Travel review: Morecambe
Oh, Beast from the East – how I hated you. It wasn’t just that I had to dig a path out of my own front door and my welliies sprang a leak.
This was far worse. This shock February chiller stopped me using the hot tub on the rooftop balcony of the swishest seaside hotel in town – the 1930s styled Midland Hotel in Morecambe.
I had been so looking forward to a weekend away and the sheer lunacy of stripping off, plunging in then alternating sips of frothy hot chocolate with something chilled and bubbly.
As it was the wintry blizzard just over the horizon that meant the covers on this bubbling hotpot of decadence stayed firmly in place and we had to content ourselves with sinking into Art Deco luxury, sumptuous food and extensive wine lists.
But this was to come. First we had to drink in the view. The Midland Hotel stands alone on the shoreline like a great white ship. Its elegant and eye-catching facade is a million nautical miles away from the original 1850 building demolished for a more modern look in 1933.
Where once it catered for the ‘carriage trade’ it grew to seek ladies wrapping themselves in feather boas accompanied by gentlemen in cravats.
So faithful is the revamp of the early 2000s that as I entered the foyer, I felt quite out of place without a cigarette holder and a pekinese dog under my arm.
Artworks from the 1930s are all around, and hotel staff are quite happy to point them out and explain their significance.
And so to our room, although even the word suite seems inadequate for the palatial surroundings we found ourselves in. From our floor-to-ceiling glass windows we had a rooftop view of Morecambe Bay, as well as doors out onto the spacious balcony with the cruelly annexed hot tub.
Back inside, one whole wall hid the bathroom which was more like a spa complex than a mere utility area. The enormous space had two basins, two loos, a bath to rival the hot tub which doubled as a shower with – a shower-head the size of a opened umbrella.
As if it weren’t heaven enough, a peep round the door back into the bedroom revealed a sunset over the sea to die for – one beautiful enough to lure us away from our idyll for a walk on the Stone Jetty jutting out from the hotel gardens.
Dotted with bird sculptures, historical notes and even a genuine fisherman busy on the far end we found it wonderfully uncommercialised and it had the bonus of offering another vista of this glorious building. To a backdrop of music from the 30s and 40s, strings of fairy lights and a perfectly chilled Chenin Blanc, we dined on Morecambe Bay shrimps, and pan fried mackerel fillet; Lyth Valley venison haunch and roast monk fish followed by Lancashire cheeses with port and ginger bread with maple syrup, candied chestnuts and vanilla ice-cream.
Every delicious course was served attentively and beautifully, making it easy to see why the restaurant is as popular with non-residents as the wide cross-section of holidaying clientele it attracts.
Next morning the twinkling salon of the night before became the perfect people-watching spot as we polished off locally smoked kippers and the best sausages in the county, while spying dog-walkers, joggers and school-trip children on the beach.
Time for us to explore too, so we made for the RSBP reserve at Leighton Moss just down the road, giving the iconic Eric Morecambe statue a wave and a leg-kick on the way.
Even for those not knowing one end of a pair of binoculars from another, Leighton Moss is well worth a visit with a coastal trail, reedbeds, woodland and a bird’s eye view of Morecambe Bay from the Skytower to enjoy.
The good thing about venturing out was that we had the joy of returning, to savour our sumptuous room and just to gaze out at sea, and lose ourselves in thoughts of the past. What a place.
Coco Chanel, Noel Coward, Sir Laurence Olivier have all been regular visitors, making the most of the glamour, style and the very latest amenities – as did celebrities appearing at the nearby Winter Gardens theatre.
Had they used these stairs, taken in this view, felt this good? Such is the sense of history at the Midland that I did something I’ve never done before – I spent £14 on a glossy guidebook – filled with more than 100 years of stories, plans, anecdotes and photographs.
I’d like to think that one day I will return and re-read it – in the hot tub, on the balcony in the sun.