For my weekend escape to The Principal, one of Manchester’s most iconic Victorian hotels, I used Cross Country Trains, which transported me from my home town of Bournemouth to Manchester.
One of the UK’s most extensive rail networks, Cross Country rail calls at more than 100 stations and stretches from Aberdeen to Penzance and from Stansted to Cardiff. Given my journey was nearly five hours, I decided to travel first class – a treat that was well worth the investment as it meant that I’d arrive at my destination refreshed and ready to explore the city. Key highlights of the journey included fresh food offerings - not a pre-made processed wrapper in sight – and endless green tea and scrummy stem ginger and fruit and lemon biscuits. They also had a decent free WI-FI signal too, a well-appreciated rarity. I'll definitely be travelling with Cross Country Trains again when the opportunity presents itself.
The Principal Hotel in Manchester is a place of architectural wonder. Centrally located only a short taxi ride or a 10-minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly train station, it stands proud in the North of England’s ‘capital of cool’.
From the exterior, its Art Deco signage and striking clock tower gives onlookers a glimpse of its opulence. Inside, guests are greeted with a spellbinding reception foyer, which recently received a £25 million refurbishment. One of the key focal points within the foyer is a striking bronze stallion, which stands in the space that was once a turning circle for horses and carriages in years bygone.
In addition to its facilities reserved for hotel residents, The Principal also offers non-residents an array of standout venues, including the Winter Garden, a restaurant within a conservatory, which was full of lovely indoor trees and palms lit with white fairy lights to create a magical atmosphere.
Upon my arrival I was greeted with a complimentary gin and tonic delightfully presented in a mini corked bottle complete with a cloth-covered lemon, and a delicious vanilla custard tart topped with fresh raspberries – a truly memorable welcome!
The suite itself was huge and fit for a king, or a director of a substantial financial firm, as a nod to its heritage. The room’s impressive 30-foot ceilings and traditional oak-panelling set the scene for a luxurious stay. Furnishings included a three-piece sofa, a coffee table, a 4-seater dining area, a bureau and a large flat screen TV.
Vintage touches featured throughout including a record player housed in a vintage steamer trunk and a selection of rare vinyl records, including Fleetwood Mac ‘Rumours’– one of my favourites.
Other unique artistic touches included a wardrobe-sized vintage steamer trunk, which contained a mini bar and drinks cabinet complete with martini glasses, a cocktail shaker, an ice bucket, a whisky decanter and standard hot-drink-making facilities providing guests with all the tools they need to imbibe.
The substantial four-poster bed was incredibly comfortable and I loved the addition of a second TV and the clock/radio/docking station.
The well proportioned bathroom had a monsoon shower, a Victoriana wash basin and large floor-to-ceiling windows, which provided a bit of welcome natural light.
Food wise, The Principal is not at the top of Manchester’s leader-board; an unfortunate juxtaposition considering it’s such an impressive building. Thankfully, its opulent guest rooms, stunning architecture and efficient service ensures The Principal features on our list of the most luxurious places to stay in Manchester.
Guest rooms start at £255.00 with suites from £405.00 per night.
The Principal Hotel
*During my weekend escape I was hosted by Cross Country trains and The Principal Hotel. All views, opinions and photographs (unless captioned otherwise) are my own.
Our experience overall
Staff attentiveness / friendliness: ★★★