Service, star ratings, good food… and fluffy white towels. These, until relatively recently, were the standard benchmarks of a desirable hotel.
Over the last two decades, however, the travel industry has undergone a bit of a renaissance. With the proliferation of boutique hotels and the growing popularity of ‘experience’ travel, the idea of ‘escaping for the weekend’ has given way to something more akin to pure escapism.
The design and lifestyle factors of the ‘boutique’ experience have led to the success of chains such as the ‘Mr and Mrs Smith’ and ‘Pig’ hotels (which are mostly booked up months in advance), but customers are increasingly looking to become fully immersed, not only in Farrow and Ball paint and essential oils, but in another world entirely.
The growing numbers of themed hotels in the UK are evidence of this trend. If you are thinking of becoming a hotelier, you can learn a lot from these establishments – if not how to embrace a theme entirely, then how imaginative concepts can boost your clientele considerably.
Here are our top 5 themed hotels in the UK:
A trailblazer in the field, The Pelirocco, has been indulging the fantasies of Brighton weekenders since it opened its doors way back in 2000. With 19 individually themed rooms to choose from, there’s something for every escapee.
Rooms include The Pin-up Parlour – a camp and glamourous homage to the delectable Diana Dors, Modrophenia (needs no explanation in the home city of the original Mod movie), Lord Vader’s Quarters – a sanctuary for lost Star Wars fans, DollyWould – a replication of the country singer’s country cabin, Gresham Blake – named after the Brighton based tailor who designed this modern-day hunting lodge and Nookii – the clue’s in the name and perfect for the traditional ‘weekend in Brighton’.
The Witchery by the Castle
Located on the Royal Mile with stunning views of Edinburgh Castle, this darkly glamourous hotel is said to be haunted by the ghosts of ‘witches’ burned at the stake on Castle Hill in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The hotel exudes gothic and baroque charm – from its opulent oak panelled bedrooms, four poster beds, plush velvet furnishings, tapestries, red and gold hues and candelabras to corridors that seem to time travel back into dimly lit Jacobean taverns.
Romantic in its heady and theatrical atmosphere, The Witchery by the Castle hotel fully transports its guests from the mundanity of everyday life to a time steeped in magic, mystery and murder.
Penury may not be exactly your idea of a good time, but at Malmaison Oxford you can stay in a bonafide prison cell in a real old slammer.
This hotel is not only a converted prison but is also located in a medieval castle – just to add to its stark glamour. Originally built as a Norman Fortress in 1071 during William the Conqueror’s reign, it was later extended in the Victorian Gothic period and functioned as HM Prison Oxford from 1888 – 1996.
The old cell block has been stylishly converted into hotel rooms in the ‘A wing’, the old metal walkways now painted white and complete with red carpets rather than dour faced wardens. And guests need not worry about their accommodations – beyond the cell doors lie beautifully appointed rooms; 3 old cells knocked into a bedroom and ensuite.
Further rooms extend across the hospital wing, the Governor’s House and ‘The House of Corrections’ – where you can choose to sleep in one of the solitary confinement ‘cells’ if you so desire.
Needless to say, the recreational areas of the hotel – including a gym in the former bowels of the prison and the Visitor’s Room with its plush gothic styling – are a far cry from the building’s history and you can be sure that they won’t be serving porridge (well, not without honey and raisins) in the hotel restaurant.
No Man’s Fort
No man is an island – but this hotel is, quite literally.
No Man’s Fort is the second of a trio of old forts that lie off the coast of Portsmouth and are being refurbished as water-bound travel phenomena. The first, Spitbank Fort was completed in 2012 and is already enjoying the status of one of the world’s most unique venues.
Located just four miles from the Isle of Wight and a mile from the mainland, No Man’s Fort – the largest of the three forts – sells itself as the ultimate offshore party destination.
Forget yachts, this sea-swept fort offers 75,000 sq. ft. of fun, including a LaZer battle arena, cabaret bar, rooftop hot tub and its own lighthouse with stunning views of the Solent.
Achieving cult status in the 1971 Dr Who episode, The Sea Devils, the fort has been transformed to offer a unique nautical experience. It’s a perfect launch pad for RIB rides and water sports and its entertainment spaces can be transformed to suit any requirements be they themed events or large group bookings.
A Room for London
There are plenty of boat themed hotels in the UK – you can even stay in a small replica of The Titanic in Liverpool’s Albert Dock if you so desire – but A Room for London is, in more ways than one, a cut above the rest.
Perched, or should we say moored, on the top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall in the heart of London’s bustling Southbank, this single-roomed boat shaped hotel is a design triumph, as well as offering one of the most spectacular views of the city.
Developed by the social enterprise, Living Architecture (who have commissioned a number of leading architects to create unique holiday homes) and Artangel (an agency for artists’ projects) and designed by David Kohn Architects and artist, Fiona Banner, the structure was inspired by Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and it’s riverboat that journeyed into the Congo.
Guests rarely leave this exclusive hotel room as the delights of London – from the Shard to the Houses of Parliament – are available in panorama with the room’s wraparound windows and roof deck.
A Room for London is a once in a life-time experience for boat-lovers, design-freaks and Londonphiles alike.
Are you a hotelier or thinking of buying a hotel? Why not incorporate some themed rooms or host some themed events? You will likely see your bookings soar.