It seems, according to my Instagram feed, that Bank Holiday weekends are made for beaches. So as not to disappoint, I planned a visit to one of our nearby beaches. Rather than the usual Southport or Blackpool, we opted for Lytham St Annes for a change.
Usually when we head up to Lancashire to get the wind in our hair and sand in our butties, we default to the bright lights of Blackpool. I guess it is just the easy option as we know it and have our ‘go to’ car park too. That being said, we don’t want to over do it. And Lancashire has so many beaches, that we shouldn’t stay loyal to just one. Sorry Blackpool, we’re beaching around!
A day at the beach in Lytham St Annes
From what I knew about Lytham is that it is the ‘posh side’ of the Fylde Coast. Apparently the residents’ earnings are some of the highest in the North of England. We kind of guessed this might be the case when we spotted a huge Boothes supermarket en route to the beach. A small telltale of the income of an area if there ever was one. (Note: we have Iceland and Farmfoods where we live, not that I am knocking them – have you tried the Farmfoods vegan meatless balls?!)
Anyway, this is not a post about the huge houses and area affluence. It is about a fun bank holiday day on the beach of Lytham St Annes.
Unfortunately, our one hour drive up to Lytham St Annes took somewhat longer due to a number of accidents on the motorway. It did mean that we got to detour through lots of areas new to us and also stop by that coveted Booths for a comfort break and to buy some bread for tea.
We arrived eventually and snagged a free parking space on the side of the road by the sand dunes. It can get very busy along that route, but a slow drive (and a willingness to walk further) will ensure you find a spot to stop.
Lytham St Annes Dunes
Between the promenade and the road are the beautiful dunes which provide a pleasant walk and retreat from the traffic. There are plenty of desire lines to follow which lead you to the beach. From some of the peaks, you are treated to some far-reaching views of the beach and opposite coast. I would certainly recommend stopping from time to time to enjoy the smell, sounds of the grasses and of course those aforementioned views.
Sand dunes are more than a fun place to walk though. They are natural soft defences against the sea. This is why they are so important and preservation of them paramount. If you have ever been to Formby, you will have noticed the amount of old Christmas trees along the dunes. Rather than being a post festive graveyard for no longer wanted decorations, they are in fact there to help maintain the dune structure. We notices a few on our wander along the Lytham St Annes dunes, so assume they are employing the same technique.
On the note of preservation, you will realise that some of the dunes are out-of-bounds. Although it might seem annoying at first, it is actually beneficial to encourage you to explore more.
Perfect for picnicking
Of course, no day out for us would be complete without a picnic. Honouring our picnic status, we hunted down a nice spot near the dunes with a beach view. Just out of the way of flying footballs and sandy kicks. Our planning, although well thought through, couldn’t have factored in the gust of wind which fortunately only dusted our lunch with crunchy grains. Thank goodness we waited to pour our tea as our cups took the most of the sand!
It turns out that a lot of people go all out at Lytham St Annes beach. Not your usual picnic in a bag or portable BBQ, some people brought along full-sized barrel BBQs! We were astonished at the amount of stuff people dragged along to the beach. Obviously, made our picnic look like a meagre attempt at beach eating, which is a turn up for the books as we’re normally the ‘well prepared’ ones.
I have always associated beach huts with the south coast, having watched The Great Interior Design Challenge Show in 2014 and looking up ones for sale with my friends down in Essex. My speedy Wiki search of Lytham St Annes while I prepared our breakfast and picnic drew to my attention that there were some beach huts along the prom of St Annes.
I have always loved the idea of a beach hut (ever since that show) but I am not sure that I could sit for that long to make the most of them. Turns out that the ones along the prom in St Annes are only for day rent. Perhaps it is something we might try on a rainy day. I know what you’re thinking and that is why would we want it on a rainy day? Well. Our discussion along the prom went something along the lines of us not being able to stay still long enough to make the most of the hut. However, if it was raining, we would be able to sit inside with a brew, drying off from a walk. We would enjoy the sound of the rain over a steaming hot drink, prepared in the hut, and read our books. Occasionally glancing out to beach.
It might not be everyone’s ideal beach hut experience and I don’t know whether you can use them off-season. Or in lashing rain for that matter. But it is our dream and maybe one day, we’ll get to realise it.
Promenade to the pier
Back to reality and the high twenty-odd degree heat, we made our way along the promenade stopping to watch the people enjoying their days on the beach too. It was nice to see plenty of people playing in the golden (and black – these are industrial cities) sand and laughter blowing in the sea air. After joking about a vegan ice cream we were also pleasantly surprised to discover that it wasn’t an impossibility. One of the stands did, in fact, sell it. Only we were too full from lunch, so bypassed this time. Good to know though.
St Annes Pier
Walking towards the Pier, we noticed that it looked kind of stunted. When you have seen how far the three in Blackpool jut out into the sea, the one at St Annes seemed somewhat lacklustre in comparison. Unsure whether it was down to the angle or something else we ventures on in the hope that there would be some information, or at least a spot to stop and Google.
Arriving at the Tudor style entrance, we immediately felt that it was different to the ones in Blackpool. There was a kind of quieter buzz about it. Well, so we thought. Walking through the entrance, we were instantly transported into a sensory barrage of lights, sounds and squeals. The first thing you come across is the arcades and gamblers. Lights flashing, coins dropping and people cheering and moaning depending on their current odds.
Honestly, it was pretty disorienting and took us a little while to work out how to get outside onto the pier. Once we discovered the door out, we escaped to the fresh air and relative silence. The only sound of the wind and the beach revellers carried along with it. Quite a relief.
Before we made a break for it, we did spot a board with some press cuttings about the pier. A bit of a hodgepodge and a challenge to read, we made out that the structure was started in 1880, but was delayed due to financial downturns.
We discovered the reason behind the abrupt and short end to the pier too. Originally 279 m in length, a fire at the Floral Pavilion at the end in 1982 reduced it to a mere 180 m. Unfortunately, the pier is a little worse for wear and there doesn’t seem to be any plans for restoration. A shame really.
Lytham St Annes Beach
Promptly escaping the arcade thoroughfare, we carried on our adventure along the prom. Remember I mentioned about the parts of the dunes blocked off, this is it. It was great because it encouraged us to wander a long the beach more to soak up the atmosphere. It also meant that we discovered that if we walked a bit further from the first part of the beach, we could have had all the space for our picnic! (remember that for next time)
As is often the way with a trip to a UK beach, the tide will be out. And our visit to Lytham St Annes had just that kind of tide. I might not have managed to get my feet wet, but the long expansive beach did mean that we could wander further out to explore. The houses and mansions looked tiny from a distance.
It is amazing how things look so different from a new angle. We had spotted a rather wind beaten structure from the pier and our curiosity got to us. Having learned that the pier was once much longer we assumed that the metallic monster stood in the sand must have been a relic from that time. As we ventured closer to the structure. Turns out (from my post visit research) that it is the remains of the landing jetty which originally was to the end of the long pier. This explained the ball features on the towers which had us quite bemused!
Considering the battering the structure must get from the salt water and wind, it is standing up pretty well. I was actually surprised that people were taking heed of the warning signs to keep off too – and yes, I obeyed as well!
Despite out gallant plans to walk to Blackpool and then back to see the reconstructed Lytham St Annes windmill, we thought it best to head back to the car. Out two-hour plus journey to the Fylde Coast made us consider the length of time it would take to get home so we started back to the dunes. Still optimistic that we might get to the windmill.
Stopping for a brew, we did have to concede that we weren’t going to be able to walk the 2.5 miles to the windmill and get home at a good time. It means we will have to come back to Lytham St Annes so that is no bad thing. We hardly dented the place and would love to have a mooch around the town centre too. And make the walk from Blackpool. Oh and you never know, it might actually be that rainy day we get a beach hut…
It was a good thing we left when we did as our journey was, once again, delayed with accidents. Seems that the bank holiday was also a day for driving like nutters. Thankfully we were home at a good time for having left when we did and we can now plan our next adventure. It won’t be Lytham this week though, as we’re off to Leamington, but one weekend we will be back!