MERSEYSIDE

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Liverpool cityscapeFamous for football clubs, the Fab Four, and a school of poetry, Merseyside is a county of North West England. The city of Liverpool is a World Heritage listed site in itself and its docks played an important role in many episodes of British history for both good and ill.

The county is divided by the Mersey Estuary into the more secluded Wirral Peninsula and the eastern part that includes Liverpool, St Helens, Knowsley, and Sefton.


 

 


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Liverpool Liver BuildingThe Liverpudlian waterfront is so historically rich that UNESCO named the entire area a World Heritage Site in 2004. Liverpool [pop.435,500] is the north's answer to London, with history, culture, and proud bravado galore. The city's distinctive character has given rise to the term 'Scouser' to describe its inhabitants: a motley cultural stew of English, Irish, and Welsh with added helpings of the oldest African community in the UK and the oldest Chinese community in the whole of Europe.

After much revitalisation in the preceding years, in 2008 Liverpool held the title of European Capital of Culture. The title recognised Liverpool's present cultural vibrancy as well as its rich heritage in the arts. The 1960s saw the rise of the Mersey Sound – in poetry and in music – and the popularity of figures such as Roger McGough and Brian Patten, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and of course, The Beatles, who are still arguably the number one reason tourists flock to Liverpool.

Liverpudlians are also crazy about their football and they have good reason to be, with two top Premier League teams based in their city. Liverpool F.C. and Everton F.C. divide the locals, particularly during the biannual Merseyside Derby when the two teams go head to head.
 
History
Liverpool castleThere were settlers on the banks of the Mersey as far back as the 1st century AD. However, the city's formal history began in 1207, specifically on 28th August in fact, when King John issued letters patent inviting settlers to the new borough of 'Livpul'. In 1235 Liverpool Castle was built and the city became an important dispatch point for sending soldiers to Ireland.

During the English Civil War, the city was laid siege to by Prince Rupert. In 1644 he besieged Liverpool for eighteen days straight as a commander of the Royalists. After the Restoration in 1660, Liverpool began to develop rapidly as trade expanded: Africa, America, and the West Indies were added to the list of destinations and items like coffee, sugar, cotton, cocoa, and slaves were added to the ships' cargo. The first slave ship left Liverpool's docks in 1699 and the highly profitable trade would continue until around the early-mid 19th century. Liverpool's rise was undoubtedly on the backs of slaves. From the 18th century onwards, the face of Liverpool changed dramatically as the  proceeds from the sea were funnelled into great building works.

WW2 brought a total of 80 air raids on Liverpool and surrounding areas, the highest number outside of London, as the city's docks were very important to the war effort. There was significant loss of life and severe damage done to buildings and infrastructure.

The years after the war brought a mix of economic decline and cultural and artistic endeavour. In the 1960s Liverpool set the beat that the rest of the country (and soon the world) would dance to with the emergence of the Merseybeat sound. The most famous exponents of this new style, The Beatles, are still an important component of Liverpool's cultural capital. The economic revival of the 90s and beyond is based largely on Liverpool's claim as a capital for art and culture.   
 
Layout
LiverbuildingLiverpool is situated on the eastern bank of the River Mersey. The city centre is quite compact but there is a considerable amount of urban sprawl. Liverpool John Lennon Airport is around 13 km away from the city centre, to the south east and on the bend of the river. It is very well connected with a variety of options (bus, coach, rail, taxi, etc.) to get you into the city. Check the airport website for details. Liverpool's main train station is Lime Street Station. Close by to the north is the National Express Coach Station.

Getting around the city is easy. Check here for details about the local bus services and the Merseyrail network, which also provides links further afield in the Greater Merseyside area. Finally, don't forget to take the ferry 'cross the Mersey! Head down to Pier Head Ferry Terminal or visit here for more details.

 

Hotels

    

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Liverpool:  The Three GracesLiverpool is on UNESCO's World Heritage List as the Maritime Mercantile City but the specific heritage site stretches from Albert Dock to Stanley Dock, passing the Pier Head on the way, and also includes the areas around William Brown Street and Castle Street. Pier Head is the site of the Three Graces: three buildings - the Royal Liver, the Cunard, and the Port of Liverpool - that make the Merseyside one of the most distinctive skylines in the world.

The dock buildings and warehouses of historic Albert Dock, once damaged in the May Blitz of 1941, now hold a variety of attractions: the Merseyside Maritime Museum [Albert Dock, +44 151 478 4499, free entry] explores Liverpool's role on the waves. Learn about the famous Titanic, about emigration to the 'New World', and the excitement and vicissitudes of life at sea more generally. The museum can organise tours of the Old Dock area. These are free but should be booked ahead of time; the  

Albert Dock

'Slave Auction'International Slavery Museum [Albert Dock, +44 151 478 4499, free entry] focuses primarily on the transatlantic slavery that transported millions of West- and Central Africans from their homes to the Americas. There are galleries dedicated to life in West Africa, to the terrible conditions on board ships crossing the Middle Passage, and to the legacies of slavery. There are also exhibitions about modern forms of slavery including human trafficking. 

The Tate Liverpool [Albert Dock, +44 151 702 7400, free entry except for major exhibitions] is part of the national institution that brings modern and contemporary art from all over the world to London and St Ives, Cornwall, too;  

BeatlesThe Beatles Story [Britannia Pavilion, Albert Dock, +44 151 709 1963, £12.95] plays out at the Britannia Pavilion with photographs, memorabilia, and multimedia interactive displays. A Magical Mystery Tour [Tourist Information Centre, Albert Dock, +44 151 236 9091, Adults £14.95] leaves from Albert Dock: the colourful bus takes in all the important spots from the band's early history and includes visits to the inspirations for Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields. The tour ends at the Cavern Club, where The Beatles performed between 1961 and 1963.

Speke Hall [The Walk, +44 151 4277231, Adults £5-8.40] was built in 1530 but it represents many different phases of English history and architecture. The black latticed building betrays nothing of its Victorian interiors, which feature William Morris prints and a well-equipped 19th century kitchen.  There are also charming gardens and a Victorian model farm, which is 5 minutes walk away.
 
In the afternoon, take a tour from Speke Hall to visit the origins of the Fab Four. The Beatles grew up in Liverpool and their childhood homes are now big tourist drawcards.  Take a combined tour of Mendips and 20 Forthlin Road [Woolton and Allerton, +44 151 4277231, Adults £16.80] to experience the early days of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. (Morning tours leave from Liverpool city centre).

Rembrandt 'Self-portrait as a young man'The Walker Art Gallery [William Brown Street, +44 151 478 4199, free entry] showcases painting and sculpture from the 13th century to the contemporary period. Don't miss the 'Tinted Venus' by John Gibson, 'Dante's Dream' by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Rembrandt’s 'Self Portrait as a Young Man', and David Hockney's 'Peter Getting out of Nick's Pool'.  

George Holt bought Sudley House in 1883 and proceeded to fill it with all the trappings appropriate to the late Victorian era including a good, strong collection of paintings, decorative wallpaper and oak panelling. The house is now Sudley Museum [Mossley Hill Road, Aigburth, +44 151 724 3245, free admission] and it is a highly authentic glimpse into the life of the period.

The stately Georgian beauty of the Liverpool Bluecoat building [School Lane, +44 151 702 5324, call the box office or visit the website for ticket details] provides an elegant and orderly backdrop to the dizzying list of events here: there are performances (music, poetry, and literature), exhibitions, live art, and workshops.

PotteryThe collection of the Lady Lever Art Gallery [Port Sunlight Village, Wirral, +44 151 478 4136, free entry] has in interesting story behind it: the Lord Leverhulme actually started collecting art for use in advertising his 'Sunlight Soap' brand but eventually a love of art for art's sake overrode any mercantile interests. The collection encompasses Wedgwood pottery, Classical Antiquities, Chinese paintings, and some excellent examples from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood as well as mid- and late-Victorian painters.  

Nigerian maskThe World Museum Liverpool [William Brown Street, +44 151 478 4393, free entry] lives up to its name – it is a lively mix of natural and human history and in addition there are galleries about space and time. The museum itself has a history of just over 150 years, experiencing growth, decline, and rebirth alongside its mother city – much of the collection had to be rebuilt after the May Blitz of 1841 and the museum has undergone significant redevelopment since the turn of the millennium.

St George's Hall [St George's Place, Bookings +44 151 225 6911, Tours +44 151 225 6909, Tours £3.50] is testament to both the practicality of the Victorians and their appreciation for well-wrought beauty: this solitary Neoclassical marvel served as court house, concert hall, and ball room.  

Liverpool cathedralThe Liverpool Cathedral
[St. James' Mount, +44 151 702 7255, £5 Adults for the 'Tower Experience' ticket] is not an old house of worship but, as the biggest Angelican cathedral in the country, it is worth a visit. The 'Tower Experience' ticket includes entry into the Elizabeth Hoare Embroidery Gallery, which features Victorian and Edwardian embroidery with ecclesiastical themes in the elevated locale of the Triforium, the Lady Chapel, which is a more decorative part of the cathedral, the unique Chapter House, and Vestey Tower, with its magnificent views as far as the Welsh Hills and Blackpool Tower.

 'Paddy's Wigwam' is probably one of the strangest Catholic cathedrals you will ever see. The Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral [Cathedral House, Mount Pleasant, +44 151 709 9222, suggested donation of £2.50] was built in the mid-60s to the designs of Sir Frederick Gibberd, who won the competition laid open by the Church. The inclusive circular nave is topped by a funnel of coloured glass above, seeming more a theatrical space than a place of worship.

No visit to Liverpool would be complete without an exploration of the delightfully eccentric Williamson Tunnels [The Old Stable Yard, Smithdown Lane, +44 151 709 6868, Adults £4.50], an underground labyrinth constructed under the direction of Joseph Williamson, a local businessman known for his odd behaviour. The tunnels, built in the early 19th century, gradually were filled with rubbish through special chutes constructed for the purpose by occupants of the buildings above. However, the garbage was cleared away in 1995 and now the tunnels may be visited by the public.   

Palm HouseSefton Park [Aigburth, +44 151 233 2008, free entry] stretches over 200 acres and is the city's best known park. Nestled amongst the sculpted lakes and gardens is the extraordinary Palm House [Sefton Park, +44 151 726 2415, free entry], a spider's web construction of glass and iron that was made in the late Victorian era to hold a still extant world-rambling collection of plants.

Calderstones Park [Allerton, +44 151 233 2008, free entry] is remarkable for the neolithic stones it was named for - the Calder Stones. They are thought to be older than Stonehenge and the remnants of an ancient dolmen, a tomb. The park is also the site of the Allerton Oak, a hollowed out oak that is said to be almost 1000 years old.

For some great cafes, bars, and restaurants head to Lark Lane where the spirit of Bohemia is alive and well. There's also an eclectic mix of local shops and a regular farmers' markets.

Liverpool RacecourseAintree Racecourse [Ormskirk Road, Aintree, +44 151 523 2600, ticket prices vary] is the home of the Grand National, one of the most famous horse races in the world. It began in 1839 and features a number of fences, ditches, and water jumps to make for an exhilarating course.

The rivalry between Liverpool's two premier league football clubs rages on. Liverpudlians are mad about football but the city's loyalties are divided between Liverpool F.C. and Everton F.C. The first plays at Anfield [Anfield Road, +44 151 260 6677, visit website for game and stadium tour ticket details] while Everton plays at Goodison Park [Goodison Park, +44 871 663 1878, visit website for game and stadium tour ticket details].

 



Southport centreThe North West's answer to Brighton, the delightful Southport is a riot of Victoriana and traditional English seaside fun. Think attractive beaches (with sand!), amusement parks for the family, manicured gardens, and ornate 19th century promenades and you'll be on your way to picturing Southport. However, aside from the beaches and roller coasters, there are plenty of golf courses to keep fans of the game amused.

Layout
Southport is easy to get around. The main train station is situated in the centre of town near Church Street and Tulketh Street. Additionally, most other suburbs have their own stations. Buses can certainly be found in Lord Street.

Sights
One of the highlights of the town's Victorian heritage is the recently restored Iron Pier just off the main promenade. At the end of the stunning pier you can find the traditional penny-in-the-slot amusements as well as exhibitions.

Lord Street is a charming stretch of Victorian architecture where you can browse the boutiques.

Take the kids to New Pleasureland [Marine Drive, +44 1704 532717, free entry, pay per ride], the only traditional seaside fair in the North West.

World-famous Royal Birkdale [Waterloo Road, +44 1704 552020, see website for fee details] will be on all golf fans' lists. The historic course also acts as in important part of the Sefton Coast nature reserves.

Hotels

    

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Or check out the Bay Tree House below. and contect them directly.


Bay Tree House Bed and Breakfast [1 Irving Street, Marine Gate, +44 1704 510555, £65-110] This is a great find: excellently located near the Promenade and centre of town, Bay Tree's rooms are beautifully designed and many have views of the Marine Lake and beyond that the sea.