They say you can take the girl out of the city but you’ll never take the city out of the girl.
In my case, it’s absolutely true. I’m a Londoner to my core, never more at home than when I’m getting a a retail therapy fix on Oxford Street or catching up with friends over coffee or cocktails at a buzzy pavement cafe.
That said, I’ve lived on the North Coast of Ireland for over a decade, so you’ll appreciate why I jumped at the chance to review the Bishop’s Gate Hotel for Derry Hype / The Style Edit. Beautiful though the North Coast is, I’ll never turn down a chance to indulge my city-loving side, and 24 hours to explore The Walled City and indulge in a little bit of hotel luxury is pretty much my dream gig.
My taxi driver got lost on the way to the hotel but it’s so centrally located – within the city walls in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter – that we eventually stumbled upon it by happy accident. You can’t miss it, in fact, the Grade B1 listed building, built in 1899, is gloriously imposing from the moment you set eyes on it. As the doorman whisked my case out of my hands and ushered me charmingly through the revolving doors into the grandeur of the hotel lobby, I felt like I’d stepped into my perfect life.
One of the most remarkable things about this hotel is its public spaces – so often overlooked and neglected as mere points of passage from A to B, but here you actually want to linger in the corridors, soaking up the atmosphere of the building and poring over the old documents framed on the walls which hint at its heritage. Ceilings are high, staircases are sweeping, and armchairs are so cleverly placed that you actually want to sink into them instead of hurry past.
It’s a fascinating blend of old and new; Edwardian architecture meets contemporary styling but it feels artfully done. Nowhere more so than in my room – a four-poster bed and huge windows with views of the Guildhall added a palpable sense of history, yet the bathroom was the last word in modern luxury – and almost the size of my old flat in London – complete with a generous supply of Rituals toiletries. Definitely my kind of place.
I was booked in for afternoon tea – a sublime experience that I’d recommend. It’s the perfect way to start a relaxing weekend, and I wish I’d asked for the recipe for those coconut-covered squares of marshmallow gooeyness that I managed to polish off. Wow.
Afterwards, I wandered into the heart of the city to explore, only to discover that the shops are open late on Fridays. Let’s just say my wallet was a lot lighter a few hours later, and I was glad not to have far to walk to get back to the hotel carrying all those bags.
The hotel’s legal-themed Wig and Gown Champagne Bar and Restaurant is another stylish nod to days gone by. I was tempted to refuel there or at least indulge in a cocktail whilst listening to the night’s live music act but instead, having shopped till I quite literally dropped, I soothed my aches away with a long, lazy soak in the tub. Bliss.
An early night beckoned – you have to make the most of a four-poster bed all to yourself when you’re the mother of a youngster who still regularly finds her way into your bed at night. I’ll admit I wondered if the location on a busy road would keep me awake but I needn’t have given it a thought – the next thing I knew, I was being rudely awoken by a text message. Assuming it was before dawn, I rolled over to silence my phone and discovered I’d slept in until past 9am. Alas, this only ever seems to happen to me on press trips.
Breakfast, including the tastiest sausages imaginable, was outstanding. There’s a vast array of continental choices to tempt you, as well as a hot breakfast menu but whatever you do, don’t miss the smoothies. Best of all, I was able to return to my room to soak up a few more hours of peaceful relaxation, as checkout isn’t until midday. So much more civilised than rushing to be out by 10am. More hotels should take note of this approach.
I should add that every member of staff I encountered struck just the right note of warm and friendly yet professional and efficient – it’s either true that Derry folk are a lovely lot, or these guys have customer service nailed. Perhaps a bit of both.
I spent the rest of my day exploring and can tell you that the walls and Peace Bridge are worth the visit, and the Craft Village is unmissable – it’s an urban sanctuary of creative cool. Coffee and patisserie at Primrose On The Quay overlooking the Foyle is more than worth the walk.
My stay at Bishop’s Gate was made all the more satisfying by the sense that I had stumbled on a hidden treasure. I often think the ultimate ‘test’ of a good hotel is how you feel when you leave. I’ve had that slightly mournful ‘I wish I didn’t have to go home’ feeling after many a press trip but I didn’t feel like that on leaving Bishop’s Gate. Instead, I felt energised and relaxed, ready to re-enter life and deeply appreciative of the restorative wonders of a little bit of urban glamour to revive the spirits of this diehard city-lover. In fact, I might just have found my new favourite city. You can keep London. I think I’m a Derry girl after all.
Gear Editor, Mother & Baby
Co-founder, Muse Flash Media