The Halyard, Liverpool – Hotel Review

The Halyard, Liverpool – Hotel Review (5)

By Clare Jenkins, June 2024

We weren’t altogether prepared for Liverpool on a Friday night. Not prepared for quite so many skimpy dresses, plunging necklines, killer nails, caterpillar eyebrows, tarantula eyelashes, Love Island tans and tattoos, the odd plastic inflatable male dummy – and the occasional plastic phallus waved around at passing strangers.

One vignette: three security guards were standing outside a throbbing night club. “You must see some sights,” said my husband.

The guards agreed, with one telling us about the riotous hen parties and the underage drinkers, drug- and risk-takers. “Where’s the parental responsibility?” he asked.

Did he have any children himself? “Yes,” he said. “Eleven…”

Turned out the youngest was seven months, the oldest 23. “I just hope my daughters aren’t behaving like this,” he said, shaking his head.

Another Vignette was the hotel where we were staying: The Halyard at Ropewalks, the first in the IHG hotel group’s Vignette Collection to open in the UK. Next door to the IHG Holiday Inn Express in Duke Street, the 133-room hotel is a short taxi ride from Lime Street Station and very much in the centre of things.

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“Arty types”

From our 4th-floor room (there are seven in all, with a Fitness Suite on the top floor), we could see – but not hear – the nightlife revels of Bold Street, as well as Radio City Tower, the Metropolitan Roman Catholic Cathedral and the bohemianised former rope-making warehouses, now home to arty types (hence all the colourful street art) and their indie cafes and bars.

The hotel is also within walking distance of the Anglican Cathedral, Hope Street and its elegant Georgian Quarter, the Quirky Quarter, Chinese Quarter complete with ceremonial dragon arch, the Liverpool One retail quarter (how many quarters can one city have?) and the Royal Albert Dock.

A helpful concierge took our luggage up to our room, with its clean lines, nautical blue décor, first-rate bathroom and Rear Window-type view. It was tempting to just stay put and relax, but happiness awaited us at the Museum of Liverpool. So we picked up our tickling sticks and headed for Happiness! – an exhibition devoted to one of Liverpool’s favourite sons, comedian Ken Dodd.
Born in 1927, Dodd – who died in 2018 – was renowned as much for his energy as for his humour. His Laughter show, for instance, covered 100 venues in a year, three to four nights a week, 100,000 miles per year. And he notoriously never finished on time – one of his jokes was that his audiences always went home in daylight.

Other jokes are scattered around the exhibition, along with visual gags: his bright red Hurry Furry Moggy Coat and Union Jack hat, the Diddymen dolls, the Dicky Mint ventriloquist’s dummy, the pig’s bladder props…

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There are also letters to members of his ‘Ken Dodd Fun Club’, records and reel-to-reel recordings, old programmes and souvenirs, and his obsessively detailed, occasionally illustrated, notebooks. He wanted them destroyed after his death, but his wife Anne – a former Bluebell dancer turned BEA air stewardess – finally decided to retain them for posterity.

Video tributes show ordinary Scousers, plus Paul O’Grady, talking about his energy, appeal, kindness and charitable work. Unlike other Liverpudlians, as one contributor says, Ken Dodd stayed in the city, in his old Knotty Ash family home.

You can see why he never left. There is, after all, not just the famous Scouser wit (“Every other Liverpudlian feels the need to be funny”, as one taxi driver told us), there’s also the almost psychedelic kaleidoscope of images from any weekend spent there. No wonder it’s recently been named by Which? magazine as the place for the UK’s best large city break.

But first, dinner in the Voyagers restaurant, with its smart, neutral colours and locally-inspired artwork, including geometric Meccano designs – the model construction sets were made in Liverpool.

The wide range of dishes on the menu included octopus, crab cakes, tiger prawns, sticky glazed short rib, smoked duck croquettes and Nduja Scotch egg. Being vegetarian, we shared rosemary focaccia and Gordal olives, followed by roasted beetroot and Granny Smith salad, pan fried gnocchi, and caramelised cauliflower croquettes. All carefully prepared and wonderfully tasty.

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“Seafaring heritage”

Our waitress, Molly, was, it turned out, a part-time model who’d spent two years working as a PA in Dubai. And she’s still only 23.

“I love Liverpool,” she said, “but I want to see the world.”

Liverpudlians have always wanted to see the world – and brought the world back. As a major port, with the Cammell Laird shipyard just across the Mersey at Birkenhead, the city has seen people coming and going for centuries.

It celebrates this seafaring heritage, with all its positives and negatives, in the absorbing Maritime Museum at Albert Dock. The museum’s three floors are dedicated to different parts of the city’s history: slavery, the Titanic (40pc of the doomed ship’s crew were Liverpudlians), and its general connection with the sea. The slavery section is as sobering as you might expect, with descriptions of the conditions under which slaves were bought, sold, transported and treated, with displays of leg irons, iron collars and contraptions to keep slaves’ mouths closed, and accounts of life as a slave, together with the fight to abolish the practice.

The city’s role as ‘gateway to the British Empire and doorway to the New World’ is explained both here and on one of the regular river cruises. At the Pier Head, we boarded the River Explorer Cruise whose on-board commentary points out that Liverpool has the oldest black and Chinese communities in Britain, and that the distinctive Scouse accent is a legacy of the generations of Irish who either settled here or passed through en route to America.

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The ferry passes Cammell Laird (where 1,300 ships were built) and, of course, the Chicago-style triumvirate of majestic buildings: the Royal Liver (with its soaring eagle-cum-cormorant statues), the Cunard (once home to George Cunard’s White Star Line, owners of the Titanic) and the Port of Liverpool.

Once off the ferry, it was straight onto the hop-on, hop-off sightseeing bus. From the top deck, we had Liver Birds’ views of all the main sights: the Cavern district, the magnificent Central Library and Walker Art Gallery, the Empire and Everyman Theatres and St George’s Hall – which Queen Victoria thought “worthy of Ancient Athens”.

En route, three baseball-cap-wearing American cruise ship passengers got on, sat behind us and started comparing notes on sinus infections, second homes – “Mine’s on Jupiter Island. Where’s yours?” – and super-rich holidays.

“Have you done a Caribbean cruise?”
“About 30. This is my first non-Caribbean cruise…”
“Have you ever done the Panama Canal?”
“Plenty of times. I know the cruise game. I have tons of money. I don’t bother about a nickle or a dime…”

As they compared investments, the bus drove us past Lime Street station – the oldest railway in the world, dating from 1836 – through the university area and along the handsome town houses in Hope Street. At either end stand the cathedrals: George Gilbert Scott’s forbiddingly huge Anglican one (the UK’s largest), and Edwin Lutyens’s rocket-launch-style Catholic one.

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“Immerse yourself”

It’s worth climbing the latter’s 55 steps to see its stunning interior: circular, with blue and green stained-glass panels, a multi-coloured stained-glass dome and intimate side chapels, including one where a candle burns constantly ‘in memory of all babies who have no other resting place’, another devoted to Reconciliation.

Having clocked the Adelphi hotel – where Hollywood actor Roy Rogers rode his horse Trigger up the sweeping staircase – the gorgeous Grade 1 listed Philharmonic Dining Room and the Jacob Epstein Resurgent sculpture of a naked man, we landed back at the Albert Dock.

Here, in the Beatles Story Museum, you can immerse yourself in the journey of the group whose eight years together resulted in 22 singles, 10 albums, 200 songs, four films – and more No 1 hit songs (66 in total) than any other band in the world.

Exhibits include George’s first guitar, John’s orange spectacles, a 1962 signed copy of Love Me Do, Beatlemania tights with the Fab Four’s faces on, and ‘flame retardant Beatles masks – with authentic hair and Beatles hair pomade’.

There’s a detailed analysis of Peter Blake’s iconic Sergeant Pepper album cover, including the band’s faux-regimental suits. Plus a Magical Mystery Tour bus, a section devoted to their Indian hippie period and a homage to John and Yoko’s White Room.

The Halyard, Liverpool – Hotel Review plaque


That evening, we ate at The Real Greek in Liverpool One, a bustling, spacious restaurant with shelves of Mediterranean artefacts, chalk boards covered in Greek script, fake olive trees and blue and white striped booths.

As we ate our hummus, flatbread, felafel and filo pastry feta parcels, we watched a parade of young would-be WAGS pass by outside in undersized dresses, flipflops or skyscraper heels, and pink feathery cowboy hats. One Emma Vardy lookalike preferred the figure-hugging, not-quite-thigh-length knitted romper jumpsuit look.

As my late mother-in-law, Sheffield-born and bred, used to say, “Ee, the sights you see when you’ve not got your gun.”

The Halyard hotel, 123 Duke Street, Liverpool L1 4JR; tel: 0151- 294 6622. Double rooms B&B from £149 per night. vignettecollection/hotels/gb/en/liverpool/
Liverpool City Sights for sight-seeing bus tours, including the City and Beatles Tour:
The Beatles Story, Britannia Vaults, The Royal Albert Dock, L3 4AD:
Happiness! is at the Museum of Liverpool, Pier Head, L3 1DG until 7th July:
images: Adam Firman


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