When it comes to boutique hotels Malmaison kill it every single time. Consisting of 15 unique, upscale, boutique hotels in the UK, Malmaison is a member of the Frasers Hospitality Group that dares to be different. They focus on converting historical buildings into boutique hotels including a church, an old postal sorting office and even a brothel. The Malmaison in Oxford is no different from this. Located in a converted prison in a medieval castle in Oxford’s castle quarter. In 1996 HM Prison Oxford was closed down and sold after being deemed to expensive to modernise and bring up to current prison standards.
The hotel is situated about 15 minute walk from the train station and five minutes from the city centre. Located in the Castle Quarter, the hotel is surrounded by several bars and restaurants, and Oxford Castle Unlocked providing a detailed history on the ancient castle and prison. The hotel boasts 95 rooms and suites divided between the adjoining new building and converted old A-block. We opted to pay a little extra to stay in one of the converted cells and were given a free upgrade to a Cell Superior Double Room. The room was a spacious double room with en-suite bathroom featuring a walk-in shower and roll-top bath. The rooms are a combination of three cells with one for the bathroom and two knocked through to create the bedroom. The iron doors, vaulted ceilings and thick walls help the rooms keep their character and remind you of its eerie past.
The rooms feature 24 hour room service, free wifi, flat screen plasma tv and hairdryer and ironing facilities. There is also a kettle with complimentary hot drinks and a modest minibar. All the furniture has been carefully chosen and tastefully themed to compliment the buildings history. The cell rooms are situated around the three-storey atrium which has kept all its original wrought-iron stairs and walkways. Although it now homes thick red carpets and chic furniture it is still the centre piece of the building.
In the basement of the hotel is its famous brasserie and bar offering up a selection of culinary delights miles from your average prison food. There are tables available inside or outside in the old exercise yard and even a private dining area where you can enjoy an intimate meal with friends and family or colleagues. The only reminder of its previous life is the stunning architectural features which have been kept and incorporated into the new design.
There is one place left in the hotel that remains original in the form of an unconverted cell in the basement. The cell showcases the less than luxurious conditions that previous residents would have suffered through during their time at HM Prison Oxford. It was narrow, bleak and claustrophobic but also very interesting to see how the rooms would have looked before being converted.
Overall, it was an incredible experience to spend the night in a former prison which I would highly recommend if you`re looking for something out of the ordinary or to mark a special occasion in unusual yet beautiful surroundings. Be sure to check out their website here as they are always running some fab offers.