Unveiling the heart of Manchester: A stay at Kimpton Clocktower Hotel

Drew Wilby

Manchester is a place where history, culture, and the vibrant LGBTQ+ community come together to create an unforgettable experience, especially during the Pride weekend festival. And staying at the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel during the event truly is a gem in the heart of this spirited city. I was invited to check out the hotel as part of Booking.com’s Travel Proud initiative, which spotlights holiday destinations going the extra mile for LGBTQ+ travellers.

The heart of the Booking.com initiative lies in the provision of free, inclusive hospitality training for accommodations taking part. This training aims to equip properties with the tools and knowledge to understand the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ travellers around the world, and create a welcoming environment for everyone, regardless of their background, who they love, or how they identify. That’s the sales pitch, but how does it work in practice? I took on the challenge of checking out this local hotel to find out.

A Grand Welcome

Manchester is a city that thrives on its diversity and celebrates individuality. It’s a city with its own architectural style and sense of civic culture. It’s also very proud of it’s booming LGBTQ+ scene. So what better place to call home during a stay in the city than Kimpton Clocktower Hotel, within view of the Village, and where the LGBTQ+ flag is flown proudly all year round?

Nestled in the heart of the city, it’s not just a hotel; it’s a historic landmark that embodies Manchester’s rich heritage. Entering the lobby, the grandeur of this century-old building really does shine. The lobby exudes timeless elegance, with its towering columns, domed glass ceiling, and a warm colour palette that invites you to relax and unwind.

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Thankfully, the staff are trained to complement that ambience from the moment you arrive. The staff at the front desk welcomed me with genuine smiles, setting the tone for my stay, and this sense of welcome infused my whole trip.

A Historical Marvel

Originally known as the Refuge Assurance Building, the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel is a masterpiece of Victorian architecture. Its iconic red-brick façade and impressive clock tower have graced Manchester’s skyline since its completion in 1895. Designed by the renowned architect Alfred Waterhouse, the building is a testament to the city’s rich history. The hotel seamlessly blends the grandeur of the past with modern comforts, creating an atmosphere of timeless luxury. It’s also a symbol of what Manchester does best – mixing the contemporary and the historic, the industrial and the elegant, the stylish and the functional.

Inclusivity at Its Best

Kimpton Clocktower Hotel’s participation in Booking.com’s Travel Proud program has really paid off. The entire experience exemplifies inclusivity. The staff here understands that each guest is unique, and they go the extra mile to ensure everyone feels welcome, adding a personal touch to your stay.

From LGBTQ+ travellers to those simply seeking an unforgettable experience, this is a safe haven for all. The staff’s genuine care and commitment to inclusivity made the stay all the more special.

Exploring Manchester’s LGBTQ+ Scene

Manchester’s LGBTQ+ scene is legendary, and Kimpton Clocktower Hotel serves as an ideal base for exploring it all. The hotel’s central location means you’re just a stone’s throw away from the city’s vibrant LGBTQ+ bars, clubs, and cultural hotspots.

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A short walk from the hotel takes you to Canal Street, the epicentre of Manchester’s LGBTQ+ nightlife. This pedestrianised street comes alive in the evenings, with rainbow flags adorning the bars and clubs. It’s the perfect place to mingle with both locals and fellow travellers, celebrating love and diversity under the city’s glittering lights.

The Refuge Bar & Restaurant

Originally the public dining room for the Refuge Assurance Company, this space has been lovingly restored and is now known as The Refuge.

The hotel’s bar and restaurant is open to all, with a separate entrance on the corner of the building. In true Mancunian style, it offers a blend of British and international flavours. Dining here is truly an experience.

The space is adorned with original period features, such as the glazed brick and the marble floor. The ambiance, with its botanical touches and heritage charm, is both elegant and relaxed. The menu is quite impressive, too, and serves a broad range of palates.

A Hidden Gem

Adding to the wow factor of the building, you’ll find a splendid rooftop garden nestled on the third floor – hidden away from the masses. There are no signs to find this little treasure, but when you do, it brings a magical feel to the entire place.

Especially at night, with the fairy lights on and the glow from the clock tower right above you, this special little garden feels like your own slice of paradise in the city.

Parting Thoughts

The progress made in the travel industry nowadays is amazing for the LGBTQ+ community. Booking.com’s Travel Proud initiative, along with the welcoming properties like Kimpton Clocktower Hotel that are taking part, reminds us that travel should be a safe haven for everyone to explore the world. Manchester, with its LGBTQ+ heart, stands as a shining example of how love, diversity, and inclusivity can truly make a city come alive. It seems right that the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel is taking part, getting to showcase its well earned credentials as well as creating a safe but stylish refuge for LGBTQ+ travellers.

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My Manchester staycation was an experience that will be cherished for a long time. Manchester’s LGBTQ+ scene is vibrant, its history is rich, and its people are always friendly. Together, these elements create a tapestry of diversity and acceptance that leaves a lasting impression on all who visit. This initiative seems like a match made in heaven!

More information

For more information, visit the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel website or call the bookings and enquiry line.

Kimpton Clocktower Hotel, Oxford Street, Manchester M60 7HA UK / 0161 288 1111 / kimptonclocktowerhotel.com

The Travel Proud Initiative

Booking.com launched its Travel Proud initiative with the aim of fostering inclusivity within the travel industry. As Arjan Dijk, CMO and Senior Vice President at Booking.com, puts it, ‘In a world of increasing contradictions and instability, it’s no surprise that the LGBTQ+ travelers of today are simultaneously more cautious and more confident.’

Arjan continues, ‘The travel industry should strive to be a beacon of inclusion, helping foster an environment where everyone can flourish and thrive, whether exploring closer to home or traveling to the other side of the world. There are now more than 24,000 certified properties globally on Booking.com, with welcoming Travel Proud stays available in 118 countries and territories and over 7,030 cities.’

In the wake of this powerful initiative, Kimpton Clocktower Hotel in Manchester stands as a testament to what a truly inclusive hospitality experience can be.

About Drew Wilby

Drew Wilby is a photographer and graphic designer living in Manchester.