Whether watching squirrels near The Wirral or walking in Wonderland with Lewis Carroll is more your thing, you can guarantee there’ll be something to float your boat on Liverpool’s outskirts.
The Wirral Peninsula
A short ride across the Mersey will lead you to the wonders of the Wirral Peninsula. Notably, Port Sunlight; a squeaky clean settlement planned around the Unilever Soap factory to house its workers in the late 19th century. The result was a picture postcard grade two listed village whose architecture inspired much of suburban Britain in the 20s and 30s.
Nearby Birkenhead Park – widely considered the first publicly funded civic park in Britain – set the standard for similar sites around the world, with the likes of New York’s Central Park being modelled on it. Along the coast, seaside resorts such as West Kirby’s traditional promenade compete with wilder habitats such as Red Rocks Beach, home to an abundant variety of bird species and an important breeding site for Natterjack toads. With 22 miles of coastline and 50 miles of rural walks, it’s great place to catch your breath after the excitement of the city.
An area so picturesque it is managed entirely by the National Trust, Formby offers coastal pinewood forests where populations of indigenous red squirrels are fighting back against their grey interloper cousins, and foxes, rabbits and toads can be found amid their natural habitat.
Miles of sweeping shoreline, where Vikings settled in the once landlocked marshland and Bronze Age footprints can be found, make this ideal walking territory for beachcombers. Attracted by the area’s temperate microclimate, it’s a popular spot for families in the summer months, many of whom head to the village of Freshwater to pick up picnic supplies before settling among the sand dunes that separate the area from the Irish Sea.
Straddling the Mersey upstream, Halton incorporates an area that takes in the towns of Runcorn and Widnes and plays host to the north of England’s best loved annual dance festival, Creamfields. But for the day tripper, it’s the surrounding villages that are the major draw.
On its western tip, where the mouth of the river opens, Hale has its own river lighthouse. This charming village was once home to Britain’s tallest man, John Middleton. Known as the ‘childe of Hale’, he was, according to legend, so tall he slept with his feet hanging out the two side windows of his cottage, which still stands on the village green. Another local boy, from nearby Daresbury, went on to become a giant of children’s literature. Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, is commemorated with figures from Alice in Wonderland in the window of the parish church where he was baptised. The Lewis Carroll Centre and aforementioned church are popular attractions for book lovers.
Testament to its Roman past, Chester remains one of the UK’s best preserved walled fortifications and a walk around the two mile circuit offers a bird’s eye view of this beautiful city. Relax in the Roman Garden, a 1940s homage to the city’s origins replete with many genuine artefacts.
Complete an educative tour of the city at the Grosvenor Museum, home to Roman tombstones and a replica amphitheatre, whose original excavations can be viewed at the English Heritage managed site in the city centre. For a ‘more modern’ day out, The Rows around Bridge Street are 13th century half-timbered galleries (and Victorian replicas) offering a quintessentially English shopping experience.
A traditional seaside town distinguished by its connection to Napoleon III, who once lived in lodgings just off Lord Street, Southport’s smart, tree -lined shopping boulevard, complete with water features, gardens and architectural buildings that some say is reminiscent of Paris, the centre of which the future Emperor of France was to remodel.
Now a popular local destination directly north of Liverpool, its major attractions are wide golden beaches and a pier with traditional penny slots, this town offers a vibrant nightlife and plays host to a parade of festivals from jazz and comedy to food and drink.