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Let's visit Southport - there's lots of reasons to head to this coastal classic

PUBLISHED: 00:00 18 November 2019

Ray Roukin of Southport Flower Show

Ray Roukin of Southport Flower Show

Archant

The resort has been a favourite with visitors for decades.

The Wayfarers ArcadeThe Wayfarers Arcade

The works of war poet Wilfred Owen will be much quoted this month, but although he had a way with words, there's one quote you probably won't hear - and certainly not in Southport. Owen, whose family home was on the Wirral, spent two spells living in Southport while he was in training in late 1916. He wasn't fond of the resort though, declaring it 'the most unsatisfactory seaside place in Europe'. That's quite harsh for a man who spent months on end amid the mud and horror of northern France.

And it's not a view you'll find echoed there today.

The streets are frequently bustling with visitors, who are attracted for a variety of reasons; the famously huge beach, the shops, the parks, the restaurants, the family fun…. you get the idea.

And many of them are attracted to town by the Atkinson museum and gallery on Lord Street which has grown in recent years to be one of the county's best, with an impressive programme of exhibitions and shows.

Heritage Participation Manager, Jo Chamberlain, with the Vivienne Westwood exhibition at The Atkinson GalleryHeritage Participation Manager, Jo Chamberlain, with the Vivienne Westwood exhibition at The Atkinson Gallery

The building houses four exhibition spaces and a museum of local history with a fascinating Egyptian gallery and Jo Chamberlain, the heritage and participation manager, said: 'We often hear that people come for one thing and find other things they like.

'We know that people travel a distance to come to the Atkinson and it's sometimes their first visit to Southport - and when people come here they discover what a great place it is and how much there is to see and do here.'

One of the exhibitions now on at the Atkinson showcases the impact Vivienne Westwood has had on style and fashion over the last four decades. It features her T-shirts, dresses and shoes (including the platforms Naomi Campbell famously fell off on the Paris catwalk in 1993).

Jo added: 'I am really impressed by what she's done and admire her enormously. She has been a huge inspiration to a lot of people.'

At the Bliss Hotel are Sammie White (restaurant manager) and Emma Lloyd (head of creative)At the Bliss Hotel are Sammie White (restaurant manager) and Emma Lloyd (head of creative)

The town hosts festivals and events throughout the year, with new ones added to the calendar every year - the comedy festival and food and drink festival have made a partilarly big impact in the last few years. But the biggest is one of the oldest - more than 50,000 people enjoyed this year's Flower Show in August, and planning is already well underway for next year's event.

'It only lasts for four days a year but it takes a year to put together,' said Ray Roukin, the show's general manager.

'We have to keep evolving the show each year, doing different things and building on the things that are working well,'

'We bring thousands of people to Southport from across the North West and we know that the show brings around £4.2m into the area - that's money spent in hotels, restaurants and shops, so it is important to Southport.'

* Westwood - Malcom Garret's personal collection of Vivienne Westwood Designs is at The Atkinson, Monday-Saturday, 10am-4pm, until 28 March 28, 2020. Free entry.

Have a blissful stay

Lord StreetLord Street

The Bliss Hotel on Southport Promenade has been revamped in more ways than one. The former Ramada Hotel has been given a makeover, a new name and a new ethos.

The stylish new design has seen the restaurant re-designed, the staff structure altered and rooms overhauled (one of the new penthouses suites has a bath in the lounge area). And while most of the staff have stayed on, one new addition is fresh out of the box - the Bliss Bot (it's not what you're thinking). You want some snacks in your room? No problem, just ring the shop and they'll load up the Bliss Bot who will glide into action. It'll speak wirelessly to the lift and make its way to your room and send you a message when it's arrived. You then just type onto its face, watch its head open up and collect your snack.

The hotel's head of creative, Emma Lloyd, said: 'The Bliss Bot is the first of its kind in the country, just as this is the first Bliss Hotel in the country. The owners here have ripped up the rule book about how hotels should be - they have put the visitor's experience at the heart of everything. The plan is for this to be first hotel and for us to be able to replicate the model elsewhere eventually.'

The AtkinsonThe Atkinson

State of the market

David Arnold of estate agent Arnold and Phillips said: 'The property market in Southport is ticking over nicely - it's a nice place to live and people recognise that and there is always a steady number of people looking to move here. In the last year or so we have seen the higher end of the market take off in Southport - buyers who might previously have moved to Formby are now increasingly buying the bigger properties in Birkdale and Ainsdale.'

Prestige postcodes: You'll find many of the town's most expensive homes in the area to the west of Waterloo Road, just to the south of the town centre. Selworthy Road, Westbourne Road and Sandringham Road are three of the most sought-after addresses.

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