Pre Posting Note: having a published author as a ‘cheerleader’ for St Annes On Sea has obvious advantages, her passion for where she lives is evident, and hopefully this clears up that Lytham St Annes, although a postal district is in fact two very different towns!
A million or more reasons to visit St Annes, Lancashire
Let’s start by making something clear.
St Annes may be part of the area designated as ‘Lytham St Annes’ but it is a separate town, with its own character and attractions. I know, the name is confusing. Particularly as you will hear St Anne’s on Sea and even St Anne’s on THE Sea – which is actually its proper name!
However, we will be talking about this beautiful town using its most commonly used name, St Annes; with no apostrophe!
This wonderful slice of traditional British seaside is right next to Blackpool, its brash, vivacious and colourful cousin. St Annes’ sister town is Lytham, with its estuary, glorious Green and iconic windmill.
To find St Annes, you head in between these two well-known locations, and arrive on a glorious stretch of Lancashire’s unspoilt coastline. St Annes is the bit with the clean, wide beach that’s perfect for dogs and children, ecology-rich sand dunes, much photographed Victorian pier, welcoming town centre plus a myriad of family-fun attractions along its Prom.
Now we’ve clarified all that, we can dig down deeper into the many fabulous advantages of living in, working in or visiting St Annes.
Photo credit: Ged Docherty
There were compelling reasons why wealthy Victorian industrialists made plans to build a town on this dune and sand strewn coastline. The main one is that it provided incredible vistas, and access to the healing waters of Morecambe Bay and the Irish Sea beyond.
From St Annes beach, it is possible to see the hills on the fringe of the Lake District. Look the opposite way, to view Wales and the Great Orme. Across the waters, Southport glimmers. Bend around the curve of the coast towards Lytham, and you can see Rivington Pike and Winter Hill. Walk further up the Ribble Estuary and on a clear day Pendle Hill can be glimpsed.
However, you don’t have to move at all while on the vast beach of St Annes to enjoy its most impressive sight – the sunsets. Those glorious natural light shows and all the wonderful relics of the past pull in photographers and artists from far afield.
There really is nothing quite like a seascape sunset at St Annes.
While we are on the topic of nature’s gifts – yes, the tide DOES come in here! Twice a day, the same as any other coastal resort. However, the bay is now so shallow that the waters come in and recede swiftly.
Oodles of Heritage
The founders of the town wanted to create a genteel place where the wealthy could enjoy the benefits of fresh sea air, and bathing in healing salt water. (They also drank it, but please don’t try that!).
Some of the grand residences, public buildings and business properties survived, endowing the town with some truly lovely Victorian and Edwardian architecture. In St Annes Square, look up at the tops of the buildings with all their noble quirks.
Among the biggest legacies of the town’s creators is St Annes Pier, with its incredibly varied history. It is now an amusement arcade, houses two cafes (one at the entrance and one at the end) and has a gift and ice cream shop. All handy things for a day on the beach in Lancashire.
Photo credit: NAD Photography
Another slice of the town’s colourful history comes in the shape of Ashton Gardens, a fabulous park just off St Anne’s Square (or accessed via Clifton Drive). It’s beautifully maintained, with lots of play equipment, floral displays, stone bridges, ponds, birdlife and bowling greens. Ashton Gardens hosts many lovely events for the town, and its Pavilion Café is used for art exhibitions and live music.
Photo Credit: Esther Parkinson
Of course, no traditional Victorian seaside town could be without a wide and wonderful Beach Promenade, literally used for folk to walk up and down in their finery.
The Promenade Gardens in St Annes are stunning and include popular stepping stones, a waterfall (that attracts countless kids to experiment) and some lovely old bridges and abundant wild foul.
Photo credit: NAD Photography
Look out for the Mexico Disaster Monument. It stands out proudly and deserves an article all of its own due to the terrible RNLI event it commemorates.
Photo credit: Amanda Westgate
Near the pier entrance, pop into the pretty Peace and Happiness Garden to see information about famous local residents, including a statue of comedian Les Dawson, and some sandstone art pieces.
There are some lovely old shelters along the Prom, fountains that are listed historic monuments and a grand old-fashioned Band Stand that still gets used. The nearby paddling pool – that’s been fun for many generations – gets filled in good weather.
Going South from the Prom, runs a stretch of Green and dunes that lead to Fairhaven Lake, on the border of St Annes. The sweet village of Ansdell is inland at this point.
Fairhaven is one of the oldest and best-preserved marine lakes in the UK and a truly wonderful place to visit. It includes an Adventure Play Park, boats to hire and a fabulous RSPB Information Centre.
There’s another, smaller boating lake right in the heart of the St Annes seaside attractions too.
Modern wonders in St Annes
Nature, heritage and traditional seaside treats like paddling pools and donkeys are great, but what about more up to date attractions in St Annes?
Well for a start, there is a cluster of great options around Pleasure Island (near the RNLI building). This includes trampolines, a fabulous miniature railway and a very popular mini-golf course that supports family competitions or even team tournaments!
There’s a great fenced off playpark further towards the Beach too, and the smart YMCA Swimming Pool is an ideal wet weather option.
Nearby, you have one of the few traditional independent cinemas left in Britain. The Island Cinema is cosy and relatively inexpensive but still manages to grab blockbusters.
The Splash Zone is a fabulous water play area which was added to the St Annes Prom in 2019. Incredibly, its the result of a big community push to provide a truly modern attraction, that’s FREE!
There’s another much-photographed and widely envied feature of St Annes on the inner Prom, right next to the golden sands – the stunning and well equipped contemporary Beach Huts. They are the best way to ‘do’ St Annes in style!
Photo from St Annes Beach Huts Facebook Page
The garden town by the sea
A visit to St Annes should always include a wander around its streets and byways, particularly its compact town centre – known as The Square.
There are some big-name stores with a presence, but also a hotchpotch of independent traders selling everything from clothes and jewellery to creative cakes and home craft items.
The town centre prides itself on gorgeous floral displays and some suitably nautical street furniture. Don’t miss out Back St Annes Street West, an alleyway punctuated by both urban and mainstream art.
Photo credit: Sharon Gee
Places to eat and stay
To support such as traditional seaside town – that retains much of its original charm and style – you can enjoy a warm Lancashire welcome from its hospitality enterprises. There are posh hotels and inexpensive B&Bs, which all have a sterling reputation within their niche.
Restaurants in St Annes are plentiful and cover many world cuisines, or there are pubs in the centre or on the town’s edges that do great value food too.
Perhaps one of the best things St Annes offers though is its Café Life. It really is a wonderful place to visit for a High Tea, delicious lunch or cake with friends. You will be spoilt for choice in cafes, and again you will find a friendly and efficient level of customer service.
Sports and walks in St Annes
What about if you want to keep active on your visit to St Annes?
The list of things going on around the beach is extensive – include kite surfacing, horse riding and sand dune exploratory walks. You can fish, go crabbing or do sand art too of course.
One of the best options is free and wonderful for all ages – you can walk. In fact, you can walk for a long time, with something different to see on every stretch.
The best walk in St Annes would be to start at South Shore (Blackpool) on the northern edge of the town. Walk along the wide, open beach, passed the pier and towards the ‘marshes’. This is the section of sand peppered by clumps of seagrasses.
You will then see the start of the new sea defence structure. Take the climb up to that, and you can use the walkway to skirt around beautiful Fairhaven Lake, with the sea and the start of the Ribble Estuary on your right.
You’re leaving St Annes and entering Fairhaven. Continue along the sea defence walk around Granny’s Bay, and onwards to Church Scar. From there, you arrive in Lytham with its own attractions and character.
Remember, it’s a separate place!
However, at least you now know where St Annes is, and all the wonderful things it offers.
Thanks, Amanda, as I said Amanda is one of quite a number of local published authors, her book is called ‘Finding Harbour’ and is also featured in another Lytham Life and Style blog here