A little piece of heaven in the Walled City

Nestled on a quiet street in the Maiden City is a recognised treasure - and a little piece of heaven.

Friday, 16th February 2018, 9:57 am
Updated Friday, 16th February 2018, 10:03 am
Bishop's Gate hotel

For the second year in a row Bishop’s Gate Hotel has been named by Tripadvisor (cited in three categories in its Traveller’s Choice awards) - and as I found out there are a lot of reasons for that.

Not being familiar with the city, we were forced to stop to ask directions in a desperate bid to navigate the one-way traffic.

And, believe it or not, directions came from a man who knew the city streets better than anyone - a traffic warden - who ended up sitting in the backseat beside my seven-year-old daughter offering advice until we reached our destination.

A fitting start, to what quickly became a weekend of warmth, laughter and unexpected encounters with the indigenous of the city.

The former gentleman’s club which was once frequented by the likes of W.B Yeats and Winston Churchill opened its revolving doors as Bishop’s Gate Hotel in March 2016.

The hotel is situated close to the courthouse and across the street from the Bishop of Derry’s former residence and Masonic hall.

Its reincarnation has left nothing to chance - transforming the Edwardian building into an oasis of tranquillity for guests with 30 guest rooms including two suites, a resident’s lounge, restaurant, champagne and cocktail bar and Northern Counties ballroom.

The Guildhall

First impressions matter.

And the warmth, concern and wit of staff on our arrival won’t be forgotten and was remarkably sustained by all throughout our stay.

Staff of the calibre of Bishop’s Gate Hotel are priceless.

First we settled ourselves into our suite - with a double bed, single bed, separate living/dining area and large bathroom with bath and shower.

The Peace bridge

A welcome hamper of delicacies - chocolate and wine - along with wifi code, coffee making facilities and newspaper availability added to the appeal.

These rooms, like all throughout the hotel, have been meticulously restored and thoughtfully designed oozing character derived from original features.

Our stylish, luxurious and individually designed “Alfred Arthur Forman Penthouse Suite”, named after the architect who remodelled the building in 1902, was found on the sixth floor offering us stunning views across the city skyline including the Guildhall and Peace Bridge.

After the shock of the luxurious room it was then time to explore the food options.

The Guildhall

That night we could have opted for the Wig bar in the former billiard room with an open fire and upmarket pub grub.

However, we decided to eat in the adjoining Gown restaurant, named on the same legal theme.

The perfection of our meals of lamb rump and champ and gnocchi(a vegetarian option for me) were made even more exquisite with tarte tatin for dessert and a house white wine.

We then enjoyed a continental breakfast in the same restaurant the next morning before setting off to see all the city had to offer. And it didn’t disappoint.

The previous night reception staff had armed us with a plethora of leaflets offering walks and history tours - as well as handwritten walking directions to the nearest B&M (a non-negotiable must for every seven-year-old girl with birthday money in her purse).

For me a taxi tour of the city with Dermot McCloskey Causeway Express tours ticked all the boxes. Dermot’s deep knowledge about the city emanated from working for many years as a guide with Martin McCrossan City Walking Tours.

The Peace bridge

(Again this came recommended by a member of the hotel staff who arranged it for us.)

The hour long drive started off along the banks of the Foyle and covered topics including local families emigrating for work to the city’s walls, the shirt factories and how the more recent Troubles and recent loss of jobs impacted the city and its people.

Anyone with an interest in the city should spend an hour with Dermot. He can be contacted on 07765877378 or [email protected]

Interestingly the highlight for my daughter was walking around the city walls. As ever with children you are never quite sure what they have grasped onto.

A short walk from the door of the hotel started our walk along the most complete circuit of historic walls via the walkway which took us into the heart of the city centre.

The Walls were built in 1613–1619 by The Honourable The Irish Society as defences for early 17th century settlers from England and Scotland.

Approximately one mile in circumference, the walk provides a unique opportunity to view the layout of the original town which still preserves its Renaissance style street plan.

The four original gates to the Walled City are Bishop’s Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Butcher Gate and Shipquay Gate. Three further gates were added later, Magazine Gate, Castle Gate and New Gate, making seven gates in total.

And last, and by no means least, my husband’s top choice was walking along the Peace Bridge in the evening and, of course, the good food in Bishop’s Gate Hotel.

The Peace Bridge has become an iconic structure for the city, connecting the two sides of the River Foyle.

Since its launch, the bridge has been embraced by citizens and has radically changed the way people perceive the city.

With over three million crossings to date, the Peace Bridge has become a focal point in city activities and events.

On our last evening in the city we treated ourselves to a second meal in the hotel, this time in the Wig Bar where we enjoyed steak and gnocchi finished off with a masterclass chocolate dessert.

As my daughter is a picky eater, her choices of a mixture of starters both nights - rather than a traditional meal - were accommodated without comment by the hotel staff.

Hotel General manager Mark Toye is well aware of the jewel on Bishop Street.

“We have 30 bedrooms all boutique and individual,” he said.

"We are only open 21 months and have already won a raft of awards. If you check the comments they are staff-led - they offer a genuine caring service. They have the balance right of local banter and first class service. We have a great family atmosphere here. But whilst we have won awards we are not standing still.”

Ciaran O’Neill, managing director of Bishop’s Gate said he was “absolutely thrilled to feature in the annual TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards for the second year running”.

“The fact that the UK list is compiled on the basis of reviews from individuals who have stayed and shared in the Bishop’s Gate experience is really encouraging.”

Last year, the luxurious, boutique hotel ranked second on this coveted list, and Bishop’s Gate takes the No. 3 spot in 2018.

Featured in three categories, the ratings are an indication of the continued appeal of Bishop’s Gate and demonstrate the consistently high standard of customer service that is delivered to all visitors. Based on reviews from millions of travellers, Bishop’s Gate is in the top one per cent of hotels in the United Kingdom.

Bishop’s Gate OffersThe ‘Fabulous Foodie Break’, one of the most popular, includes overnight accommodation in a deluxe room with cooked to order breakfast, four course gourmet dinner and signature cocktail, ‘The Bishop’s Gate Bellini’, with a welcome sweet plate to enjoy in your room. This offer starts from £139 per night..

The Bishop’s Gate Hideaway Break also boasts culinary treats. This offer is a midweek two night stay including a cooked to order breakfast each morning, four course gourmet dinner on one evening of your choosing and a bottle of prosecco in the room for arrival. This offer starts from £129 per night.

Packages also have upgraded room options starting from £30 per night. Tel: +44 (0) 2871 140300, email: [email protected]