Five Best: Railway hotels
Relive the glory days of Victorian train travel with a trackside stop
Saturday 10 November 2007
The Great Victoria, Bradford
The Grade II-listed Great Victoria was built in 1867 as a railway hotel, and has retained its good looks – unlike Bradford's Interchange across the road. The hotel re-opened last year after a £5m revamp by the new owners, the Tomahawk Group. The interior designers Browning & Baize were in charge of the recent overhaul, and opted for a contemporary design scheme. Each of the resulting 57 bedrooms and suites has its own character, but all have a distinctive mix of sleek, pared-down furnishings with dramatic splashes of colour. There's also a glamorous restaurant and bar.
The Great Victoria, Bridge Street, Bradford, West Yorks (01274 728 706; www.victoriabradford.co.uk). Double rooms start at £69, including breakfast.
The Railway Hotel, Faversham
This 19th-century, family-run inn is across the road from Faversham station, in north Kent. It is a happy marriage of Victorian charm (there's a traditional wooden bar and tiled floors in the pub, left) and up-to-the-minute facilities. The seven en-suite bedrooms are cosy rather than blandly modern – and all come with free Wi-Fi. The stylish Dining Room is winning a dedicated following for its unpretentious British cooking (most of the produce is locally sourced, whilst tea and coffee are Fair Trade). Displays of fresh flowers provide another nice touch.
The Railway Hotel, Preston Street, Faversham, Kent (01795 533 173; www.railwayhotelfaversham.co.uk). Double rooms start at £65, including breakfast.
The Royal York, York
When York station was rebuilt in 1877, it was the largest in Europe. And the Station Hotel, which opened a year later, just next door, must surely have been one of Europe's largest hotels. Renamed the Royal Station Hotel after a visit by Queen Victoria, and now known as the Royal York, this vast and still-grand structure is home to 170 bedrooms, a restaurant, gym, pool and impressive gardens. The real selling point, however, is its close proximity to the neighbouring train station and, for ardent rail fans, the excellent National Railway Museum. The hotel has also had a £7m refurbishment, so request one of the revamped rooms when you book.
The Royal York Hotel, Station Road, York (01904 653681; www.principal-hotels.com). Double rooms start at £159, including breakfast.
The Balmoral, Edinburgh
Now part of the luxurious Rocco Forte Collection, Edinburgh's Balmoral Hotel is stylish, decadent and as intrinsic a part of the capital's skyline as the imposing castle. Its 188 suites and rooms recently underwent a £7m refurbishment. This is but the latest in a raft of changes; the property was originally known as the North British Hotel, after the railway company that constructed it. Guests arriving at Waverley station can be met by one of the hotel's porters. The clock on the hotel's tower is said to have always run three minutes ahead of time, to encourage dawdling travellers to get to the station on time.
The Balmoral, 1 Princes Street, Edinburgh (0131-556 2414; www.roccofortehotels.com). Double rooms start at £185, room only.
Andaz, Liverpool Street London
The former Great Eastern Hotel – built in 1884 by the Great Eastern railway company – re-opens next week under the new Hyatt imprint, Andaz. This five-star hotel is right next to Liverpool Street station. Blending the building's Victorian heritage with smart, contemporary design, the re-branding will bring a more informal touch to what was formerly an upmarket business hotel. There will be no reception; guests can check in en-route to their room or in the Living Room. Bedrooms have ergonomically designed furniture and mod cons such as iPod docking stations; room rates will also include high-speed internet, laundry, local phone calls, mini bar and movies.
The Great Eastern Hotel, 40 Liverpool Street, London (020-7618 5000; www.london.greateastern.hyatt.com). Double rooms start at £405, including breakfast.
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