Elegant outside and inside the Hotel Halvard on Loch Promenade in Douglas is the ideal place to stay when visiting both Douglas and the Isle of Man.
The Isle of Man is the ideal destination for the discerning traveller looking for somewhere different. Cultural quirks, steam, electric and horse-drawn transport as well as an excellent local bus service facilitate exploration of coast, country and town as well as providing exciting experiences. But where to stay while enjoying this extraordinary place. My favourite place is the Hotel Halvard ideally located on the Loch Promenade. It is within walking distance of all the transport hubs and local attractions and offers that touch of luxury that makes a holiday special.
First Impressions of the Hotel Halvard
On arrival at the Halvard Hotel I was greeted by David the Front of House Manager who made me feel very welcome. I sipped a welcome cup of tea in the comfortable lounge as he completed the formalities and then showed me to my room. The whole building was restored and refurbished before the hotel opened in 2018 and retains the grandeur of its Victorian origins while offering the comforts of the twenty-first century. I immediately felt at home.
Some History of the Hotel Halvard
Loch Promenade is a section of the long promenade that snakes along the sea front of Douglas, the capital of the Isle of Man. This promenade was built on reclaimed land. Sand Street, that runs parallel to the promenade was originally the first road on this section of the coast. Today it is the main shopping street featuring many well-known chains including Marks and Spencer and Boots as well as independent outlets. Loch Promenade was built during the Victorian era when sea bathing was very popular and the Isle of Man was very popular as a holiday destination with visitors arriving on the Packet Steamers. The building that houses the Hotel Halvard was one of an extensive terrace of Victorian hotels built in 1876 to accommodate holidaymakers on the island. The hotel, then known as the Gresham was established in one of these buildings in the 1890’s.
The Gresham had 47 guest rooms and very popular with tourists until the trade dwindled during the 1980’s due to the increasing popularity of budget airlines that took holiday makers to sunnier climates. Unable to adapt to the changing situation the owners of the Gresham Hotel simply stopped maintaining all but two of the floors in the building. The present owner, Karel Ver Elst bought the building and appointed Nigel Chaplin to re-design the whole hotel in the style of a modern boutique hotel. The number of bedrooms was reduced from 47 rooms to 20 large bedrooms. A new traveller experience deserved a new name and it became the Hotel Halvard.
The Bedrooms at Hotel Halvard
Each bedroom is delightfully different with modern furnishings and every amenity a guest might need for their stay from lovely toiletries to a fridge containing complimentary teas and coffee. I enjoyed the subtle coloured lighting in both the bedroom and bathroom fell in love with the curvy couch by the window. It became my favourite place to relax and watch the waves crashing on the beach across the road.
Hotel Halvard Restaurant
Breakfast is an event in the Hotel Halvard Restaurant. Choice of cereals, fresh fruit, seeds and nuts on a buffet followed by choice of a hot breakfast from the menu. Any combination catered for. The Belgium waffle with fresh berries, ice-cream and maple syrup is a special treat.
International dishes also feature on the dinner menu. We dined in the hotel restaurant twice during our stay and it would have been more often had we realised how good the food is. For my first dinner I enjoyed the best lamb shank I have ever eaten – the meat literally fell off the bone and it was beautifully presented. The next evening I had the delicious Belgian beef stew also amazing followed by the unusual deep fried ice-cream dessert. This restaurant does offer a memorable dining experience thanks to highly trained chefs Michael and Sarah and their clever use of fresh local Manx produce.
Facilities at Hotel Halvard
Hotel Halvard was quick to react to the situation created by the coronavirus pandemic that started in 2020. Aware that the spa could remain closed for a long time due to restrictions the steam room and Jacuzzi on the lower ground floor were demolished and replaced by a private dining room accommodating around 30 guests for functions. It also provides additional dining space due to the ned for social distancing. This facility is also available for use as a private dining room by celebrity guests performing at the Villa-Gaiety complex very close to the hotel. The restored Victorian Gaiety Theatre and the Villa Marina that form this complex offer a full entertainment programme and the buildings themselves merit a visit.
A new business centre will occupy the rest of the lower ground floor where guests can use a private cubicle with a desk, a computer and a printer (complimentary) if they need to work. Public parking is available outside the hotel and all along the promenade.
Location and Local Attractions Around Hotel Halvard
Hotel Halvard is located right on the extensive sea front of Douglas town and offers good walks in both directions. It is a brisk ten-minute walk from the ferry and bus terminals. An excellent local bus service covers most of the island. During the summer steam trains, an electric railway (trams) and horse drawn trams along the sea front offer more exciting forms of transport to explore the island. Each town on the island has a different character – a castle in Castletown (of course) the House of Manannan in Peel and the world famous Great Wheel in Laxey.
Main shopping street is behind the hotel – just a few minutes’ walk from the excellent Manx Museum (free entry) where visitors can while away a few hours learning about the history, culture and traditions of the Isle of Man.
Luxury and location are two of the hallmarks of the Hotel Halvard as well as its friendly efficient service. The Hotel Halvard truly reflects the philosophy of its current owner, Karel Ver Elst “Our emphasis at Hotel Halvard is to constantly strive towards setting the highest standards in customer service possible. Doing so is a never ending learning curve.”
Valery Collins is the Experienced Traveller An excellent raconteur, Valery has been writing about her experiences on the road since she started travelling 25 years ago. After publishing 4 books she turned to online travel writing and photography. Today she is editor, features’ writer and reviewer for ExperiencedTraveller.com and regularly contributes guided city walks to GPSmyCity.com