Fancy something a bit different this summer away from the crowds of traditional seaside resorts? A relaxing weekend away or a day out in one of the North West’s lesser-known resorts can be just the ticket. Rural hotspots like Arnside or Grange-over-Sands could be the ideal place to while away those long, warm summer days.
Arnside & Silverdale
Nestled just north of Morecambe in Cumbria, Arnside is a quiet resort and former fishing port. With glorious views over Morecambe Bay, the village provides the perfect balance of seaside and country fields and is filled with quaint shops and tearooms, with cosy B&Bs tucked along the waterfront. Arnside Pier might not be long, but it’s certainly a tranquil place to watch the world go by with a 99; Pier Lane Gallery is also well worth a visit to enjoy art by local people.
A five minute drive away is Arnside Knott, a wildlife area of international importance run by the National Trust. Made up of limestone grassland and wet meadow, the land is excellent for bug spotting and birdwatching – it’s renowned for various species of butterfly and songbirds, with plenty of walking routes around the area.
Silverdale, just south of Arnside, also offers sites of historical acclaim – Arnside Tower dates back to the fifteenth century and originally stretched to five storeys high. The impressive ruin is Grade II* listed and can be viewed from the nearby public footpath. Nearby, the Pepperpot was built back in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, and a glorious walk winds through Eaves Wood and up King William’s Hill to reach the monument.
One of the Lake District’s many natural beauty spots – and just a short trip over to Windermere – Grange-over-Sands offers plenty to do for any discerning tourist. Begin at Holker Hall & Gardens, an estate which spans 17,000 acres and provides a stunning backdrop for a picnic before you head inside to tour the Hall and its gardens, which were recently named some of the most inspiring in Britain.
In the town centre, enjoy a relaxing walk along the Victorian promenade, with views across the expanse of saltmarsh – it might not be a sandy beach, but the calm atmosphere and extensive range of wildlife more than make up for it. It’s worth a visit to the Lakeland Miniature Village close by – depicting typical Cumbrian houses of the past, the display is a great place to take the kids.
Unsworth’s Yard packs a brewery, cheese shop and bakery into one courtyard. Experience a working local real ale brewery or sample various cheeses, or just enjoy a drink out in the sunshine. Plus, Cartmel’s just up the road if you’re keen on a day at the races!
Home to its very own nuclear power station, Heysham is a picturesque seaside town close to Morecambe in Lancashire. The settlement actually dates back to the Stone Age, and there are plenty of ancient sites to peruse around the village – you’ll find a Viking-era stone tucked away in St. Peter’s Church, and the base of an Anglo-Saxon cross in the churchyard. Most famous are the rock-cut stone graves dating back from around the tenth century, close to St. Patrick’s Chapel – a Grade I listed site.
You can even arrange for a free tour of the power station – but make sure to book well in advance for security clearance reasons. If you aren’t lucky enough to book onto a tour, pop into the visitor centre to learn more about the production of nuclear energy and the power station’s place in Heysham.
Lytham & St. Anne’s
St. Anne’s Pier opened to the public back in 1885, and was where you’d catch a steamer boat across to Blackpool or Liverpool. The service stopped when the Ribble estuary channels were dredged, leaving the pier too high to offer a steamer service. The pier is still a sight to behold, despite enduring two major fires in 1974 and 1982, leaving half of the pier demolished for safety reasons – the ruins of it still stand on the beach today.
There’s plenty of entertainment on and around the pier – try your luck at the arcade games or treat yourself to fish and chips, or let the kids loose in the paddling pool! The summer months are really when St. Anne’s comes alive, and the beautiful beach is a great place to begin.
Just down the road in Lytham, Fairhaven Lake is home to a large group of wildfowl and is praised for its recreation activities – visit the RSPB Discovery Centre to learn more about the birds native to the area, or hire a canoe or rowing boat to enjoy the sunshine on the water.
You can also sit back and relax on a motorboat cruise around the lake if you aren’t feeling up to rowing.
Pay a visit to Lytham Lighthouse, which dates back to 1805 and opens regularly to the public, or head over to Lytham Hall for a tour of the building and refreshments in the pretty tearoom located in the grounds. The town centres of both Lytham and St. Anne’s offer plentiful shopping opportunities, with restaurants and bars for a bit of a breather.
The perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of Blackpool’s seafront but within driving distance of the attractions, Knott End-on-Sea provides a tranquil base for the nearby towns of Fleetwood and Cleveleys. Knott End itself offers gentle walks along a seafront footpath which overlooks the saltmarsh, with regular ferries operating to take tourists into the neighbouring town of Fleetwood, just across the River Wyre. Enjoy fish and chips along the seafront and don’t forget to check out the statue of Lancashire artist LS Lowry, a regular visitor to Knott End in the 1940s and 50s – the village is the basis for many of his paintings.
There’s plenty to keep you occupied in the nearby towns, too, with three historical lighthouses over in Fleetwood – two of which are still operated today. The Wyre Light sits crumbling out to sea, but can still be spotted for an atmospheric photograph from the shore. Fleetwood’s renowned outlet shopping village is worth a visit if you’re looking to grab a bargain, while the Fleetwood Museum offers a slice of maritime and local history for the area.
Dubbed the only coastal resort in Cheshire, Parkgate lies on the Wirral and is the perfect spot to enjoy a laid-back minibreak. Dotted with eateries – from cosy teashops to famous ice cream parlours – the Parkgate Parade looks out over wetland flora and fauna, and provides a welcome break from the crowds of major resorts. It’s also a perfect spot for walkers and cyclists – the nearby Wirral Country Park spans beautiful swathes of greenery, picturesque railway stations and the stunning Thurstaston cliffs.
It’s a fifteen minute drive – or a twenty five minute bike ride – from Parkgate over to Thurstaston, where you can witness the spectacular natural erosion of the cliffs and a beautiful beach. Located within Wirral Country Park, Hadlow Road Station is a perfectly preserved throwback to the 1950s. Though little of the original line remains, the station is kept up by volunteers, and you can learn more about the station’s history inside the old ticket office.
Parkgate also provides a great base for visiting more of the Wirral, including the marine lake at West Kirby, or for taking a day trip over to Hilbre Island to spot seals, whales and dolphins. Just be sure to check the tides before you make the walk across to the island, or else you could end up marooned!
Well-known for its beautiful, National Trust maintained beach, Formby has a whole lot to offer for any tourist this summer. Visit the red squirrel reserve or scale the sand dunes before heading into Formby Village, which offers great places for dining out.
Beyond its shoreline, Formby also made its name in a local delicacy. Formby asparagus boomed in the 1920s and 30s, with over 200 acres under cultivation in the area. First-class passengers on the Titanic allegedly dined on Formby asparagus before the luxury liner sank on its maiden voyage. Nowadays the crop is grown on just 5 acres of land, but you can still travel along the 1 ½ mile Asparagus Trail to see huge wooden asparagus spears.
Walkers can also head out to the nearby Formby Point to witness the shipwreck of the Ionic Star: the mossy skeleton of a once-great cargo vessel lost on the Mersey Channel. She ran aground in 1939 and now rests against a backdrop of wind turbines. Just down the beach, find the Bradda – a steam-powered cargo coaster wrecked in 1936. The ship left only one survivor when it sank, though the crew sent up flares and lit paraffin-soaked rags to attract attention.