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The Bloody Tour of York wins 'Best Sightseeing tour in Europe' title

A tour guide from York who takes visitors to the site of hangings, beheadings and hauntings has won a top international award. The Bloody Tour of York, run by Alicia Stabler, has won the 2024 European Arival TourReview Spotlight Award for Best Sightseeing Tour within One City.

The ceremony held in Berlin, Germany, co-insided with the Arival 360 Tourism Conference held over 3 days that brought together the ‘Best of the Best’ in tours, Activities, Attractions and Experiences in Europe. The Bloody Tour of York competed in the medium category against nine other European tours based in Krakow, Munich, Prague and Budapest and was the sole UK entry for that category. The awards were awarded to businesses purely based on their online customer reviews.

“The winners were chosen through a data –driven, independent and impartial analysis of customer reviews across multiple major review sites, online travel agencies and millions of customer reviews, powered by review management platform TourReview. By aggregating customer data from various platforms, TourReview identified the tour operators consistently wowing customers – and that wows us!” – Arival Travel TourReview Spotlight awards website.

Other winners of the Arival TourReview Spotlight Awards include Prague City Adventures for Culinary Tours and Experiences and the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, Barcelona for Best Visitor Attraction. The Bloody Tour of York is an independent business run by Alicia Stabler who also serves as the colourful costumed character of Mad Alice who leads the tour.

Visitors are led on a journey around York’s city centre and regaled with tales of 2000 years of gruesome, macabre and supernatural history. Famously known as ‘The city of a thousand Ghosts’, Mad Alice guides visitors to the historic sites to entertain and educate about some of history’s famous characters including Guy Fawkes who was born in York in 1570 and Dick Turpin, the notorious highwayman who was executed at the famous ‘Three-Legged Mare’ gallows on the outskirts of the city walls in 1739. The tour has been operating since 2013.

Alicia said, “It began as a small idea when I first left university 18 years ago. Having worked at various museums within the city I wanted to focus on the stories I was brought up on as a child in York and teach people about the darker side of history. We’re so fortunate that York has hundreds and hundreds of years of history – much of it soaked in blood. History can be immensely fun if presented the right way and that’s where the character of Mad Alice comes in handy. Mad Alice is one of our local legends, there’s a street called Mad Alice lane and supposedly in the 19th Century Alice Smith lived there who unfortunately went mad and began to confess to crimes she didn’t commit. The story goes she was hanged for nothing more than being insane. However there is no evidence she actually existed. As my real name is a variation of Alice, it seemed only natural to adopt the persona.”

With over 2000 5 star reviews across TripAdvisor, Viator, Google and Facebook, The Bloody Tour of York has had a great impact on tourism within York having previously won the Visit York Tourism Award for Best Experience three times and awarded Bronze in the Welcome to Yorkshire White Rose Awards for Best Experience in Yorkshire. The tour is a current finalist in the 2024 Visit York Tourism Awards for Best Experience and Best of York in a ceremony to be held on 14th March 2024.

The tour has seen a great success in the years following Covid building up an online presence across social media and since then Alicia has seen a surge of visitors who praise the tour for its interactive experience.

Alicia says, “I strive to make everyone on the tour feel included by learning everyone’s names and where they are from and drawing them into the stories. I think that why it’s had such a positive response because everyone feels engaged in the history that has shaped our amazing city.

“This award means so much as it comes from people’s experiences of the tour and how engaged they are. It’s amazing to think that people have been recommended or recommend my tour to others around the world.”