Visiting England’s ports. Part 1: Northern England.
Britain has more than 19,000 miles of eclectic coastline; coastline that’s home to cliffs and castles, wildlife and beaches, harbours and cities. As an island nation, Britain boasts a magnificent sea-faring, sailing and maritime heritage, all of which is captured in its major ports - ports that will be further enhanced when London City Cruise Port opens, located on the banks of the River Thames in Greenwich.
A cruise gives you the option to explore all of this within a couple of weeks. England offers an array of attractions near key cruise ports. This guide shows how visitors to England can make the most of their shore leave when the ships docks at a variety of destinations. As for ports in Southern England, click here.
Visiting Liverpool, north-west England.
Once you’ve docked into the north-west England city of Liverpool, it’s just a ten-minute stroll to charming Albert Dock and its array of attractions, restaurants and shops. Got the urge to shop? Head over to the nearby Liverpool One retail park, packed with luxury and high-street shops alike (albertdock.com).
You can also re-live 1960s Beatlemania on the Albert Dock at the Beatles Story, where a 4D audio-visual music experience will transport you from the Fab Four’s early days in Hamburg to Liverpool’s Cavern Club and their final break-up (beatlesstory.com).
As Liverpool has such a strong maritime heritage, head over to the Albert Dock’s Merseyside Maritime Museum and the poignant International Slavery Museum, which provides a fascinating insight into the transatlantic slave trade between 1500 and 1865. The Maritime Museum’s seafaring collections include objects from the Titanic and a ship model in a light bulb (liverpoolmuseums.org.uk).
A 20-minute walk from the docks will take you into Liverpool city centre where you’ll discover its two inspiring cathedrals - the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, whose basilica is topped by a lantern tower bearing 25,000 pieces of stained glass, and the Anglican Cathedral, the largest in Britain (liverpoolmetrocathedral.org.uk).
Port Sunlight Museum and Garden Village, one of the finest surviving examples of early urban planning, is just 12 minutes by train from Liverpool James Street to Bebington, or 20 minutes by car. The 19th-century village, built to house factory workers from the Lever Brothers soap factory, was designed by 30 architects, so the 900 buildings display a contrast of styles (portsunlightvillage.com).
The Lady Lever Art Gallery features 18th- and 19th-century paintings by Gainsborough, Turner and Constable, as well as tapestries, Wedgwood and Chinese porcelain, while the museum provides a fascinating insight into the background of the project.
Jump on a train at Liverpool Lime Street station and head out to Chester, 45 minutes’ away - one of the finest examples of Britain’s Roman past. Founded in 75 AD, the city features splendid Roman city walls, attractive 13th-century half-timbered buildings and Eastgate Clock, a local landmark. The 11th-century Chester Cathedral, with its monastic cloisters and wood-carved choir stalls, is where the composer, Handel, staged the first public performance of The Messiah in 1742. Outside the city walls, the Roman Chester Amphitheatre is one of Britain’s finest Roman relics.
If you want to venture further afield, it’s a two-hour train journey from Liverpool to the Lake District, and a two-hour journey back, but it’s totally worth it for the gorgeous countryside. Explore the beautiful lakes and mountains on foot – there are numerous well-marked walking trails for however long you want to walk for – by vintage steam train on the Lakeside & Haverthwaite railway, or head back on to the water aboard the Ullswater steamer (lakesiderailway.co.uk and ullswatersteamers.co.uk).
Another reason to visit the Lake District this year is that 2016 is the 150th anniversary of author Beatrix Potter’s birth; there are many events taking place at her 17th-century home, Hill Top, near Hawkshead and at the Beatrix Potter Gallery nearby (nationaltrust.org.uk).
Read more about Lake District.
Or jump on a train from Liverpool Lime Street Station and take the 30-minute journey to Manchester. Manchester's thriving arts and culture scene has been identified as a key draw for visitors.
Projects such as the opening of the Whitworth Gallery (named Museum of the Year in 2015), HOME (a centre for international contemporary art, theatre and film that opened in April 2015), Manchester International Festival and the upcoming arts centre The Factory. But if sport is more your thing, head to the Old Trafford and Etihad stadia for behind the scenes tours of the grounds of Manchester United and Manchester City respectively.
Getting from the port: the Liverpool Cruise Terminal is a ten-minute walk from Albert Dock and a 20-minute walk/ten-minute taxi journey from Liverpool Lime Street station. Liverpool from Manchester: 20 min. by train, 35 mi / 56 km by car. Liverpool from Birmingham: 1h45 by train, 99 mi / 160 km by car.
Visiting Newcastle, north-east England.
You’ll find a warm welcome here from the local people, affectionately known as ‘Geordies’. Snap up a bargain at one of Britain’s largest shopping complexes, the Metrocentre, and mop up the laid-back vibe at the cafés, bars and restaurants at the city’s lively Quayside.
Newcastle’s Quayside, looking over to Gateshead, is a mix of contemporary and historic architecture. In summer, you’ll find live music entertaining visitors and, on Sundays, a food market serving meaty German sausages and delicious South American chicken dumplings. While riverside, admire the feat of engineering at the iconic Tyne Bridge.
Bring history to life with a guided tour of the Victoria Tunnel, used as an air raid shelter during wartime and to transport coal in the 1800s. Stroll along Grainger Town’s arcade with its early 20th-century architecture – almost half the 450 listed buildings there have historical significance.
Pop into St Nicholas Cathedral, one of Britain’s smallest and, if you get the chance to head outside of the city centre, the iconic Angel of the North, designed by artist Antony Gormley, standing at 66 feet tall, 177 feet wide and weighing more than 200 tonnes, is an unforgettable site (newcastlegateshead.com).
Board the train in Newcastle city centre and head out on a ten-minute journey to Wallsend; the start of the mighty Hadrian’s Wall. Built in 122 AD as a defence between the Roman Empire in England and Scotland, it extends 84 miles from Wallsend on England’s east coast all the way to the west coast. You can access the Hadrian’s Wall Path, which runs alongside, at various places including Heddon on the Wall, eight miles west of Newcastle. Further west, you will find Chester’s Fort, one of Britain’s best-preserved Roman cavalry forts (visithadrianswall.co.uk).
South of Newcastle – 30 minutes by train – lies the spectacular Durham Cathedral. Built between 1093 and 1137, this fine example of Norman craftsmanship houses the shrine of St Cuthbert. Marry that with a visit next door to the 11th-century Durham Castle, one of England’s largest Norman fortifications (durhamcathedral.co.uk and dur.ac.uk)
The surrounding county of Northumberland is breathtaking; sweeping beaches, historic castles and pretty fishing villages stretch along its entire coastline. Bamburgh Castle and Alnwick Castle are two of the largest inhabited citadels in England today and within easy reach of each other by car.
Alnwick Castle, a one-hour drive north of Newcastle, starred as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the first two Harry Potter films. Harry’s first Quidditch lesson and the crash-landing of the flying Ford Anglia were filmed there. Admire the grandeur of the Italian Renaissance-styled state rooms, the art collections of Canaletto, Titian and Van Dyck, its First World War exhibition and the Fusiliers museum (alnwickcastle.com).
Sixteen miles north of Alnwick lies Bamburgh Castle. Its thick sandstone walls having been witness to 2,000 years of royal rebellion, bloody battles and enthralling legends. It towers above a huge swathe of sandy beach (bamburghcastle.com).
For a memorable experience, cross the causeway at low tide to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, inhabited by just 160 people. The causeway is located at Beal, near Berwick upon Tweed, ten miles north of Bamburgh. Saint Aidan founded a monastery there in 635AD and its religious spirit and tranquillity live on today. There are also churches, a 16thcentury castle and Lindisfarne mead winery to explore – just make sure you check the tide tables to avoid getting stranded on the island (lindisfarne.org.uk).
Getting from the port: Newcastle city centre is around 30 minutes’ taxi journey from the Port of Tyne. Newcastle from Leeds: 1h45 by train, 105 mi / 170 km by car. Newcastle from Manchester: 2h45 by train, 148 mi / 240 km by car.
Read also the guide to Britain's Lakes.
Source: Adapted from Visit Britain's guide "Britain’s waterways. Cruise ports, canals, lakes and islands", 2016.