Hotel locations are wonderfully varied – you can find them in stately homes, prisons, windmills and castles – and in York there’s one in England’s oldest surviving convent. Dating from 1686, it is still home to the apostolic members of the Congregation of Jesus, an Ignatian order founded in 1609, at the height of Catholic suppression post-gunpowder plot, by an extraordinary woman called Mary Ward. As you might expect, it makes a tranquil and affordable place to stay, recognised by Visit Britain which awards it a three-star silver rating. You can even sleep in one of two attractive rooms designed by Olga Polizzi, a supporter of the sisters and their work. Recent refurbishment has ensured simple but spotless and well-equipped bedrooms. There’s an all-day café with sumptuous breakfasts (winner of a Visit Britain breakfast award), a glorious garden, the Baroque chapel and a superb exhibition on the convent’s history and remarkable founder. Uplifting.
No trip to York is complete without a stroll around its famous walls, the longest medieval town walls in England. The walls can be accessed from just outside the Bar Convent’s door and provide 3.4km of glorious views over approximately two hours.
The Bar Convent is conveniently situated across the road from one of York’s most highly rated Italian eateries, Delrio’s. Their candle-lit cellar restaurant provides the perfect atmosphere to enjoy a Sardinian-influenced menu – with desserts to die for.
The Bar Convent’s own gift shop sells a variety of beautiful gifts and souvenirs, including jewellery, cards and silk scarves, as well as bone china mugs with décor inspired by the Hidden Chapel’s exquisite eighteenth-century ceiling.