Brief Encounters: The West Kirby Line

Date: 03/12/2015

Deep under Bold Street is the gateway to another world. No, we’re not talking about a Guillermo del Toro-style portal to another universe, we’re talking about the Wirral Line platform at Liverpool Central.

Any of the Liverpool stations on the loop line head over to the other side of the water – to Chester, to New Brighton and to West Kirby. Unusually every station is a terminus – quite literally the end of the line – a clue to the geographical oddity that is the Wirral Peninsula.

From Central, Lime Street, Moorfields, or James Street you can access stations that feel like another world. Just 15 minutes to Port Sunlight with its Village Green Preservation Society aspic ambiance. In the other direction is the leisure resort of New Brighton, coming again after a long decline from its sepia-tinged halcyon days. Amongst them the curious edgelands between houses, industrial estates and farmland.


Passing the M53 marks a kind of artificial barrier; the landscape opens up significantly and small industrial units replace the boxy modern houses. Signs at the stations indicate that the Wirral country park is within easy reach; wind farms and lighthouses give us our first glance of sea and the stations assume a slight art-deco aspect.

And, at the end of the line, is West Kirby: blue-rinse old-money mixed in with a beach-bum chic. Among the wind blown dunes, deserted beaches and little hamlets of green nowhere is Hilbre Island, a tidal island connected by a narrow peninsula navigable only at certain times of the day, the tranquil Marine Lake and the Red Rocks; the end points of Merseyside with only Wales and the Irish Sea beyond. But on the way there are other peculiarities and delights to explore.

Easily reachable on Merseyrail are a variety of landmarks and attractions between Liverpool and West Kirby; a join-the-dots trail out to the north-west. There are managed parks and wildernesses; relics from the past and museums. You can visit them all for less than a fiver before heading to some of Merseyside’s most pleasing cafes and pubs.

We’ve picked seven of these landmarks you can visit on the West Kirby line; seven Merseyside oddities that feel like a different world to the hustle and hubbub of Liverpool’s loop stations, barely half an hour away.

Merseytrail: 7 North Wirral Highlights

Birkenhead Park


This stunning urban space was famously the template for New York’s Central Park. Birkenhead Park bustles with runners, cyclists, cricketers and dog-walkers and hosts several sports clubs and regular activities.

A rather unattractive visitor’s centre is open seven days a week and houses a cafe and gallery, while a collection of follies, bridges and edifices make the park a delight to explore – especially since a recent restoration.

Nearest Station: Birkenhead Park

Birkenhead Priory

This Benedictine monastery has staked a claom to being the oldest building on Merseyside. That makes its current position – hemmed in by the river and docks – even more jarring, but this beautiful building is well worth seeking out, just a couple of minutes from Hamilton Square and open every day in Summer.

A small museum tells the story of the site and regular events ensure the priory remains in use, almost 1,000 years on. It’s open most days of the week.

Nearest Station: Hamilton Square

Wirral Transport Museum

In another first, Birkenhead was featured the first street tramway in Europe, which ran until 1937. With plenty of historic vehicles and the opportunity to ride a period tram, the museum has trams, buses, bikes, cars and model railway exhibits.

The museum is open on weekend afternoons only out of term time. During school holidays opening hours extend to Wednesday through Sunday.

Nearest Station: Hamilton Square

The Wilfred Owen Story

The WWI poet spent his formative years on the Wirral and this small museum pays tribute to Owen’s work and the sacrifices of the Great War. Exhibits include artefacts that illustrate Owen’s life, the only copy of a BBC interview with Siegfried Sassoon, discussing the events of the meeting between the two and a look at female poets of WWI.

Entrance is free and the museum is open at lunchtimes between Tuesday and Friday.

Nearest Station: Hamilton Square

Bidston Moss Nature Reserve


Built on the site of a rubbish tip, the Bidston Moss Nature Reserve – ringed by a canalised river, busy A-road and the M53 is an ambiguously beautiful place. Humming with wildlife in the Summer, you may be able to spot herons, warblers and wildfowl most of the year.

The adjoining Bidston Moss Newlands Projects, on the other side of a retail park, is more human-friendly – a fine place for a walk, cycling or fishing – and boasts impressive view across the Mersey to Liverpool.

Nearest Station: Bidston

Leasowe Lighthouse

This brick-built beacon (pictured above) on the northern edges of the Wirral peninsula is the oldest of its kind in Britain. It operated in conjunction with a second lighthouse to guide sailors into the Rock Channel that skirts the Wirral coast by lining up the two lights; when a ship’s skipper aligned them correctly he knew it was safe to navigate the channel safely.

The lighthouse can be visited on the first and third Sundays of the month in Summer.

Nearest Station: Leasowe

Hoylake Lifeboat Museum

This fun-size museum looks out to sea from Hoylake and features just one exhibit: the Victorian lifeboat Chapman, the oldest surviving of the famous Liverpool class, currently undergoing restoration.

The Museum, based in the old lifeboat launching house, is open on Saturday and Sunday during Spring and Summer – guided tours can be booked. Check website for off-season details.

Nearest Station: Hoylake

Eating and drinking in West Kirby



Nestling in a bustling thoroughfare, Aubergine offers fresh food that’s locally sourced and has a cosmopolitan menu featuring various cuisines. It is perhaps best known, however, for its breakfasts and brunches.

Sweet Pea Cafe

Perfect for tea and cakes, this cosy cafe is also licensed and serves a good selection of craft beers. It’s the perfect place to recharge after a day’s walk on the blustery Winter beaches.

The White Lion

That is unless you fancy a proper old pub. The White Lion is a cosy public house full of nooks and crannies and warming stoves, around which you can congregate with a good choice of regular beers, such as Black Sheep and a couple of guest ales.