A good test of the strength of a marriage is whether it can survive four nights in Southport Pontins in September. 13 years ago it was touch and go when Mrs RM saw the hell-hole I’d booked, but a shared acknowledgement of a bargain (£15 a night for a family of four) got us through.
Our toddlers enjoyed the sand dunes at Formby as much as the DVD of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” that kept us sane that week.
That and some cracking beer in traditional pubs like the Guest House and Cheshire Line (conspiratorially, Tetley Mild from an unmarked pump).
Outside of North and South Tyneside, Southport has my favourite bit of English coastline. It would have taken a cleverer phone-cam than mine to make the beach look appealing at high-tide on Friday afternoon, though the boating lake was strangely compelling.
I’ve been back to Southport most years since, for occasional “proper” football, Botanic Gardens, Top 100 UK Fish & Chip shops, and 20+ Beer Guide ticks. I’m never disappointed, finding new treasures on each visit. The continental market almost changed my perception of France (almost, Mrs RM).
It’s the revamped Atkinson Art Gallery that really makes the trip from Wigan Wallgate worthwhile though. A beautiful building with a compact collection of social history that’s on a par with the one in Doncaster. You just knew Dan Dare had a local connection. I used to work with the editor of the Eagle fanzine. What’s your claim to fame ?
I love the contrasts in Southport. Posh frocks on Lord Street, penny arcades on Scarisbrick Avenue. I apparently have a cousin in Southport, though when you’re born in the Fens everyone is a cousin.
You see a similar contrast in the pubs. Few towns have seen such rapid change as Southport this decade, with new micros and bottle shops opening each year to compete with some solid “proper” free houses.
Taps & Bottles feels more bottle shop than micro from the outside, but inside is one of the most pleasant seating areas in any micro. That cosiness was attracting in a good range of custom, with pensioners cooing over the local stout.
Top marks to the chap for recommending the strongest beer, which was NBSS 4 but with my eyesight I can’t tell you more than that.
In complete contrast, which is what we love about the Beer Guide, is the Phoenix. A sports pub, with a gripping contest playing out on the big screen when I popped in.
“Is it always this quiet ?” I asked. “This is Southport in November. In the hail“. Fair answer. Despite lack of volume, the very local beer from Parker was exceptional, malty and full-bodied. I liked the Phoenix a lot, a combination of two quick pints and more cheery folk outweighing the inevitable ’90s indie (I lie, that was great too.)
When people complain about Beer Guide selection by CAMRA branches, I point to pubs like this, which look nothing like you’d expect from a GBG entry but serve good beer.
I really should have had some chips at this point.
NB Red Nev’s blog is the best source of info on Southport’s pub joys. Plenty of live music round here, always a good sign.