An international boutique hotel chain imparts a local vibe filled with whimsy and fun.
Hotel Indigo, York
88-96 Walmgate, York, UK
The back story
The north of England is a quirky and singular location, ripe with unique foodstuffs, a thick (some would say impenetrable) regional accent and a colourful history. So the prospect of whiling away my time in the headlining northern city of York in a homogenous chain hotel didn’t appeal.
Hotel Indigo, on the other hand, did. While technically a chain hotel (there are now properties everywhere from Bali to Helsinki to New York), the Indigo brand, part of the behemoth IHG group, is boutique in its approach and decidedly unhomogenised in its execution. The idea is that each outlet is a ‘neighbourhood’ hotel, celebrating the unique taste and timbre of its surroundings.
The York outpost is located within the ancient city walls at Walmgate and provides easy access of the city’s chocolate-box cute old town, with its narrow, higgledy-piggledy cobblestone streets populated by seriously old half-timber houses that now act as cafes and stores, and its crowning glory, York Minster.
While the outside of the hotel reads generic modern, the small but ebullient lobby is instantly welcoming. I am greeted at the front desk by a warm smile and the aforementioned accent, before being directed to my twin room on the first floor.
Once inside, the local vibe is instantly evident: the high, plump single beds are dressed with locally sourced woollen blankets and cushions, in honour of the textile mills that once proliferated in these parts.
The wall above the leather bedheads is hung with a mix-and-match gallery of historical images of local streetscapes, smiling confectionery factory workers (York lays claim to being the birthplace of Smarties, Aero, After Eights and Fruit Gums) and a bold red Y, while the shade on the bedside lamp is created from the pages of an old telephone book (in other rooms, vintage-style jelly moulds are used as pendant lights).
All of these elements when married with the warm rich woods and industrial chic fittings used throughout produce a cosy, easy feel that is unique from many hotel rooms I have stayed in.
The overriding theme continues in the mini bar, with complimentary KitKat bars (the confectionery was created by Rowntree’s of York in 1935) and strong Yorkshire teabags and oat biscuits on the tea and coffee tray.
Having booked my stay last minute in the height of the summer season, my room is actually a standard accessible, so the bathroom is a huge wet room that reflects the design throughout the hotel. There’s also a pull cord alarm, which results in an instant call from reception when I tug on it out of curiosity.
York’s sweet history further plays out in the restaurant, No. 88 Walmgate, with its crazy tiling on the bar in shades of caramel and cream. The menu celebrates local producers, from the black pudding in the full Yorkshire breakfast to the baked goods and meat.
Leave room for high tea at Betty’s Tea Room, a Yorkshire institution; go via The Shambles, said to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books. And make sure there is space in your luggage to take home a few treats from the nearby confectionery shops; the staff at the front desk are happy to advise on the best ones. Tell them a local sent you.
The IT verdict
A comfortable, well-positioned city hotel that has a witty take on its ‘local’ concept.
Its location within the old city walls and an easy walk from most of York’s headlining attractions and ample cafes, restaurants and bars is a huge selling point.
Locally made furniture, cosy textiles, KitKats in the minibar and numerous references to York’s sweet heritage are all charming.
The front desk staff are chatty and welcoming.
Food and drink: N/A
The restaurant off the lobby was popular with guests and locals while I was in residence, but there are so many different restaurants and cafes within a quick walk that it’s hard to resist the temptation of eating out.
Value for money: 7/10
I paid $212 for my standard accessible room; given proximity to the sights and high-season timing, I thought this was good.