If you’re looking for something different in York, the Bar Convent will not disappoint you. It was built in the 17thC, shortly after became a boarding school for Catholic girls and today is England’s oldest active convent. The inns belong to the Congregation of Jesus, a Catholic order founded by Mary Ward during the Tudor suppression, then known simply as the ‘Ladies at the Bar’, for secrecy. The name was derived from the 12thC four-storey-high gatehouse standing next to the convent, Micklegate Bar, and it stuck through the centuries. After a significant fundraising effort, the convent’s 20 rooms have been upgraded and its impressive history is now celebrated in a permanent exhibition.
Set just outside York’s city walls and a short walk from the train station, the Bar Convent is in an ideal position to visit the old city. A Victorian winter garden covered by a glass roof is now the entrance hall, also accommodating a popular all-day café. A tangle of corridors and staircases leads to the rooms, some with shared bathrooms, some with their own bathrooms, offering great flexibility for single travellers, couples and families. Shower rooms, mattresses and towels are all spanking new and make up for the slightly cramped atmosphere found in the smallest rooms. Two bedrooms are designed by the famous hotelier Olga Polizzi: St Anna and St Joachim, with blue, cream and grey furnishings and a tranquil atmosphere. The mosaic-tiled bathrooms complete the picture.
The white-and-gold Baroque chapel is a delight to the eyes, and the garden is a real oasis. Certainly no other place in York can offer the experience of staying in a Grade I listed building where a Catholic order was founded, wounded soldiers were cared for during the war and where families and children were sheltered from persecution. Our series editor Fiona Duncan says: “As you might expect, it is memorable, tranquil and affordable; the sisters make Bar Convent a special place to stay.”