Today we visited Morecambe and it was a surprisingly pleasant experience thanks to the rejuvenated Midland Hotel on the sea front. I first went to see this art deco masterpiece in 2003 when it was still boarded up and surrounded by metal fencing – a sad state of affairs for such an impressive building. It narrowly avoided demolition.
The hotel was originally built by one of the UK’s major rail companies (London, Midland and Scottish) and first opened in 1933, providing world class accommodation to wealthy travellers arriving in the town at the promenade station on the other side of the sea front road. It’s grade II listed and is one of the best examples of an art deco building in the country.
The Midland re-opened in 2008 after being purchased by Manchester-based Urban Splash who restored the building inside and out, reversing some of the unsympathetic alterations made by the succession of owners during a decades-long decline. Some tacky external alterations have been removed, and the inside is well worth a look with a Grade I listed stair case in the main lobby and a sumptuously decorated restaurant area opposite the reception desk.
We had a coffee and a slice of cake (ice cold beers and wines also available!) and sat outside of the bar area to the right of the hotel – which was originally a cafe. The seating area overlooks the jetty and the gorgeous calm blue waters of the bay, with the hills of the Lake District in the background. The service was friendly but somewhat slow although the chocolate cake was well worth the wait.
Sadly the rest of Morecambe isn’t quite up to scratch. Along with other British seaside resorts it has been in decline for many years. It is less accessible by road than Southport and Blackpool and as a result appears to have fared worse than it’s local competition. It’s clear that Morecambe has attracted a lot of investment in recent years because there’s a new shopping area just off the promenade and a number of stylishly paved areas with engravings and statues. Even so, the promenade still looks like it’s fallen on hard times. Frontierland is now shuttered – as is a nearby amusement arcade, and one of the few healthy looking businesses is supermarket chain Aldi.
There’s not much else to see in Morecambe but on a sunny day it’s well worth a visit just to see and experience the Midland. One day I’d like to stay in one of the rooms overlooking the bay but it’ll have to be a special occasion – they are not cheap.
P.S. If you do visit Morecambe and are stuck for something else to do, Heysham is a picturesque, sleepy village a few miles south of Morecambe and is worth a look. There is a small churchyard with a very interesting grave stone – it’s not often you see someone described as a failure in their epitaph.