Elegant, exquisite, sophisticated, stylish, luxurious and languorous – there are dozens of words to describe the Midland Hotel in Morecambe and you need all of them to capture its charm and character.
The hotel - a renowned art deco building - curves gracefully, like a debutante on a divan - along the north west coast of Morecambe Bay. Residents step straight out on to a newly-restored promenade which stretches for miles both left and right.
It was designed by architect Oliver Hill and opened in 1933. Hill commissioned the sculptor and engraver Eric Gill to carve two seahorses for the outside of the building. Inside the building he carved a circular medallion in the ceiling overlooking the staircase. It shows a sea god being attended by mermaids and is edged with the words “And hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn”.
Gill also designed an incised relief map of the Lake District and the Lancashire coast for a wall of the South Room, which is today the Eric Gill Suite.
It was a favourite haunt of celebrities such as Coco Chanel, Sir Laurence Olivier and Noel Coward and with many of the actors and musicians performing at the Winter Gardens.
The hotel closed in 1998 and was left to the elements until 2006 when it was bought by Manchester-based property developer, Urban Splash.
The Midland re-opened in June 2008, with beautifully restored existing features, such as the grand cantilevered staircase and a number of Gill’s artworks and a few contemporary additions, such as the chandelier in the Rotunda bar.
From the second you walk into reception you are in the lap of luxury. The greeting is warm and welcoming, the service exemplary and help with your luggage is at hand.
Our luxury room with sea view was jaw-droppingingly grand, stylish and simply decorated. The bedrooms have been re-imagined as sleekly minimalist boudoirs, with clean white walls, stone floors and splashes of scarlet fabric. Also a feature is a cushion emblazoned with the Midland.
The bathroom was massive with a round bath you could swim in and a overhead shower - it was breath-taking.
The wooden terrace, complete with table and deckchairs - and hot-tub - offered views across the bay towards the Lakes.
Floor to ceiling windows on two sides meant you could enjoy the view from the comfort of the sofa, chairs or bed. There was prosecco chilling in the fridge, a coffee machine, tea-making facilities and fresh milk. Biscuits were replenished on a daily basis.
As you sat in the lounge enjoying a mid-morning coffee or at the bar before dinner, it was easy to imagine Coward sipping a cocktail while listening to the Passadena Roof Orchestra or a palm court ensemble - waspishly observing fellow residents.
Music of the period plays softly all-day, a fitting accompaniment to the art-deco surroundings and the sophisticated air that permeates the buidling’s very being.
Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner are served in the the Sun Terrace Restaurant - a glass-fronted room which sweeps the length of the Midland and boasts magnificent sea views.
It serves British classics prepared using local produce from Lancashire, the Cumbrian countryside and fresh from the Irish Sea.
Specialities such as Morecambe Bay shrimps and line-caught sea bass, as well as hearty meals like roast loin of salt marsh lamb and trio of Cumberland sausage are all cooked with typical Midland panache.
It is fine dining of the first order. We dined in the Sun Terrace on both evenings of our stay and chose a variety of dishes including starters of slow-cooked sea trout with wasabi, pickled cucumber, chilli, kohlrabi, honey and soy dressing and mains of Ribble Valley corn-fed chicken breast, pea puree, braised leg, crushed potatoes, fennel, meat juices.
There is a breakfast buffet and cooked options which, with tea and coffee, are brought to your table.
For simpler lunch or dinner fare you can try the Rotunda bar - with is booths of opulent red leather. Both the bar and restaurant are popular with locals as well as hotel guests. Afternoon tea time was busy on both days of our stay.
The service is excellent - polite but friendly and unhurried. There is plenty of time to make your choice and for enjoying the view.
The pampering goes on as the Midland boasts a Spa. Book in for a massage or a high-class face and body treatments.
Both men and women can enter a relaxing and calming atmosphere. Reflexology, holistic, aromatherapy, hand and feet therapies are all available.
If you can draw yourself away from the hotel - and believe me it’s tough - you will find Morecambe has its charms, crumbling as some of them are. The promenade is long and flat, idea for running, cycling or, for me, sauntering.
A must-see is the statue of Eric Morecambe, one half of the double act Morecambe and Wise, at the top of steps etched with their most famous song Bring Me Sunshine. It is impossible to pass it without posing along side him and starting to sing: Bring me sunshine in your smile, bring me laughter all the while ...
Understandably proud of the connection, the Wetherspoons is called Eric Bartholomew and another hostelry bears the legend Brew Me Sunshine. There are murals to Eric and Olivier to be seen. In fact Morecambe is scattered with sculptures - some on the roundabouts - and artwork on walls and walkways.
The statue is across the road from what was the Winter Gardens - still an impressive building above the cut-price emporiums and amusement arcades below its facade.
That is true of the seafront in general - shabby chic sums it up. There is little in the way of shopping, not that it botherd me. I am at home in a bookshop than a fancy department store. The Old Pier Bookshop - a tumbling, cluttered mass and mess of volumes old and new - is worth checking out.
Also worth a visit is Brucciani’s - an Italian ice-cream and coffee parlour which was obvioulsy popular with locals - and a listed building.
Both are a step away from the Midland, an oasis which offers everything from a cup of jasmine tea to a ginger tea pedicure, a Mad Pig ale to a Cosmopolitan and a Midland burger to a kaffir lime leaf creme brulee.
The Midland boasts “You’ll feel like a new person when you leave”. It is no empty claim. After a two-day stay in sumptuous surroundings, relaxing recreation and indulgent wining and dining we left refreshed, revitalised, reluctantly - and clutching a Midland cushion as a memento of our stay.
Prices per night based on two people sharing and are inclusive of full English breakast. Valid from now until April 2019
Classic room (non sea view) from £128 to £216
Classic room (sea view) from £170 to £258
Feature room (sea view): from £200 to £330
Luxury room (sea view): from £280 to £410
Book: 0333 2203 180 or on line: www.englishlakes.co.uk/the-midland