10 things to do in Liverpool with kids

When I think of Liverpool I picture The Beatles, the Grand National and football, all cliched views of the city. I wouldn’t usually think of it as a holiday destination but it has some fabulous free museums which are perfect for exploring year round. Our short visit proved it was an ideal destination for a family break.

1 World Museum

The best museum in Liverpool according to my kids.

The first floor hosts a small aquarium, whilst the second one has a bug house with leaf cutter ants. The higher floors cover topics like the Ancient Greeks, Egyptians and world cultures. The dinosaur exhibition is very popular with dinosaur bones and fossil footprints to see. There’s also a planetarium but you need to get in early to get tickets to a show.

The information boards provide bite sized snippets perfect for primary school aged children, evidenced by the various school groups racing around the exhibits. This is most definitely a museum for the kids; adults might find they’d like a little more detail about some of the exhibits.

2 Superlambana hunt

What on earth is a superlambana I hear you say? It’s a 5 metre high bright yellow sculpture of a lamb crossed with a banana! According to the Japanese designer Taro Chiezo it’s a comment on the dangers of genetic engineering but also reflects Liverpool’s history where lambs and bananas used to travel through the city docks.

A lambana!
A superlambana

The original superlambana was joined by 125 smaller statues back in 2008. These were displayed around the city and then auctioned off for charity. There are still plenty to see, including 4 outside the Museum of Liverpool. The superlambanas are colourful and appealing to children, and fun to spot if you visit the city.

3 Fab Four Beatles tour

It’s hard to ignore The Beatles whilst in Liverpool as they’re probably responsible for much of its tourist industry. You could easily spend a weekend solely visiting Beatles related attractions but as time was short we decided on a 3 hour Fab Four Beatles taxi tour.

Penny Lane, a stop on the Fab Four Beatles tour
Penny Lane, a stop on the Fab Four Beatles tour

Our black cab visited schools and art colleges, homes, Penny Lane, Strawberry Field, Eleanor Rigby’s grave and various other places mentioned in their songs. The childhood homes of John and Paul are owned by the National Trust (you can arrange a tour round these) whilst the early home of Ringo is boarded up and covered in Beatles graffiti. We felt sorry for the owner of George’s previous house as it is still privately owned but must be subject to a never ending stream of tourists.

John Lennon's house
John Lennon’s house, Liverpool

Our guide was excellent and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Beatles. As adults we found the tour to be just the right length but our kids were getting decidedly itchy towards the end. In hindsight we probably should have booked the 2 hour tour!

4 International Slavery Museum

This museum is located at Albert Dock, close to the dry docks where 18th century slave trading ships were fitted out. Its galleries tell the story of life in West Africa, the transatlantic journey the slaves took, life on the plantations and the legacy of slavery.

This is not an entertaining museum but it is thought provoking. It’s a museum more suited to older kids as there is quite a lot to read, rather than hands on activities. Understandably, some of the information might also be quite upsetting (my eldest watched a video which she said was very sad).

5 Merseyside Maritime Museum

Located in the same building as the Slavery museum, this tells the story of Liverpool’s maritime history.

Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool
Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool

My favourite gallery was the one dedicated to the tragedies of the Titanic, Lusitania and Empress of Ireland, three ships all connected to Liverpool which sank between 1912 and 1915. Whilst most people are pretty familiar with the story of the Titanic, the others are sometimes overlooked.  Did you know that more people died on the sinking of the Empress of Ireland than the Titanic?

Other galleries covered the story of emigrants and smuggling. The Seized! gallery offers visitors the ability to handle some of the collections and take part in craft activities.

6 View from St John’s Beacon Viewing Gallery (Radio City Tower)

St John’s Beacon, the home of Radio City, is an iconic landmark in Liverpool but not many people seem to know you can visit it. Tickets for the viewing gallery can be purchased at the radio station entrance, and visits depart from reception every half hour or so.  A super fast lift takes you up to the viewing gallery, and after a short overview you are left to look at the views for as long as you wish.

Radio City Tower
Radio City Tower

The 138m high beacon was once the tallest building in Liverpool, and although it no longer holds this title there are fantastic views over the city and beyond. Visitors receive a pictorial guide to help identify the buildings. On clear days you can supposedly see to North Wales and the Lake District.

View from Radio City Tower
View from Radio City Tower

I’m not sure you’d want to visit if you’re scared of heights. It is completely enclosed but the tower moves slightly with the wind and with most of the viewing area made from glass it feels a bit more exposed than it actually is.  One lady on our tour really didn’t like it!

7 Museum of Liverpool

This museum traces the history of Liverpool through from the Iron Age to modern days. I really enjoyed finding out about the docks and how the port of Liverpool came about. I learnt loads but admittedly my knowledge of Liverpudlian history was limited.

Visitors can sit in a carriage from the Liverpool overhead railway, see a replica of the Liver Bird up close and watch a Beatles show. Downstairs in the Wondrous Place gallery you are reminded of just how many writers, artists and musicians come from Liverpool – it’s not all about The Beatles!

8 Albert Dock

The Albert Dock area is at the heart of the city and a great place to wander round. When the dock opened in 1846 cargo came from all over the world and included cotton, brandy and sugar. Sadly trade via sailing ship diminished and by 1920 the warehouses were only used to store goods which travelled by road or rail.

Albert Dock, Liverpool
Albert Dock, Liverpool

Albert Dock was eventually abandoned in 1972 but revitalised in the 1980s with the building of the Maritime Museum. Today it’s home to several museums, and has a number of restaurants and shops to visit.

Albert Dock at sunset
Albert Dock at sunset

9 Liver Birds

The Liver Birds stand on top of the Royal Liver Building and are one of the most recognisable symbols of Liverpool. Although you cannot view them up close they’re easily visible from the local area. One bird faces inland, to protect the city, whilst the other looks out to sea to protect those at sea.

10 Antony Gormley statues on Crosby Beach

Not strictly in Liverpool but a great choice if you fancy a trip out of the city. Easily accessible by train, read more about our visit to Antony Gormley’s sculptures on the beach.

Antony Gormley's 'Another Place'
Antony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’

More info

  • St John’s Beacon is open daily. More details on the website.
  • Full details about the museums above can be found on the National Museums Liverpool website.  The museums above are open all year, with the exception of a short closure over Christmas and New Year.
  • The Fab Four taxi tours website details the different tour options and lengths.

Costs

  • All of the museums above are free!
  • A family ticket for St John’s Beacon costs £14.50 and includes a tour guide.  Individual tickets are £5 for adults, £3 for children.
  • The 3 hour Beatles Fab Four taxi tour costs £55 per taxi (seating up to 5 people).
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Ennerdale, Black Sail and Haystacks, Cumbria

Ennerdale, in the north west of the Lake District receives relatively few visitors compared to other parts of the Lakes.  It requires more of an effort to get to, but rewards walkers and cyclists with some outstanding mountain adventures.

Early morning view over Ennerdale lake
Early morning view over Ennerdale lake

We were spending one night at Ennerdale Youth Hostel, then walking to Black Sail Youth Hostel for the following night. Black Sail is the most remote hostel in England and inaccessible by car.  It’s a converted shepherd’s bothy, sleeping sixteen people in three bedrooms. Due to its location on the Coast to Coast path it’s popular with walkers so our stay was booked many months previously.

The drive to Ennerdale took longer than expected due to a very busy M6. Away from the motorway we had a straightforward trip to Ennerdale hostel, although the last couple of miles is on a forest track, adding to the remoteness of the location. We arrived pretty late so were in bed before long.

The next day dawned warm and sunny, not something that can always be guaranteed in the Lakes! After a relaxed breakfast, we made our pack lunches and set off for Black Sail.

The route to Black Sail
The route to Black Sail

We were travelling with walking friends who had a big day in the mountains planned, ending at Black Sail, but this wasn’t feasible with the kids. Instead we took the straightforward route to Black Sail, walking a well defined track along the valley floor. It’s about 4 miles to the hostel via this route so we arrived mid-morning.

Black Sail hostel
Black Sail hostel

I’d seen plenty of pictures of Black Sail before as I’ve wanted to visit for sometime but the first glimpse of the building was still exciting. Lakeland peaks surround the hostel, which faces out onto an intense green panorama. Despite the number of photos I took it still remains hard to convey how stunning the location is.

View from Black Sail YHA
View from Black Sail YHA

The hostel kitchen, common room and a toilet remain open all day, providing passing walkers with the option to use its facilities in return for a small donation. The hostel reception opens at 5pm, so after a short break we headed up Haystacks, the hill directly behind the hostel.

Haystacks, at 1959ft above sea level, just misses out on the title of mountain. However it is a popular fell, and was Alfred Wainwright’s favourite hill, so much so that his ashes are scattered in the tarn on top. We took the path up to Scarth Gap, where we met large numbers of walkers coming from Buttermere.

View from Haystacks
View from Haystacks

From Scarth Gap we had an easy scramble to the summit. The kids loved this, although you do need a head for heights.

Scrambling on Haystacks
Scrambling on Haystacks

Innominate Tarn was a busy lunch spot. It also appeared to be the resting place of others apart from Wainwright if the bunch of carnations in the water was anything to go by. Whilst I can understand the sentiment they appeared completely out of place in the mountain landscape.

Continuing on, we passed Blackbeck Tarn, glad that the weather had been dry recently as the bog cotton signalled a rather marshy area. The next section went steeply downhill with stone steps much of the way down. I was happy we weren’t going in the opposite direction!

Walking past Blackbeck Tarn
Walking past Blackbeck Tarn

The final part to the hostel took us over grass covered moraines, and involved a couple of stream crossings.  With so little rain, the water was low and conveniently placed stepping stones helped us keep our feet dry.

Back at the hostel we waited for our friends to return from their walk. It was late afternoon when we spotted them coming off the peaks opposite. They’d all been excited walking down as they had mistaken the hostel generator for an ice cream freezer! Once the generator was turned on it was hard to mistake it for anything else, as it certainly shattered the peace. We couldn’t really complain though as it meant we got a cooked dinner.

Black Sail Youth Hostel (with generator/ice cream cart on far right)
Black Sail Youth Hostel (with generator/ice cream cart on far right)

We’d booked an evening meal at the hostel, which I was rather glad of as it saved us having to carry food in. Dinner was of the one pot variety – tomato and lentil soup, rice and beef curry or vegetable tagine, followed by apple crumble and custard. It wasn’t haute cuisine but after a day in the hills it was tasty and filling.  Like the hostels of old, we mucked in and after each course washed up our plates and cutlery.

Dinner was followed by an impromptu kids cricket match.  Not the easiest bowling or fielding conditions given the slopes, rough grass and boggy areas but the kids didn’t seem to mind.

We slept well that night. The bunk room was basic, and any trip to the toilet would have necessitated going outside to reach the facilities but fortunately they weren’t required. Next morning we again took advantage of the hostels catering facilities with fried breakfasts for all. We sang Happy Birthday to one of the other visitors at breakfast, who was celebrating his 50th with a trip to the hostel.

Our route out took us back along the valley floor, although for variety we walked on the opposite side of the river. Our night at Black Sail had been worth the wait, and I hope it’s one of the memories the kids remember in adulthood.

More info:

  • The walk up Haystacks takes you into mountain territory, for which you should be properly equipped and prepared for.
  • To book the Youth Hostels visit http://www.yha.org.uk/

Costs

  • A family bunk room at Ennerdale, sleeping 2 adults and 2 children, costs £50 per night.
  • A similar room at Black Sail costs from £45 per night, according to the website, although availability is very limited. An alternative option is a room in the shared dormitory (£20 per adult, reduced price for children).
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On the beach with Antony Gormley

menlookingout
Antony Gormley “Another Place”, Crosby beach

Most people know Antony Gormley as the creator of the “Angel of the North”, but being a southerner I tend to associate him with a solitary statue on top of Exeter College in Oxford.

I was keen to see more of his work so on a recent trip to Liverpool our first port of call was Crosby Beach.  This is the site of “Another Place”, an installation which has been exhibited in Norway, Germany and Belgium but now has a permanent home at Crosby.

Antony Gormley statue
Antony Gormley statue

The kids were initially excited about visiting the beach but when I mentioned it was to see some statues, rather than to go paddling (it’s a non-bathing beach), it lost some of its appeal.  Never mind that it was a freezing cold day with a biting wind!

We took the train from Liverpool to Blundellsands and Crosby station.  From the station it’s a 5 minute walk down to the beach front.  I’d seen quite a few photos of the statues beforehand but even so I was suitably impressed on arrival.

There are 100 statues, along a 2 mile stretch of beach, facing out to sea.   They’re made from casts of the sculptors own body so are realistic to a level of detail which made the kids snigger (if you get where I’m coming from).

A few statues are sunk into the sand and that’s a warning you should heed – the mud is particularly sticky so don’t attempt to walk out to the statues away from those closest to the promenade.

joeandmanSome of the statues have been dressed or painted.  Others are covered in barnacles. Most have a liberal dosing of seagull poo. We visited at low tide so you can see the statues stretching out into the distance.  Every so often your eyes play tricks and you think it’s a real person out on the horizon.

We walked alongside the promenade until we reached the coastguard station, and then followed the signs to Hall Road station, the next stop along on the railway. It’s only as I write this that I realise our tickets were only valid to the stop we got off at. I’ve no idea if there is a price difference but best to check in advance if you plan to do a similar walk!

Kids view:

We liked seeing the statues stuck in the sand, although it would have been better if it was warm and sunny.  The statues must get really cold!

General info:

  • I wish we’d bought a pair of binoculars with us.  In addition to the furthest statues, there are plenty of birds and large container ships to look out for.
  • Wellies might also have been useful. Although the tide was out, and we didn’t venture far from the promenade, we still got wet feet visiting some of the statues.
  • The train takes about 20 minutes from the centre of Liverpool. You can also drive to Crosby and then follow the brown tourist signs to Antony Gormley’s Another Place.
  • There’s not much in the way of facilities en route apart from an ice cream van and a stall selling drinks and hot snacks in the car park at the lifeguard station.
  • The promenade runs alongside the beach and is fully accessible.

Costs:

  • The statues are free to visit.  The ice cream van was  rather pricey, but I guess it’s a captive market.
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