Walking into the reception space at The Principal Manchester you’re immediately struck by its awe inspiring scale. An obligatory look up followed by a gracious 360 degree spin as your eye follows the dome and its surrounding details, “welcome to The Principal Sir” and you’ve officially arrived.
Heading to your room takes you on a journey through time and a masterclass in period building renovation and modernisation. A seamless glass walkway combines public space with hotel guest rooms and staircases that beg the question ‘why would anyone, who doesn’t need to, ever take the lift?’
I’ve a second floor room and my first thoughts upon entering are once again a matter of sheer scale, the room must have 4m high ceilings and it’s layered in panelling the like of which our royal family would feel quite at home around. The details are brass and hard wood with a Victorian inspired contemporary bathroom and furniture of such considered quality I wonder how that chair will fit into my overnight bag alongside the complimentary toiletries and Principal pencil.
Dinner is taken at Manchester’s newest and fast becoming fondest restaurant and bar, The Refuge. The success of Refuge amongst locals and visitors alike isn’t without precedent, The French at The Midland springs to mind and despite that being silver spoon vs “come as you are” (the Refuge mantra) I’m comfortable placing the 2 side by side in their success. Some hotels have restaurants, and some restaurants are in hotels, there is a vast difference.
Drinks in the winter garden round off a great evening, cocktails are a must from the Refuge bar or might I recommend trying the Manchester Gin. Returning to my room I choose another staircase and another route, this isn’t about getting to my room in the most efficient way, this is something else entirely, this is intrepid exploration.
A great nights sleep brings about breakfast, the Refuge dining space is transformed to a spread that the famous hotel breakfast lover Rick Stein would be in his element amongst. Waiting staff bring toast and coffee a plenty, nothing is too much trouble and whether your looking for lean & healthy or hot & hearty they’ve got you covered.
Post breakfast brings about my favourite part of this whole experience. I cannot tell you how much my own words rung in my mind that morning when I awoke still thinking “why would anyone, who didn’t need to, ever take the lift?” Let the adventure begin. Staircase after walk way after corridor through door after door I spent 45 minutes of my morning covering as much as I could of this incredible building. Getting up close and personal to the famous clock tower, which I discovered uses Manchester Bees as its numbers – something you can’t see from ground level. The roof top views and stolen glimpses of Manchester from tiny windows provide endless photo opportunities and enviable social media kudos.
My stay at Principal Manchester gave me more than I could of expected and what started as a lovely place to stay became a fantastic place to explore. If I leave you with anything it is this, take the stairs, lose your bearings and don’t forget your camera.