Merseyside makes its mark
Date Posted: 22/09/2011
We turn the spotlight on Liverpool and Merseyside as the region’s tourism offering goes from strength to strength with new attractions, openings, and headline events.
Awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2004 and crowned the European Capital of Culture in 2008, Liverpool’s prestigious titles have enticed a mix of domestic and international guests in recent years. With an ongoing commitment to invest in its leisure and tourism offering, both the city and wider region make for a great group destination.
Excellent transport links ensure straightforward and economical travel around the city centre; while the surrounding area, including the districts of Southport, Wirral, St Helens, Knowsley and Halton, is also extremely accessible for visiting groups. The Liverpool Coach Welcome Scheme, developed by The Mersey Partnership, Liverpool City Council and Liverpool Cathedral, which operates from the cathedral assures a warm reception for coach parties, providing useful information for drivers including coach pick-up, drop-off and parking facilities.
Already boasting a variety of museums, galleries and theatres, completed by impressive architecture and a spectacular waterfront, Liverpool City Region continues to build on this success with new attractions, hotels and headline events.
The city’s most recent opening is the £72 million Museum of Liverpool, operated by National Museums Liverpool (NML) and reportedly the world’s first national museum devoted to the history of a regional city. Visiting groups can explore its four key themes of port, creative and sporting history, people and global significance; with galleries called The Great Port, Wondrous Place, People’s Republic and Global City.
NML also operates an additional seven museums and galleries across the city region - World Museum Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, International Slavery Museum, Merseyside Maritime Museum, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Sudley House and Border Agency National Museum (Seized! The Border and Customs Uncovered) - all of which offer free admission. Art enthusiasts may also enjoy visits to the Open Eye Gallery, re-launching this November, or Tate Liverpool, which unveils new exhibition Alice in Wonderland on 4th November, running until 29th January.
No mention of Liverpool would be complete without The Beatles, and fans can visit a host of attractions and iconic sites linked to the band. Hard Days Night is reportedly the world’s first Beatles-inspired hotel, and is situated in a prime location minutes from Mathew Street and the world-famous Cavern Club. Additional Fab Four experiences include the Magical Mystery Tour plus visits to National Trust properties Mendips and 20 Forthlin Road - the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The Beatles Story at Albert Dock brings the band’s story to life, with a second site at Pier Head housing the Hidden Gallery exhibition plus a Fab4D Experience.
This month marks the opening of a major new exhibition at The Beatles Story, as Elvis Presley Enterprises (the parent company of Graceland in Memphis), joins forces with the Liverpool attraction to host Elvis and Us. Running for two years, the exhibition aims to explore how the Fab Four were influenced by the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and will feature a number of rare and exclusive artefacts, many of which have never before been exhibited publicly.
Groups intent on exploring Liverpool’s retail offering have a host of options to choose from. The £1 billion Liverpool ONE retail and leisure complex spans 42-acres and boasts more than 160 shops, cafes, restaurants and bars, in addition to two hotels and a 14-screen Odeon cinema. Liverpool ONE also features the five-acre Chavasse Park, promoted as a green oasis at the heart of the city and home to the John Lennon Peace & Harmony Monument unveiled last year. Alternative shopping options include Cavern Walks, Metquarter and Bold Street, which feature a mix of independent and high street brands, and designer names.
For those who prefer sport over shopping, the city’s two Premier League clubs - Liverpool and Everton - offer stadium tours. This year Liverpool Football Club has expanded its tourism offer even further, and in addition to the opening of the Boot Room Restaurant at Anfield back in December, you will find the recently opened exhibition space The Reds Gallery at the Bluecoat, which will change its theme every three months and offers free entry. Visiting groups can also enjoy the club’s stadium tour and museum.
The launch of the award-winning Dream two years ago - a 20-metre sculpture by renowned artist Jaume Plensa, situated on the site of the former Sutton Manor Colliery - has changed the face of St Helens’s landscape. Commissioned by local ex-miners and weighing more than 370 tons, Dream takes the form of a young girl’s head with her eyes closed.
The town is also preparing to welcome another addition in December, with the opening of its new purpose-built 18,000-seater stadium, enabling Rugby fans to enjoy Super League action at the new home of Saints.
Promoted as England’s Classic Resort, the Victorian coastal town of Southport is a favourite for groups, with its contemporary twists and hidden gems. Groups can enjoy picturesque surroundings and pay a visit to Southport Pier, reportedly the second longest in Britain, and boasting fantastic views along the north-west coast. Southport has also enjoyed a considerable amount of recent investment, with the creation of Southport Theatre and Convention Centre, which features restaurants, bars, a casino, and a four-star Ramada Plaza Hotel.
Situated between Liverpool and Southport, make time for a visit to Crosby. Crosby Beach is home to large-scale public artwork Another Place by internationally acclaimed artist Antony Gormley. Spread out along three-kilometres and stretching almost one-kilometre out to sea, Another Place consists of 100 cast-iron, life-size figures, each weighing 650 kilos and made from casts of the artist’s own body.
Five great group attractions
• Liverpool Cathedral: Admire the gothic splendour of Liverpool Cathedral and see the city from a new perspective on the Tower Experience, taking visitors to the top of the cathedral’s 331-foot tower.
• Mersey Ferries: Embark on the Mersey Ferries River Explorer to take the Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey and see the city’s sights from the water and learn of its unique character and history.
• Ness Botanic Gardens: Situated on the Wirral Peninsula, pre-booked groups visiting this popular garden attraction can enjoy a meet-and-greet introductory talk, with guided tours and refreshment packages also available.
• New Pleasureland Southport: Visit fun fair attraction New Pleasureland, offering a host of rides and amusements to entertain groups of all ages. Entry is free with a pay-per-ride token scheme.
• The World of Glass: Get creative at The World of Glass in St Helens with live glass-blowing demonstrations, and the chance to try your hand at blowing a glass bauble on selected courses. History-enthusiasts can explore the two galleries, with retail therapy at the Artisan Gift Shop.
Five cultural and heritage attractions
• Albert Dock: Located on the waterfront and part of Liverpool’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, the historic dock is home to a host of attractions including the Echo Wheel of Liverpool, Yellow Duckmarine, Yellow Boat Cruises, The Beatles Story, Merseyside Maritime Museum and the International Slavery Museum.
• Port Sunlight Museum & Garden Village: Built by William Hesketh Lever to house his soap factory workers, and set in 130 acres of beautifully maintained parkland, groups can begin their visit at Port Sunlight Museum before embarking on a guided tour of the village.
• Shiverpool Ghost Tours: Explore Liverpool’s famous locations and hidden histories on a Shiverpool Ghost Tour, operating year round and comprising a series of theatrical performances throughout the streets of the city-centre.
• Speke Hall: Uncover the Tudor secrets of this 14th century manor house featuring restored Victorian interiors. Groups can also explore the site’s new maze - opened in July - designed to reflect Speke’s Victorian farming history and featuring 12 gates, five bridges, four finger mazes and a tower.
• Walker Art Gallery: Art-enthusiasts can see an exhibition of art books by renowned 20th century artist Henry Matisse in a major new exhibition running from the 21st October to 15th April.
New accommodation options
Liverpool continues to expand its range of accommodation options for groups, with recent openings including new concept base2stay, and boutique Heywood House Hotel. This year has seen the opening of Days Inn Hotel, followed by Hotel Indigo Liverpool which features a Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar and Grill. The city’s first five-star boutique hotel, Layla, is scheduled to open in early 2012.
2012 Grand National
Horse-racing fans will be well aware that Merseyside is home to two of the country’s top racecourses, Haydock Park and Aintree Racecourse. The highlight of the racing calendar is the John Smith’s Grand National, with the 2012 Grand National scheduled to take place from the 12th to 14th April.
The Mersey Partnership: