Last week I headed up the country to walk the Blackpool Northern Rail Trail. OK, so that doesn’t mean much, so let me explain what it is.
I have recently been doing some work with Northern (rail company). We are showcasing the great places in the north that you can get to by train and explore on foot. Andrew from Walks Around Britain has come up with the walks and I head out to give them a go and let you know what to expect in my blog and vlog. Pretty cool, hey? There are lots of other walks too, I have been to Chester, Arnside and Buxton as well. Plus more are available on the Northern website, too.
Up to Blackpool
On the one sunny day of the week, I planned my trip up to Blackpool. Having been in the rain, I know that it is much nicer when the sun is shining because you can see far into the distance and also enjoy your chips on the prom, watching the waves break. So wrapped up warm, as it was still very cold, I packed my flask and sandwiches and headed to town to take the train from Piccadilly. (not that it means that I won’t go in the rain, mind you!)
I jumped on the train to Preston at Piccadilly with mere seconds to spare. I seemed to have taken my time getting to the station, but made it and found a seat. It is always a train on Platform 13 or 14 when you’re running later than expected. Still, a bit of running does you good, from time to time! A swift and well-timed change at Preston onto the Blackpool South train and I was off again.
To the North
The walk begins at North station, so after getting off at the south, I got to walk through the backstreets and wind my way to the north station. The reason is because the lines are being upgraded so the trains are going straight there. Although, despite that, I think I would walk to the start of the walk anyway. I love getting to know somewhere by just wandering and exploring. Always off the beaten track.
I had never noticed the old signs before either, which I thought was a nice find. I love the finger pointing in the direction, very old school. As I wandered, I made note of the interesting street art and graffiti as I want to return to explore the pieces more closely another time and perhaps create a Go Jauntly walk from my finds.
Some of the streets that I took looked rather sad and run down, but it is like that in any city to be fair. And in off-peak, there is always work going on with renovation and decoration for the peak season. I love seeing the other side of places though, it gives you more of a feeling for the local area rather than what they want you to see. Kind of like the whole social media, how we show ourselves thing. As you’re probably aware if you read my blog or follow my vlog, I’m out there as it is. Warts and all. I wonder whether that is why I like the darker and more dingy parts of town?
Starting the Blackpool Northern Rail Trail
The Blackpool Northern Rail Trail begins at the North station and takes you along the streets lined with local shops, down onto the Promenade. This street, Springfield Road, is more tended to and you’re likely to meet some fun and friendly locals and their dogs on the walk. The first point on the walk, although not much from the first angle you see if the Grand Metropole hotel, which opened in 1785. Interesting fact is that it is the only hotel to sit directly in the shoreline, so you can imagine how popular it is and must have been?
The best angle is from the prom just to the other side of the war memorial. You get to see the beautiful sign, glowing red bricks and cream turret type tops.
Micro holidays and local adventures
One thing that came up for me while in Blackpool is how we often overlook the places nearby, or the ones we visited regularly as a child. We pass them off as places that we’ll visit when we’re short of time or when we have done the far away adventures. I think we’re missing a trick really and is one of the many reasons that I love hopping onto a train to visit somewhere in the North West. Despite having grown up her and visited many of the places, I have a totally different perspective now. One that makes the teenage ‘ugh’ into adult wonder and curiosity. You know the type.
It is amazing how we ever so often overlook taking a trip to the places we went to as kids or those on our doorstep. We always put them off for days when we need something local. — I think we miss a trick by doing that though. Just hopping on the train to Blackpool on Friday reminded me of the reason we should go to these places. — To support your local areas. See how things change and to generally give yourself a mini break from where you live. A micro holiday! — When was the last tine you took a micro holiday to somewhere nearby? Where could you plan to visit?
My pondering aside, the walk was taking me along the prom. As I walked, the sunshine became hidden behind the darkening clouds.
Jutting into the sea from the promenade are three stunning piers. The oldest, the North pier, was built in 1863 and is now Grade II listed. I’m constantly in awe as to how they survive the constant battering of the strong salt winds and violent waves. The Victorians certainly knew how to make things last back then. Or over-engineered! Either way, they are standing strong despite the adverse conditions. The wind was certainly playing havoc with my hair at least.
Unfortunately, one of the downsides of visiting in the winter is that the some areas are out-of-bounds while they receive repairs. The North Pier was one of them, so I decided to enjoy the view from afar instead. And take in the sigh of Central pier and the Ferris Wheel gently turning in the distance.
Of course you can’t visit Blackpool without taking a visit to the Tower and the Blackpool Northern Rail Trail makes sure to include this impressive building. Did you know that it is inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris, only 166 metres shorter than the French version. Impressive all the same having been built in 1894.
Directly in front of the tower is one of Britain’s largest pieces of public art called the Comedy Carpet, which really is as funny as it sounds! At 2,200m², it contains over 160,000 granite letters pushed into concrete. You will find that you spend a fair amount of time wandering, chuckling and enjoying the jokes placed within the artwork.
Of course, second to the historic piers, public art and tower, chips are a must on any seaside trip. Especially on a trip to Blackpool. Or at least I and many of the people on twitter agreed while I was there. Pedro’s near the South Pier is my chippy of choice. Not only are the chips delicious, but you have the perfect place to sit and people watch on the promenade. Watch out for the cheeky seagulls though as they’ll be off with your snack at the slightest moment if you’re not careful!
Energy replenished, it was back to the Northern Rail Trail to explore the South Pier and beyond. The South Pier was opened in 1893, which was 30-ish years after the other two. It is shorter than the others and now home to a theme park. If you’re looking for brightly coloured souvenirs, then this is the pier for you. It is a lively one with lots of laughter, screams of joy and music playing along the length. I popped in for a swift look, but returned to the prom as quickly as it was crazy on there!
Nostalgia and memories
Past the South Pier I was greeted by the familiar smell of chlorine. Not the kind that makes you struggle to breathe, but the kind that takes you straight back to swimming lessons as a child. I looked up to see the outside tunnels for the water park slide. I remember so fondly that excitement of whooshing down the tubes in the shallow water. Chilled for a moment or two as you go through the outside ones and landing at the bottom with fits of laughter. Although I don’t remember whether I swam at the Blackpool one, it brought back fantastic memories of Rhyl Sun Centre, Europa Pools in Birkenhead and the one in Prestatyn. All were great northern places from my childhood.
To the other side of the road is the unmistakable Pleasure Beach. You can recognise it by the maze of roller coaster tracks that intertwine between and above the buildings on the other side of the road. A prominent part of the Blackpool prom since 1896.
The Pleasure Beach
Blackpool Pleasure Beach is actually the final point of interest on the Blackpool Northern Rail Trail. It is one of the places that will instantly come to mind at the mere mention of Blackpool and sometimes the point that puts people off visiting. I think a lot of people think that the rides, fun fair, hen and stag dos are all that there is. But I think you’ll agree, that there is more than meets the eye. Whether it is the backstreet street art and graffiti, the historic piers, tower and buildings or simply being by the seaside. There is something for everyone.
Your final part of the walk takes you in around the Pleasure Beach towards the railway station. However, if like me you still have the urge to explore more, you can head back onto the prom for a some more steps.
Speaking of seeing Blackpool from different angles, I decided to focus in another way on the way back. I find that when you walk a route the other way around, you will spot things that you missed before. It was on the way back that I spotted reflections, the High Tide Organ and took time to sit and watch the world go by.
I made my way back to the South Station, where I started, taking note of new pieces of street art to add to the collection. I’m certainly planning a return visit – not just for the chips and view, but for seeing other angles of a place that I thought I knew well. I can highly recommend that you follow the Blackpool Northern Rail Trail to get you started, especially if you fancy learning something more about the area while getting your bearings. Actually, even if you know the area, it is fun to follow along.
My day ended with a comfortable journey home to Manchester, with the view of the water, fun fair and countryside to keep me entertained along the way. I have to day that a day trip outside of Manchester is a brilliant way to refresh, invigorate and explore. All without breaking the bank and with being able to get home for the cats in the evening. Win all round, I would say!
Have you visited Blackpool? Do you fancy walking the Blackpool Northern Rail Trail?
Otherwise, where have you been putting off visiting? Where could your next Micro Holiday be?
Let me know in the comments below.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Northern. I received compensation for writing this post. However, as always, all photographs, content and opinions are honest and my own.