So due to the current COVID – 19 crises we were unable to go on our usual holiday away earlier in the year.
As lockdown measures have been eased somewhat (or for our area of the UK it would now be more appropriate to say had been eased somewhat) we decided we would take advantage of the reopening of hotels by having a few days in Scarborough on the North Yorkshire coast.
Now for anyone not familiar with this North Yorkshire spa town towering over the south bay dominating the skyline is the Grand Hotel once Europe’s largest hotel. Since I was a child the hotel has fascinated me looking as it still does from afar resplendent cut into the side of the cliff, and I have always wanted to stay there. So when looking for a place to stay I happened to take a look at the Grand and found a deal for 2 nights bed and breakfast for a family of 4 for only £183!!! My wife having known for some time that I had always wanted to stay there agreed and so in the immortal words of Peter Kay we ‘booked it, packed it, and fu*£ed off!!’
However was it worth it?
So how about a bit of a history lesson to begin with? The Grand Hotel was first opened in 1867 and at the time was not only the largest hotel in Europe, but also the largest brick built structure as well. The hotel has been owned by Britannia Hotels since 2004 and is aimed at the budget end of the market. The theme of the hotel was time and was built in the following way:
– 12 Floors Representing the months of the year
– 52 Chimneys for the weeks of the year
– 365 bedrooms originally representing the days of a non leap year
There is also a blue plaque on the side of the building that states that legendary author Anne Bronte died in lodgings where the hotel now stands (and is the only Bronte sister buried in the town).
The hotel was badly damaged in the first world war and subsequently repaired.
Well first impressions when you walk up to the hotel are that it remains a dramatic looking building that still dominates the skyline of the south bay over 150 years after it was first built.
The second thing you notice is the unbelievable din of the hundreds of seagulls nesting within the various crevices of the Grand and some surrounding buildings. The pavements around the area are caked in seagull poop by the buildings where they nest as well as all over the buildings themselves. Now this is not something unique to the Grand at all as it happens but does have the potential to ruin the building and I feel more should be done to move the seagulls on and I do not remember this being the case on previous visits to the town, although granted this is something I could simply have forgotten about. Also worth pointing out the council are clearly well aware of the problem judging by the amount of signs around encouraging us all not to feed the seagulls or we may get attacked. I did however find this rather disappointing that more is not being done to contain the problem and felt the closer you got to hotel the more it ruined the view. The sound of all these gulls together was also quite unbelievable.
Other external observations I made as well was to notice when you look a little closer how run down the hotel actually is. Next to the Grand is the funicular railway down to the beach and traditional seaside entertainments and I could not help but notice that some of the windows of this side were smashed and left unrepaired. I did wonder what it must have looked like 100 years earlier when maintenance was kept up with, now it wouldn’t look out of place in some sort of dystopian future Scarborough.
When entering the hotel the main lobby at first sight has lost none of its grandeur and Wow factor. Sympathetically lit up in soft lights it has a wonderful grand staircase, balconies where you can look down into the lobby and I have to say this part of the hotel looked at first sight to have been maintained well. It took a long time to check in given the current social distancing protocols at the hotel that I had no problems with, but sadly it did give me the opportunity to take a closer look at the lobby and there are quite a few cracks in the masonry, and a grand piano that has seen better days. Nevertheless it still had the feel that it could feature well in some Agatha Christie novel and this was one aspect I really liked.
We paid for a sea view room for the 4 of us and the view from the window to the sea and across the Scarborough ‘strip’ was very impressive. Less impressive was the bird poo all over the window and more poo as well as disregarded feathers on the window ledge.
A common theme as you walk through the corridors and up and down the staircases is how run down the hotel now is, even a good clean and coat of paint would make a major difference but there are scuff marks, cracks in masonry, cracked paint everywhere, and peeling wallpaper. As we approached the door to our room the red door had clearly seen better days. Wallpaper within the room looked as though it came from the 1990’s (as Britannia Hotels have owned this hotel since 2004 I question if they have ever redecorated this room). There were too loft hatches within the room and one that didn’t look as though it really fit the hatch. We also observed a crack developing into a hole in the ceiling where it looked as though pipes had been fed and not sealed properly. The furniture within the bedroom looked period and I didn’t dislike it with two more modern chairs next to the table by the window. The beds were okay although I would question the double bed actually being a double, felt more like a 3/4 to me (although I do look a bit like tweedle dum or dee so this may be a little harsh), I didn’t sleep well but then again I don’t often sleep well in a strange bed.
The room was a large one and more than adequate for our sized family. The bathroom was modern and actually very nice except for a rocky toilet and a shower far too powerful for the bath it occupies. A final point I will add here to illustrate how run down this hotel is now is when we looked down from our window we could a badly overgrown former sun terrace below us. I can once again only imagine what this terrace would once of looked like in the hotels heyday, and it also makes me think that the hotel could potentially be missing an area where they could earn additional revenue by spending a little to earn a lot (a bar or additional terrace for guests perhaps).
I now come to our breakfast. The room itself was light and airy with spectacular views of the south bay (something I now realise is the hotels single biggest selling point other than price). Once again the theme here is past its best and even some of the machines struggle to maintain their frontage. The most common features of bird poo all over the windows and general decay permeated this room very much like the rest of hotel sadly.
The breakfast itself was awful!!! Sausages that looked like they were a few years out of date, bacon that had more fat than meat, and no hash browns at all. The coffee wasn’t bad though, come to think of it so was the orange juice. It is legitimately one of the worse breakfasts I had ever had at a hotel, and I have stayed at some stinkers in the past. I am also someone who more than likely will eat themselves to death one day so I know my food (least I know what I like). Even my human dustbin of an eldest living child didn’t was a cooked breakfast on the second morning and was happy to stick to just cereal and toast, and this is unheard of in our household (incidentally they are not big and fat like their father and just very tall for their age).
In conclusion I wanted to just start by stating I am fully aware that the leisure and hospitality sectors and hanging off a cliff at the moment and hoping not to end up like the Holbeck Hotel in Scarborough in 1993 but refer to their financial state rather than actually falling into the sea like the Holbeck did.
That being said Britannia Hotels have owned the Grand for 16 years now and the room we stayed in didn’t look as though it had been decorated since the 1990’s (bathroom aside). It just doesn’t feel as though Britannia take any pride in a hotel with such history that has dominated the landscape of Scarborough south bay for over 150 years (castle aside of course). I know they state that this is now a budget hotel and I accept this but it could be so much more that what it currently is being a mere shadow of its former self.
The staff were actually really nice and helpful except for one staff member at breakfast (although to be fair they looked overworked). I would also say that the quality of the breakfast could be so much better than what it was, claiming budget is one thing but this is no excuse for the quality of food on offer.
Obviously given I cannot foresee any hotel chain making a profit this year or maybe next so I cannot see the situation improving anytime soon, but there is potential for this hotel to once again be the hotel jewel in Scarborough’s crown. It would take a heck of an outlay to make this happen but is not beyond the realms of possibility in the future if the higher up’s at Britannia Hotels realise what they actually have with this historic hotel. I for one would be more than willing to pay more for a better experience here in the future, however at this time I would only recommend the hotel as a base to enjoy Scarborough itself and would recommend the Weatherspoon’s 5 minutes away from the hotel for meals as they are both cheap and of quality.
As always my opinions are my own and I thank you for reading.