Real-Life Mental – The Swallow Hotel, Gateshead
This is a review I’ve written for TripAdvisor, but it takes a couple of days to get a review approved on there. In case it isn’t for some reason, I decided to share it here too.
No work and all decay makes this a dull choice
I recently spent a couple of nights at the Swallow Hotel in Gateshead as part of a stag weekend. From Friday to Sunday I was witness to degradation, filth and shame… and the stag weekend was pretty dodgy too.
Upon arrival at the hotel we were checked in by an elderly lady who, while kind, was clearly jaded after years of stag groups passing through her reception area and acting like raucous ne’er-do-wells. After she gingerly handed me my room key (room 602, if you’re asking), I embarked on my Swallow adventure, starting with the dodgiest elevators in England.
The Swallow has two lifts, with buttons that give you an electric shock when you press them. One has doors that open so slowly it feels like the scene where the aliens emerge from their ship in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind every time you get out. The other whips the doors open with gusto, but feels like a yacht in a storm as it moves between floors, leading to a constant fear that it’ll break down, trapping you in the Swallow’s aging shaft for eternity.
Once I got to my room the Swallow’s “quirks” continued to introduce themselves. The large CRT television was missing the remote control (assuming it had one). “No problem,” I decided, “I’ll just control it using the buttons on the TV itself. Unfortunately, the buttons had been removed, leaving just holes where they should have been.
For what it’s worth, my friends – who were staying in different rooms – later informed me that their TVs were working but they weren’t much cop. One produced a picture that was tinted green, another produced a picture that was tinted purple. Perhaps the Swallow’s vision is that stag parties could merge their televisions together like Captain Planet and form the greatest quality image known to man. With my missing remote and buttons, however, this was a vision that could never be realised.
The bathroom provided one towel for a twin room. Not being a fan of the “I’ll use one side, you use the other” technique I asked reception for a second towel which, to their credit, they promptly provided. They unfortunately couldn’t also provide me with a face mask and some Polyfilla so I could repair the massive crack on the bathroom ceiling, but beggars can’t be choosers. The toilet paper, meanwhile, was so hard and sharp that were Freddy Krueger to stay at the Swallow I have no doubt he’d opt to wipe with his bladed glove instead for a more comfortable experience.
On the Friday night, after returning from a night out, I decided to try out the Swallow’s internet facilities. There’s no Wi-Fi in the rooms, instead the website promised broadband internet in every room. The socket in the room instructed guests to ask for a broadband cable from reception, which I duly did. The chap at reception nervously handed me a cable, advising that “it can be a bit temperamental, though”. It seems “temperamental” is Gateshead slang for “as dead as King Oscar II of Sweden” (he’s dead), because when I plugged it into my computer it was like a Luis Suarez penalty claim – no connection at all.
I struggled to sleep because the bed was incredibly uncomfortable. I felt a bit like the lass from The Princess And The Pea, if the princess had been replaced with a Scotsman and the pea had been replaced with a bunch of large, prominent springs.
Every morning when I woke up I look outside and saw that it had been snowing heavily. This was fitting, as the hotel was so rundown I was beginning to feel I was in a low-budget Channel 5 remake of The Shining. In fairness, there wasn’t a rotting, decaying old woman in the bath, but considering I was missing a TV remote and a towel the staff probably just forgot to put her there too. Thankfully I didn’t see a sea of blood pouring out the elevators either, though had that happened I would have stood in front of the one with the gammy doors because it would only have trickled out.
There were a couple of things I have to commend the Swallow for. Breakfast was adequate and not as bad as the other horror stories on TripAdvisor would suggest and while I always had the underlying suspicion the chef may have been a ghost I still enjoyed my eggs, sausage, beans and mushrooms (though the bacon was saltier than a pantomime dame).
I also have to commend them for only charging 70p for drinks in their vending machine, though as said vending machine only offered obscure drinks like Vimto and Cherry Tango I also have to revoke that commendation.
The Swallow Hotel is clearly rundown and in need of repair, and I understand it’s in administration so it’s difficult to see how that can be improved on. It is incredibly cheap, and it does at least put a roof over your head (for now, until the roof goes missing), but it really is nothing more than a tiny step up from a hostel. The one from the film, I mean.
I did manage to find out why it was called the Swallow, though, because every time I told the taxi driver to take me there I could hear an audible gulp.