Klaxons at the ready. We have a major announcement to make. It is not, repeat, not grim up north. Sure, we have a fair smattering of urban blight, decaying mills, bad traffic and dubious sorts doing unmentionable things. But we also have natural assets a-plenty. Take the region’s beaches. The coast here – all 1,400km of it – makes up the largest stretch of undeveloped coastline in England. Over 80% of it is protected. It includes a World Heritage waterfront, two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and, yes, lots and lots of golden sand. So while Ian Brown may once have said something about Manchester having everything except a beach – he missed out the fact that one of the joys of Manchester, and all of the cities and towns in the North West, is that you’re never too far away from one. Here are our picks of the best.
Here are our picks
Blackpool Tower Ballroom, Promenade, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY1 4BJ - Visit now
Lancashire’s finest and one of Britain’s most famous (and still most popular) beaches – Blackpool. Slowly moving away from its stag and hen do image, Blackpool is home to the Great Promenade Show, an outdoor exhibition that’s two kilometres long and features artists such as Bruce McLean and Peter Blake, the Grundy Art Gallery, and such opulent architectural highlights as the Tower Ballroom, Winter Gardens and Grand Theatre. LeftCoast supplies the creative genius behind many of this resort’s playful, cultural re-imaginings. And then there’s the beach: seven miles of golden sands that are hard to beat. Lots of cafes and places to eat (Yorkshire Fisheries is good for a sit-down fish supper in the heart of the resort).
Midland Hotel, Morecambe, Marine Rd W, Morecambe, Lancashire, LA4 4BU - Visit now
Morecambe offers up possibly the most beautiful view from a beach in the whole of the UK. We kid you not, the cheeky statue of Eric Morecambe isn’t simply the backdrop to a selfie on the prom, but it happens to be the foreground to dramatic views of the Lake District hills beyond a sweeping Estuary. Wayne Hemmingway’s Vintage by The Sea festival is an annual event that sits perfectly in and alongside The Midland Hotel, fully refurbished to its art deco glories – and which shines a light on Morecambe’s many vintage and retro charms. We say check in with the lovely people at Morecambe Artists Colony to find out what’s on in the resort’s music venues, cafes bars and around town – more than you might expect.
Fish Tram Chips, 22 – 24 Old Road, Llandudno, Conwy, North Wales, LL30 2NB
We have a bit of a thing for North Wales, and for this fading seaside resort. And although Llandudno’s North Shore, with its Victorian pier and funfair rides, has a certain retro appeal, it is to the West Shore we prefer to head. Quieter, with just one café and little else, this crescent-shaped beach is overlooked by the Great Orme (whose cable-operated tramway to the top of the hill is the last still operating in Britain). Don’t miss a trip to Mostyn art gallery either. Take a picnic, be prepared to queue at the café – or head into Llandudno proper for Fish Tram Chips.
The Atkinson, Lord Street, Southport, Southport, Merseyside, PR8 1DB - Visit now
Sometimes the sea at Southport is so far out you wonder whether it’ll ever come back. It does, but to ease you over the sands is “Britain’s longest overland pier” (complete with its own tramline). It has been refurbished at vast expense, and now backs onto the Ocean Plaza shopping centre; its café with “airport windows” overlooks the beach at the pier head. Southport itself is still rousing itself from its nostalgic seaside slumber, but it is nevertheless rather lovely; our day trip guide gives the low-down on what to see – from the Atkinson and the cathedral-like fernery at the Botanic Gardens, to the Belle Epoque colonnades of Lord Street. Car parking on site.
Formby Beach, Victoria Rd, Formby, Liverpool, L37 1LJ - Visit now
The National Trust-owned nature reserve on the Mersey coast is a thing of diverse beauty. Red squirrels a-gamboling in the pine forest? Check. Rolling sand dunes that act as a border betwixt sea and sky? Check. Vast, flat expanse of beach? Check. Though Formby gets chocka on a sunny day, its miles and miles of beach makes it easy to leave the madding crowd far behind. Car parking on site; Mersey Rail station a mile or so down the road. No cafes or shops (bring a picnic. And a bucket and spade).
A short drive from Formby, Crosby beach is notable for one thing: the installation in 2005 of Another Place, Antony Gormley’s 100 life-size iron men, who stud the beach and try, King Canute-like, to stand firm against the incoming tide. They inevitably lose, being slowly submerged every time it does. Car parking on site; no cafes or shops.