Having mostly kept to itself for centuries, England’s north-west was a quiet region of rural towns and rustic farms. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that the region underwent its first and most significant makeover as the centre of the booming textile industry.
Rising to spectacular heights of importance in the 19th and 20th centuries, the manufacturing trade created more wealth, and incongruously, more poverty than the region had ever seen. England’s once mighty industrial heartland could have fallen into sorry disrepair when the demand for British textiles disappeared, and indeed it looked as if that might be the case with Manchester and Liverpool in the mid-20th century.
Showing the usual British resilience, Manchester and Liverpool dusted themselves off and began another reinvention; this time as the cultural and artistic capitals of the north. These lively cities pulsate with verve and excitement, continuously pumping out new artists, sports stars, remarkable restaurants and some of the world’s most grossly over-talented musicians.
Liverpool grew rich on the trade of the most important commodities of industry: slaves, raw materials and textiles. Being the closest seaport to the great ‘Cottonopolis’ of Manchester, Liverpool flourished, with the magnificent Albert Dock becoming one of the most important harbours in the Empire, importing and exporting the lion’s share of the country’s commerce for decades.
The start of World War 2 led to a resurgence in Liverpool’s importance, becoming the allies’ western gateway for transatlantic supplies. The arrival of American soldiers heralded a new era in Liverpudlian culture, forming a fusion of music that would lead to the creation of the city’s biggest export to date: the Beatles.
With its impressively refurbished UNESCO-listed Albert Dock area celebrating its maritime and mercantile achievements, Liverpool’s vibrant culture continues to enchant the visitors who arrive in droves every year. Liverpool is every Beatles fan's dream - the Cavern Club has been restored to given modern visitors a similar vibe to when the Fab Four played their first gig; you can see the childhood homes of Lennon and McCartney; take a Magical Mystery tour - a 2 hour tour through all parts of Liverpool with a connection to the Beatles.
Liverpool also claims to be the most popular filming location outside of London. The Cunard Building, St George's Hall, Stanley Dock and Liverpool Town Hall have all featured in films like Sherlock Holmes, Captain America, and Harry Potter.
There’s no denying that football is the reigning passion in Manchester. Millions of pilgrims come from far and wide to worship at the home altar of the world’s most famous football club: Manchester United. Mancunians loyally support the local club across town, Manchester City, which until quite recently was the poor cousin of the Northern teams. A recent cash injection from the UAE saw its fortunes change, both figuratively and literally: In 2012 the club won its first Premier League title in 44 years, and followed this up with the title again in 2014.
Their mutual rival, Liverpool FC has its own share of glory, holding more European titles than any other English club, including 18 League titles, 7 FA Cups, and 8 League Cups.
Ian Brown, former lead singer of the Rolling Stones, was not far off the mark when he said “Manchester’s got everything except a beach.” A city as defined by its past as by its football, Manchester is truly at the forefront of cutting-edge culture and urban redevelopment.
Its once grim industrial landscape has been revitalised since the late 1980s, and includes tidied-up canals, cotton mills transformed into loft apartments, and stylish contemporary architecture that has pushed the skyline to new heights. Beetham Tower – the third tallest building in Britain after London’s Shard and Canary Wharf – can’t be overlooked, and Bridgewater Hall and the Lowry, as well as the Imperial War Museum North, are outstanding cultural facilities.
The Mancunians have managed to weave their history into their ambitious future plans, with a multitude of museums peppering the city and its outlying landscape, blending seamlessly with the bohemian lifestyle of the Northern Quarter, the joy de vivre of the gay village and the confidence of the financial district. With world-renowned eateries and bars to enjoy, Manchester’s blossoming reputation is well deserved.
Blackpool has been a popular place to take in the health benefits of sea-bathing since the 18th century; however, it really rose to prominence as a major tourism centre in the 1840s when a new railway line linked it to the major industrial cities of the north, populated with nouveau-riche, eager to escape their own polluted boroughs for some fresh sea-air.
This influx of tourists enlivened ambitious local entrepreneurs to create new attractions, such as a promenade with three piers, (one reserved exclusively for the well-to-do visitors who could afford an admission fee), with fortune-tellers, pubs, ubiquitous fish and chips shops, and theatres.
One of the city’s most famous drawcards is the Blackpool Illuminations, a successful ploy to extend the summer high season well into the cooler months of autumn. From early September until early November, the Promenade is illuminated for 66 nights with over a million electric and neon bulbs.
The Infinity Experience
Roller Coaster by NightPixabay
Magical Mystery TourPixabay