There's more for groups in Merseyside

Date Posted: 24/10/2013

Head to the bright lights of Liverpool, discover the wildlife of the Wirral Peninsula, or tee off along England’s Golf Coast; there’s plenty for groups to enjoy in this north-west corner of contrasts.

Group organisers voted Liverpool the Best UK City for the second consecutive year at the 2012 Group Leisure Awards, and the birthplace of The Beatles promises a warm welcome to coach parties. Located at Liverpool Cathedral in the historic Hope Street quarter, Albert Dock on the waterfront and, most recently, Liverpool ONE bus station, the Liverpool Coach Welcome Scheme is a free service that operates from Monday to Saturday from March to October between 10am and 3pm.

It offers drop-off and pick-up points; a personal welcome from a designated coach host providing information on what to see and do; free city centre maps for all passengers; and an optional visit to the cathedral and Albert Dock. For details on how to book visit the Liverpool travel trade website.

A great starting point for a trip to Liverpool is Albert Dock, situated on the city’s famous waterfront and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s home to the UK’s largest group of Grade I listed buildings. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the £25 million restoration of the 19th century dock that’s been transformed into a top heritage attraction and includes Merseyside Maritime Museum, the International Slavery Museum, Tate Liverpool, The Beatles Story, and Wheel of Liverpool, providing wonderful views of the surrounding cityscape.

Impressively, Liverpool has more museums and galleries than any other UK city region outside London. A major addition to the cultural offer is the £72 million Museum of Liverpool which opened in 2011 and is the largest newly-built national museum in Britain for over a century.

When it’s time to shop and relax, Liverpool ONE is among the biggest regeneration projects the city has ever seen. The £1 billion development spans 42 acres and includes 160 shops, bars, restaurants, a cinema and five-acre park. It features flagship stores for John Lewis and Debenhams, plus the largest Topshop outside of London.

Away from the bright lights and buzz of the city, the surrounding Merseyside region offers a wealth of itinerary options. Southport lies just 20 miles north of Liverpool and is a traditional seaside town. Take the tram on the mile-long ride to the end of the country’s oldest iron pier to enjoy some shopping or indulge in nostalgia with the pavilion’s ‘penny in the slot’ machines.

Outdoor enthusiasts should head to the Wirral peninsula for a walk to the Hilbre Islands Local Nature Reserve; three tidal islands lying at the mouth of the Dee Estuary. The islands are a top spot for seal watching and a stopping-off point for migrating birds. They are cut off from the mainland by the tide each day so it is advisable to contact the Wirral Country Park Visitor Centre before setting off.

A trip to the Wirral should include a visit to the historic village of Port Sunlight with its late 19th century Victorian architecture built by philanthropist Lord Lever for the workers in his Sunlight Soap factory. Only 20 minutes from Liverpool city centre, the tree-lined garden village is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. The best way to find out about the people who lived and worked there is to go on a tour with one of the knowledgeable guides who will board your coach and travel with you. The village also includes the Lady Lever Art Gallery containing beautiful collections of fine and decorative art.

Other historic attractions include Speke Hill Garden and Estate. Originally built in 1530,  Speke Hall has an atmospheric interior that spans many periods. The restored site includes a rose garden and stream garden, and there are woodland walks and magnificent views of the Mersey basin and Welsh hills from the bund, a high bank. Another tranquil spot is Liverpool’s 220-acre Sefton Park, which resembles natural landscape rather than a man-made park. A highlight is the palm house that has been restored to its former glory and contains plants from around the world.

Best for Groups

Liverpool Cathedral offers a range of exclusive tours including an actress-led walk, pilgrimages for church groups and even a private organ recital. Tours can be personalised to suit specific interests, such as stained glass windows; and followed by refreshments including tea and crumpets or a bowl of scouse - the Liverpudlian stew.

Cross the Mersey on one of Liverpool’s famous ferries - arguably the best way to see the waterfront. Mersey Ferries link a number of Liverpool and Wirral attractions, enabling GTOs with parties of 20 or more to create flexible itineraries. A 50-minute cruise can include visits to the U-boat Story, based on a real German U-boat, and the futuristic Spaceport. 

Knowsley Safari Park at Prescot in Merseyside offers a full day experience. The park is home to 700 exotic animals and the discounted admission for ten or more includes the safari drive, entry to the bug house, sea lion show and birds of prey experience. Ample coach parking is available by the entrance.

Pick an Interest

The Beatles

The Fab Four and Liverpool go hand in hand and The Beatles Story is an award-winning experience in the heart of the historic Albert Dock. The world’s only permanent Beatles exhibition, it offers a stunning multi-media insight into the life and times of one of the world’s greatest bands, and when it’s time for a break it has a Beatles-themed coffee shop.

The place where The Beatles’ musical identity was formed, the Cavern Club is open daily from 10am with live music from 2pm. Admission is free and groups are welcome. The two-hour Magical Mystery Tour visits 30 locations, including The Beatles’ former homes, schools, Penny Lane and Strawberry Field. GTOs benefit from discounted rates and bespoke tours are also available.

With 100 rooms decorated with specially commissioned artwork, the Hard Days Night Hotel is the world’s only Beatles-inspired hotel. The restaurant and bars, lined with photos and other memorabilia, are open to non-residents and Blakes restaurant, named after the celebrated Sergeant Pepper album cover by artist Sir Peter Blake, caters for parties of up to 22.

Sport

Liverpool Football Club offers a variety of tours and experiences, and one of the most popular is the behind-the-scenes Anfield Stadium and Museum Tour, which includes press room, dressing room and dug out. Tours can be combined with a visit to The Beatles Story or arranged on the day of a home game to soak up the unique match day atmosphere.

Gain an insight into the home of the Grand National, with a tour of the Aintree visitor centre. The Grand National Experience tells the story of how the race was conceived by Liverpool hotelier, William Lynn, and former soldier and jockey Captain Becher. Available for groups of 14 plus, highlights include the weighing room, the winner’s enclosure and Red Rum’s memorial. 

The region is home to England’s Golf Coast, 11 of the finest golf courses in Britain that have hosted numerous Open Championships and Ryder Cups. The challenging and picturesque courses include three Royal links courses - Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham & St Annes - and offer a variety of packages for visiting golfers.

Art

Tate Liverpool is the home of the national collection of contemporary art in the north. The gallery displays famous modern works alongside lesser-known cutting-edge art. Admission is free and special group tours, including an overview of the highlights, are available at extra cost.

The Open Eye Gallery has been one of the UK’s leading photography spaces since 1977, and is the only gallery dedicated to photography in the north-west of England. It launched its new purpose-built venue in 2011, and is close to other cultural attractions including the Museum of Liverpool, Tate Liverpool and the Three Graces at Pier Head.

Liverpool’s creative hub, the Bluecoat, is situated in the oldest Grade I listed building in the city centre. With four galleries plus additional exhibition and performance spaces, it is used to showcase talent across visual art, music, dance, live art and literature, and there is always something new to see.

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