First-timer discovers the sheer pleasure of Blackpool
My name is Jan and I have a confession. Until a few weeks ago, I'd never set foot in Blackpool. In truth, I felt like I had been there because of its almost mythical status in the popular culture of the UK.
Happily, this cheerful old Lancashire seaside resort managed fine without me and is still a perennial favourite with Scots of all ages. After going through more ups and downs than a Pleasure Beach rollercoaster, Blackpool is experiencing a renaissance in popularity with Scots. Easy to get to by train, bus or car from most major conurbations in Scotland, it’s the ideal spot for a short break away from it all.
Together with a friend, Jill, I recently travelled to Blackpool from Glasgow to Preston and took a little local train on to Blackpool. The whole trip took less than three hours.
The stylish Big Blue Hotel, our base for this short break, sits right next to Blackpool Pleasure Beach, which even has its own railway station. The first place we head to after dropping our bags off, is Blackpool Tower.
This famous old girl has dominated the skyline of the town since 1884. Inspired by the architecture – and tourist pulling-power of the Eiffel Tower in Paris – it soars 380 feet into the air, which on the day we visited, was completely cloudless.
If you have a head for heights, beneath your feet, there’s a five centimetre-thick glass viewing platform, from which you can gaze out across the clear waters of the Irish Sea. In 2016, Blackpool South beach was awarded a blue flag for excellent sea water quality and on the day we visit, it glitters in the sunshine.
At the top of the Tower, which has a bar serving drinks and snacks, the famous Blackpool Promenade and its many attractions – Sea Life, the Pleasure Beach, Madame Tussauds, Nickelodeon Land, Sandcastle Waterpark, Blackpool Zoo and Blackpool Model Village and Gardens – spread out below like a smorgasbord of tempting treats.
The town of Blackpool is a jumble of buildings and streets while the North West of England lies beyond with views over Bowland, up to the Lake District and on a clear day down to Liverpool and across to the Isle of Man.
I gaze down through the glass to the pavement below where Gordon Young’s giant artwork, The Comedy Carpet, is being examined by ant-like tourists, checking out the legions of famous comedy names who have played Blackpool’s stages over the years.
I can also make out the shiny gold roof of the Beach House Bistro and Bar on the seafront where we later partake of a fine seafood dinner.
Before leaving the Tower, we take a look-see at its elegant old ballroom, which regularly makes a star appearance in Strictly Come Dancing. Dating back to 1894, The Blackpool Tower Ballroom is famous for its unique sprung dance floor and spectacular architecture and remains a destination for dance fans from across the globe. On the day we visit, Chinese ballroom dancers – visiting for an international dance festival – are shimmying expertly across the dance floor. We watch mesmerised as we take afternoon tea, listening to the sounds of the famous old Wurlitzer organ.
In the course of our two-day trip, we visit several attractions thanks to our Blackpool Resort Pass, which costs £57.50 per person. When we were there, Blackpool Pleasure Beach was gearing up for the arrival of ICON, a £16.25m rollercoaster to end all rollercoasters, which offers riders the same G-force an F1 driver experiences. Another friend partook of the joys the following week and she said it actually felt like she was flying…
Jill and I had a real laugh in Madame Tussauds Blackpool, cosying up to Simon Cowell on a couch and sitting next to Ant and Dec on the famous “I’m a Celebrity” desk, musing on whether Ant would return to the hot jungle seat at the end of this year.
We also had a wee sing-song with Susan Boyle and wondered if Steven Gerrard’s model would become a go-to figure for Rangers FC fans.
If you are visiting with young children, they will love Sea Life Blackpool. There are more than 2,500 sea creatures in this attraction. New for 2018 is Turtle Rescue; an interactive journey in which visitors of all ages are encouraged to become a turtle care expert as they travel on a real-life journey to understand what is involved in successfully rehabilitating a turtle.
Blackpool really does have something for everyone; old, young, inbetweeners and cynical middle-aged folk like me! There’s a year-long calendar of events, including the famous Blackpool Illuminations Switch-On, which takes place on 31 August, eight nights worth of summertime fun in the shape of Late Night Riding and Fireworks at the Pleasure Beach and Livewire Festival, featuring Kenny Rogers, Boyz II Men, Matt Goss and more on the weekend of 22-26 August.
One thing’s for sure, Blackpool… I’ll be back.