Now surrounded by factory units and shipyards, Birkenhead Priory offers unrivalled views of the river and surrounding area, and, despite its location deep within an industrial estate, it’s a beautifully calm and restorative oasis.
Within a chapter house consecrated as an Anglican church and there is a chapel dedicated to the training ship HMS Conway. A small museum tells the story of the site and the buildings – some of which are the oldest in Merseyside.
It was Birkenhead, not Liverpool that started a ferry service across the Mersey – entrepreneurial Cistercian monks, to be precise. They did so, for a penny a crossing, from about 1150, when the monks of this Benedictine monastery looked after travellers heading to Wales, and the pilgrimage routes of the west.
It’s unsurprising then that the tower of St Mary’s, the first parish church of the town, shares the site, which is now dedicated as a memorial to those lost in the 1939 disaster aboard the Laird’s built submarine Thetis. Get to the top of the tower – it’s 100 or so steps – and you’re rewarded with a stunning view of Liverpool waterfront, across the Wirral and down the Mersey river. Not to mention the vast dry dock within yards of the grounds.
There are school-holiday events and regular tours of the priory. You can see a 360-degree virtual tour of the priory and its grounds here.
Visit Birkenhead Priory
Entry to Birkenhead Priory is free – there’s limited disabled access. Opening times are seasonal and somewhat quixotic, so check before you go. It is easily accessible by car from Liverpool or any part of Wirral, based immediately on the Wirral side of the Birkenhead Tunnel.
Birkenhead PrioryPriory Street