Motorhome travel: A weekend in Liverpool
There are few places in the world where you can close your eyes and still know exactly where you are. I hear the thrum of diesel engine, feel a gentle swaying to and fro, smell a certain saltiness in the air and, through a slightly crackly loudspeaker comes, Life goes on day after day.
I can only be in one place – on the ferry ‘cross the Mersey from Birkenhead to Liverpool. On opening my eyes, the view in front presents one of the world’s most iconic skylines with three magnificent buildings. One has statues of two birds sitting on the top: the Liver Birds. Into my head pops the theme tune from the 1970s sitcom.
Liverpool’s history and culture are encapsulated in those few seconds, from its time as the greatest maritime seaport in the world to its time as the capital of popular culture in the Swinging Sixties.
Jane and I have set up camp, with Mobes (our trusty Swift Bolero), at the Southport Caravan and Motorhome Club site 20 miles north of this great city for a short break.
On our only previous visit to Southport – a day trip – we were right at the north end overlooking the mudflats of the Ribble Estuary, so missed the seafront proper.
Enjoying the sights of Southport
Our first morning is spent exploring this elegant Victorian town. We arrive at the seafront after walking through the little nature reserve opposite the site.
We see little sign of any nature, presumably as nature has more sense than to walk headlong into the biting westerly gale coming off the Irish Sea.
The beach is probably the biggest stretch of sand I’ve ever seen. Straining my eyes, I can see waves breaking about half-a-mile offshore and a pier, too. This we reach after passing the funfair (Southport Pleasureland), the car park of which is an all-year motorhome stopover.
The amusement arcade on the pier is filled with heritage one-armed bandits, which take pre-decimal pennies (these can be acquired by exchanging today’s money). There are also some fascinating old prints of British piers and we learn that Southport Pier, when built in 1860, was the longest iron pier in the world.
The town’s pride and joy is Lord Street, where most of the shopfronts on its western side have wrought-iron canopies. There are a couple of covered arcades, one of which is The Wayfarers, with its glass domed roof and balcony shops. A tasteful statue of Red Rum takes centre stage. This three-times winner of the Grand National is Southport’s most famous ‘son’.
Taking the train into Liverpool
Southport’s railway station also displays a fine wrought-iron roof, and is our Ticket to Ride for the 45-minute journey to Liverpool. The journey runs through a landscape of sand dunes interspersed with some of the finest championship links golf courses in the world.
As it approaches Liverpool we get a sense of how industrialised the city once was. In days gone by we would have changed trains on to the Liverpool Overhead Railway for the run along the docks, but now we plunge into the tunnels that contain the central Liverpool stations.
Our Saveaway tickets (for off-peak travel on buses and trains) allow us one free journey on the Mersey ferry so, after a change at Liverpool Central station and a short journey under the river, we arrive at Birkenhead’s Hamilton Square, a short walk from Woodside Pier.
We see some of the town’s fine Grade I listed buildings and a couple of historic submarines (though not yellow!) and time it perfectly for the hourly ferry departure.
On the Liverpool side, we run along the quay, which gives a good view of the imposing bulk that is the Liverpool Anglican cathedral and the futuristic lines of the Roman Catholic cathedral (Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King) further north.
Then we home in on the Three Graces, the collective name for Liverpool’s three classic waterfront buildings – the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building – passing the Albert Dock as we go. The Liver Birds atop the Royal Liver Building preside over the entire area, staring down on four larger-than-life statues: John, Paul, George and Ringo. Testament to the Fab Four’s enduring legacy is an adoring multinational and multi-aged raft of tourists who want their pictures taken with all four and single photos with each.
A few minutes’ walk away, between the ultra-modern Museum of Liverpool and The Liverpool Echo Arena, is the Albert Dock. Saved from demolition, this once run-down and decrepit area has been resurrected and features the largest collection of Grade I listed buildings in the country.
The Cavern Club and The Beatles
In the Cavern Quarter, with the eponymous underground music club at its heart, it’s all ‘Lennon this’ and ‘McCartney that’, plus myriad Irish bars. The Cavern Club was at the forefront in presenting the acts that would change the face of music and popular culture. The present club may not be the original in which The Beatles played their first gigs (this was a couple of doors down the street) but, as we enter a brick-arched basement, we feel the sense of excitement that the youth of the early sixties must have felt.
As a large crowd gathers to see a solo artist running through a fine selection of McCartney-penned songs, we look around displays of memorabilia from the club’s 60-year history. I am amazed to see an article and a ticket stub for a show on 11 November 1965 costing £5 entry to see 'new local act, The Dark Ages’. The photo next to the ticket stub shows Mick Jagger and John Lennon side by side on the stage with other members of the two bands behind. Imagine!
Crosby and Antony Gormley’s Another Place
Countless people have advised that we should go to Crosby to see 100 men standing on the beach.
We follow the brown signs for Antony Gormley’s Another Place to a large, motorhome-friendly car park at Blundellsands – and there the figures are. Not in a large huddle, but spread out over a couple of miles of beach. Each standing like a solitary Nowhere Man, these iron statues were cast from Gormley’s naked form. The ‘men’ stare longingly towards the sea and don’t flinch as the incoming tide laps over them.
I have loved our visit to Liverpool; in the words of Lennon, “I’ll be Back Again”
This feature was orginally published in the February 2019 issue of MMM magazine - buy a digital back issue copy here.