rooms vary in size, and sometimes it can be a little misleading - we were shown a number of the rooms, and were surprised to see that one of the four poster suites was, if anything, smaller than one of the petit doubles, despite costing more! I would advise you to ask to see the room first. If you aren't satisfied, ask to see another.
Each room has a bathroom, and almost all have a bath - I believe only the singles have just a shower. The bathrooms epitomise luxurious bathing. Slate-tiled floors provide a chic and cool finish, and thoughtful touches such a bath-side tables and champagne buckets (yes, champagne buckets in the bathroom!) make you realise that this is a hotel with comfort in mind. "Look", the furnishings say, "why not use us? Order some champagne, light some of those candles over there, and why don't you two have a bath together?". It would take an iron will to resist the call of the bucket.
As Bride and Groom, we were given the Loft Suite for the night.
When you first go through, you find a lounge, with two leather sofas, LCD TV, DVD player, Playstation and computer desk (WiFi is provided to hotel guests). Then through a corridor. On the right, you have the piece de resistance of the Suite, the Bathroom (it deserves a capital letter). Complete with a free standing bath, separate shower with side-by-side shower heads, you almost miss the defining feature of the room - a barrel sauna built right into the wall. Let me repeat that - a barrel sauna. Literally, someone stuck a huge barrel into the wall and then installed a sauna into it. Does it get any more luxurious than this? The toilet is in a small, separate room to the bathroom, which was a great touch. Through to the left, you have the gorgeous bedroom, with a king-size bed, CD player and separate dressing room.
To be honest with you, I would happily live there, if I could ever afford the 300 odd pounds a night it costs to stay.
Food and restaurant:
When Marmadukes went into administration, one of the first things to go was their full time restaurant. As a result, they lost their four star rating and now have a three star rating. This works to your advantage, though, as it reduces costs whilst giving you the highest quality stay you will ever have at a three star hotel. They do provide a cooked breakfast. You order hot food from a menu, and the breakfasts are sublime; local meat, well sourced and well cooked. Highlights include scrambled eggs with salmon on an English muffin, and a full Yorkshire breakfast. What distinguishes a Yorkshire breakfast from an English breakfast I have yet to find out, but one thing I've noticed about Yorkshire is that they always have to have their own version of things. London Eye? We have the Yorkshire Eye. Puddings? We have Yorkshire Puddings. Bread? We have Yorkshire Flatbread. Hollywood hunks? Sean Bean, baby!
They are slowly reintroducing a dining service into the hotel, and are doing regular gourmet evenings where a three course meal is provided. They also provide a full menu service for events (such as our wedding). The food was fantastic and individually tailored to our requirements. I had potted duck for starters, which was the tenderest I have ever had, with slow cooked lamb for mains. The lamb fell apart in my mouth, and was delicious, sweet and herby. The creme de la creme was the chocolate terrine I had for dessert with boozy cherries. York is nicknamed Chocolate Town as it is the home of Terry's (of the chocolate orange) and Nestle. This dessert was the chocolate maker's art rendered down into the epitome of rich, sweet, cocoa-ey chocolateyness: I wasn't even allowed to finish it, as my wife quickly stole it from me and consumed it with a look of rapture on her face. Quite possibly the highlight of her day. The food is incredible, well worth a try.
Marmadukes is a really beautiful and luxurious hotel. The staff are friendly, courteous and efficient, and as it is a small hotel, you get to know them quite well. Best of all, you really get the feeling that nothing is too much trouble for the manager, Andy, and his team. They went to every length possible to ensure that our wedding went off without a hitch. Andy even took it upon himself to take care of my new sister-in-law's baby during the meal, so she could enjoy herself without worrying! Andy has really turned the place around, and flicking through the guest-book - always a good gauge of a hotel - I found nothing but positive reviews.
The hotel is built around the idea that guests should be comfortable, something that you just don't get in larger hotels. Individual touches in each room, such as unique portraits and pieces of furniture, make you feel less like you are staying in a hotel and more like you are in some Jeeve's-and-Woosteresque country house, with every need attended to by a busy and invisible staff. The beautiful garden and spa provide a quiet haven in one of the busiest areas of the most popular city (after London) in the UK. If I had to sum up the hotel, I would say relaxing, comfortable and dedicated to you.
If you are looking for a venue for a wedding or meeting, I would heartily suggest Marmadukes. Marmadukes does have a civil ceremony licence, but if you want to get married elsewhere, it is a stone's throw from the registry office and very close to town, so would be easy to get to if you had a ceremony somewhere in York. We had a perfect day, and it was all thanks to this small haven down a leafy road in beautiful York.
Tel: 01904 640101
Prices: Available on enquiry