We recently visited Willowbank Touring Park in Ainsdale. It’s about 3 miles outside Southport, next door to Formby, and only about an hour further down the coast from where we live so we spent very little time on the road. It was a rainy day on our arrival but the sun soon appeared.
Southport pier in the distance
Driveway to site
Arrival at site
The pitches and facilities at Willowbank are excellent. No choosing your own pitch here though. As soon as you arrive you’re taken to a pre-allocated pitch. It’s no biggie but it’s always nicer to have the freedom to choose your own. The main road outside the site driveway can get very busy but there’s a path and cycle way running alongside for safe cycling/walking. We could hear quite a bit of traffic noise late into Friday night. This didn’t bother us though, and we found the site to be lovely and ideally situated for our stay. We would happily stay there again.
Jolly pitched up
The sun soon shone 😎
For this break we used our bikes to explore the area. The first day we cycled down to Ainsdale beach and through Ainsdale village. It was a very damp and grey day, but this made for some quite atmospheric beach photographs.
A murky day at Ainsdale beach
Gulls at Ainsdale beach
Lots of cycling in the area
Shore Road Roundabout Sculpture
Oot n aboot on t’bikes
After a beach wander and cycle around Ainsdale (calling in at a cosy, quaint venue called The Tipple Bar), we cycled to The Sparrowhawk where we enjoyed a cracking evening meal to round off the day. It’s just half a mile from the campsite and a must for a meal if you’re in the area.
Cosy Tipple Bar
Lovely decor and ambience
It was Grand National weekend
The Sparrowhawk, Ainsdale
Next morning after a good sleep, lie-in and a bit of brekkie we headed back out on our bikes to Formby, following much of the Asparagus Cycle Trail which takes in the Formby Red Squirrel Reserve. This was our main reason for this Jolly trip so we were a bit excited!
It was our first time seeing red squirrels and we saw plenty, which it turns out was quite lucky as we’ve spoken to some people who saw none when they visited. There was quite a lot of activity when we were there and some of them came up quite close for a photograph. They’re smaller than expected in comparison to the greys, and it was a really special experience seeing them thriving in good numbers.
Here are some photos of our red squirrel experience visit and our day out n about on the bikes (so much better than me wittering on):-
Formby National Trust Red Squirrel Reserve
Red Squirrel reserve
The Squirrel Walk
A Jay bird
Very cycle friendly area
Hmm, which way to go
Along the Asparagus Cycle Route
Along the Asparagus Route
A little bit of history
More history …
Afterwards we cycled back to site and cooked tea on Jolly, spending a chilled evening before heading home about midday the next day.
Our next Jolly jaunt will be probably somewhere up Cumbria way.
Wow, we were truly blessed by the weather for our mid-week Jolly jaunt to Southport this week. The sun shone from start to finish, and it felt as if we were miles from home rather than only an hour’s journey away.
Arriving into Southport, the pier in the distance
Southport is a Victorian seaside town lying on the Irish Sea coast of North West England. It has the second longest pier in the UK (the longest being Southend Pier), refurbished in 2002 at a cost of £7 million pounds it has a quite modern design with a cafe and Victorian-style penny arcades at the end. Surprisingly, we didn’t actually visit the pier during this trip despite having fully intended to. There were just too many other things to cram into a two-night break. Great excuse for a re-visit though! 🙂
We stayed at the Caravan Club Site on the Esplanade along the coast. It is a short walk into the centre of town from the site. The site is very popular for visitors to the annual Southport Air Show, and we came home just before the weekend of this event during which the site is fully booked. We pitched on the recently added phase of the site, which has increased the number of hard-standing pitches and provided an extra facilities block. This work was completed earlier this year. We booked a pitch with awning and were impressed by the pitch sizes which felt more spacious than other sites we have visited. It is a very friendly, spacious, clean, and open site which we will definitely return to in the future.
We spent the afternoon of our arrival just relaxing in the sunshine on site. It was very hot, and we had to make the most of what sunshine is left of this summer.
Taking time to enjoy the sunshine on site
Despite the site being quite busy it was pleasantly very quiet. We later walked into the town centre (approx. 15 mins) and visited a beer bar and bottle shop Bri had read about called The Tap & Bottles. They have a wide range of cask and craft ales and offer homemade beer-tapas snacks for the hungry. It’s a cosy place with a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
The Tap & Bottles on Cambridge Walks in the town centre
Varied selection of cask and craft ales
We didn’t eat there, instead we opted to move on for a Turkish meal at the Havin Turkish Restaurant on Coronation Walk. It was a Tuesday evening and so very quiet in town and we were the only customers in the restaurant. The service was great and the food even more so. We couldn’t fault it and would recommend a visit for something a little different if in the area.
The day after our arrival we awoke to blazing sunshine and geared up ready for a 22.5 mile bike ride, a map of which is provided in the information room on site. The ride takes you from site to part of the the Transpennine Trail: Cheshire Lines, then along part of the the Liverpool 20 trail to Lydiate.
Lydiate is approx. half way along the ride and a good place to stop for refreshments at either the Scotch Piper Inn or Hayloft cafe which are just a few yards apart from each other along the main road. We opted to stop for a little liquid refreshment at the historic Scotch Piper Inn which is the oldest pub in Lancashire. The thatched Grade 2 listed building dates from 1320, when it was originally known as “The Royal Oak”, and sections of the trunk of the oak tree around which it was built are visible from the tap room.
The Scotch Piper Inn at Lydiate. The oldest pub in Lancashire 🍻
Interior of the Inn
For more on the history of the Inn and old photographs, check out this link:-
From this short pitstop we cycled on, passing over the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and a blustery 4-mile stretch over Plex Moss. This stretch would be quite challenging on a windy day, as it was quite blustery on a calm day due to its wide open, exposed track. We got our heads down though and pedalled through! 🚴🚴
Scenic cycle ride
Nice day for it 🌞
Most of the afternoon was spent on the scenic cycle ride before tea at the Fisherman’s Rest on Weld Lane which is just around the corner from the campsite.
We enjoyed delicious meals here, Bri opting for the slow cooked beef shin and Suzie for the Thai red fish curry. We later headed to the front so that Suzie could catch a few sunset shots, although we’d left it a little late and only caught the last of the sunset!
Just in time for the last part of the sunset
Southport is so handy for us and we will return without hesitation, next time to the pier and more of the centre of Southport.
Our next Jolly adventure is to the town of Ulverston, South Cumbria, the birthplace of Stan Laurel, one half of Suzie’s favourite comedy duo, Laurel & Hardy.