Midland Hotel, Morecambe: Art deco glamour in the Bay

The classic art deco sweep of the Midland Hotel

The classic art deco sweep of the Midland Hotel - Credit: Midland Hotel

Morecambe has had more ups and downs over the years than the Rattler rollercoaster at the old Frontierland theme park. 

It was once a glittering resort which attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. But the resort went into decades of gentle decline when holidaymakers discovered cheap package holidays. 

The statue of Eric Morecambe gave day-trippers a reason to come back when it was unveiled by The Queen in 1999. It wasn’t enough on its own to reverse the downturn, though. 

Extensive – and expensive – renovations of the prom saw artworks installed, a new sandy beach was created, and groups such as the Morecambe Bay Partnership have done sterling work in highlighting the natural beauty and environmental importance of the area. The long-planned (it was first mooted in the 1940s) road linking the town to the M6 opened at last in 2016 and the latest stage of the regeneration is the work now underway to restore the Winter Gardens. 

All those helped restore some of Morecambe’s appeal, but possibly the clearest sign of the resort’s revival was the renovation of the Midland Hotel which had itself seen good times and bad. 

First opened in July 1933, the hotel is a classic example of art deco architecture. Its graceful curved lines were created by Oliver Hill to echo the sweep of the bay and it’s easy to see why Wallis Simpson, Noel Coward and Laurence Olivier were fans and why Coco Chanel would fly in from the French Riviera and land her flying boat in the bay to take tea at the Midland. 

By 1998, though, it seemed the resort’s glory days were gone. The Midland was forced to close its doors and it stood empty and at the mercy of the elements and vandals for almost a decade. 

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Then along came Manchester-based regeneration company, Urban Splash. They spent around £10million to restore its art deco glory and to add some stylish contemporary touches, such as the sumptuous rooftop feature rooms and luxury suites. 

Ever since the revamped Midland re-opened in 2008, Morecambe has been talked of as a town on the up. And there now seems to be genuine momentum to those claims. 

Plans for the Eden Project North are gathering pace and there is real optimism that Morecambe could be on the brink of good times once again. Once built, it is suggested that the Eden Project could bring around 750,000 visitors to the town each year. And when they come, they will find no finer place to stay than the Midland. 

Now owned by the English Lakes Hotel group, this is a place with well-justified confidence in itself. Yes, some parts of Morecambe may be rather less than salubrious but step in to the Midland and you can leave all that behind – particularly if you have one of the rooms with a view across the bay. 

The stillness of the foyer is a respite from the ever-present coastal wind and even when the hotel is hosting a wedding – as they were when we checked in – it is a quiet and welcoming space. 

A sweeping staircase spirals up through the heart of the hotel to the 44 lavish and well-appointed rooms along gently curving corridors which have the look and feel of a luxurious ocean liner. 

Our top floor room, one of those added during the revamp, manages to be simultaneously sleek and cosy. The floor to ceiling sliding glass doors on two sides of the lounge area give spectacular views along the prom and across the bay. And, if anything, those views are slightly better from the huge balcony; the happy couple at the other end of the top floor have a hot tub on their balcony, while we would just about have room for the circus big top that’s drawing crowds next door on the site of the old outdoor swimming pool. 

The Sun Terrace Restaurant on the hotel’s ground floor makes the most of the views and the staff are friendly and attentive without being overly fussy. 

Head chef Michael Wilson has been in the kitchen here for almost 11 years and has created an impressive dinner menu that is big on flavour and local ingredients and doesn’t scrimp on portion sizes. The breakfasts too would test even the biggest appetites. No-one leaves here feeling peckish. 

We enjoyed starters of celeriac soup and caramelised red cabbage with roast parsnips, kohlrabi, crispy kale, pickled apple pureé, apple dressing. Our main courses were chestnut and parsnip pie served with pickled pear, parsnip puree, roast parsnip, rainbow chard, pomegranate gel and a salsa verde and across the table, a hearty bowl of herb gnocchi with artichoke, pickled rhubarb, wild mushroom, baby spinach, hazelnuts and perhaps a little too much Garstang Blue cheese. 

Back in the room, there’s an option on the tv to watch a half hour film showing hordes of happy holiday makers in Morecambe. It’s archive footage, but it may soon be time to make a sequel.