This page brings together the best places and things that I’ve encountered on my adventure with the absolute worst. It’s awards night!
So to start off the general category of best and worst place. There have been a few really nice places, Formby, St Bees, Silverdale, but the award for best place I’ve visited so far goes to…. rather surprisingly… Heysham! Not for its nuclear power station, or for it’s international lorry port (which admittedly I did enjoy watching), but for its lovely little village, with a nice clifftop walk and ancient priory, and even a half decent beach.
So now for the worst. There were plenty of contenders – Barrow-in-Furness for instance, but I sort of took a liking to its people in the end. Workington was a pretty crap place although not without it’s charms, and of course Blackpool is the biggest dive of a seaside resort you can think of (except Rhyl), but my award goes to the place where it all started for me…. Liverpool, north of the pier head development this rapidly becomes a right shit-hole!
I have a collection of piers, so it’s only right that I rate them. For the best, clearly the Blackpool ones are famous, but I don’t really like all that naff entertainment stuff on piers. St Anne’s is classy, but because it’s nearly always closed loses several points here. So the prize goes to the first pier that I came across… Southport. The oldest iron pier in the country, second longest in the UK, and not a naff arcade in sight!
The worst. Well there are several to choose from. There are many decrepit jetties along the coast which were once part of industrial complexes, so it’s not fair to cite them really as they were never meant to be much fun in the first place. So that rules out John Pier near Workington and Askam-in-Furness jetty too, which is a shame as they were truly shit. Maryport pier was the previous winner… it really does have a shit pier, but not nearly as bad as Silloth.
Silloth pier started sinking into the mud shortly after it was built, and several times had to have its lighthouse at the end moved closer to the land so it didn’t fall into the sea. What remains is just three legs, with a rather pathetic light on the outer one.
I’ve encountered a few lighthouses so far, which can be found in my collection. There are some nice ones – St Bees, Fleetwood Beach, Maryport (even though it’s barely more than a streetlamp), and quite self-important ones such as Fleetwood Pharos – who would have the nerve to compare their lighthouse to the Alexandria Pharos?
Then there’s the tall thin pinnacle of Rampside Lighthouse, but for me, the award has to go to Plover Scar Lighthouse for sentimental reasons, as even though it got rammed by a ship – defeating the whole object of a lighthouse – and got knocked over, it was rebuilt as new and I feel sorry for it.
The worst one has to go to Whitehaven West Pier, which even Whitehaven didn’t want to build in the first place, and now don’t want to paint. Unloved by all, including me.
Most people think a coastal walk would be an opportunity to see so many lovely beaches. In fact most of the beaches around Britain are shit. Maybe we just haven’t had enough time yet for the sea to grind all those boulders and pebbles into lovely golden sand. Perhaps in a few million years I can rewrite this section and struggle to find a rubbish one, but for now, the hard part is choosing a nice one.
Blackpool beach of course is famous, but is let down by being in Blackpool. The remote beach behind Eskmeals Firing Range in Cumbria is very nice, and White Port beach at the end of the Almorness peninsula is stunning, but the prize still has to go to…. Formby. Wide expanses of sand backed by lovely dunes and even a nature reserve. I saw a red squirrel there too which gives it another 1 point. It would have got 10/10 if it didn’t cost £7 in pound coins to park. But it does, which is ridiculous, so it loses a point.
The tough choice is which beach is the crappiest! I guess a lot of towns don’t actually advertise having a beach, so it’s a bit unfair to criticise their beach, but I will anyway. For example, the expanse of pebbles, debris, and rough grey sand with drainage outflows at the otherwise lovely village of Bowness-on-Solway is a memory I’m happy to let fade. Shingle beaches are definitely one of the worst to walk along, only beaten by this place where the shingle gives way to ankle-snapping boulders…. Annaside in Cumbria. Brick rubble joins the boulders on the beach, backed by a crumbling vertical mud cliff that prevents you from getting off this ghastly shorefront. The only place so far where I thought about walking into the sea to get away from it!
There is unfortunately an awful lot of roadside walking involved when walking around the coast of Britain. Some roads are beautiful tree-lined lanes in the countryside with birds chirping and wild flowers smiling from the hedgerows. Some aren’t. I think the nicest lane I walked along was to Grange Over Sands, which at the time I hated. I really wasn’t in a good mood that day, but other walkers liked that section, and I realise I was just being a grumpy old sod, and in fact it was lovely, so Meathop Road in Cumbria, you have the prize.
The worst was definitely the A583 dual carriageway coming out of Preston. I didn’t take any photos at the time because it was so shit, so had to screengrab this off Google Maps! It gets 1/10 rather than zero only because it did have a pavement.
Now I’m not walking around islands, so it’s a bit hard to judge them, but I will anyway. The Isle of Man always looked nice from the coast, and was my companion for quite a few walks. Walney Island is meant to be nice, but I chose not to walk around it. My favourite island is Piel Island, just because it has a king and you can get free beer if you get shipwrecked there. Almost worth it.
The worst island is most definitely the one right next to Piel Island…. Roa Island. It’s not even an island. It’s like a council estate on the end of a stick. Truly the crappiest island in the UK… so far. It only gets any points at all because it had a fish and chip shop. If that had been closed I’d have been merciless.
So there we are, why don’t you make some suggestions and I’ll include them too!