When restaurateur Paul Adams opened the £14m Vincent hotel in Southport earlier this summer, he gave the Merseyside resort a chic, luxury hotel which would draw young, moneyed visitors to the area, as well as being a venue for the locals to be proud of.
He knew the demand was there for smarter, much more modern accommodation than all the old-fashioned seaside hotels which typify Southport. After all, it was through conversations with American golfers dining at his Southport restaurant, the Warehouse Brasserie, that he made up his mind about opening the Vincent.
"They were always complaining about there not being a decent hotel in Southport, so I thought, 'Why not?'" says Adams. "I've always wanted to be in the hotel industry, and I knew this town pretty well and thought it needed something more stylish than what was already here."
So the Vincent has 60 stylish bedrooms with all the modern comforts you could hope for, including emperor-size beds with Frette linen, mini coffee machines and flat-screen TVs. Facilities include a small spa, a swanky guests-and-members-only bar, and a brasserie with an all-day dining menu inspired by The Wolseley in London's Piccadilly. It's no surprise that, even before it opened, the Vincent was accepted as a member of the Design Hotels collection, nor that it was fully booked for the British Open Golf Championship at nearby Royal Birkdale in July.
While Adams has performed a first for Southport, he's certainly far from being the only person in this corner of England to spot a gap in the market for more cool and contemporary accommodation. The North-west has been going through a renaissance lately, with plush new hotels and B&Bs opening in Liverpool, Manchester, Morecambe, Blackpool and Cumbria in the last 12 months – and more on the way.
In February, the doors opened to the hotly anticipated Hard Days Night Hotel, coinciding rather neatly with the start of Liverpool's co-tenure (with Stavanger in Norway) as European Capital of Culture 2008. Located next to the Cavern Club (a recreation of the venue where The Beatles played in their formative years), and with interiors by the same team behind the Vincent, the hotel has a Beatles theme, but thankfully not in a tacky way.
Don't expect any giant yellow submarines or waxwork figures of the Fab Four in reception; instead the ethos is more understated, with black-and-white photos lining the wide central staircase, original artwork of The Beatles in each of the 110 bedrooms, and sculptures and memorabilia creating points of interest throughout the hotel.
Also in Liverpool, the 48-bedroom Hope Street Hotel, which opened in a former carriage works in 2004 and is a member of Design Hotels, is expanding into an old police station next door. The development will create 40 new bedrooms, a gym and treatment rooms, and is due to open in early 2009.
Over in Manchester, one of the city's most popular Chinatown restaurants has just gained a luxury hotel with a subtle Oriental theme. Brothers Gerry and Harry Yeung have opened the Yang Sing Oriental Hotel in a grade II listed former cotton warehouse next door to their long-established Yang Sing Cantonese restaurant. The hotel has 48 rooms, including duplex suites with panoramic views, decked out with a mixture of modern and classic Chinese furniture. Meals are served in the existing Yang Sing restaurant, but the hotel has its own champagne bar, a guests-only lounge serving complimentary drinks, and a small spa complete with steam room, treatment rooms, and two "fitness pods" which can be booked by the hour for a private workout.
The Yang Sing Oriental follows hot on the heels of the city's other big opening of 2008 – the £2.5m transformation of the Alias Hotel Rossetti into ABode Manchester.
Occupying a 19th-century former textile factory, the 61-bedroom hotel is now the fourth in the ABode collection, which was set up by greetings card tycoon Andrew Brownsword and Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines. Many of the building's original features, such as the walnut main staircase and the parquet floors in the bedrooms, have been restored, which lends character to the otherwise utterly contemporary decor. Check into one of the five magnificent loft-style apartments on the top floor and imagine yourself in New York, or go continental by grabbing a street-side table at the all-day-dining MC Café Bar, which complements the modern European Michael Caines Restaurant.
Almost as talked about as The Hard Day's Night was the reopening in June of the iconic Midland Hotel in Morecambe. An outstanding example of Art Deco architecture, the once-glorious Midland stood derelict on Morecambe's seafront for a decade before it was brought back to life in a £10m project. Now its original features, such as the sea-facing Rotunda Bar, have been restored, while the 44 rooms have a minimalist style influenced by 1930s design.
If you're impressed by the uninterrupted view across Morecambe Bay from the Midland, just wait until you experience the vista from Number 43 on the Cumbria-Lancashire border. This five-star "boutique guesthouse" sits on the estuary of the River Kent and is a renovated Victorian townhouse offering stylish, comfortable accommodation (all five bedrooms have Bose music systems, flatscreen TVs, king-sized beds and bathrooms with under-floor heating) enhanced by a breathtaking panorama, best enjoyed from the terraced garden, across the Kent Estuary towards the Lakeland Fells.
If the Cumbrian coast is a little too quiet for you, Blackpool is also on the up, with two five-star B&Bs in the town, both run by Mark and Claire Smith. First, with three luxurious bedrooms, came Number One St Lukes, which was named Britain's Best B&B 2007 by VisitBritain, and then last September the couple opened 15-room Number One South Beach.
At Number One South Beach several bedrooms have balconies from which to enjoy the views of the new South Beach Promenade and Solaris Gardens, or of Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Each room has a different design based around funky patterned fabrics and modern furniture, and all have king-sized beds, 42-inch plasma-screen TVs, whirlpool baths and power showers.
As Claire Smith put it: "Number One South Beach is a reflection of the new Blackpool. We've had the declining years and the talking years, and now we're on the action years and we can see what can be achieved with the new South Beach Promenade and the Solaris Gardens. There's an awful lot of good stuff happening."