YEAH sure it was hard to watch Steve Smith hit a record-breaking 200 to all but retain the Ashes for Australia at Old Trafford.
But I tell you what, watching it from a pitch facing Hilton hotel room balcony, with a fridge full of booze and as much room service as you could eat didn’t half soften the blow.
As Smith tickled one down the leg side to secure his double century, my friend and I sat back and realised we had it pretty good.
You can see, feel and hear the roar from the 9,000 strong party stand opposite as the cheers and songs roll over the field and hit you square in the face.
But you also feel part of the action as rowdy Australian fans played their own version of the Ashes in the stand below.
Simplicity done well is the order of the day at Hilton Garden Inn Old Trafford.
In fact that was the mantra at all three of my Hilton Hat-Trick Tour stops.
OLD TRAFFORD CRICKET GROUND
The Ashes at Old Trafford, the St Leger Festival at Doncaster Racecourse and the All Ireland Gaelic football semi-final at Dublin’s Croke Park were all elite sporting occasions served impeccably by Hilton Garden Inns.
At each we had a comfortable bed, excellent food and drink and an unrivalled view of the main event.
All three hotels provide the same but the pitch facing room in Manchester and the bedroom overlooking the home straight in Doncaster add that real panache.
So having checked in at the famous old cricket ground, we sauntered into our luxurious double room, dumped our bags and took five extra paces onto the balcony to resume our seats for the day’s play.
Shortly after – in an attempt to distract ourselves from England’s impending defeat – we grabbed a complimentary scone each, lathered them with cream and jam and promptly ordered six bottles of lager from room service.
Room service is available throughout the day if you simply can’t peel yourself away from the action.
A few hours and more than a few beers later, poor light called time on another Smith masterclass and the exquisite three course meal in the on-site Garden Grille restaurant – consisting classic British favourites – capped off a day of quintessential Englishness in fine fashion.
I mean what says England more than Macaroni Cheese and Chicken Tikka Masala right?
The restaurant has an a la carte menu available for lunch and dinner and a well-stocked English and continental breakfast buffet in the morning.
And Manchester city centre is just a short cab ride away for those who want to keep the party going.
Returning to your balcony after a night’s frivolities to take in a silent and floodlit Old Trafford – that only hours before was filled with 22,000 raucous cricket fans – is quite something.
Now where Manchester knocked it for six, the Hilton Garden Inn at Doncaster Racecourse – which celebrated its one year anniversary in September – was only pipped by its cricketing counterpart by a nose.
Barring a hotel room balcony to watch the action from, Doncaster ticked all the boxes.
The first St Leger classic was run here in 1776 and the place is steeped in tradition.
Waking up to the sun rising over the home stretch, jockeys taking their early morning jog and course attendants scuttling about beneath you really stirs up images of the first horse races run here nearly 500 years ago.
Our morning table overlooked the finishing post and we strolled straight from breakfast, into the adjacent party enclosure.
A short trot up to the grandstand was only interrupted by the day’s charges being escorted across our paths.
And as the St Leger festival crowds swelled and the first race approached, I battled my way through the masses to place my bets with the trackside bookies.
Full of confidence I squirmed back to my County Enclosure seat overlooking the finishing post and my dad and I planned how we were going to spend our surely enormous winnings.
Unfortunately our £6,000 jackpot vanished into thin air in the last race but the short walk between our seats and the well-stocked County Enclosure bar made it an easier pill to swallow.
DUBLIN – CROKE PARK
So Hilton ticked the English box with the cricket, blended Anglo and Irish traditions nicely at the racecourse but the third stop was very much a Gaelic event.
Gaelic football in fact.
The Hilton Garden Inn Custom House lacked a pitchside view of a famous sporting arena but the room overlooking the River Liffey was great consolation.
And it’s just a short bus ride to the home of Gaelic sports in Ireland – Croke Park.
The pre-match buffet at the stadium’s hospitality ‘501 club’ was the perfect environment in which to swat up on the rules.
Sofas, drinks and a complimentary programme were just a few steps away from our middle tier seats – from where the deafening army of Dublin fans stood on the famous ‘hill’ behind the goalposts were within touching distance.
The Dubs beat Mayo in front of a baying 82,000 capacity crowd where history and county allegiance were impossible to ignore.
Making history was the order of the sporting summer – but with their trio of modern hotels – Hilton have managed to add a dash of new age class to the viewing experience.
Balconies at Old Trafford seat four to watch events but the rooms sleep max two.
All three venues cater for different sporting and non-sporting events year round – namely music at Doncaster and Manchester.
Prices at each hotel vary throughout the year and are event dependant. Search Hilton Garden Inn online for details.
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