Avoid This Hotel That Continues Holding Title Of Worst In The United Kingdom On Your Vacation

The Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool has an illustrious history. Located in the center of the city just a 20-minute walk from the historic Royal Albert Dock, the grand old building dates back to 1914 and has hosted Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Harold Wilson in the past, as well as traveling superstars like Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and Bob Dylan. In more recent years it has fallen on harder times. In 1982 the Grade II listed property was acquired by Britannia, the hotel chain named the worst in the U.K. for the 11th year running in 2023.

Nowadays, the Adelphi's old splendor doesn't equate to a comfortable experience for its guests. The hotel holds a rating of 2.5 on Tripadvisor and the review summary tells the sorry tale, highlighting an outdated atmosphere, inconsistent service, underwhelming amenities, and overpriced and neglected rooms. One visitor noted a strong smell of urine while other reviewers consistently mention rude staff, cold rooms, and loud noise from the street outside. More than one guest has likened the hotel to the Overlook in "The Shining," which is never a good vibe when you're on vacation.

These problems and many more are common in hotels across the chain that runs 63 properties across Britain. Furthermore, BBC consumer program "Watchdog" investigated six Britannia Hotels including the Adelphi. Using ATP monitors, the team discovered high levels of "organic matter" on poorly-cleaned surfaces, making this one hotel chain you might want to avoid when you book your next trip.

Who is the person behind Britain's worst hotel chain?

The 2023 survey of British hotel chains was conducted by Which?, a non-profit organization that champions consumer rights. Five thousand people took part in the poll, giving Britannia Hotels an average 2-star rating (out of a possible five) and an overall score of 48%. Those numbers put the chain bottom of the pile for the 11th year straight. 

Ultimately, the buck must stop with Alexander Langsam, the tycoon who owns Britannia Hotels. Langsam, who is worth around $325 million, bought his first hotel in 1976 and lives in a £3.4 million mansion. Although Langsam stated in an interview in 2011 with The Guardian that he runs Britannia for fun rather than the money, that enjoyment isn't always passed down to his staff and guests.

Langsam and his hotels have received negative press beyond their reputation as the worst in the land. During the COVID-19 crisis, staff at Coylumbridge Aviemore Hotel in Scotland were fired and kicked out of their accommodation with immediate effect, leaving some temporarily homeless in the middle of a pandemic. In 2023, it was reported that Langsam was making up to £100,000 a day by taking advantage of the government's lucrative scheme to house asylum seekers in hotels across the country, earning him the nickname "Asylum King." With his track record, it is easy to suspect that Langsam is buying up hotels, running them into the ground with the minimum investment, and watching the profits roll in.

Britannia Hotels: Highlights and lowlights

To be fair, not all Britannia Hotels are terrible. The Midland Hotel in Bradford enjoys a score of 4.5 on Tripadvisor and a reputation as one of the finest places to stay in the city after restoration to its previous Victorian opulence. The Grand Hotel in Sunderland holds a 4-star rating, overlooking the sandy beaches of the Seaburn district. These tend to be outliers in the Britannia portfolio, however, with over 30 hotels earning a score of 2.5 or less. Travelers staying near Gatwick airport are served especially poorly, with Russ Hill, Europa, and Gatwick Lodge all rated a dismal two stars. Visitors in 2023 warned that Russ Hill was taking bookings even though it was closed, with guards directing them to another Britannia hotel on arrival. Some guests at the Europa experienced bad smells, poor food, and hard beds. The Gatwick Lodge received bad reviews for small cobwebby rooms and horrible odors, which seems to be a recurring theme across the Britannia chain.

Returning to the Liverpool Adelphi, the BBC "Swab Mob" investigators were appalled by the standard of cleanliness. For commercial cleaning, an ATP swab test score of less than 30 is considered standard for hotels and hospitality, but the bathroom tiles at the grand old hotel flagged up an alarming reading of over 8,000. If that doesn't put you off booking into a Britannia hotel, nothing will!