Blackpool – stag and hen party capital, candy floss, Pleasure Beach amusement park, the Tower ballroom and circus, trams from a bygone age and the annual, world famous illuminations.
These are the things that most people will associate with this brash and breezy Lancashire resort.
There is more to this place than meets the eye however, as there is with all towns and cities, some with a deserved reputation, others trying to remove the stigma of years gone by.
Blackpool is one such town.
With millions spent in recent years on upgrading the promenade and sea-front, a fleet of new trams and some splendid new hotels, the resort is trying to forge a new image for itself.
Not that the past is completely obliterated of course, the iconic Tower and the display of illuminations will seemingly be there for all eternity, thrilling old and young alike.
The new trams, on new tracks, are modern and comfortable yet there is still a place for the older illuminated versions, of which I have such fond childhood memories.
It has been many years since I visited Blackpool, first as a child with my parents and grandparents, then as a teenager for more hedonistic and thrill seeking delights.
The resort has apparently calmed in the last few years and it is safe for couples and families to appreciate the lights in the evenings.
Late night in the centre is still not a place for the faint hearted or the narrow of mind however.
Now at @% years of age (!), my wife and I decided to make a nostalgic return on a trip to visit the latest light show.
I was, in truth, a little disappointed with the illuminations. The new promenade has swept away the numerous illuminated and animated roadside tableaux which featured fairy stories and children’s rhymes. All are gone.
Only the overhead and lamp post lights remained and although modernised, seemed fewer in number. Maybe it’s my childhood memory at fault, but I don’t think so.
The horse and carriage rides along the illuminations still remain, but most are now Cinderella or pumpkin style closed carriages. The kids love them.
Our online research (and astute discount coupon finding) led us to the Village Hotel, just a 2 mile flat and easy walk from the Central Pier. It is right next to Blackpool Zoo on the fringes of Stanley Park. It is also opposite the model village and so is a great base to take the nippers.
This hotel is not ordinary, and for those who turn up their noses at hotel chains, this may well be an eye opener for them.
For a start, it has it’s own 18 hole golf course, co-designed by Peter Alliss, together with a 16 bay floodlit driving range. There are three tennis courts, three squash courts, a jogging track, a 25 metre outdoor heated swimming pool, a fantastic indoor pool with two Jacuzzis, a state of the art gym, a 40 station cycle spinning room, spa, steam room and sauna.
And you thought you were coming here to relax.
When you do, there is an on-site Starbucks coffee shop, as well as a pub style sports bar with large screen tv’s and the separate Bucadi Beppo Italian Restaurant.
Here, an authentic Italian menu has starters and desserts all at six pounds, whilst mains range from twelve to eighteen pounds and a little more for steaks. The wine list is a little expensive at seventeen to thirty five pounds, but gives a good choice.
The restaurant itself is like a Little Italy. Dark wood furniture lit by crystal and cranberry chandeliers which dominate the room, the walls are filled with hundreds of photographs of Italian people from decades ago. I half expected to have to speak Italian just to order.
We didn’t actually have an evening meal here but did hear good reports about it from other guests.
Breakfast was served in this restaurant however. The full self service buffet breakfast of everything you could wish for. Cereals, juices, yoghurts, fresh fruit, pastries and the full range of quality cooked breakfast ingredients meant that no-one left dissatisfied.
Our room was spacious and we could have opted to upgrade for a Club Room with more facilities and Sky tv. It was not needed as the room was spotlessly clean, had dark wood furniture and tea and coffee making facilities. It was decorated in a modern style with stripy carpet, a matching feature wall and dark colours.
The bed had a Sealy mattress with a built in topper, which was blissfully comfortable.
We liked it.
Village hotels have a thing about large flat screen TV’s and ours was only a few inches narrower than our double bed. Cinema like viewing was a pleasure.
The bathroom was clean and fresh with in-house toiletries and an over-bath shower.
Free wi-fi was provided throughout the hotel and all staff encountered were friendly and efficient.
So, at the risk of a few groans, an illuminating visit all round.
For further information go to:
Your sat-nav will find the hotel at FY3 8LL.