The Lancs seaside town that doesn’t deserve to lie in Blackpool’s shadow
When you look at postcards of traditional British seaside towns, beach huts are a key feature. From their first tentative appearances in old black and white photos to their glossy reproductions in technicolour prints, they've always been there. They are now intrinsic to the aesthetic of the seaside and an unwavering symbol of a traditional day trip to the beach.
But the thing is, while a visit to Fleetwood on the Fylde coast can make you feel as if you've gone back in time, it still manages to incorporate that nostalgia with modern and contemporary elements to remind you the town has its feet firmly in the 21st century. Fleetwood can often (unfairly we might add) come as an afterthought to Blackpool, which is just a 20-minute drive down the coast. It's neighbour may be the flashy, loud, in-yer-face, attraction-packed resort which understandably attracts millions of tourists each year.
READ MORE: Light Up Lancaster returns for its 10th year - dates and what we can expect However, we found on a balmy and sunny early autumn day, Fleetwood offers much of the same - but subtler, quieter and on a smaller, more manageable scale. The existing row of blue, yellow, pink and purple wooden huts which overlook the beach and Wyre Estuary all sit neat and pretty on the promenade as visitors, dog-walkers and locals stroll past while the art-deco and vintage buildings enhance the town's classy seaside 'look'.
Standing guard over the front is the magnificent Grade II-listed Mount Pavilion, a stunning structure perched high on top of a plush and perfectly-trimmed grassy mound. Nestled amid the flowers and plants, it watches over Fleetwood like a Grandad keeping watch over his grandkids playing in his back garden on a Sunday afternoon. Dating back to the early 1800s, the pavilion has evolved into an unofficial beacon for the town and although it is currently empty, it's always a magnet for selfie hunters and tourists keen to capture the perfect memento of their visit.
The scenery from the top of The Mount is well worth the short clamber up, with great views toward the pitch and putt and the boating lakes along the Esplanade to the left, Maine Beach straight ahead and Knott End over the water. Fleetwood also boasts a number of other architectural wonders all located along the seafront, including the imposing North Euston Hotel with its stone frontage dating back to 1840s, the 93-foot tall Pharos Lighthouse made out of Runcorn red sandstone and the Beach Lighthouse. Further along Queen's Terrace is the Fleetwood Museum, a haven for local history and packed full of maritime antiquities.
This attraction has given a new lease of life to the town's former Customs House, a building which was completed in 1836. Last but certainly not least is The Marine Hall - a 1930s glass-domed theatre on the Esplanade which hosts a number of live performances on the seafront throughout the year. Visitors looking for a little adventure can hop on the cute little ferry and take a short ride to Knott End or if an activity on a rainy day close to the beach is what you're after, the Glazey Days creative arts, pottery studio and cafe - located right next to Euston Garden - is perfect for children and adults of all ages.Pharos Lighthouse in Fleetwood (Image: James Maloney/Lancs Live)
And those looking for a bite to eat will not have to do much searching with plenty of ice cream parlours, businesses serving hot portions of fish and chips and cafe's with al fresco seating all scattered along the town's promenade.
Our personal pick is the Ferry Cafe which lies just metres from the town's RNLI Lifeboat station. If shopping is your thing, then the Wyre Dock and marina on the outskirts of town is definitely the place to go. Here you'll find the Affinity Shopping Outlet, a huge retail complex with more than 40 shops, many boasting top brands such as Clarks, Next and Moss Bros.
But if you're on the hunt for some more traditional seaside clobber then fear not - there are plenty of stalls selling everything from beach toys to sunglasses all periodically placed along the prom. The adventure playground adjacent to the Fleetwood Health and Sports Centre is worth a visit for any youngsters keen for a bit of energy-burning activities while the beach - itself is an interesting fusion of tiny pebbles and even tinier grains of sand - is relatively compact and not too overwhelming. Pebble sandcastle, anyone?
Watch out for the rogue jellyfish, though. Consider us firmly in the 'don't forget about Fleetwood' camp. That 20-minute extra drive is nothing when you're greeted with fabulous Fleetwood.
Anyway, that's our take on Fleetwood - but what do you think?
Let us know in the comments below.