I haven’t really spoken too much about the trip to Blackpool, have I?
To begin with, I decided on Blackpool for a place to go and see Hamish Hawk perform after a rather thorough investigation on where we (ie: myself and Em, my partner) could go for the most affordable price. I looked at getting back to Luton and seeing Hamish in Bedford, or perhaps going closer to Northampton or Leicester. Northampton used to have a balloon festival during August and I looked into matching that up in line with Hamish’s gig there. That wasn’t going to work out and I think the balloon festival is back off in Northampton anyway. I then looked at heading to the south-west of England and looked into getting to Falmouth or Exeter for one of his shows but flying was costly even though accommodation was relatively affordable.
That then left the last two dates of the tour; Chester and Blackpool. I looked at Chester first but it was fairly obvious that Blackpool was going to be easier to get to. And with the MASSES of accommodation at a seaside resort(?) like Blackpool, accommodation could be sought out more affordably. Also travel was cheap enough and I could break up the journey between coach and train. A coach to Manchester and then a train to Blackpool North. The train station was just a short walk to the venue so I hunted around for accommodation near the train station. The Happi Hotel and Spa was literally just around the corner from Blackpool North station. I then got the tickets for the gig and then sorted the accommodation through ‘booking.com’. Finally I purchased the train tickets and then the coach tickets. I booked two nights at the Happi Hotel and Spa. The gig was on Friday night, so we travelled down on Thursday, stayed Thursday and Friday nights at the hotel and travelled home on Saturday. Sweet!
As we got closer to the time of the trip, both Em and I were not feeling particularly enthusiastic about going. Everything was all paid for by then. The accommodation was paid for two weeks before we were due to stay and obviously all the transport had been paid for so…we would be out of pocket anyway if we decided not to go.
The weather was forecast to be a bit iffy while we were away so that was kind of not having us feel that good about the prospect of going away. Who wants to be at the seaside in grey, rainy weather?
To be honest, I have been wanting to go to Blackpool for YEARS! I’m ashamed it has taken me this long to go! I’ve lived in the UK for nearly 25 years now and it’s taken me this long to get to Blackpool. Bad!
The coach journey down was smooth enough. I guess the slight delay we had in setting off should have possibly given us a little indicator on how the trip was going to pan out for the return, but I was trying to remain upbeat and calm. It was just a short delay. We set off about 20 minutes later than scheduled and had made the time up in the ensuing journey down to Manchester. I made sure I left enough of a space in time between the coach’s projected arrival in Manchester to the time of the departure of the train to Blackpool. It was all good. We arrived in good time and had no worries about getting our train.
What we did find out on our arrival was that our train back to Manchester from Blackpool on Saturday was not going to be running. Northern Rail staff were going on strike on Saturday so that caused us a panic and we needed to sort an alternative way back to Manchester on Saturday, FAST! We looked into National Express and whether they had coaches that went from Blackpool to Manchester. They did, yes! And they were regular as well but they had sold out in the morning and early afternoon for Saturday. The only coach left was departing at 2.20pm and that was projected to get into Manchester coach station at 3.35pm. Our coach back to Glasgow was departing at 4.30pm. But…more on that later. Suffice it now to say that with little option, we booked the coach and then tried to enjoy the rest of the time away and put Saturday to the back of our minds.
Blackpool North train station is very handy, as was the Happi Hotel’s location and proximity to the station. There’s a big Sainsbury supermarket right there as well.
The sun was shining when we left Glasgow and it was still shining when we got to Blackpool. After checking in we took a wander down to the seafront, which was just a 10 min walk from the hotel. We then walked around the town centre, checking out where the venue was and looking at what was around it. We heard many Scots accents while there. It seems to still be a popular destination for Glaswegians in particular.
For the first night we decided to just wander about and then head back to the Sainbury’s and get some sandwiches and snacks to eat and have an early night. We’d been up early to set off. Our coach to Manchesrter left Buchanan bus station at 8.20am so we were out the door at 7.30am to get the train into Queen Street at 7.41am.
During our late afternoon stroll around town, we stumbled across a cafe within the main pedestrian square called Ziggy’s Cafe Bar (which can be sung quite nicely to the opening line of Ziggy Stardust … “Ziggy’s cafe bar…can be found in the centre of Blackpool / it’s not very far (from the Winter Gardens)”). Lol. etc. It was closed for the day but the owner was inside cleaning up and as we were standing by the door trying to have a peek inside he said “you can come in and have a look if you like” and moved the chair he had blocking the door out the way so we could walk in. It looked fabulous and I said to him that we’d be back for breakfast before we left Blackpool.
The hotel room was pokey. I booked a twin room as it had private facilities. I had initially booked a double room but it had shared bathroom facilities and…I didn’t really want to share. I had done it before but I wasn’t prepared to do it this time, so I upgraded the room to ensure we had both tea and coffee making facilities as well as a private bathroom. It was such a small room that the twin beds were side by side. More than okay for me and Em but probably wouldn’t be great for friends or people who are not that close to one another, you know? The beds were comfy enough. We had a good and long sleep.
The next day we decided on just taking things easy. Having fish and chips for lunch, then going on a tram trip before the gig. We investigated what Blackpool’s best fish and chip shop was reputed to be and as luck would have it it wasn’t very far and was only a few doors down from the venue. It was pretty good. Was it the best fish and chips I’ve ever had? Nope. Was it worth the £14 EACH that we paid for it? Nope. I’d probably try somewhere else next time. It was good, just not THE BEST, you know. Certainly not worth its price tag.
We wiled away a bit of time away down at the seafront. We walked along the north pier and enjoyed the views. Read up about the origins of Sooty. I posed for snaps in front of Blackpool Tower and then it was time to get the Heritage Tram for a coastal trip to Fleetwood and back. It was a fun wee trip and I could see that it would be particularly fun to do during illuminations season as the tramline runs along a section of the illuminations displays. We had around a half an hour to look around Fleetwood. Em spied a tattoo parlour named The Gentle Prick. Much hilarity ensued.
Blackpool itself is very LGBTQI+ friendly. There are LOTS of gay bars and people seem quite free to present themselves however they like without fear of reprisals or any of the sort. It didn’t feel unsafe at all heading back to the hotel after the gig. We only had a short walk but the streets weren’t super lively and there weren’t any sprawling drunken scenes or anything like that – perhaps it was more like that down at the seafront or closer in the town centre?
Saturday was VERY busy. I was hoping that we would get to go to Ziggy’s for breakfast. Check-out of the hotel was at 11am. We check-out around 10.30am and headed straight down to Ziggy’s for breakfast. We got a table inside. I had a light vegetarian breakfast and Em had scrambled eggs on toast. She had tea and I had a latte. We enjoyed our time there, people-watching, etc. We had a chat with a local lady who was waiting for her sister to arrive to have lunch at Ziggy’s. She nabbed our table and we got chatting for a few minutes. She wished us luck on our journey home.
A final wander down to the seafront to kill some time before we went to get the coach to Manchester. The tension in us was mounting. We knew we had just the slimmest of buffers in time between the coaches and if we missed our coach back to Glasgow then….we’d be in for a damn expense to get home. We’d already had to fork out another £26 to secure that coach from Blackpool to get us back to Manchester due to the train strike.
We arrived at the coach station early. It was really warm. Despite the forecast for a mix of sunshine and showers while we were away, we’d been blessed with mostly sunny weather the whole time we were there. The only time it appeared to rain was when we were inside having our fish and chip dinner on Friday.
The coach arrived early. It was at the stand by 1.45pm. But the driver had informed us that we’d be setting off a little later than scheduled. But there would be two coaches. He didn’t really explain why we’d be setting off late – but the reason was explained (rather grudgingly) later on. Oh, the whole thing became a real farce. The guy was an absolute fucking jobsworth! The driver of the other coach was not a National Express driver so he was unable to mark passengers off and get us onto the coach. It had to be done by Mr Jobsworth. He wanted to get the Huddersfield, Leeds and Hull passengers boarded on his coach first, which left all us Manchester passengers (and extra Leeds passengers) hanging about waiting to be boarded on the second coach. I mean…the other driver was not allowed to do ANYTHING because he needed to have his allocated break. He had to have his full break time before he was allowed to drive again. That seemingly also meant he couldn’t let us passengers even get our luggage loaded into the coach or anything. By this point Em and I were starting to freak out. Our buffer to make it to Manchester on time for our coach back to Glasgow was shrinking fast.
It was meant to be a 75 minute journey from Blackpool to Manchester. If the motorways were flowing nicely and there were no jams or any other slowdowns then even with a 20 minute delay in setting out, we might just make it. The added tension was that we were changing from a National Express coach onto a Megabus coach – they use separate coach stations. So once we got into Manchester, we had to leg it to the Megabus station at Shudehill. We also learned from a conversation that was going on with some of the passengers in the queue that it was Pride weekend in Manchester and there was a street parade happening. Oh, fabulous! The streets would be CARNAGE!
To say that Em and I were quite pent up by this point would be a slight understatement. Em far more so than me. I was trying to keep myself calm and remain pragmatic about the whole situation.
As we set off, I just kept praying that the roads kept flowing and were clear of jams. It went really well. All the way until we got to Salford the roads flowed and we made it in really good time. REALLY good time! We hit Salford around 3.30pm. Then it was a crawl from there into the coach station. I said to Em at that point that if it took us 40 minutes to make this last bit of the journey we’d still have time to leg it to the Shudehill exchange and make the Glasgow coach. It took a half an hour to make that last little bit of the journey. THIRTY MINUTES to travel like…three or four miles. Manchester was HOACHIN’! I dunno how we bloody did it, but we made it! We got to the coach station at 4.20pm. It was like salmon swimming upstream trying to get to the coach station. I had to ask people on the way as Google Maps was giving me a bum steer. A young woman said to just keep our sights on the Arndale and we’d get there. That’s what we did. I remembered where it was in proximity to the Arndale on our arrival.
Of course then because the roads in and out of Manchster were a heaving bloody mess, the coach to Glasgow was delayed by over an hour. But by then it didn’t matter. We’d made it. We were getting home!
It wasn’t quite over, yet. The delay in arrival time into Glasgow meant that we would have to leg it (once again) down to Queen Street to get the train home. We arrived at Buchanan Bus Station at 9.20pm. I knew there was a train back to Ashfield leaving at 9.33pm. We got to Queen Street at 9.29pm. We still had to buy tickets. I was hoping that the ticket counter would still be open. It was. I rushed in. Damn the expense. “Two singles to Ashfield, please” (returns are usually cheaper to buy but I knew it would add to the faff – and Em has her Saltire card which means her ticket should be cheaper again but I just didn’t want the delay!). The man at the counter could see I was in a rush. He got the tickets printed pronto. I tapped to pay. Done! We ran to the barrier, rushed through and made it onto the train at 9.31pm! PHEW! It would have been an hour wait for the next train had we missed this one.
Apart from Saturday’s stressful journey home, Blackpool was great. I really enjoyed it and I’d love to return there to see the illuminations. I’m hoping that maybe that can happen in the autumn of 2024 for my 54th birthday – but we’ll see.