The annual Visit York Tourism Awards take place this week – and one of the businesses shortlisted for a prize has to be one of the most unusual destinations in the country.
The Bar Convent Guest House is just that – a B&B inside England’s oldest living convent that is still home to members of a religious community.
“People have all sorts of preconceptions about this place,” said Jerry Ibbotson, one of the management team.
“Some arrive to check in and think they have to be in bed by a certain time, while others can’t believe we’re an actual convent.”
The truth is very different. The Guest House opened in the 1980s when the Bar Convent School closed and All Saints School was born.
The main convent building became not just a B&B but a Museum, Conference Rooms and Café. In 2015 it underwent a major refurbishment.
“We have 20 rooms, sixteen of which are ensuite,” Jerry told us. “They’re well equipped and fitted out to a high standard but this is still very much a heritage destination, given that we’re in a house built in the 1760s.
“We have a fabulous atrium in the main hall and a tiled floor that is the last of its kind in the UK.”
“The convent is also home to members of the Congregation of Jesus, a progressive religious order that was founded in the 1600s.
“They are often in the hall to welcome visitors or show people around, although they don’t wear any kind of habit or uniform. Guests often don’t realise they’re talking to one of the sisters!”
‘A little closer to heaven’
This combination of quirkiness and a genuine warm welcome goes down well with guests.
Aside from being shortlisted for the 2017 Visit York Awards, the Guest House is highly rated by online reviewers, scoring more than 9/10 on Booking.com and 4/5 on Trip Advisor.
“We’ve had the odd person say, ‘I didn’t know it was an actual convent’ but they’ve still gone on to score us highly,” Jerry said, as he scrolled through a range of review comments.
“Here’s one from a guest from Cleveland, Ohio – ‘A little closer to heaven’. Or from a UK reviewer – ‘Don’t be put off by the word convent. Going to York? Go to the Bar Convent.’
“And there’s one that I really like – ‘A little bit of peace and serenity after a busy day walking the streets.’”
“There are so many great places to stay in York and the bar is set incredibly high. So to be nominated for the Visit York Awards means a huge amount.
“And it’s even nice to know that our guests love coming here, time and time again.”
The Visit York Tourism Awards 2017 are on Thursday, June 22 at the National Railway Museum