I love finding quirky places to stay, and what could be quirkier than sleeping in a converted castle prison cell for the night?
Malmaison is a small chain of boutique UK hotels that has turned old buildings with ‘character’ into high-end hotels. These include a converted hospital, a Royal Mail sorting office and even a house of ill-repute, Â but the one I’d had my eye on was in Oxford.
Oxford Castle began life back in 1071, and over the centuries has been demolished, rebuilt, extended. In the more recent times it has been a working prison, which only actually closed in full in 1996. I discovered it myself last year during a day trip to Oxford, when I visitedÂ Oxford Castle UnlockedÂ and got a tour of the ancient castle and heard all about its history.
It was then I found out the Malmaison had actually turned a section of the prison into a hotel and knew I justÂ hadÂ to stay there!
Malmaison – high-end boutique hotels
Unfortunately Malmaison hotels aren’t the cheapest- you can expect to pay at least Â£150 for a cell room, so I patiently waited for the right deal to appear. The chain does offer these regularly, so keep your eyes open on its site for the one that suits you.
In the end we got a real bargain – a cell room for Â£49! Staying on a Sunday night, we arrived (beÂ pre-warned, parking close to the hotel is tough, and it charges Â£25 a night to use its underground car park) and weren’tÂ disappointed with what we found.
Staying in a converted prison cell
The whole place has a feel ofÂ decadence, quite different from what the prisoners must have had! Our cell room was in A wing, in the depths of the prison. The hallway isÂ ominousÂ with minimal lighting and the old cell doors look amazeballs, opening with a creak that just added to the atmosphere!
The room itself was pretty grand, with all the usual comforts, but everything’s there to remind you you’re staying in a what used to be a cell. Well, three cells in truth, as you can see where each one ended and the next began. Also, being in the ‘basement’ as such, our windows were high up at ground level and allowed you to imagine how little sunlight the prisoners would have had in their cramped little cell.
But prisoners we were not! Guests are spoilt with luxurious bedding, a chaise lounge, Â and a lovely flat screen tv etc. I really feel the cold and I found the room chilly, as its small floor-to-ceiling heater just didn’t do the job.
Although my partner had a great night’s sleep, I myself did not, but I only have myself to blame. During my visit to ‘Unlocked’ I’d heard that the prison was haunted so, of course, I went to bed thinking about ghosts andÂ ghoulsÂ – doh! What didn’t help was the goddamn creepy picture up on our wall – seriously, was that necessary to put up?!
We skipped breakfast at the hotel (around Â£12-15 per person) to go to a cheaper cafe just up the road, however Malmaison is renouned for its restaurants too, so although I can’t personally recommend it, I’ve heard good things.
The actual review bit
All in all I really enjoyed our stay at Malmaison Oxford. It was really good fun to stay somewhere so unique. I found the room spacious and loved how it highlighted all the features that reminded you of its history.
I particularly loved that at the end of A wing, the hotel had kept a cell as it would have originally looked – that was really interesting to see!
If I’m honest, I don’t think I’d pay Â£150+ to stay there again, but its definitely worth checking out if you can get a deal and, like me, love to experience something different on your holidays and weekends away…