For as long as hotels have been around – easily forty or fifty years at this point – there have been good ones and bad ones. Among some of the worst are those operated by the market leader in shite: Britannia hotels. More specifically in this instance: the infamous Scarisbrick Hotel.
An illustrious history of Britannia Hotels
Britannia specialise in taking classic hotels – most notably the Adelphi in Liverpool – which was once the place where well-to-do people-about-town would stay before boarding a ship to America. Now, the hotel caters to unfortunate visitors and mysterious bouts of food poisoning. I note that not long ago, another of Britannia’s hotels was in the news when a guest was found on the dead end of the ‘being alive spectrum’ on the street to the rear of the hotel. I can hardly argue with the guest who, upon seeing their room for the first time, would prefer to fall out of the window than spend the night in the hotel.
It is not the formerly legendary Adelphi or the Manchester equivalent which could not reasonably compete with the thrill of falling out of an upper storey window that has grabbed my attention however, but rather its unfortunate sister hotel up the coast in Southport. The Scarisbrick Hotel was no doubt once a famously nice hotel, catering to fancy holiday makers before the chance to go somewhere actually nice was made possible through air travel. The Scarisbrick is a genuinely terrible hotel. Its first-floor landing smells of boiled swede more than, I suspect, an actual pot of boiling swede might. The rooms are old and dated, the off-pink and beige decor is revolting, and some of the rooms only have a window in the ceiling. Despite this, the hotel is brilliant.
Is Basil working today?
This hotel isn’t so much a hotel as it is a live action version of Fawlty Towers where all of the characters are played by a local am-dram society who don’t quite get the joke, but none the less, they add to the occasion. This is the sort of hotel that could almost certainly be run properly if it wasn’t for all the guests.
Upon my first visit, there was one working room key for the entire Scarisbrick hotel, meaning that guests had to ask the concierge to let them into their rooms. In addition, our dated and decidedly strange room, which was built over several hundred levels, developed an impromptu waterfall as we woke up in the morning. The brilliant and idiosyncratic response of the concierge to which, was to knock on the door and hand me an open umbrella through the solid wall of water falling consistently from the lintel over the door. This all came with no word of apology, mostly because I suspect that this was well within the normal scope of services offered at the hotel.
An admittedly endearing floor plan
Another brilliantly stupid visit saw us told that our room was number 101. No other useful information was passed to us – just the number. We found room 102 and 103 with no problem, other than the trip in the unnervingly creaky lift. Room 101 was nowhere to be seen. After running out of options, we tried the key on the mysteriously labelled ‘Regal Suite’. To our surprise, the key worked, our main question being: ‘why didn’t they tell us it was the regal suite?’. Having looked at the room, we think we worked it out for ourselves. The suite is a suite, but I’m not sure what royalty it would be fit for, perhaps if there was a king of all petrol stations…or maybe Skegness. The four-poster bed had two posts that weren’t connected to the top of the bed, the furniture was a strange collection of things, and the best bit of slightly off-ness was reserved for the bathroom.
We have all heard of ‘his and hers matching sinks’ where a bathroom may have two sinks so that two people can use the sink at the same time. This place has ‘his and her matching toilets’ two toilets next to each other, neither close enough to the toilet paper holder to avoid either person having to awkwardly waddle over to it to get some cleansing roll. The bathroom was big and contained a large corner bath. Across from it was a big black sign, nicely adorned with a warning that the hot water tank was on the other side of the building and that the hot water may take 20 minutes to get there. How very regal!
Scatterings of tiny silver linings
Basically, this hotel is shit, but in a great way. The bar does cheap cocktails, the staff mean well, and if you like the smell of swede, that’s three good things! Other than that, it’s stupid, but it’s funny. I don’t think they mean it to be funny, but it is. Every visit is different. What will go wrong this time? How will the Scarisbrick put its inimitable stamp on the evening through some minor calamity or strange smell? It is certainly worth going to find out.
Ask for Babs, as far as I know there isn’t one, but just do it and see what they do.