Four highly-rated York hospitality and tourism businesses are among the best in the country.

VisitEngland has declared them all finalists in its annual Awards for Excellence.

The recognition adds to other awards the four have received already.

The four are part of the 48 of the finalists covering 16 categories in the awards, which will be announced in Liverpool in June.

The finalists are:

  • B&B/Guesthouse: Monkbridge House 
  • Experience of the Year: York Ghost Walk, the Deathly Dark Tours
  • Large Hotel of the Year: The Grand Hotel
  • New Tourism Business: The Wizard Walk of York

Visit England Director Andrew Stokes said:” I am always impressed by the tourism businesses who make it onto our list of finalists with their innovative approaches to ensuring people have the most amazing experiences whilst delivering outstanding customer service across England.”

Paul and Fiona Hemsley quit their corporate jobs in London to run a Yorkshire B&B in 2020, moving into the former Palm Court just as the first Covid case was discovered in York.

They used the enforced lockdowns to refurbish the property, rebranding it as MonkBridge House, following their June 2021 re-opening.

Paul said: “We have gone from strength to strength.  In 2022 we won the York Design Award for best commercial design.

“Although we are a Victorian Town House the judges commented that the new design brought in lots of space and light and blended old with contemporary.”

Travelling on business also helped them ensure there were plenty of plugs, light sockets in the right places and USB sockets by beds.

The couple also stress eco-features such as heat recovery and solar panels. They also use locally sourced products for breakfast, making much themselves.

Paul added: “Our guests seem to appreciate all these touches.   So it was great to win the Visit York Award for best B&B/Guest House in 2024 and to have now been selected as one of three finalists from across all the regional winners is a bit mindblowing.”
The Deathly Dark Tours is another venture created during lockdown, with owner Laura McKeller seeing it as a way to use her video production skills.

The business has grown from being a husband-and-wife team, to employing five staff, with at least one tour a night.

Laura said: “We like to think that our tours are a modern take on the traditional ghost walks which we do so love; a theatrical show with a dark comedy element, taking guests on a walk around some of York's most notoriously haunted spots. Our guides all bring their own twist to the show, little quirks and a couple of tricks, which means that there's always something to come back for!”

The Northern Echo: A Deathly Dark Ghost Tour

Dan Wood, the Wizard of York said: “We were absolutely spellbound to pick up both the New Tourism Business Award and Best of York title at the recent Visit York Awards. It’s wonderful to now be recognised as a VisitEngland finalist, for bringing magical family fun to visitors on The Wizard Walk!”

Simon Mahon, Grand Hotel, York, told the Press: “From winning Large Hotel of The Year, and Taste of England at this year's Visit York Tourism to being listed in the Times 100 Best places to stay in the UK, it’s been an exceptional start to the year. I could not be prouder of the team!”

He added: “We are truly honoured to be positioned as ambassadors for our wonderful city of York. As the largest five-star hotel in the north of England, we pride ourselves on delivering true Yorkshire hospitality to our guests from the moment they arrive.

The Northern Echo: Staff at the Grand Hotel

"Whether they are checking into one of our 207 spacious bedrooms, dining in our fine-dining restaurant Legacy or spending time learning to cook up a feast in our state-of-the-art Cookery School, we endeavour to help them to create magical memories in everyday moments.”