Hotel Miramar is probably the most attractive hotel in Bournemouth. It sits on the East Cliff with a pretty garden that slopes down, almost to the cliff edge with panoramic views to the Purbeck Hills and the Isle of Wight.
The Edwardian manor house was built in the Arts & Crafts style in 1905 as a stylish holiday villa for the Austro-Hungarian ambassador Count Albert Joseph Michael von Mensdorff-Pouilly-Dietrechstein who was appointed ambassador to London in 1904.
He was a well-connected chap. His grandfather had married Princess Sophia of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Queen Victoria’s aunt, and his father was a godson of Prince Albert. These associations aided his getting his ambassadorial job. He leapfrogged various more senior diplomats and his appointment was clinched at the request of his second cousin King Edward VII.
At this time, Bournemouth was an obvious place for the wealthy and well connected to visit, and a fashionable place to have a holiday residence.
The East Cliff was particularly popular with the well-heeled, and indeed the nearest Italian styled villa close to Hotel Miramar belonged to Sir Merton and Lady Annie Russell-Cotes. The couple filled their exotic seaside home with beautiful objects from their travels across the world, and lined the walls with a remarkable collection of British art.
Today this stunning building houses the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum. It remains a popular place for Hotel Miramar guests to visit, being just a 2-minute walk away.
The ambassador’s house was converted into a hotel in the 1920s when the two elegantly curved side wings were added. The name Miramar, a Spanish word meaning ‘view of the sea’ was clearly most appropriate for this idyllic setting.
During the Second World War, the Miramar was used by the American Red Cross as a base for US nurses, WACs, and ARC girls who would regularly be seen enjoying their off-duty time on the hotel’s lawns.
Hotel Miramar has always drawn interesting guests. Throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s Hotel Miramar became a favourite holiday home for the famous author JRR Tolkien of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings fame.
He and his wife Edith regularly stayed for months at a time, booking one room for sleeping and another for his writing – now room 205 where his desk gave him the opportunity to gaze out at the sea view. A Blue Plaque commemorates his time at the hotel and can be found at the front entrance beneath the portico.
In the 1950s playwright, Terrence Rattigan based his play ‘Separate Tables’ at the fictional Beauregard Private Hotel based on his observations in the Miramar’s dining-room.
In more recent times, Hotel Miramar has seen a host of celebrity guests from the theatrical and music world, plus the occasional ‘top secret’ VIP guests travelling with a security detail. Our lips are sealed!