There are an astonishing number of hotels, B&Bs and self-catering apartments in Blackpool – 300, in fact, according to the official tourism website.
On our drive into town, down the world-famous Promenade, it seemed as if we passed a large majority of them, many of which would most kindly be described as possessing a faded grandeur, or less charitably as downright shabby.
Arriving at our hotel, The Big Blue, situated right next door to the Pleasure Beach, we breathed a quiet sigh of relief. From the outside, at least, it stood out as by far one of the smartest and most modern establishments in town.
The inside of this four-star, 157-bedroom hotel didn’t disappoint, either. Modern, sleek lines and muted colours, along with welcoming and helpful staff, reassured us that we were in for a comfortable and relaxing stay.
We were booked into a superior family room for two nights. Family rooms in hotels can often be very cramped, with children expected to sleep right alongside parents, ensuring that no-one gets an early night and late-night TV for the adults is strictly off the agenda. Not so at The Big Blue.
The Superior family rooms consist of a separate area for the children, out of sight of the parents’ bed, with bunk-beds, complete with not one, but two televisions – one for each bunk.
Our girls were delighted at the thought of being able to choose their own channel, rather than bicker over what they would watch, as is usually the case.
And once bedtime came, they settled far quicker than normal in a hotel – the fact their beds were tucked in their own little alcove really made a difference. For those with three children, there was also plenty of room near our bed for a cot or sofa-bed.
Waking after a restful night’s sleep, we got ready to go for breakfast in the restaurant. To our dismay, there was a queue for a table, and it looked like we were in for a long wait, as several families had beat us to it. In the end, we had a 20-minute wait, but it must be said that the staff were incredibly efficient at making sure everyone was seated as quickly as possible, and given the large numbers they were catering for, it was impressive.
Even better, once we did get a table, the food itself – a choice of full cooked breakfast, cereal, fruit, croissants, muffins, toast, tea, coffee and juice, with no limit on the amount you could tuck into – was delicious, and set us up nicely for our day ahead in the Pleasure Beach.
Our booking included a day’s wristband each for the Pleasure Beach – guaranteeing us free entry and free rides all day long – a child’s idea of heaven.
The Big Blue is right next door - we had a fantastic view of the rides from our bedroom window, so close you could see the terrified/ecsatic faces of those riding one of the many rollercoasters - and hotel guests have use of an exclusive entrance for the first 90 minutes of the park’s opening.
Unfortunately for us, the day we had planned to go had brought a torrential downpour, and one that didn’t show any signs of easing off.
However, with three expectant children in tow, we had no chance of calling it off. We would just have to brave the elements and hope that our cagoules would keep us reasonably dry.
The reception desk informed us that if it rained for three hours, we would be entitled to a rainy day pass the next day – which was of some comfort, but surely the rain wouldn’t keep up for that long....
One hour in and we were drenched – on the plus side, there were no queues at all! We had free rein to enjoy any ride we wished with no boring waiting, so we made the most of it.
Our favourites were the Blue Flyer, the Wallace & Gromit Thrill-O-Matic, Derby Racer, Alice in Wonderland and the rather terrifying Grand National, but there were any number of rides to choose from, catering for all ages and fear factors.
By lunchtime, we really were feeling the effects of the cold – despite the handy People Dryers dotted around the park – and decided to return to the hotel for a hot drink and change of clothes.
We would be allowed back in later anyway, but also discovered the weather had been bad enough to entitle us to a rainy day pass the following day, much to the children’s delight, proving that rain really doesn’t stop play when it comes to a visit to Blackpool.
And if you’re staying at the Big Blue, you can be sure of a very relaxing and comfortable stay, even if the weather doesn’t play ball.
• Special Offers: B&B plus one day’s wristband for Pleasure Beach Resort. Valid selected dates until November. Superior double/twin rooms from £120 per room per night. Superior family rooms from £176.
Big Blue Hotel, Pleasure Beach, Blackpool, Lancashire FY4 1ND, 0871-222 4000