Stunning Heritage Meets Modern Luxury
Benefitting from the bold decision to commit to a multi-million pound refurbishment in lockdown means couples are discovering many delights to say “I do” to at the sumptuous Mercure Blackburn Dunkenhalgh Hotel & Spa. Kate Bowyer has coffee, cake and conversation with events manager Karen Gettins
The lifting of all social distancing restrictions on weddings and civil partnerships in England this summer was surely greeted with a shower of confetti and popping of champagne corks across the country. However, it has left many couples with vows but no venue.
With lockdown’s financial turmoil forcing some venues to close, and a large rescheduling backlog seeing some smaller ones booked up until 2023, the renaissance of heritage wedding venue Mercure Blackburn Dunkenhalgh Hotel & Spa is putting the icing back on the cake for many.
“Lockdown was not great timing,” reflects Karen. “In the middle of a major refurbishment, everything just stopped. We were worried, not just for the future of the hotel, but our couples, guests, staff, suppliers and building contractors.
“Call it a leap of faith, but we were determined to continue, whenever that might be. This hotel is blessed with unique heritage, history and support, and we were so close to realising our vision of its incredible future. By investing, it felt like we were making a positive commitment to all the people who find it such a special place to visit, stay at, and mark their significant life occasions with us.”
It’s easy to see why, set in 17 acres of idyllic Lancashire parkland at the end of a tree-lined driveway, the magnificent 12th-century manor house, bedecked with fairy-tale turrets and porticos, makes a spectacular first impression. The authentic manorial courtyard, sweeping lawns and secluded garden, together with stately fountain, provides the perfect catch-your-breath backdrop for guest arrivals, bridal processions, ceremonies and photographs.
Inside is equally impressive, with high ceilings, stylish furnishings and historic features abounding. Mullioned windows frame charming views over the grounds and surrounding countryside from every aspect. And then there’s the incredible 18th century staircase.
As Karen says: “It really takes your breath away, people describe it as something out of a film set or Camelot! Its oak balustrades sweep the triple-height hall on both sides, before meeting in the middle. It’s the perfect backdrop for photographs, and when a bride steps down it, she really feels like a princess.
“As soon as restrictions allowed, the refit was back on, with no compromise on time or quality. We themed the fresh, distinctive décor to complement the grandeur of the historic building. By retaining and highlighting the stunning original features while subtly incorporating the best of 21st-century comfort and convenience, we feel we’ve lifted it to the heights that our local community and guests deserve.”
And Karen and the team’s hard work and immaculate attention to detail has certainly paid off. Investing £4.5 million in the extensive refurbishment, every single room, from bedroom to bar and restaurant to reception is stunningly finished and furnished to match. In perfect time for the full lifting of restrictions, the Mercure’s extensive facilities enable Karen and her team to offer wedding and celebration packages to suit every scale and sensibility.
“This has been the most exciting thing,” adds Karen. “Seeing people say ‘yes, that’s perfect!’ when we help them realise what they’ve been dreaming about, especially those who’ve had to wait. With restrictions lifted, some couples are desperate to gather everyone they love together and yes, really let their hair down!
“They adore the largest of the hotel’s distinguished banqueting suites, the Pendle, which can accommodate over 300 people! Of true ballroom dimensions, it boasts a huge dance floor and stage, setting the scene for a party to remember.
“Couples who, understandably, feel more comfortable with a smaller, intimate celebration fall in love with our Towneley Suite. Windows on three sides flood it with natural light, and its private bar leads onto lawns that are perfect for reception drinks and photographs. The silver lining from Covid means we have focussed on the small details – we’ve hosted weddings for under fifteen guests, and they have been some of the most memorable and moving I’ve been involved in.”
Whatever couples choose for their wedding, civil partnership, or renewal of vows, Karen and her team seamlessly achieve the perfect balance of making everyone feel relaxed and secure without imposing restrictions. And because the hotel boasts every amenity, including top chefs and 175 bedrooms, everything – from the bride’s entrance to the elegant breakfast, and throwing the bouquet to heading for bed – is joyously under one roof.
And if guests feel the need to work off that some of that amazing cuisine – or just indulge in a little post-celebration pampering – the hotel spa offers a full range of professional Décleor treatments, an impressive heated indoor pool and modern fitness centre. I suspect the only hard part will be having to leave.
Mercure Blackburn Dunkenhalgh Hotel & Spa
Blackburn Road, Clayton-le-Moors
Blackburn BB5 5JP