Adrian Mourby

Back to Inspirations
Until March 2020 London was the musical capital of the world with so many operas and musicals premiering in its cornucopia of theatres. The West End was also the theatrical capital of the world with A-list Hollywood stars making the crossing to London to prove that they could still enthral an audience by treading the boards without the security of retakes and a score by John Williams.
Outside of the capital, there were major theatres in all the main cities, each with its own autumn, winter and spring seasons. Britain led the world in live performance until the first lockdown in March 2020 when the government ordered theatres to fall dark.

The last 15 months have been a terrible time for the performing arts in Britain. Not only did live performance cease but most actors, singers and musicians found themselves out of work and – because they were freelance – many were ineligible for the government’s furlough scheme. Some young talents have just given up. In a few years’ time Britain will experience a generation gap when there will be a scarcity of new talent to replace those performers and backstage staff who are retiring. Some theatres have announced that they have closed for good.

There is – finally – light at the end of this terrible tunnel however. At last Britain’s theatres are reopening. After over nearly a year and a half audiences will be able to experience again the thrill that comes from watching a story with live performers unfold in real time.

So here are ten theatres that I’d recommend visiting this summer and autumn. Britain has some of the oldest and some of the best theatres in the world. Now is the time to get back outside and enjoy them. While you are at it, stay the night in a first-class hotel nearby. The best way to hold on to the thrill of live performance is not the gruelling journey home as soon as the curtain falls, but to head to a nearby hotel, wrapping yourself in memories of a grand night out. 

I have always believed that hotels and theatres have a great deal in common. Both are performance spaces in which we are the audience for this evening. So don’t just book the show. Book to stay the night, and extend the magic till the next morning. 

Theatre: Shakespeare's Globe

In the latter half of the 20th century the American actor and director, Sam Wanamaker campaigned tirelessly to reconstruct Shakespeare's seventeenth-century Globe Theatre.  He wanted it built as close as possible to its original site in the London Borough of Southwark, on the south bank of the River Thames. “Shakespeare’s Globe” eventually opened in 1997 and is predominantly a recreation of the first Globe Theatre which burned down in 1613. The theatre incorporates some features of the 1614 rebuild (such as external staircases) and of course accommodates modern safety requirements.  It is open-roofed, as theatres were in Shakespeare’s time, but the audience numbers have been more than halved – from 3,000 down to 1,400 – for safety reasons. Even before Covid-19 we had such concerns.
Michelle Terry, the current artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe is continuing with the experiment to recreate, as far as possible the original sixteenth-century playing conditions albeit with certain concessions to modern sensibilities. Women, rather than boys now play women’s roles and throwing vegetables during the performance is discouraged. 

This summer Shakespeare's Globe is staging three particularly popular plays A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night, all played without interval, as they were in Shakespeare's time. No microphones or electric lighting will be used. Despite the underlings behaving themselves these days, this is London theatre as close as is possible to Shakespeare’s time.  

Where to Stay

Corinthia Hotel London, London

The Corinthia is a colourful and stylish hotel just behind Trafalgar Square.  It opened in 1885 as the Metropole and was the brainchild of British hotelier, Frederick Gordon.  Gordon had trained as a lawyer but in his 30s moved into creating elegant restaurants across the British capital, something of an innovation in the 1870s. From there it was a short step to building hotels. By the 1890s he was becoming known in Britain as the “Napoleon of the Hotel World" for his “Gordon Group”. 

Among Gordon’s other hotels were the Grand Hotel, Trafalgar Square (neighbouring the Metropole Hotel) and three other Metropoles in Brighton, Cannes, and Monte Carlo (where Frederick Gordon died in 1904).

Gordon started work on The Metropole in 1883.  Large hotels were needed this close to Charing Cross Station to accommodate the massive influx of travellers arriving here. The grand seven-storey Metropole became a London home for wealthy travellers arriving from the Continent who would get on a train at Dover or Folkestone and then disembark at the busy Charing Cross Terminus.  The hotel was also frequented by officers attending the levees at St James Palace and by ladies invited to Buckingham Palace. Britain’s playboy Prince of Wales – and eventual King Edward VII -  kept a box reserved for him in the hotel’s ballroom, and on the night before the British Expeditionary Force embarked for France in 1914 its two Commanders-in-Chief, Field Marshals John French and Douglas Haig, both stayed at the Metropole. 

For much of the twentieth century the Metropole, because of its proximity to Whitehall, was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence for whom it provided offices and planning rooms. In 2011 however the Maltese Corinthia Group  reopened the hotel as Corinthia London.  Today the Corinthia is one of the most glamorous hotels near Trafalgar Square.  It is also surrounded by theatres.  The Trafalgar Theatre, the Playhouse, Charing Cross Theatre, the Adelphi, and the Savoy are all in easy walking distance. Across the Hungerford Foot Bridge it’s a pleasant one and half mile walk along the South Embankment to Shakespeare’s Globe. On the way you pass the magnificent National Theatre (a superb example of British concrete) and will be able to enjoy glorious views across the Thames to Victoria Embankment Gardens, the Shell Building, and Somerset House. 

Theatre: Bristol Old Vic

Bristol Old Vic was originally named the Theatre Royal (as were all English theatres after the Restoration because they all required royal permission to operate).The old Theatre Royal Bristol was built between 1764 and 1766, which makes it the oldest continuously-operating theatre in the English-speaking world. (There are four older theatres in London but over the centuries they have either been temporarily closed or completely rebuilt.) 

For many years the entrance to the theatre was down an alleyway in Bristol’s dockland off King Street, not far from the Llandoger Trow Inn. The Trow is even older that the Theatre Royal and is said to have inspired Daniel Defoe when writing scenes in his Robinson Crusoe and Robert Louis Stevenson in his  Treasure Island.  In 1946 an offshoot of London’s Old Vic was established in the Theatre Royal and its name changed. Then in 1972 a more imposing foyer was incorporated into the old theatre building by the absorption of the Coopers' Hall, built 1743–44. 

Daniel Day-Lewis, who was an alumnus of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, called this "the most beautiful theatre in England.". Other alumni include  Jeremy Irons and Peter O’Toole (who has a prize named in his honour, offering a six-month contract at the Bristol Old Vic to two graduating actors from the theatre school).

This summer the Bristol Old Vic is reopening with a number of youth projects, including Outlier whose world premiere was much-delayed by successive lockdowns. Then there is Three Seagulls (a reimagining of Chekhov’s The Seagull by students of the theatre school) and Owl on the Roof by Made in Bristol,  a group of twelve young people aged 18-25 presenting their first professional show.

Where to Stay

Hotel du Vin - Bristol Avon Gorge, Bristol

High above the River Avon is a hotel that probably has the best views of Bristol from its dining room. Since its recent refurbishment, the Avon Gorge is run by Hotel du Vin which means that the interiors have all the HdV signature features we’ve come to love: dark walls with bright downlighters, moody bedrooms with white-tiled bathrooms and irreverent art. At this hotel there are familiar eighteenth and nineteenth-century portraits on the walls given a subtle twenty-first century makeover. For example a bathing Renoir nude has a yellow rubber duckie floating in her pool, and John Singleton Copley, painted by Sherburne in 1767 in his silk dressing gown and blue turban sports a white earpiece that connects with the iphone in his right hand.

Bedrooms on all but the first floor are on the small side because this hotel, originally opened in 1896 as Grand Clifton Spa and Hydropathic Institution, had a Victorian attitude towards accommodation. The public areas where people of quality mingled (as at Bath) were prioritized over the private. The ground floor public rooms at the new Avon Gorge are indeed lovely, with a dark bar overlooking the famous gorge and a dining room and terrace providing a superb view of sunset over Brunel’s famous Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Given that you’ll be going to the theatre one night, make sure to book a table for your second so you can also enjoy dinner as the sun goes down.  

Theatre: The Haymarket, London

There has been a theatre in what used to be the City of Westminster’s literal hay-market since the 1720s, making Theatre Royal Haymarket the third-oldest London playhouse still in use. However the current building dates back to 1821 when it was constructed to designs by the great John Nash, architect to the Prince Regent. It is now a Grade I listed building.

Over its 200 years Nash’s theatre has witnessed some significant moments. Britain’s first matinée (afternoon) performance was given here in 1873. Samuel Johnson, Henry Fielding and Oscar Wilde all premiered plays at the Haymarket. Sir John Gielgud had a long association with the theatre. During World War II he directed a repertory season that included Somerset Maugham’s The Circle, Congreve’s Love for Love as well as The Duchess of Malfi, Hamlet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Gielgud also directed Michael Redgrave in The Beggar's Opera, Helen Hayes in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie and Ralph Richardson and Peggy Ashcroft in The Heiress, an adaptation of Henry James's Washington Square. 

In more recent times those two theatrical knights, Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart, scored a great success as Estragon and Vladimir in Waiting for Godot at the Haymarket in 2009. On 19 May this year the theatre reopened with Love Letters by A R Gurney starring Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove followed by Heathers, the Musical, which runs until September

Where to Stay

The Cavendish London, London

The Cavendish Hotel in Jermyn Street is an eight-minute walk through St James’ Square to Theatre Royal Haymarket. You can take a little longer to get there by strolling along Jermyn Street, which offers the ultimate window-shopping experience for gentlemen who fancy expensive shoes, superb silk waistcoats and a first class barber. 

The Cavendish of today is a modern hotel. It even has underground parking. Yet it has a glorious and colourful historical pedigree. It was founded early in the nineteenth century as Miller’s Hotel with its entrance on nearby Duke Street. It then passed through various owners and various incarnations before becoming the Cavendish in 1836. In 1902 it was bought by Rosa Lewis, the formidable “Duchess of Jermyn Street”.  

In 1930 when Evelyn Waugh published his second novel Vile Bodies, he based several of its London scenes in a slightly dodgy hotel off Piccadilly called Shepheard’s. This parody of the 1930s Cavendish is run by Lottie, an inveterate name dropper and schmoozer of titled folk down on their luck. When the book was published, Rosa Lewis considered herself so traduced by Waugh that she banned him from her hotel for life. 

Sadly, the original Cavendish structure was damaged in a Luftwaffe bombing raid on 17 April 1941 that also laid waste to St James’ Church on Jermyn Street. While that lovely edifice was rebuilt, the old Cavendish with its missing façade limped on until being demolished in 1964 so a new 14-storey hotel could be built on Jermyn Street.  

The modern Cavendish has a new restaurant with views across to Fortnum and Mason. It was opened in May 2021 as the “Mayfair Lounge & Grill” and is run by Paragon Hospitality who have researched the recipes and menus that Rosa Lewis used in her time. “We have taken her core ideas, adapted and modernised them,” Paragon announced. “It is so rare to be able to bring history alive through our own craft but let’s be honest, hospitality is really the same in its core today as it was 120 years ago; bringing people together, to relax, have fun and build friendships and networks.”  

The hotel hopes to make its new restaurant a major social centre in the West End just as it was in the days of Rosa Lewis. For theatre-goers it is introducing an Early Bird menu consisting of a three-course meal and a glass of house wine for £35pp, which will be served from 5.30pm to 7.30pm.

Theatre: Theatre Royal, Nottingham

The classical façade of Nottingham’s Theatre Royal is a landmark in the city. The building was financed by wealthy manufacturers of Nottingham lace, John and William Lambert and opened in 1865 as a home for the Nottingham Theatre Company. Up until 1912 the theatre presented an eclectic range of plays, opera, revues, and pantomimes until the company ran out of funds. 

In 1924 the theatre was bought outright by Moss Empires. During their time the Theatre Royal made history by giving the world premiere of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap (which went on to be the longest-running theatrical production in the world and reopened in London on 17 May 2021).

In 1969 the city council bought the theatre and spent £4 million restoring it. The work was necessary as the Theatre Royal had an unenviable reputation for worst backstage conditions in Britain. WHAT WAS IT LIKE? It reopened in 1978 and has since gained a reputation for attracting West End tours and opera companies and for its annual pantomime. 

This year the Theatre Royal reopened in June 2021 for live performance and has a busy autumn planned with the musical Chicago, Opera North’s Fidelio, Northern Ballet and Ballet Rambert, the Tina Turner tribute What’s Love Got to Do with It? and Robin Hood as this year’s much-anticipated pantomime. 

Where to Stay

Hart's Hotel & Kitchen, Nottingham

Harts is a new-build 32-room hotel constructed on the old ramparts of the Sheriff of Nottingham's Castle.  It was opened in 2003 by Tim and Stefa Hart, the couple who had previously turned Hambleton Hall into a country-house hotel for fine dining. The hotel is also a keen promoter of the Theatre Royal, which is only a ten-minute stroll away down Maid Marian Way. Hart’s often offers a theatre package that includes dinner, bed and breakfast at specially reduced rates, especially when Opera North is in town. In fact Tim and Stefa, both keen opera-goers both, host a champagne reception for the company and hotel guests when there’s opera on offer. They even provide transportation to the theatre afterwards for those who don’t want to walk.

Hart’s has large glass windows, modern art, and small but comfortable bedrooms, some of which have views over Nottingham’s Park Estate. Its small new restaurant – known as Hart’s Kitchen – is full of signed photos of TV and West End stars who have stayed here while performing at the Theatre Royal. These include David Baddiel, Dawn French, Bill Bailey, Ruby Wax, Robert Lindsay, and Michael Palin. The hotel has more framed famous faces than it can display at any one time, so they get rotated. 

Theatre: The Coliseum, London

London’s high-Edwardian Coliseum reopens in the autumn of 2021 with a new production of The Valkyrie staged by English National Opera. The theatre – London’s biggest in terms of seating - was designed by the great theatre architect Frank Matcham. No expense was spared to create what was intended to be a variety theatre for family entertainment. The impresario who funded the project was Sir Oswald Stoll. He wanted the largest and finest "People’s Palace of Entertainment" in the world and its motto was Pro Bono Publico. The people’s theatre opened in 1904 as the London Coliseum Theatre of Varieties. 

The design of the theatre is a drama in its own right, described variously as baroque and byzantine, with no part of the auditorium undecorated. In the middle of the twentieth century the Coliseum spent decades producing pantomimes and popular middlebrow entertainment like Annie Get Your Gun, Kiss Me, Kate, Guys and Dolls and The Pyjama Game. In 1968 Sadler's Wells Opera Company (with its brief to sing opera in English) moved to the Coliseum and in 1974, the company changed its name to English National Opera. The Coliseum is now the home of ENO and has witnessed many great operatic moments, including the Goodall Ring Cycle, Jonathan Miller’s Rigoletto and Anthony Minghella’s production of Madama Butterfly, plus a rare revival of Vaughan Williams’ glorious Sir John in Love. With its commitment to English opera, the Coliseum has also been the venue for some wonderful new stagings of Gilbert and Sullivan, including Jonathan Miller’s production of The Mikado and Cal McCrystal’s recent Iolanthe.

This autumn the Coliseum reopens with Richard Jones’ eagerly awaited new production of Wagner’s The Valkyrie followed by Cal McCrystal's take on Gilbert and Sullivan’s second smash-hit, HMS Pinafore. 

Where to Stay

L'oscar London, London

If there is one hotel in London that matches the Coliseum for glamour, it is L’Oscar in Holborn. Formerly the headquarters of the Baptist Church in England this building was never modest, but now under the direction of French designer Jacques Garcia it has reached a kind of decorative apotheosis. Mirrored ceilings, gilded walls, a seven-storey chandelier plunging down the main staircase and a restaurant based on Café Florian in Venice are just a few of the hotel’s more obvious features.  

There are almost 500 Lalique-style birds used as light fittings in the hotel. The 150 individual napkin rings for the hotel’s Baptist Grill came from Sandbury Antiques market in Kempton Park and bills are presented on refurbished church collection plates. The four metal doors, each with a peacock motif, that lead into the bar were rescued from a scrap metal site in France by the hotel’s CEO. 2000 hollow-stem crystal champagne coups were made specially for L’Oscar in Poland.  No detail is routine anywhere in the hotel making it an ideal pairing for the flamboyant Coliseum.

The theatre itself is a pleasant 15-minute walk away through Covent Garden (and the Royal Opera House is even closer).

Theatre Royal, Bath

Bath’s Theatre Royal was built in 1805. It replaced the Old Orchard Street Theatre, which would have been known to Jane Austen during her early visits to Bath. The architect was George Dance the Younger who had studied architecture in Italy and was considered one of the foremost architects of his time. The theatre opened with a performance of Richard III and subsequently presented the cream of nineteenth-century acting talent including Mrs Jordan, William Macready, and Edmund Kean. 

After a fire in 1862 the auditorium and foyers had to be fully rebuilt and the current entrance, a grand portico, was added on to the exterior. Casts continued to be stellar, including Sarah Bernhardt, Anna Pavlova, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, John Gielgud, and Sybil Thorndike, but the theatre rarely made a profit. 

In 1979 the struggling theatre was bought by a trust and underwent major refurbishment, with the addition of a second small stage called the Ustinov Studio after one of its favourite actors In the twenty-first century the Theatre Royal has become a major touring venue. This May it reopened with Ralph Fiennes bringing his production of Elliot’s Four Quartets after which Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen was performed in the main theatre and David Mamet’s Oleanna in the Ustinov. In September Julian Clary and Matthew Kelly star in Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser.

Where to Stay

Queensberry Hotel, Bath

The Queensbury is a family-owned boutique hotel just off Bath’s famous Circus and very close to the Assembly Rooms (which featured in the 1995 TV adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion). The hotel consists of 29 rooms and suites spread over four separate townhouses that have been imaginatively joined together. The Olive Tree, housed in what would have originally been the kitchens of this multi-house complex, is Bath’s only one Michelin-starred restaurant under chef Chris Cleghorn.

It’s a lovely ten-minute walk downhill from the Queensbury to the Theatre Royal, through the Circus and past the Museum of Jane Austen’s life on Gay Street and then across Queen Square. For the return journey take a longer route through Royal Victoria Park and around the gracious Royal Crescent to make the most of your time in this perfect Georgian city. 

Theatre: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford Upon Avon

The first Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford opened in April 1879. It was a splendid neo-gothic construction in brick with quasi-Elizabethan features, a cathedral-like roof and a huge tower with parapets. That theatre burned down in 1926 and a new Shakespeare Memorial Theatre was opened in 1932 on a site next to the original. The architect was Elisabeth Scott, making this the first major building in Britain designed by a woman. In 1961 , following the establishment of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the theatre was renamed the Royal Shakespeare.

While Scott’s Art Deco riverside structure has been retained externally, the theatre was significantly rethought and rebuilt between 2008 and 2010 when the proscenium arch, never a Shakespearean device, was removed and the audience was rearranged on three sides of a thrust stage. These days the company’s Stratford site has two main stages – the Royal Shakespeare and the Swan (in the shell of the 1879 theatre). This summer the RSC is reopening performances in Stratford with The Comedy of Errors which will be staged in the temporary Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre (built in the Swan Gardens next to the River Avon). This open-air venue will provide safe seating for up to 500 people with unobstructed views of the stage.

Where to Stay

The Stratford, Stratford-upon-Avon

The Stratford Hotel is well positioned, just five minutes walk from the town station and ten minutes from the theatres. These days it is run by Double Tree by Hilton which means that you'll be given one of their excellent Doubletree cookies on arrival. Better still, Quills Restaurant will accommodate your need to get to a 7.30 curtain-up if you ask nicely. Be there at six when they open to order your starter and main course and ask for dessert to be ready when you come back after curtain down. Quite a few hotel restaurants in Stratford are agreeable to this configuration and it means you don’t have to rush your evening meal. 

It’s a pleasant half-mile stroll down Arden Street and Ely Street to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. If you have time, take a little longer over your walk by diverting down Chapel Street and pass New Place, which is the site of the house to which Shakespeare retired when he left London’s theatre world. From here you can walk all the way down Chapel Lane to the RSC past Shakespeare’s garden. When the playwright lived in Stratford his land extended all the way down to the River Avon where the theatre stands today.  

Theatre Royal, Newcastle

Newcastle’s original Theatre Royal received its royal charter from King George III in 1788. It was demolished however in June 1836 so Richard Grainger could create his wide and magnificent Grey Street, the most imposing thoroughfare in Newcastle. A new Theatre Royal was built on Grey Street and opened in February 1837 with a performance of The Merchant of Venice. The new building was a suitably imposing neoclassical structure designed by local architects John and Benjamin Green.

One of the first managers of the new Theatre Royal here was Thomas Ternan who employed his wife, Frances Ternan as leading actress. Frances was the mother of Nellie Ternan, Charles Dickens’ mistress. (In the Ralph Fiennes 2013 film The Invisible Woman mother and daughter were played by Kirstin Scott Thomas and Felicity Jones.)

The theatre prospered in a wealthy city that also supported its own opera house down by the River Tyne. The (almost inevitable) fire occurred in 1899 following a performance of Macbeth. Before the twentieth century most theatres burned down from time to time. At this point the great Frank Matcham, who designed London’s Coliseum, was brought in to totally redesign the interior and the theatre re-opened in 1901.  Today however the building’s exterior looks exactly as it did in 1837. A major refurbishment in the 1980s did away with much of Matcham’s work and unveiled its new interior on 11 January 1988 with a performance of A Man for All Seasons starring Charlton Heston.  In 2011 the auditorium was again reworked, this time to return it something closer to Frank Matcham’s original with lots of gold leaf, elaborate plasterwork and even Edwardian-style seating. 

Today most of the shows at the Theatre Royal are part of national tours, up to 35 a year. Scottish Opera and Opera North have been regular visitors over the years but the locally-produced pantomime is one of the UK's most popular. This summer the Theatre Royal reopens post-pandemic with a production of The Addams Family in July.

Where to Stay

Hotel du Vin - Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne

Newcastle’s Hotel du Vin is housed in the former Tyne Tees Steam Shipping Company. It’s a big Edwardian brick structure with leather sofas, dark corners and lots of maritime touches, from ship ropes in the courtyard to porthole windows in some of the bedrooms. Food is served in the French-style Bistro du Vin  with its big glass windows, exposed brickwork, dark reclaimed floorboards and original artwork. The hotel’s location is in Ouseburn, a post-industrial area of the city that is a one mile walk away from the Theatre Royal in Grey Street. Take the slightly longer walk along the Tyne Quayside and you’ll get some great views of the Sage Gateshead arts venue and the three dramatic bridges across the Tyne. 

Theatre: The Hackney Empire, London

The Hackney Empire is an East End institution. It was built in 1901, not as a theatre but as a musical hall. The architect was – once again – the remarkable Frank Matcham. The purpose of this development was to bring the best of popular entertainment to the people of Hackney. According to Empire legend, Charlie Chaplin, W. C. Fields, Stanley Holloway, Stan Laurel, Marie Lloyd, and Julie Andrews all performed here in the early part of their careers. If you could make it at the Hackney Empire, you could make it anywhere. 

In the 1950s, with the decline of live performance across Britain, the television company ATV bought the Empire to use as studios.  The quiz show Take Your Pick with Michael Miles was broadcast live from the Hackney Empire, as were some episodes of Opportunity Knocks with Hughie Green in the 1960s. Sadly from 1963 to 1984 the once-mighty music hall was reduced to a bingo hall.

In 1986 the Hackney Empire was scheduled for demolition when actor-manager Roland Muldoon mounted a campaign to acquire the freehold and to re-open the Hackney Empire as a permanent live performance space. He was successful, and many stand-up comedians at the venue since have delighted audiences, including Jo Brand, Russell Brand, John Cleese, Ben Elton, Harry Enfield, Dawn French, Jeremy Hardy, Lenny Henry, Paul Merton, Jennifer Saunders, Arthur Smith, and Mark Steel. The Empire also mounted some theatrical performances, including a memorable Hamlet with Ralph Fiennes opposite his then-partner, Francesca Annis as Gertrude in 1995. 

This July the Hackney reopens with Comedy Explosion, headlined by the King of Caribbean comedy Majah Hype, alongside White Yardie. Clairvoyant medium and psychic Clinton Baptiste returns for Viva Las Vegas…Viva Clinton! And then from 20 November until 2nd January 2022 Hackney Empire mounts its new Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime with Olivier Award-winning Clive Rowe as Dame Daisy Trott. 

Where to Stay

Old Ship Inn, London

The Old Ship predates the Hackney Empire by more than half of the nineteenth century. This pub with rooms has a genuine East End feel to it. Standing only two doors down from the Hackney Empire, the inn is accessed down an old tiled passageway that's been decorated with cheery murals, making it less daunting on a dark evening. Inside the welcome is warm and the pub food is excellent. 

Bedrooms are up a steep staircase and on either side of a winding corridor. The upstairs layout probably hasn't changed since the 1800s. Bedrooms are compact and mostly understated (apart from the one with an entire wall given over to a black and white photo of a donkey being given a pint of beer to sup - well, why not?). Breakfast in the open-plan bar is hearty amid cheerfully distressed décor. Guests sit on old school chairs marvelling at the list of beers etched in white chalk on the walls. It’s a perfect place to recover from the raucous night before.

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

The Theatre Royal in Glasgow is not just the oldest theatre in that city but the longest-running theatre in all of Scotland. It opened in 1867 as the Royal Colosseum & Opera House. In its second year of operation 1868, 76 performances of 23 different operas were given in the Royal Colosseum. Nevertheless in 1869 it changed its name to the less exclusive, more general Theatre Royal. 

Scottish Opera purchased the Theatre Royal in 1974, and inaugurated their new home in 1975 with Strauss’ Die Fledermaus. This large building on Hope Street has also become the home of Scottish Ballet, which means that most productions by both companies premiere in the 1500-seat theatre before going on tour. In 2005 Scottish Opera leased the management of the theatre to the Ambassador Group, which means that when the opera and the ballet are not performing, other shows are performed here.

In 2014 a new foyer was added to the theatre on the junction of Hope Street and Cowcaddens Road. It looks like a great lantern of glass and metal with a wonderfully free-flowing geometric staircase rising to all levels. The new foyer has been accurately described “as if a little bit of the splendid [theatre] interior has escaped and flourished on the street edge.” 

This autumn Theatre Royal Glasgow reopens in September with Geordie comedy Sh*gged. Married. Annoyed. starring Chris and Rosie Ramsey, followed by Les Miserables in November 2021. Scottish Ballet returns to the Theatre Royal with Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker in January 2022 and Scottish Opera is scheduled to return to performances in its own home around the same time. 

Where to Stay

Hotel du Vin & Bistro at One Devonshire Gardens, Glasgow

Glasgow’s Hotel du Vin is in Devonshire Gardens an 1870s development which lies off the Great Western Road that leads from Cowcaddens out to Kelvindale and past the lovely Kelvingrove Art Gallery. In 1986 Ken McCulloch, founder of the Malmaison chain reworked No1 Devonshire Gardens and opened it as a hotel. In 2006 all five townhouses were acquired by the Hotel du Vin chain which now offer 49 bedrooms skilfully linked together. Breakfast and dinner are served  in No 1 Devonshire Gardens which is a more formal dining space than many Hotels du Vin with its chandeliers, oak-panelling and fulsome drapes.

This website uses cookies. Click here to read our Privacy Policy.
If that’s okay with you, just keep browsing. CLOSE