Visit Southport: Places to stay, things to do

Liam Moody explores the Victorian seaside town of Southport, and shows that coastal resorts are great places to visit during the off-peak months.

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Why go there?
Although summer is long gone and the days are getting colder, there’s still something about this classical English seaside resort that attracts people throughout the year. Southport– located at a centrepoint between the cities of Liverpool and Preston- is often overshadowed by its boisterous neighbour to the north, Blackpool (which is currently winding down after the annual Illuminations festival). Its location on the Ribble Estuary, facing the Irish Sea, is fairly sheltered- which means that freezing cold days are relatively rare, as is snow. Even off-season, Southport still has the ‘feel’ of a Victorian spa town- moving inland onto the wonderfully-designed tree-lined avenues and boulevards holding a number of specialist retail outlets, restaurants and galleries.
Although the peak time to visit has come and gone, Southport retains much of the attraction even in the winter months- although walking along the pier and promenade require a little more intrepidation (those winds can be biting!), the town doesn’t quite ‘shut down’ like many seaside resorts, it is certainly quieter during the winter months, and a number of facilities- such as the pier pavilion- do close or operate on limited hours.
The best way to travel through the area is via bicycle- the town now operates a cycle hire scheme that is in effect throughout West Lancashire- this scheme has proven to be popular and successful, and the Ribble estuary boasts a very pleasant cycle route.
 
Golf enthusiasts will find the area a dream come true- Southport is at the heart of England’s ‘Golf Coast’. While home to the Royal Birkdale– recently voted the number one golfing venue in Britain- 2 of the finest courses in England (arguably in the world) are less than an hour’s drive away- The Royal Lytham & St Anne’s Golf Club, which was the host of this year’s Open Championship, and the peaceful Formby Golf Club are easy to access from Southport. Those fond of flora and fauna may be interested in Hesketh Park- a woodland park containing an aviary as well as an observatory and one of the county’s oldest floral clocks.
Or for an alternative day out in inclement weather, there is always the British Lawnmower Museum.
Where to stay?
Located near the promenade, the imposing, Art Deco-inspired Ramada Plaza is tastefully decadent- if you are a fan of the artist Jack Vettriano, it will certainly appeal- but the luxury comes at a substantial cost. The Royal Clifton Hotel and Spa is well-renowned for very high standards for both somewhere to stay as well as somewhere to eat, and the Lynwood Hotel, while small, prides itself on high standards of accommodation. Alternatively, there is a large amount of good quality B&Bs and guest houses who operate throughout the year.
Be aware that The Royal Clifton is a very popular destination for weddings and large parties, so vacancies cannot be guaranteed.
Where to eat?
Southport holds an impressive array of worldwide cuisine- everything from French (Bistrot Verite) to Polish (The Gdanska), from Spanish (Finos) to Chinese (Lings On Kings), there is plenty to choose from- but if you want something simpler, there’s a number of Fish & Chip shops dotted across the town- The Sandgrounder is especially good.
Tell us a secret
Slightly off the beaten track, a number of small alleyways just off the main streets hold a number of old antiquaries, second-hand bookstores and art galleries- you’re bound to find something special.
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