Southport legends: Winter by the Irish Sea
By Namrita Chow
'The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed
upon cloudy seas... when the
highwayman came riding, riding, riding'
THE ghosts of Southport in England seem alive
and well. As a seaport that developed over the centuries, Southport
has a long history of pirates and sailors, but most horrific are
the legends of the old Palace Hotel.
It is said that two sisters carried out a suicide pact within the
grand rooms of the palatial hotel. It is also said that a six-year-old
girl was murdered and hidden under a bed. The rumours and legends
grew so intense the hotel ceased to function and after the filming
of a Frankenstein horror film - "The Dark" - the hotel
was demolished in 1969.
As the demolition crew began work they complained of spooky occurrences,
such as the sound of stiletto heels along the empty deserted corridors
and the ancient lift working of its own accord even when all the
power had been disconnected.
The last remaining ghosts of the bygone Palace Hotel are said to
reside in the Fisherman's Rest, a Pub at the corner of what used
to be the once glamorous hotel. They must be friendly ghosts, I
think, as I have spent many a night drinking there.
Winter at the seaside
Southport overlooks the Irish Sea, an hour's train journey away
from Liverpool. It's a seaside town with quaint historical charm.
Long stretches of virgin beach are dotted by flocks of gulls against
the backdrop of a clear blue sky.
The wind lashes fiercely in the winter. Yet the sun can sometimes
still dominate the sky and the clarity of its light makes the beach
inviting. A winter stroll along the Sefton coastline is a Boxing
Day favourite. What better way to work off all those extra calories
built up over the festive season than a nice long walk on the beach,
with friends, family and pets?
The Formby Red Squirrel reserve, an hour's walk along the beach
from Southport boasts rare red squirrels roaming wild in the forest
along the coastline. The area has been designated a nature reserve
and offers glorious walks in the forest and then onto the beach.
After that nice long walk the perfect English thing to do is to
head to a pub for some good old fashioned pub grub.
We headed to Southport's Churchtown. This is a gorgeous part of
town, with quaint old churches and whitewashed cottages, and rolling
hills and farmland. We sat by a warm log fire at the lovely Hesketh
Arms and ordered traditional favourites. Steak & kidney pies,
calf's liver and bacon, turkey with stuffing and all the trimmings
accompanied by well chosen red wines, a pint of Guinness or a glass
of warm mulled wine.
The most famous of all the churches in Churchtown was built in 1571
and is known as St Cuthbert's. It was built on the site of a church
pre-dating conquest times. St Cuthbert's has a tall steeple and
the gravestones below tell of the long history of the area. The
stones reflect the moonlight on clear winter evenings, when the
ghosts of Old Jake or Pirate Jack are said to linger around. A large
Christmas tree sits in the small village green, its subtle lighting
gives Churchtown a very romantic feel. Walking hand in hand with
your lover here is the perfect calm after the hectic storm of Christmas!