York has long had an affinity for quirkiness. Its most famous street, the medieval Shambles, looks like something from a film set; its characterful crooked houses and timber-clad overhanging buildings are thought to be the inspiration behind Diagon Alley in the screen version of Harry Potter, drawing hordes of fans.
This is also the city where the peculiar master-plotter Guy Fawkes was born — oddly, perhaps, his old school of St Peter’s still does not allow its pupils to celebrate Bonfire Night.
Now, the latest addition to this idiosyncratic scene is new boutique hotel, No 1 by GuestHouse, York, carved out of an elegant Georgian house in the Clifton area of the city. From its downstairs vinyl library (eclectically stocked with a rich variety of LPs, from Morcheeba to Elton John) to the dramatic, black-painted staircase adorned with ebony-hued violins, this hotel has a sense of fun woven into its ethos.
The first impression is colour. British interior design Martin Hulbert, who has overseen the interiors, has not held back with the paint brush. For afternoon tea or reading the papers, head to the aptly-named Marmalade Lounge, which is warm and cosy with its honey walls, chinoiserie furniture and oversized contemporary art.
The restaurant, meanwhile, feels refined, with a china-blue palette tastefully contrasted with oriental rugs and all-white crockery perched on shelves as decoration — a reflection of the building’s Regency roots.
Across the 39 bedrooms, this bold use of colour — think coral and sea-green — is matched with crafted textiles, locally-sourced antiques and modern art.
Much is made of the building’s grand architectural details, which date back some 200 years and include decorative plasterwork, stripped floorboards, the original glass dome above the curvy central staircase and huge sash windows.
While some rooms have impressive stand-alone tubs and four-poster beds, there are also plenty more unusual and well thought-out details throughout.
Each room has a record player, for instance, so you can borrow from the vinyl library downstairs; on each floor there’s a complimentary pantry, stocked with freshly-made cakes, soft drinks and sweets, for guests to dip into; in-room toiletries are by the eco-brand 100 Acres, and Nespresso machines are found hidden away in dolls’ houses.
The cosy bar gives a nod to the nearby Railway Museum with its industrial details and a mini steam train that whizzes around the top of the room.
Here you can start your evening off with a craft beer or cocktail made from local ingredients: The Secret Life of Plants, made with Yorkshire Dales Purple Ram Gin, Yorkshire honey, lavender and prosecco, is a good place to begin.
Seasonal ingredients and British flavours also take centre stage on the dinner menu, so you’ll find salt-baked beetroot with goat’s cheese, an indulgent cheese soufflé with a delicate celery and pomegranate salad and an inventive take on a Ruffle Bar, with raspberry coconut flavours on offer.
Adding to the air of hidden delights is a small but stylishly curated spa, found downstairs in the basement. Exposed brick walls, woven baskets and cream sofas are just the right setting for the range of organic treatments by Pinks Boutique.
No 1 by GuestHouse, York is the second hotel from the GuestHouse Brand, which was founded by the Guest brothers (Tristan, James and Tom). The first is No 15 is in Bath, with the team opening a third property in Brighton next year.
“We want to offer guests that traditional guest-house experience of old, but elevating the experience with indulgent treats and capturing the local,” they say.
In York, this is executed perfectly with a combination of traditional hospitality teamed with modern flair, all of which celebrates the best of God’s Own Country.
Rooms cost from £165. guesthousehotels.co.uk
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