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Review: the new Kimpton Clocktower Manchester hotel

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This is our review of Principal Manchester, now rebranded as the Kimpton Clocktower Manchester hotel.

One of the joys of parenthood is, of course, having to attend concerts with your tweenager.  And so I found myself in Manchester last Saturday to watch ‘The Next Step’ (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t feel the need to look it up) at the O2.  Needing somewhere to stay, I thought I’d try the Principal.

When IHG bought the Principal hotel chain, it outlined plans to rebrand each hotel.  London has already become Kimpton Fitzroy (see this article) which may be the best IHG hotel in the city.  Cardiff has become voco St David’s, revewed here.  Edinburgh has gained an InterContinental and a Kimpton, Glasgow has gained a Kimpton.  Oxford has gained two voco’s eg this one.

Kimpton Clocktower Manchester hotel review

Principal Manchester was meant to switch to Kimpton in September 2019 and this is what I was expecting when I booked.  This is not the case.  It is still running as a Principal although, to be fair, the hotel FEELS like a Kimpton.  When the deal was announced I thought Manchester deserved at InterContinental – I still do – but now I’ve been here I agree that this is not the right property.

It is not a full review because we didn’t spend much time there.  However, I was impressed by much of what I found and I recommend it.

The hotel website is here if you want to find out more.

Where is Principal Manchester / Kimpton Clocktower?

Principal Manchester / Kimpton Clocktower, opposite Oxford Road station and the Palace Theatre, is a conversion of the Refuge Assurance building.  If you can picture an ornate Victorian office block, built to persuade people of your financial strength and stability, you will get the idea.  

This is the hugely impressive lobby:

Kimpton Clocktower Manchester hotel review

This is a PR picture which really shows the detail:

Kimpton Clocktower Manchester hotel review

I had booked a twin room and, due to my IHG Rewards Club Spire Elite status, was upgraded to a ‘double double’.  I was also offered some bonus points or a free drink – with two of us, the free drinks were easily the best deal (especially as I drank them both).  As often happens, the 500 bonus points posted anyway.

The room was a very good size:

Kimpton Clocktower Manchester hotel review

…. although the bathroom was not:

Kimpton Clocktower Manchester hotel review

…. and if you wanted to contact reception:

Kimpton Clocktower Manchester hotel review

There was a bit of a love / hate relationship with the room.  We loved:

  • the size
  • the artwork
  • the furnishings and the quality of bed and bedding
  • the fact it had a desk
  • the mini bottle of real milk in the fridge
  • the free popcorn, crisps and Green & Blacks chocolate in the ‘tuck box’
  • the many plug and USB sockets
  • the decent wif-fi
  • the room service meal we ordered, which came promptly and was decent quality (there is a £5 tray charge but the overall meal was fairly priced)

I didn’t like:

  • the lighting – there simply wasn’t enough of it (this is a hotel-wide issue)
  • the fact that the desk came with a stool, not a chair
  • the lack of a table – we had to eat our room service dinner on the sofa
  • the fact that the water took some time to run hot
  • the view, overlooking the internal atrium which was hosting a private Saturday night party and which created a lot of background noise – although not enough to stop us sleeping

There are some spectacular elements.  I couldn’t get a decent photo of the stained glass windows in the main staircase, but this picture shows some of the grandeur:

Kimpton Clocktower Manchester hotel review

The hotel bar is an exceptional achievement.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a bigger one.  It feels very Kimpton – classy but laid back, including a few table football tables.  This is the view from above:

Kimpton Clocktower Manchester hotel review


Kimpton Clocktower Manchester hotel review

Breakfast was in the dining room here:

Kimpton Clocktower Manchester hotel review


Kimpton Clocktower Manchester hotel review


Kimpton Clocktower Manchester hotel review

Breakfast was £16 per person.  The quality was very good – a noticeable step up from, say, the Hampton Exeter Airport where I also was last week, even though the actual products on offer were very similar.

There was a steep charge for ‘cooked to order’ items, on top of the £16 breakfast bill, which was a little galling.  I might have paid £5 extra for a cooked to order item but not the £10 that the hotel was asking.  The room was also – and this is a familiar theme – underlit.

I didn’t see the gym and there is no pool.  We didn’t eat in the main restaurant in the evening.

Conclusion – is Principal Manchester / Kimpton Clocktower worth a visit?

Even with the imminent defection of the new Crowne Plaza Oxford Road and Staybridge Suites Oxford Road to Hyatt (see our article here), you are not short of IHG options in Manchester.  In fact, there is a Holiday Inn Express almost directly opposite the Principal.  If you are only planning to be in the hotel for a short period of time then the HIX – which has free breakfast too – will do the job.

There is a definite ‘wow factor’ about the Principal, however, and if you’re looking to impress someone then it will definitely reach the parts that a Holiday Inn Express cannot!  (I suppose you could stay at the HIX and eat and drink in the Principal which would have much the same effect ….)

As an IHG Rewards Club redemption, Principal Manchester is 45,000 points per night.  This is fairly good given my standard value of 0.4p per IHG Rewards Club point and the typical £200+ room cost.  It is worth noting that, due to football matches, Manchester hotels are often more expensive – rather than cheaper – at weekends.

The Principal Manchester / now Kimpton Clocktower Manchester website is here.

IHG One Rewards update – June 2024:

Get bonus points: IHG One Rewards is not currently running a global promotion.

New to IHG One Rewards?  Read our overview of IHG One Rewards here and our article on points expiry rules here. Our article on ‘What are IHG One Rewards points worth?’ is here.

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Comments (31)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Rooster says:

    Sounds better than the Principal in Leeds which is pretty much a dump and the only place I’ve seen too mean to give you bottles of water and instead some tap water in glass jugs.

  • Lumma says:

    Re: the welcome points or drink. I recently stayed in the crowne plaza dead sea Jordan and got an email saying the welcome points had posted at about 10am on the day of arrival

    “I’ll take the free drink voucher please…..” Especially when it’s around £8 for a beer there

    • Rooster says:

      The other day I saw someone decide to take 500 points and then proceed to spend £5 on a drink that could have been free

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Expenses? Easy decision for some when they aren’t paying!

        • Rob says:

          That’s why Hilton offers 1000 points (£3) or £15-20 of free breakfast.

          Take the points, charge breakfast and earn another 200 points on the cost ….

          • TGLoyalty says:

            I know I said for some because I know there are people like me who would still take the drink or breakfast for free as I’m nice like that to my business plus the incentive is tiny.

            If it was 2500 points I’d probably bite

          • Lady London says:

            I would never do that to my employer or these days, now that I am a contractor, my clients.

            There are plenty of other ways to make expenses work for you but dinging my employer for £15-25 for breakfast, even if it’s my personal status that can get me the breakfast free, is not something i would do. I would pass on the benefit.

            I do the same with railcards i have that get me 50% off. Although as it gets huge savings for clients i make sûre thèse days that the client is award that my expenses to him are moderated in this way.

        • Rooster says:

          Yeah maybe!

          Took the drink and still got the points!

    • Charlieface says:

      My experience with both IHG and Hilton is I chose drinks/breakfast and the points post anyway

  • Crafty says:

    Thanks for clarifying that “more expensive” is the opposite of “cheaper”!

  • Jonty says:

    Rob, I have both Spire status and a next step obsessed boy. How was the show? Can your kids guest blog?

    • Rob says:

      It was good actually, even for me. They are good role models and impressive dancers. Did the £75 VIP upgrade so we got to watch a bit of the rehearsal, a Q&A and Molly got her photo taken with the cast (which she was very shy about but did it!)

      VIP upgrade was decent value as adults were free but I still found it interesting.

  • Mr(s) Entitled says:

    In fairness, I think the article should make mention of Ole’s near single handed attempt to drive down weekend prices in Manchester.

  • Fern says:

    Looks amazing. I did like the Principal brand. I’m back to the Principal York this weekend, having also stayed at Kimpton Fitzroy since the rebrand. The Manchester one definitely gives similar vibes from your review.

  • Julie M says:

    I stayed at the Voco Oxford two weeks ago and it was excellent. Beautiful room, comfortable bed, upgraded as a Spire elite member. IHG are doing quite well with the range of hotels they have. The only thing missing now is the free breakfast for higher tier members.

  • B says:

    Wife stayed at Principal Manchester the other week. As Spire she received:

    Upgrade to a double double
    Welcome points
    Welcome drink
    And Free breakfast.

    Said it was one of the best IHG uk hotels she’d stayed at.

    We stayed at Kimpton london a few weeks later and it had a very similar vibe only the room was smaller. Free breakfast there as well, as well as the happy hour where I squeezed 4 free beers in and then just before the bar closed the host gave me another one…. including the drinks voucher we must have had close to £50 of free booze!

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