Mad Alice’s Bloody Tour of York wins European award for best sightseeing tour

The Bloody Tour of York guide Alicia Stabler with her award at the ceremony in Berlin

YORK tour guide Alicia “Mad Alice” Stabler has won the 2024 European Arival TourReview Spotlight Award for Best Sightseeing Tour within One City.

Alicia, who takes visitors to the site of hangings, beheadings and hauntings on The Bloody Tour of York, run by Alicia Stabler, competed in the medium category against nine other European tours based in Krakow, Munich, Prague and Budapest as the sole British entry.

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

The awards ceremony in Berlin, Germany, coincided with the three-day Arival 360 Tourism Conference that brought together the ‘best of the best’ in tours, activities, attractions and experiences in Europe.

The awards were awarded to businesses based on their online customer reviews. The winners were chosen through a data-driven, independent and impartial analysis of reviews across multiple review sites, online travel agencies and millions of customer reviews, powered by review management platform TourReview.

Alicia Stabler, front left, with fellow award winners in Berlin

By aggregating customer data from various platforms, TourReview identified the tour operators consistently wowing customers.  Other winners included Prague City Adventures for Culinary Tours and Experiences and the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, the Barcelona cathedral, for Best Visitor Attraction.

Alicia has run The Bloody Tour of York since 2013 in the guise of the colourful costumed character of Mad Alice, who leads visitors on a journey around the city centre, regaling them with tales of 2,000 years of gruesome, macabre and supernatural history.

In “the city of a thousand ghosts”, Mad Alice combines entertainment and education in her tour of sites associated with famous characters, such as Guy Fawkes, who was born in York in 1570, and Dick Turpin, the notorious highwayman executed at the Three-Legged Mare gallows at York Tyburn on April 7 1739.

Run as an independent business, the tour began as a “small idea” when Alicia 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 to teach people about the darker side of history,” she says.

“History can be immensely fun if presented the right way, and that’s where the character of Mad Alice comes in handy,” says Alicia

“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.”

Receiving more than 2,000 five-star reviews across TripAdvisor, Viator, Google and Facebook, The Bloody Tour of York has won the Visit York Tourism Award for Best Experience three times and was awarded Bronze in the Welcome to Yorkshire White Rose Awards for Best Experience in Yorkshire.

Tomorrow, Alicia will find out if her tour has won 2024 Visit York Tourism Awards for Best Experience and Best of York.

Tour guide Alicia “Mad Alice” Stabler in the shadow of Clifford’s Tower, York

Since the pandemic lockdowns, The Bloody Tour of York has built up an online presence across social media, leading to a surge in visitors, who praise the tour for its interactive experience.

“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,” says Alicia. “I think that why it’s had such a positive response because everyone feels engaged in the history that has shaped our amazing city.”

Mad Alice has even had a limited-edition York Gin made in her name, the “scarily delicious” Mad Alice’s Bloody Orange Gin.  Launched last September for Halloween, it has since sold out.

Created in collaboration with Alicia, this citrus gin was described as “bursting with fresh blood oranges and classic oranges, with a subtle syrup to finish,” while its “mix of classic botancials ensure complexity and depth”.

The gin came in a blood-red bottle with a ‘blood-splattered’ label featuring a drawing of Mad Alice herself. Each bottle was accompanied by a pamphlet detailing a selection of Mad Alice’s legends and stories, plus serving suggestions for the gin.

Alicia “Mad Alice” Stabler collaborating in creating Mad Alice’s Bloody Orange Gin in the York Gin “laboratory”