Grand plans to transform former convent into boutique hotel

Debbie Cook outside what will be the Cookie Jar Hotel in Bailiffgate, Alnwick.
 Picture by Jane Coltman
Debbie Cook outside what will be the Cookie Jar Hotel in Bailiffgate, Alnwick. Picture by Jane Coltman

A former convent is being transformed into a high-end boutique hotel and restaurant, creating multiple jobs in the process.

Debbie Cook, who has lived in Northumberland for 17 years, is behind the major renovation plans at the former St Mary’s Convent, on Bailiffgate, Alnwick.

What will be the Cookie Jar Hotel in Bailiffgate, Alnwick.
 Picture by Jane Coltman

What will be the Cookie Jar Hotel in Bailiffgate, Alnwick. Picture by Jane Coltman

Described as a cosy retreat, it will have 11 en suite bedrooms, including a stunning suite located in the former chapel retaining the original stained-glass windows.

The 30-cover restaurant - The Holy Cow - will serve locally-sourced produce, focusing on ‘great-tasting’ steaks and burgers, and will open in spring 2018, over-looking the garden.

Mick Holland, of catering firm Holland & Paige, has been taken on as general manager and chef, and approximately eight jobs will be created in the first year, with the possibility of taking on more staff as the business grows.

The aim is to also work with colleges in the area to take on trainees to develop their skills in the hospitality industry.

Debbie - who is married to Robert, the former chief executive of Malmaison and Hotel du Vin - is excited about opening in the former convent, which closed in 2015.

She said: “We want to offer a really great experience and outstanding accommodation - we are going for stylish and cosy.

“The opportunity came up to purchase the convent and we wanted to create something very special in Alnwick.

“The location is fantastic; it is near to the castle and Bailiffgate oozes character, and the building is charming, as is the garden.

“We are completely refurbishing the building; we have taken some very basic accommodation, made up of about 24 small rooms, and transforming it into 11 rooms, all with first-class facilities.

“We will be creating jobs and working with colleges in the area and we want our staff to develop a broad range of skills.”

As well as the suite in the chapel, The Cookie Jar will boast two Mother Superior luxury rooms. These three bedrooms will feature free-standing baths.

There will also be four luxury and four cosy rooms.

All 11 bedrooms will have drench showers; super-fast wifi; plasma television screens; and Penhaligon’s toiletries.

The hotel will cater for golfers and shooting groups, with individual gun cabinets assigned to each bedroom and stored in a safe area. There will be drying facilities and six kennels.

The venue will be available for private dining experiences, catering for up to 30 people who will book exclusive use of the facilities.

The Cookie Jar, which will have an alcohol licence, will be open to non-hotel guests for morning coffees and afternoon teas, served in the garden, lounge or breakfast room. There will also be a bothy in the garden for people to enjoy a cigar.

Initially, the restaurant would serve evening meals and Sunday lunches, but this offering could expand.

Rooms will start at £125, including breakfast for two people.

The website – which will be www.cookiejaralnwick.com – will be up and running soon.

To find out more and to inquire about job opportunities, contact Debbie by emailing debbie@cookiejaralnwick.com or calling her on 07872 901272.