|Entrance to The Magdalen Chapter|
There’s a sign inside The Magdalen Chapter hotel in Exeter which states that visitors are only allowed between 2.30pm and 3.30pm on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Thankfully this refers to a time when this fascinating hotel was the West of England Eye Infirmary.
The red-brick Victorian exterior belies a contemporary, welcoming interior and is one of the most convivial hotels I have stayed in. Whilst residents, dressed in towelling robes, slip through the bar into the garden for a dip in the pool, locals congregate in the fabulous lounge areas for some early evening tapas or the ever-popular half price Friday Fizz. Mums meet for coffee and a session in the spa or treat themselves to afternoon tea. All ages relax on the comfy sofas or, on warm afternoons, pull up an old-fashioned deck chair in the sunshine.
We have stayed twice in The Magdalen Chapter, whilst visiting Rory in Exeter, and both times have appreciated the buzz of this top quality hotel whether we are reading the papers in the library, sharing a cocktail in the bar or making the most of half price steak night in the restaurant. You can have a holiday at the Magdalen Chapter without ever leaving its grounds.
|Free mini-bar in the |
bedside table – very handy!
There are four types of double rooms: Regular, Superior, Deluxe and Feature. Our deluxe room had a large bathroom separate to the shower/loo and had a skylight above the bed. However, on our second visit, the regular room was perfectly adequate in size and had the same amenities: towelling robes, free mini-bar and a Nespresso machine. The mini-bar is stocked daily with water, a couple of bottles of beer and some soft fizzy drinks – now that’s a refreshing change.
The rooms are light and airy due to the high ceilings of the original hospital. The beds are comfortable, with good quality white bed linen. Bathrooms hint at the hotel’s past with traditional brick-style white tiles. REN products are available to use and the quality of the towels is excellent.
All rooms have their own iPads to access hotel information as well as the rest of the internet using the free WiFi.
My only grumble is the wooden floor, which looks stylish, but if you have a heavy-footed family running around above you, the sound most definitely carries. I will pick a room on the 3rd floor next time. Thankfully the upper floor corridors are carpeted so noise from outside the room was minimal.
|Great vibe in the restaurant|
Breakfast is extremely good value. If you are on a room only basis the price is £10.50 for a hot breakfast including your visits to the continental buffet. Watching the food coming out of the theatre kitchen is a treat: the atmosphere is friendly yet efficient. For a change, try the vegetarian option, shakshouka, a spicy dish of poached eggs, tomatoes and onions. The sausage sandwich also went down rather well.
We tried a selection of tapas one afternoon, a great way to stave off hunger before dinner. It cost £10 for three dishes. We chose lamb koftas, teriyaki chicken wings and tiger prawns. All excellent.
Rory and his girlfriend, Juliana, joined us for dinner on the half price steak night and, apart from one of the starters, the meal was very good. The restaurant is a great space, with a huge patio window looking out onto the garden. I loved the pendulous lights and the supremely comfortable red leather chairs.
The Swimming Pool
We loved this feature: a cosy inside pool/jacuzzi, heated by a wood-burning stove, leading to a warm outside pool. The pool isn’t manned so children have to be supervised but this little oasis in the middle of the city was a great plus for us and many other residents.
|Checking in at the large oak.|
The public areas and the bedrooms are home to many superb examples of modern art. Alison Crowther’s magnificent piece of oak, Font II, graces the reception area and Tracey Bush’s intricate Worldwide Butterflies, made from vintage maps, can be found in the main lobby.
There are only a few spaces available so not all guests will be lucky enough to secure one. An adjacent public car-park, free from 6pm to 8am, solves the problem to some extent. If you feed the meter the night before, the time will be added onto the next day, avoiding the necessity of jumping out of bed early in the morning.
On previous visits to Exeter we have chosen the cheaper option of a functional, chain hotel on the edge of the city. Deciding to spend a little more (and not necessarily that much more if you keep an eye out for late deals) turned a trip to see our son into a proper holiday. Having the pool, gardens and public rooms to relax in, made a huge difference to our stay. The Magdalen Chapter provides its guests with a chic, sociable place to unwind. Staff will welcome visitors at any time – not just Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays!
|18th century fireplace, moved from the original house on the site, into the hospital in 1899.|
|Library for residents – great selection of books.|
|Another spot for chilling|
|Hotel grounds with in/out pool to the left.|
We have stayed twice in The Magdalen Chapter, in June and August 2015. The first time we booked a Deluxe double, finding an excellent late deal online with the hotel. For our second visit, at peak holiday time, we opted for a Regular double, obtaining a small reduction on our room rate in exchange for a review.