Modern town, Victorian twist

Seaside getaway
Last Updated 23 October 2010, 09:58 IST

It is also known as Golf Capital of England. Founded in 1792 by William Sutton, Southport is the jewel of the northwest coastline and one of the most popular seaside resorts in the UK. This enchanting place is also a residential town.

In 1848, a rail service started from Liverpool to the town, and from 1853, people could go by train to the resort from Manchester. The striking feature of this beautiful town is its tree plantations, which were laid out in the 19th century. Another notable feature is the rich Victorian heritage, which is mostly found on Lord Street and surrounding areas. Lord Street, one of Britain’s finest boulevards, is the main shopping thoroughfares and dates from the 1820s. At Lord Street you will find a couple of covered arcades leading off the
main street.

The Victorian era has left the town with a glorious legacy — the parks and gardens as well as wide tree-lined streets. Along one side are shops with Victorian glass-topped canopies and the opposite side is adorned with gardens, fountains and classical buildings. An interesting fact about Southport is that between 1846 to 1848, Napoléon III of France (Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte), lived here during his exile before becoming Emperor of France in 1851.

The ornate Victorian covered walkways and arcades, together with rows of fine trees, had a profound effect upon him. So much was the impact of this beautiful English street that Napoléon is said to have implemented many of the ideas into the design of the Champs Elysées in Paris. Southport is truly a first class shopping destination with its exclusive boutiques, high-street stores and plenty of covered shopping areas.

We took a stroll in the morning along Marine Drive at Southport coast which was an exhilarating experience. The vast marshlands are a great haven for bird-life. Southport is also blessed with a sandy beach and pier, which is the second largest pier in England (3,650 feet (1112m) and is the oldest surviving iron pier in the UK. In addition, the town also has a tram that travels up and down the pier.

The walk along the pier is pleasant with views across the bay to Blackpool. At the end of the pier is a Victorian penny arcade. The Victorian pier alongside its unique manmade marine lake with adjacent cafes and bars, boat trips and the popular Mississippi Paddle Steamer for cruises along Southport’s historic waterfront, all make this town a must-visit.

Southport is also rich in greenery with the beautiful parks. The beautiful Hesketh Park lies at the end of Lord Street and is carefully and skillfully landscaped with the main attraction being a large lake with a wildfowl. Next comes the Botanical Garden in Church town. At the main entrance you get to see typical Victorian splendour with a museum and cafe to the left and a small zoo to the right, which is a perfect place for kids.

Further down, you can find recreation areas including a bowling area, tennis court, a small play park and a large area of grass suitable for football, among other facilities. For art lovers,  many water colour paintings, oil paintings and Victorian art from the 19th and 20th centuries are showcased in Atkinson Art Gallery.

The 22 mile-coastline offers beautiful beaches with stunning panoramic views — a perfect place to build sandcastles with the kids. Splash World is another great attraction for the children of all ages. There is also the Model Railway Village, which consists of beautiful vistas and fabulous panoramic views of the of the Model Trains which  meander around 1.5 acres of beautiful miniature landscape.

This classic English seaside resort town is also famous for its international Jazz Festival held at the end of May every year. The other important events are the air and flower show, both held annually which attract large number of visitors. The Southport Flower Show is the largest independent flower show in the UK.

(Published 23 October 2010, 09:11 IST)

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