A long weekend in Liverpool
We recently wrote a review about our stay at the Beatles themed Ibis Styles Dale Street hotel. You can read it HERE. This blog is about how to spend 3 days in this wonderful city.
We arrived around lunchtime, as check in wasn't until 2pm, we ditched our bags in the Ibis Styles and headed out to find some food. We stumbled upon Harrison's Bar and Kitchen 5 minutes walk away at 23 North John Street admiring the decor, we set out to find some food. Down a short flight of stairs is a single roomed pub/diner/sports bar, complete with Abbey Road mural on the wall. Friendly and non flashy, what drew us in was the lunch menu listing 2 bowls of 'Scouse' for £10. Brilliant! Scouse, a thick lamb and vegetable stew with crusty bread and red cabbage, is hearty and warming, and it's where Liverpool's inhabitants get their nickname from.
Once we could check in, after admiring the room, we grabbed a coffee to go from the lobby machine (every hotel should have this!!), and set off to visit the two cathedrals in Liverpool, about a 20 minute walk away.
First stop, the strikingly modern Catholic cathedral. From the outside, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King is unlike anything we'd ever seen - it looked like a cross between something Scandinavian and what we imagine a Scientology church to look like - a long flight of steps leading to a spaceship shaped building topped with a vast stained glass lantern and tall spikes. It was really beautiful in a weird striking way! Walk around the inside (the altar is in the middle with seats in the round), then head towards the huge red stone tower of the Anglican Cathedral down Hope Street. You will see it in the distance from the top of the steps as you leave!
The Anglican Cathedral is huge. Beyond huge. In fact it's the largest religious building in the UK. It was designed by architect Giles Gilbert Scott (he of Battesea Power Station and the iconic red telephone box) and was only completed in 1978! The inside reminded us of the Natural History Museum in London (always a fond association, as that's where we got engaged!), with sandy brickwork and huge lofty ceilings. Stunning!
From here we walked to Ye Cracke, a fantastic old boozer on Rice Street where John Lennon and his then girlfriend (later wife) Cynthia would drink after their classes at the nearby art college. The interior literally feels like it hasn't changed in decades (in a good way!) and the electric jukebox on the wall lets you soundtrack your supping with suitably Merseybeat music.
Have dinner at the Philarmonic Dining Rooms, a beautiful Victorian establishment with cosy snugs and incredible pies and mash. Be sure to check out their Grade I listed 19th century urinals (ladies are permitted a peek too so long as they're not in use!), probably the prettiest Gents you'll ever see!
We finished the day where else but the Cavern Club. Check online to see what's on, but odds are there will be some form of live music on, and you can dance the night away under the low arched ceiling, imagining what it must have been like when it was full of Beatles fans. We were there on a Sunday, and were treated to a blistering set from resident band, the Rockits, who played all of the 60s belters, from the Small Faces to the Zombies.
With slightly sore heads, we enjoyed a fabulous breakfast at the Ibis Styles, before heading out for a genteel morning of culture at the Walker Art Gallery, one of the best art collections in the UK outside of London, from Pre-Raphaelites to David Hockney. Be sure to also pop into the Central Library next door to visit the stunning Picton Reading Room - a bookworm's circular paradise. Stacked floor to ceiling with two tiers of bookshelves, the upper gallery is reached by spiral iron staircases. This Grade II listed building was the first library in the UK to be lit entirely by electricity - a sensible option for somewhere with so many books!
Walk back past the Ibis (pop in to grab a free coffee to go from their machine behind the bar!) and continue in a big straight line to the waterfront. Depending on time, either hop onto the next Mersey Ferry for a 50 minute informative river cruise, or if you've just missed one (like we did) and need to kill and hour, spend your time queuing to take a photo with the Fab Four statue nearby, browse the Beatles gift shop next to the ferry terminal, or take a brisk walk down to Albert Docks for a speedy window shop.
After our Ferry 'cross the Mersey (expect that to be stuck in your head for the rest of the day...), we spent the afternoon in the nearby Museum of Liverpool, which is free! At the time it had a fantastic temporary exhibition about John Lennon and Yoko Ono, but the permanent collections about the city's history and community are equally interesting. Another brilliant museum nearby is the Merseyside Maritime Museum, located in historic Albert Docks. It has exhibits about the Lusitania and the Titanic, while the third floor is home to the incredibly moving International Slavery Museum.
Pub of choice today was the Baltic Arms, a historic old smugglers pub, supposedly haunted and with rumoured tunnels leading to the docks. Grade II listed, the pub has numerous doors so that patrons could escape the press-gangers back in the day. It's also a home brew pub with a good selection of pints on offer.
Finish the day with a stroll around the brewery quarter to look for street art.
Today we said goodbye to the Ibis hotel and our beautiful Beatles room, had one last epic breakfast, and set off into the suburbs on a self guided Beatles roadtrip. As we had our own car, ipod plugged in and armed with Google Maps, we began our mission to visit all of the Beatles sites dotted further afield around Liverpool.
First stop, Ringo's childhood homes. The Fab drummer was born at 9 Madryn Street, (the road is currently cordoned off as it is under construction) and then moved just up the road to 10 Admiral Grove. This pink and white terraced house is right by the Empress pub, which featured on Ringo's Sentimental Journey solo album.
Drive 10 minutes to Penny Lane L18 1HQ, where you can see the famous street sign (painted onto the wall years ago after fans kept stealing it) protected behind plastic and signed by Paul McCartney.
Speaking of Paul, next stop is his childhood home at 20 Forthlin Road L18 9TN. Owned by the National Trust, stand outside the gate and think about quite how many incredible songs were written here when John Lennon would come over.
5 minutes away at L25 6EJ is Strawberry Fields, once a children's home where young John would climb over the walls to sit in the gardens. The famous red gates now lead to a Salvation Army run training centre for young people.
Walk for 10 minutes down the hill and left along the main road to Mendips - John's childhood home at 251 Menlove Avenue where he lived with his aunt Mimi. Incredibly, the National Trust wasn't interested in aquiring this property as no songs were written there, and it took Yoko Ono buying it in 2002 and donating it to the National Trust to protect it from property speculators. It now has a blue plaque.
Drive another couple of minutes to St Peter's Church L25 5JF, and see if you can find Eleanor Rigby's gravestone. If you go into the back of the grave yard, John Lennon's uncle George Toogood Smith is buried there. It was also here, on July 6th 1957 at the annual Woolton Parish Church Garden Fete that a young Paul McCartney watched a young John Lennon playing with his band the Quarrymen, and the pair first met.
Time to complete the quartet of Beatles' homes - a 6 minutes drive to 174 Mackets Lane brings you to George's home with his parents from 1962 - 1965. They only lasted 3 years before persistent Beatlemaniac fans drove them out and George bought them a quieter home out in Warrington.
His childhood home of 25 Upton Green, L24 2UL, the last stop on our list, is another 10 minutes drive. Tucked down a side road this ring of houses was where the youngest Beatle lived from the age of 6 and where the Quarrymen frequently rehearsed.
Disclaimer - we were invited to come and stay at the Ibis Styles and our room was free, but we were not paid to post and all opinions are ours! Read our hotel review HERE