“ Address: Station Lane / Shipton By Beningbrough / York YO30 1BT / Tel: 01904 470221 „
When my girlfriend told me (every time we passed) that she wanted to stay in an old train carriage which had been converted in to a holiday home in the North Yorkshire Moors, I stored the information away ready for her birthday in August. When I went online to look for the carriage, I nearly keeled over at the price - it was over £400 to stay Mon-Fri in August and there was no option to go for one night. I only had two nights off work and had planned something for the second night, so it was out of the question. Never one to be beaten, I simply searched Google for holidays in the UK in converted train carriages. It was in this search that I found the Sidings Hotel, Shipton, in York.
Neither of us are rail enthusiasts, but when we go away we like to look for unique or unusual places to stay. I think the place she'd seen had grabbed her attention based on novelty factor. So, I checked out the Sidings website (www.thesidingshotel.co.uk) and found that there was a pretty basic booking facility which was more an enquiry submission than an actual booking system. I sent my enquiry and checked out the pictures. It looked lovely and just perfect for us. I am a pretty impatient person, so when I didn't get a reply that day, I went to www.laterooms.com and I made a booking. It cost £59 for one night for one room; including breakfast and onsite parking. The hotelier emailed me back the following day and I politely explained that I was so excited that I'd booked through Late Rooms (oops...)
As the stay approached I began to tell people where we staying aside from my girlfriend for whom the trip was a mini surprise, and whilst flashing photos of the place online, I came across a really bad batch of reviews. The majority of comments centred round the deteriorating décor, temperature (too hot / too cold), poor staff, location, noise and the value for money. Fortunately for me, I am an optimistic type of gal and I ploughed ahead with the stay.
We arrived on Monday afternoon - my girlfriend's face was a complete picture, she was over the moon - and I marvelled at the site. Lush green grass, impeccable flower beds, ample secure and secluded parking and a welcoming reception which doubles as a bar/café greeted me and I made my way in to check in (there is an actual wooden fronted 'ticket office' which is the more formal office area). I approached the bar and the receptionist/bar lady had me fill out my card details in order to open a tab for the room account and restaurant that evening. She showed me to my room which was down a narrow train carriage and it was all I could do to concentrate on where she was going - the décor was wonderful! It was just like being in a movie set in an old fashioned train carriage. When we got to the room I was delighted - I'd chosen the four-poster room which was the best they offer. It was gorgeous. She showed me to a side door to let my girlfriend in with our luggage.
Once we'd brought the bags in we really took in our room atmosphere. There are a collection of signage and memorabilia decorating the walls, such as old penalty signs, station stops and sepia prints. The bedding was modern flock black and white but traditionally finished with pale gold cushions and a throw. We had two low powder room chairs, a wardrobe with a couple of hangers (sufficient for up to a 2 night stay for 2 people) and a white dressing unit with a TV (terrestrial, no DVD / video, no radio). Next to the bed on either side was a draw unit with a lamp sconce on the wall above the bed (within easy reach). There were beautiful pale gold curtains at the windows and the en suite bathroom was sectioned off with a sliding 'first class' door! And, it was perfectly spotless with a lovely tray of teas and coffees to choose from.
So, the downsides to the room - mainly in relation to the comments that I'd seen on those negative reviews. There was a slight musty smell, probably because we were sleeping in an old train carriage! But it wasn't off putting and by the time two girls had got ready to go out there was enough perfume, hairspray, shower gel and body lotion fragrances milling around to mask the smell - not that it was offensive anyway. It was single glazed and I would imagine in winter it would be pretty cold. However, there are 4 radiators that really throw out the heat (we know, we had them on by mistake when we first got there!) and a heavy quilt to keep you toasty. In summer, the flipside is that it's warm attributed to the absence of air conditioning, but there's plenty of ventilation through the 8 windows - and as the hotel is surrounded by open flat fields, there's no danger of you feeling stuffy! The bathroom was fine too; however, although the shower was powerful and hot, it didn't drain quickly enough and almost flooded, the suite was an olive green colour a little dated, but I think it added to the charm of the place (the colour of the suite, not the flooding!)...
The Sidings is located next to a train line, so throughout the night and day every time a train passed you could hear it clearly in the room and the carriage almost 'shook' with the reverberations. But - rest assured if you're not fussy enough to deem that the thing which ruins an otherwise beautiful place - then you will actually find comfort in the noise and get used to it pretty quickly. For me, it was just another feature which seriously added to the charm!
The staff were impeccably turned out and were really relaxed, when we asked what time we were to check out the reply was 'about 11, but don't worry if you're fancy a little lie in', when we asked about breakfast 'it's served from about 7am, if you need an earlier start just let us know', when we were dining in the restaurant they made conversation when appropriate without being intrusive. Really, they couldn't have done any more to make us feel welcome and at ease. One of the owners is Greek and I think this laid back attitude and focus on emanating a relaxing atmosphere can be partly attributed to the Mediterranean culture.
As well as bedrooms in carriages, the restaurant is too. Named Il Treno (train in both Italian and Greek) the restaurant is primarily Italian with a mix of other Mediterranean dishes thrown in. The maximum size table is for four, though they do have a couple of larger capacity tables in the bar area where we saw a few large parties seated. Given the maximum size parties of four in the carriage, the atmosphere is quiet and intimate. We watched the sun go down through our table carriage window over the train line and rolling fields.
In addition to a bottle of Italian Pinot Grigio, we chose Kleftiko (Meatballs) and Saganaki (Halloumi cheese) for our starters priced at £4.50 each and Pizzas (approx 12" stone-baked) for our mains. I had 'My Big Fat Greek Pizza' which had olives, feta cheese, spinach, etc piled on top. The pizzas range from £6.95 to £9.95 and there is a good range of pasta dishes too in the same price range. For something a little pricier, there were seafood and meat dishes, all reasonably priced given the portion sizes. Il Treno accepts Taste cards, so we used that to get 2-4-1 on our food and the bill came to about £30 in total. The food was beautiful. I can hand on heart tell you it was the best pizza I've ever had!
Breakfast was taken in the bar area and consisted of cold hard boiled eggs, a selection of cold meats and cheese, fruit, cereal, toast, jam and juice; and of course hot, freshly brewed coffee. In other words, exactly what you would be presented with in a Mediterranean holiday resort. It was all fresh and tasty and set us up for the day. The owner wandered over to us at breakfast as we were the last guests to eat and asked us our plans for the day. He told us about a park and ride site close by the hotel (about 3 miles) for York. In fact, once he told us this, he began to really get in to his swing, telling us about all of the things we should do and see. Let me tell you - that park and ride was the best and cheapest thing we could have found out about!
Overall our stay was pretty damn perfect. We loved the staff, the food, the accommodation and the prices - we've paid more to stay in some really awful places. Quite often, the Sidings is on Groupon too, £59 for Dinner, Bed and Breakfast - for which you really can't go wrong! I highly recommend this place as a base to explore nearby York, it's perfect for walking, sightseeing or just plain chilling out - and if you're a train fan - you will not get a better location; just make sure you ask for the 'Rail Enthusiasts Room'!