Ten reasons to love Southport
PUBLISHED: 17:01 28 May 2012 | UPDATED: 20:58 21 October 2015
From the glory of Lord Street to the UK's only museum devoted to tattoos, this lovely coastal town has something for everyone
1. Shoppers’ paradise
They take their shopping seriously in Southport. The even have their own Ambassador Awards – the Ammies – celebrating success in retailing and tourism.
The iconic Lord Street, with its ornate canopies and mixture of High Street names and small independents make it a good starting point. But it’s by no means the only place to explore.
A five minute walk away is Wesley Street, which has a village atmosphere and award-winning floral displays. Here you will find a real mix of independent shops, cheerfully painted in pastel shades.
The more conventional Chapel Street is another hot spot. It has now been pedestrianised, allowing easy access to many of the big multiples. The old market is also a must visit – you can read about its revival in this section.
2. Enchanting Arcades
One of the loveliest shopping arcades in Lancashire can be found in Southport. Wayfarers Arcade is a Grade II listed building and it has been drawing visitors since 1898. Its glass roof and gallery of shops create an attractive environment and it has a fascinating collection of unique businesses.
Meanwhile, bargain bunters shouldn’t miss the Royal Arcade with shops selling antiques and collectables. Marble Place is more modern with a spacious mall hosting top retail brands. Meanwhile, Cambridge Arcade has been renamed The Galleria as part of the cultural quarter redevelopment.
3. Shore is lovely
The beach at Southport seems to go on forever and on many days you might need a pair of binoculars to spot the sea. It’s a great place for a family day out and the fact it received a Quality Coast Award from Keep Britain Tidy tells you it’s a pretty clean place, too.
The miles of sand provide a perfect habitat for many species of wading birds and standing proud from the impressive prom is Southport Pier. While many resorts have allowed their piers to crumble into the sea, Southport Pier has had a £7 million refurbishment.
At around a mile, it’s Britain’s second longest (and second oldest) pier, although even from the end there’s still no guarantee of seeing the sea.
There is a tram which takes you to the seaward end where there is an old fashioned penny arcade, café and exhibition centre giving information. Nearby is the Marine Lake, which is one ukof the biggest man-made leisure lakes you’ll find anywhere in the country.
4. Fine for dining
The hospitality trade in Southport has really upped its game in recent years. Quality food is one of the focal points of the town, which now has its own highly-successful annual food festival, but there has also been a boost in the hotel sector with some relatively new arrivals such as the Vincent and Ramada Plaza Hotels. However, there are still many more traditional places, such as the Alexandra and Victoria and the stately Prince of Wales, popular since Victorian times.
People wanting to eat out are spoiled for choice. From Lebanese to Polish and just about everything else between, there are more than enough to satisfy the most demanding diner. And if you want a little celebrity sparkle, Liverpool and England footballer Steven Gerrard is part owner of the Warehouse.
5. Dig those gardens
Well away from the seaside are the Botanic Gardens, which are considered to be one of the jewels in Southport’s crown. This little oasis in Church has a national reputation for the quality of its displays and it has been featured on TV’s Gardeners’ World. There’s a small museum on the eight hectare site as well as beautifully restored Victorian glasshouses.
6. Superb suburb
The gardens are situated in Churchtown, a part of Southport the casual visitor might miss. This historic area was first mentioned in the Domesday Book and it contains an eclectic mix of clothes shops, antique dealers, delis as well as quality pubs, cafes, bakers and restaurants, such as the famous Claude’s. Interestingly, some of the houses have their frames made from the timbers of old ships.
7. Bookworms welcome
If you are a bibliophile, head for Southport. It has a small but successful group of antiquarian bookshops stocking rare novels, poetry, manuscripts, collectors’ items and little pieces of history.
Broadhurst’s is the second oldest antiquarian bookshop in northern England, a business that has been running since the 1920s. Meanwhile, back in the Wayfarers Arcade is Kernaghan Books, which has its own room of rare books set out like an Edwardian library. Not far away is Southport’s third antiquarian bookshop, Parkinson’s. It is not just filled with books, it also stocks hundreds of fossils and shells.
8. A happening place
As well as being on the Olympic torch route, Southport has a battery of events most resorts would give their eye teeth to host. The daddy of them all is the Flower Show, which has an international status as one of the biggest community shows in the calendar. The Food and Drink Festival takes centre stage this month and those with an iron constitution might like to enter this month’s triathlon which has an open swim across the Marine Lake. The Air Show and Fireworks Championships fill the bill in September.
9. Just a mow
If you like a little eccentricity, head for the Southport Lawnmower Museum where you can be amazed by a strimmer once owned by Nicolas Parsons and marvel at a set of secateurs once possessed by local comedian Lee Mack.
Meanwhile, the Lakeside Inn on the prom has retained its title as the country’s smallest pub after beating off a challenge from a converted telephone box in Cambridgeshire.
If that’s not quirky enough for you, Southport has the UK’s only Tattoo Museum with over 5,000 tattoo artefacts and items of memorabilia, including over 600 tattoo machines, some of which date back decades.
Those looking for more conventional places to visit will have to wait until the refurbishment of the splendid Atkinson Gallery is finished next year. Golfers have no such problem – there are many fine local courses.
10. Curtain raisers
Southport has a long a proud theatrical tradition and it has produced many top entertainers. The biggest venue is the splendid Southport Theatre and Floral Hall complex on the prom. This is the main live entertainment centre and presents an all-year round programme of shows attracting household names.
However, you shouldn’t overlook the excellent Little Theatre in Hoghton Street. This is home to the Southport Dramatic Club, which has been putting on successful amateur shows for decades.
The print version of this article appeared in the June 2012 issue of Lancashire Life
We can deliver a copy direct to your door – order online here