A stale smell lingers as I walk along badly stained carpet and through silent, ghost-town corridors empty of guests. Nostalgic black and white photos boast of the former glory days as this central Birmingham hotel first opened.
Those days are long gone. It's a struggle to even find the room as neighbouring door numbers are missing digits, while mine is hidden under broken lights.
Only 15 minutes into the stay, the budget room itself is plunged into darkness as the electricity suddenly cuts out and it feels like the beginning of a horror movie. I'm glad the blackout doesn't last all night - but as the bright lights flick back on, I spot two dents in the door to the 'private bathroom feature', likely punched there by an angry guest.
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Inside, the humming extractor fan is thick with dust and grime while the towel rail beneath is marred by a rust-coloured dirt. I step into the shower to wash away the filth surrounding me, but I'm greeted by a nimble little silverfish, scuttling its way around a well-worn plughole.
This was the reality as BirminghamLive stayed over in a £45-a-night 'budget' room at a hotel dubbed the "most revolting in the world" and a "vile place" by disgruntled guests. We decided to give it a try ourselves after reviewers took to TripAdvisor to slam their stay, leaving the venue with more than 480 (out of 660) "terrible" reviews.
Pictured: My stay at The Norfolk Hotel on Hagley Road after it was branded the 'stuff of nightmares'View gallery
But surely, whatever the outcome, could it really be worse than our 24 hours stay at Pontins? Located less than three miles from the hustle and bustle of our city centre, it's appealing as a budget night stop for those visiting Birmingham for work for leisure.
The Norfolk is situated on one of the main drags through the city and sells itself as having WIFI access, free parking, and tea and coffee making facilities. It boasts of a "private bathroom feature" in each "modern room".
And the hotel, fronted by a smart glass entrance, prides itself as having a "stylish reception area" and a "well stocked modern bar". But as we enter, the reality is a soulless reception with a closed-down bar.
Also in complete darkness and behind a 'closed' sign, the bar looks like time has been standing still since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. An egg cup, balanced on a tray, remains on the table and there's still a baby's high chair poised at one of the empty tables.
As we check-in, one lonely worker sits in the dimly-lit reception, and though he doesn't seem overjoyed to be there, he's helpful and friendly enough. He hands over the room card and warns us the hotel is a "completely smoke free" venue.
He doesn't bother to wish me a pleasant stay and I can fully appreciate his realism as I pass a broken-down lift with its wires exposed.
I'm forced to take the hallway and I can't help but think leaving this lift broken is a poor move from the hotel as I step onto filthy carpet in the corridor. A sign warns guests that there is to be "no gathering or socialising activities in any part of the hotel". Another printed paper notice advises of an electrical power cut scheduled between 10am-12pm due to maintenance work at the venue.
The room is difficult to find given that the neighbouring door, 109, is missing two digits, but eventually I discover it in a corner underneath a broken light. The double bed is comfortable enough and for less than £50 a night, it's a large room and boasts three windows for much-needed ventilation too.
And though I'm pleased to find the bedding clean after disgusting guest reports, the rest of the room is in need of a deep scrub - perhaps new carpet altogether.
As I continue sussing out the room and getting settled for the night ahead, the lights suddenly cut out and I'm left wondering what I could possibly have done to cause a power cut so early on. I panic for a moment that I've misread the warning sign over tomorrow's maintenance work and will be spending the night in a pitch black room with no entertainment.
But I check and see it's not due until 10am. I switch on my phone's torch and look for the room's phone to dial reception.
But as you can see in the video above, it cuts out and I can't get hold of anyone. I've no clue at this stage if the whole hotel is affected, or just me. As I head down to reception, there's nobody to be found either. CCTV from behind the desk shows those same eerie corridors and I start to wonder where all the other guests are.
I call the Booking.com phone number, only to realise I'm hearing the ringing on the other side of the empty desk. I wait for around ten minutes before being greeted by the same receptionist - who seemed unsurprised by the blackout.
He explains the fuse has tripped, likely due to a "faulty plug". I hadn't plugged anything in, but he suggests I flip the switch in the corner of the room to fix the problem. Perhaps in response to my blank expression, he agrees to come up to the room and fix this for me.
On the way up, we spot our first sight of other guests. One comes out to grab a takeaway from outside the hotel, while the receptionist waves off two others who are leaving, adding: "Take care, see you then."
They seem like happy customers, obviously pleased with what they've got for reasonably cheap prices - ranging from £39 a night.
As we return to the bedroom, the lights, save for one broken bulb beside the bed, flick back into action thanks to the staff member.
But it's then I really notice the filth in the bathroom. And as I step in the shower tray for a wash, I'm joined by a silverfish making its way around the plug.
But as I'm not in the mood for shower guests, I opt out for now in the hope it disappears. The Freeview TV and Wifi distracts me for a while, until it's time to sleep.
I start to drift off around 11pm, but midnight strikes and it seems the hotel awakens. I hear the voices of a man and woman before the banging of a door in the neighbouring rooms. Soon after I count more men and women coming into our corner of the hotel.
I hear one woman shout "you're a p****" to a man before their voices disappear. More come later, despite there only being two rooms beside mine, but I either grow accustomed to the noise - or fall asleep.
Perhaps it is these 'gatherings' that the hotel is trying to prevent with its print-outs blue tacked to the hallways. I wake feeling refreshed after what turned into a fairly good night's sleep. Unfortunately, breakfast isn't an option as the bar, and restaurant, is closed.
I'm glad to find the shower, thankfully now insect-free, works and isn't quite the "trickle" another TripAdvisor guest previously slammed.
But as for the hotel being "the stuff of nightmares" as others suggested, while I wouldn't be stopping there again, it certainly didn't live up to it's reputation as the "most revolting hotel in the world" either.
Yes, it is filthy. Yes, it is unloved and has fallen into a state of disrepair. But perhaps if it was cleaned, repaired - and a bit of care taken - it could be restored as a desirable budget hotel in a prime city location.
*The Norfolk Hotel has been contacted for comment.
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