Whitworth Locke, Manchester: hotel review

The grand 19th-century buildings of this aparthotel and co-working space reflect the city’s past while offering a vision of future city-centre hotels

Like a swollen river, Manchester city centre is breaching its banks. Property money is flooding in and central Manchester is being redrawn, as unprofitable, arty activity is swept out into Salford. Ancoats, to the east is being reinvented as an (oddly sterile) neighbourhood of indie bars and restaurants and swanky flats, while Oxford Road – a drab student corridor – promises, as the waters recede, to emerge as a green hub of tech-entrepreneurship.

Who benefits from all those cranes on the skyline is a point so moot it will be one for historians to discuss, not travel journalists. But any immediate pluses come with caveats. Juries are out. At street level, this city is as gritty as ever.

Manchester’s strutting self-confidence is, however, attracting exciting new businesses. After years of lacking interesting hotels, it will soon be home to three new ventures, which, inspired by likes of Shoreditch’s Ace Hotel, are turning the traditional hotel model on its head. One is the Refuge, another the upcoming London Warehouse and then there is the subject of this review: Whitworth Locke.

Historically, hotels have been silos in cities, keeping guests captive in often terrible bars and restaurants. In contrast, Saco group’s Locke aparthotels (also in London and Edinburgh), accept that modern travellers want an authentic city experience. They want to explore cities and stay in hotels whose bars, restaurants, events programmes and co-working spaces feel plugged into the neighbourhood – in Whitworth Locke’s case the Gay Village and that Oxford Road corridor.

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