I had never been to Southport before, so I was not sure what to expect from this most traditional of Victorian seaside resorts. Like many others I had over the years driven a little further up the coast to its noisy neighbour, Blackpool on the Fylde coast, but I had never found my way across to this large seaside town south of the Ribble estuary.
Southport from the air
I was pleasantly surprised at what I found! Historically part of Lancashire, but now part of the amorphous county called Merseyside what a real delight it was to drive down Lord Street, the wide elegant tree – lined boulevard and main shopping street of the town. Lord Street is a wide road running north-south with a mix of shops, gardens and several listed public buildings including the Town Hall, the Atkinson Art Gallery and Library, Arts Centre and an impressive large War Memorial.
I was informed that Lord Street is exactly 1 mile (1.6 km) long, with a small roundabout at each end. Lord Street is one of the great shopping streets of Northern England, many of the shop fronts have stunning verandas in cast iron and glass. There are numerous examples of striking Victorian architecture all along the street!
Surprisingly, Lord Street is said to have been the inspiration for the tree-lined boulevards of Paris? I thought it unlikely, but it is true! French Emperor Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte lived in exile on Lord Street for two years before returning to France to become President and later Emperor Napoléon III. From 1854-1870 the Emperor replaced the medieval centre of Paris with broad tree-lined boulevards, covered walkways and arcades, just like Lord Street! Was the Emperor inspired by what he had seen in Lord Street during his two year stay? We will never know.
Westminster Mansions – Lord Street
Having admired Lord Street I set off in search of the beach and what I had been told was the second longest seaside pleasure pier in the British Isles. Southport is still on one of the most popular seaside resorts in the country and one of the reasons for this is the large areas of sandy beach. I didn’t see any donkey rides but for building sandcastles, dipping your feet in the safe bathing waters or even flying kites, the beach has it all you would expect at a British seaside resort, plus the oldest pier in the country, having been constructed in 1860! On my walk down to the sea I passed several fish & chip shops and Amusement Arcades, essential components to any English seaside resort.
I decided to walk to the very end of the recently restored pier but for those who prefer to ride, there is a road tram which will take you to the very end of the pier where you can look out across the sand and mud towards Blackpool, whose Tower could be seen in the distance.
I sat and had a coffee in the modern pavilion at the Pier Head looking out across the water and sand, but it was the collection of vintage mechanical amusement machines and penny `slot machine` in the arcade which kept me amused for some time. The Edwardian and Victorian machines all operate on pre-decimalisation pennies which I was able to purchase on-site at £1 for 10 old pennies. Wonderful! The laughing clown was hilarious.
Beyond Southport’s seafront and pier are some of the largest undeveloped dune systems in the UK which includes a RSPB reserve, with viewing screens, two hides and a viewing platform for observing the birds and local wildlife. I didn’t have time to explore the walking trails but there are several through the dunes close to the beach. The Queen’s Jubilee Trail, accessed from the Esplanade has trails, information boards and picnic areas. The Velvet Walk is a circular walk going past dunes, ponds and reed beds.
The Sea and Sand
The foreshore and promenade have been extensively developed and modernised with a Marine Lake, hotels, a hospital, pubs, fast food outlets, bowling, cinema and swimming baths. At first it was quite strange to be walking out to sea along the pier with all of these facilities below me including roads and pedestrians!
I strolled for a while in the restored Kings Gardens amongst the landscape’s flowerbeds, Venetian Bridge and children’s play area before finding what I was really looking for! I had a wonderful time on the immaculate crazy golf course but as always finished a close second to my wife! I loved the cast iron shelters along the Promenade, all of which are listed for their architectural and heritage qualities. Simply stunning!
Some may say Southport’s peak was in the Victorian era, but this traditional seaside resort is still one of the most popular in the UK despite the attractions of foreign travel. Much of this has been due to the array of annual events held here which pull in big crowds throughout the year including an annual air show, the largest independent flower show in the UK and the British Musical Fireworks Championship. The town is also the centre of England’s Golf Coast and has hosted the Open Championship at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club. Unfortunately, we did not have time to play gold, much to my wife’s disappointment!
Check out The Atkinson for some stimulating art and interesting exhibitions and do not miss the British Lawnmower Museum, the only museum of its kind in the world, for a truly unique experience. If you have time call in on the beautiful historic village of Churchtown where you can browse the specialist shops or stop for refreshments in one of the charming cafes. The Botanic Gardens are worth a stroll too!
Southport is a traditional English seaside resort, but it continues to attract thousands of visitors annually because it offers not only beautiful beaches, the oldest pier in the country, fine retail therapy in beautiful surroundings, superb restaurants and some quality accommodation to suit all budgets.
Lord Street is a real treasure, a long boulevard of Victorian canopied shops and landscaped gardens and water features. I stopped and had lunch at the stylish café Remedy, the ideal spot in which to relax, take in the beautiful surroundings and watch the world go by.
I simply loved Southport and I am already looking forward to my next visit to this glorious seaside town.
REMEDY – Lord Street – Southport
My wife and I stopped off for lunch at Remedy on the fashionable Lord Street. Remedy is a stylish café serving some of the best food in Southport plus specialist coffees, fine malt whiskeys and artisan gin.
Previously situated in the old mock-Victorian tourist information centre on the opposite side of the street, Remedy relocated across the Town Gardens into one of Southport ’s oldest landmarks, the Town Gardens Café a couple of years ago.
The first café on this site operated out of the small rectangular building which is parallel to the road leading to the Town Hall. It is not known when it was built but probably around the turn of the twentieth century, about 1905.
The Travel Locker & Susannah Porter
Joint owner Susannah Porter stopped by to join us for lunch and I found out a lot more about how Remedy started and their plans for the future. Susannah and business partner Sarah Simcock are both Southport locals, having known each other a long time. They had spent a lot of time together in coffee shops when they were raising their young children and had talked a lot about opening their own place sometime.
Remedy recently moved into the building which was previously occupied by Town Gardens Café. Susannah said, “We were very excited about the challenge, there had been a Town Gardens Café on this site for nearly 120 years and in the current building for 30 years. These are bigger purpose-built premises where we are be able to extend our food menu and range of drinks and cocktails”
With the larger site Remedy have been able to extend their food options as well as retaining their superb choice of specialist coffees, fine malt whiskeys and artisan gins.
My wife and I opted for a sandwich and wrap from the daily lunch menu. We both chose the Italian option, a sandwich and wrap with side salad and Fiddler`s crisps. The Italian consisted of Salami, Mortadella, Green Olive Tapenade, Balsamic Dressed Rocket, Mozzarella, Roasted Pepper & Basil.
The food was excellent, presentation was perfect, and the service is what you would expect from professionally trained staff, in a well – run, happy establishment. The Café is situated is in the heart of beautiful Lord Street and the interior is comfortable, bright and agreeable. I noticed several regulars calling in and being addressed by name. It is an ideal spot in which to relax, enjoy some quality food & drink, take in the beautiful surroundings, read a newspaper and watch the world go by. Highly Recommended.
The Vincent – Lord Street – Southport
I stayed at The Vincent Hotel in Southport, which is described as a unique lifestyle hotel and stunning wedding venue. Situated on Lord Street, Southport’s Parisienne Boulevard. This distinctive modern four-star hotel has fifty-nine individually styled bedrooms over six floors. My room was a spacious front facing studio room overlooking the pleasant Lord Street & Kings Gardens and the Bandstand. The room was suitably furnished with a plush super king size bed and luxurious bedding. There was also a useful electronic safe, flat screen TVs, personalised mini- bar, a Nespresso Coffee machines, Tea & Coffee & Chocolate drink sachets, air-conditioning and the much appreciated free Wi-Fi. All rooms across the hotel are non-smoking and room service is available twenty-four hours a day.
I was met at reception by a gentleman who offered valet parking at the hotels own secure parking facility some streets away and he also offered to carry our luggage up to our room. Inside the room he kindly described how to operate all the technology and described the other facilities of offer throughout the hotel.
The room was comfortable and spacious, and I was very pleased that the hotel itself is situated right in the centre of Southport, close to restaurants, beach, pier and all other sights. As I walked back to the hotel after eating at the Auberge restaurant in the evening I was able to take in the beauty of Lord Street under lights. The town is as beautiful at night as it is in the daytime.
Auberge Brasserie – Seabank Road – Southport
The Auberge Brasserie was a ten-minute walk along Lord Street from our Hotel, The Vincent. Celebrating twenty-five years this year, the restaurant is much more than a place to visit for some food and drink! It also has a comprehensive events programme of tribute acts, music and DJs throughout the year. Whilst I was dining I noticed several groups of people celebrating birthdays and other personal group parties. It made for a wonderful atmosphere in the restaurant.
The Auberge Brasserie prides itself on offering only the best modern French and English cuisine, using only the finest local produce. The quality of all the food from the amuse bouche, bread rolls, mains and desserts was of the highest quality, much of which is produced on the premises. The Auberge prides itself on offering a more personal level of service. The Auberge has undergone three extensions due to its popularity as a destination for fine food, drinks and as a venue for celebration parties and a good night out. The interior of the restaurant with large antique French mirrors, paintings and crystal chandeliers added touches of opulence to the modern décor. Like the cuisine, the ambience is a fusion of traditional favourites and more modern trends.
Stuffed mushroom, blue cheese crumb, pepper puree, rocket salad (v)
Chicken liver parfait, red onion chutney, wholemeal toast
Confit pork belly, dauphinoise potatoes, port sauce x2
Strawberry cheesecake, summer berry coulis, pistachio dust
Traditional crème brûlée, lime & lemon shortbread
I felt very comfortable in the restaurant and was very pleased with the high level of table service I received. The quality of the food and wine we enjoyed was top drawer! If you are looking for a first-class restaurant during your stay in Southport, for a small private dining experience or are looking for something a little livelier The Auberge is sure to offer it. Check out the website to see what events and food specials are on today!
110a Lord Street
Address: 98 Lord St, Southport PR8 1JR
Phone: 01704 883800