While it couldn’t be easier for families visiting York to find out the best things to do and places to go, finding somewhere family-friendly to stay is less easy. In fact it’s something that we’re contacted about a lot, through Instagram DMs, Facebook messages and emails. Many families want to look beyond the chain hotels for a more unique experience, and a lot of hotels simply don’t have the space (or possibly inclination) to cater for guests with children. We’ve had many a broken night ourselves, squeezed into a hotel room that’s too small. It always ends the same way: sitting bleary-eyed over breakfast with everyone grumbling about the sofa beds/each other’s snoring/how it was so hot that nobody could sleep. It’s hardly the best start to a day of sightseeing. That’s why we’re on a mission to help point parents towards excellent places to stay in York where grown-ups and kids will be well catered for. When we heard about the family cottages at Middletons, it sounded as though it would tick all the boxes, so we went along with our three children for the night to find out for ourselves.
What’s it like?
Middletons is part of The House of Daniel Thwaites, a small collection of unique, characterful hotels and spas in beautiful locations. As well as the main hotel building, formerly Anne Middleton’s Hospital, there are two Grade II listed almshouses that were built in memory of Joseph Terry of Chocolate Orange fame. Thwaites have recently undertaken an impressive renovation of the entire property, refurbishing all of the rooms and communal areas. The result is impressive, and it’s clear that the designers have put a lot of thought and attention into every detail. This is no cut-and-paste chain hotel: with vintage chairs that look as though they’ve been picked up at a local auction, carefully placed rugs and curated, low-lit cosy corners, there’s a homely, relaxed feel.
Middletons is well within York’s walls, a stone’s throw from the river and the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Set within a pretty courtyard and with its own gardens and even a little pond (which our children were very taken with – counting goldfish is harder than you think), it’s a peaceful haven that’s a very short walk from the shops, cafes, restaurants and attractions that York has to offer. It’s a 10 minute walk from the railway station, or there’s a small, paid car park if you’d rather drive. Given that everything is on your doorstep, there’s no need for a car during your stay unless you’re planning to venture to the coast, dales or moors.
We were allocated one of the Terrys cottages, and it’s hands-down the best family room we’ve stayed in. Spacious and stylish, with everything (and, to be honest, more) that we needed, we loved it. It ticked a lot of grown-up boxes: super comfortable kingsize bed, lovely bed linen, coffee machine with a generous number of pods (tired parents need caffeine), fresh milk in the fridge and powerful shower. Although the sleeping/living areas for everyone are all in one space, there’s a clever delineation between the kids’ and adults’ zones (there are even two TVs!) which meant we could keep an eye on the kids but without feeling that we were on top of each other.
The children loved the bunk bed set-up, with reading lights top and bottom and enough space that our eldest could sit up on the top bunk without bashing his head (rare). Even the double sofa-bed received a thumbs-up from our 8-year-old too (rarer – sofa beds don’t always give the best night’s sleep). Speaking of a good night’s sleep, it’s worth mentioning that it was very quiet at night, with no traffic noise at all – unusual for a city centre hotel.
What’s in it for kids?
Where do we start? The milk and warmed cookies, iced with their names, that were delivered to the cottage shortly after our arrival? The hunt for the Chocolate Orange that had been hidden in the room? The Chocolate Dip, fresh fruit and juice in the fridge? The little bathrobes and slippers and activity pack? And, for older children, the massive TV and excellent Wifi connection?! That’s before they discovered that after dinner we would be watching a movie in one of the large function rooms, complete with beanbags and popcorn (pre-bookable for free with your stay). It’s no wonder that each of our relatively hard-to-please children gave the whole experience a resounding 5 out of 5 and were more positive and happy than they have been in a long time. And yes, we did point out to them how lucky they were!
Food & drink
During a break in the Yorkshire rain, we sat on the terrace and enjoyed our first family dinner outside the house since before Christmas, thanks to the various lockdowns. Although the Middletons menu is shorter at the moment, we were more than happy to see kebabs (chicken for the lone meat-eater, halloumi and grilled veg for the rest of us) on offer. Freshly cooked and accompanied by a tasty flatbread and fries, they were delicious. It was so nice to kick off the return to normality with a positive experience of eating out together: no complaints and lots of empty plates.
Thanks to the joy of Covid, breakfast was a little different from usual but worked well for us. In the morning, a huge basket was delivered to our cottage groaning with goodies, from pastries to sliced meats, cheese and pots of fruit. The only issue was that we couldn’t possibly finish it all (but we did give it a good go).
What’s on the doorstep?
What isn’t? Middletons is a short walk from all of the major attractions in York, including the JORVIK Viking Centre, National Railway Museum, York Castle Museum, York Minster, Clifford’s Tower, the York Dungeon, York’s city walls, the Yorkshire Museum, York Art Gallery and York Theatre Royal.
If our experience is anything to go by, Middletons offers a first class experience for families. The cottages in particular are excellent for children, and the location is hard to beat.