Billing itself, with some justification, as “England’s classic resort”, Southport is the proud possessor of the country’s second-oldest, second-longest pier, as well as a 22-mile stretch of beautiful coastline and a beachside town centre featuring some handsome Victorian architecture.
The main event here is the great iron pier, built in 1860 and extending a full mile out to sea – or at least towards the sea, which in low tide it falls well short of. Indeed, a peculiarity of the pier is that it crosses an ornamental lake, a miniature railway and a road before it even gets to the beach. Those who journey its length – whether walking, wheeling or on the tramway that once took steamer passengers out to meet their boats – can enjoy traditional seaside treats such as fish and chips, ice cream and candy floss, and play on the antique penny arcade machines (using authentic old pennies) in the new pavilion at the pier head. The pavilion also houses a new interactive display and exhibition on the local wildlife and coastline. Back on land, why not take a trip on the boating lake or miniature railway, or explore the nearby sand dunes? Time your visit right and you can also take in the Southport Flower Show (late August), though the pier is closed during the celebrated Southport Air Show (September). The pier is also closed on Christmas Day, but a Boxing Day stroll along its length is something of a tradition for many local families. At the entrance to the pier is Silcock’s Funland, a family amusement centre, with video games and amusements and, just around the corner, New Pleasureland has traditional fairground rides including dodgems, waltzers and rollercoasters.
If you feel daunted at the prospect of tackling the full length of the pier under your own steam, take advantage of the fully accessible tram that travels its length every half-hour, with space for wheelchairs and powered scooters. Alternatively, there’s ramped access halfway along the pier from the car park below. Once you’re up there, you’ll find plenty of rest seats and a smooth, level surface that’s perfect for wheelchairs – though bear in mind that you’re very exposed to the elements, so wrap up warm against the wind.
Food & drink: There’s a decent café and bar in the pavilion at the end of the pier, which both offer superb views over the sea. Besides this, there’s a traditional fish and chip restaurant at the pier’s entrance, and any number of seaside snack bars and restaurants along Southport’s promenade.