Birkenhead is a town on Merseyside, England, on the Wirral peninsula in the historic county boundaries of Cheshire, across the River Mersey from Liverpool. It is not a tourist destination in its own right but can make for a rewarding afternoon trip from Liverpool, and is well worth a couple of hours.
The town grew around the huge Cammell Laird's shipbuilding works, its population peaking in the 1921 census when it was the 20th most populated town in England. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted was so impressed by Birkenhead's public municipal park after a visit in 1850, he incorporated many of its features into his work on New York's Central Park.
Birkenhead can be reached by the Mersey tunnels from Liverpool (toll payable) or the M53 from Chester.
By local ferry
- 1 Woodside ferry terminal, Hamilton Street, Birkenhead. CH41 6DU ( Birkenhead Hamilton Square (for Woodside) or Liverpool James Street (for Pier Head)). The famous Ferry 'cross the Mersey deposits you at Birkenhead Woodside, in the riverside area of the town.
It takes 3 minutes for a Merseyrail Wirral line train to travel from Liverpool James Street. These trains serve all loop stations in Liverpool, taking 2 additional minutes for each. These are the 4 stations most useful to visitors (the number in brackets is how many additional minutes it takes for the train to reach this station from Hamilton Square):
- 2 Hamilton Square, Hamilton Street, Birkenhead. CH41 1AL. This is the best station for the Woodside, Hamilton square and museum, and can be accessed by all trains on Merseyrail's Wirral line.
- 3 Conway Park (+2), Europa Boulevard, Birkenhead. CH41 4PP. This is the best station for the shopping district, and can be accessed from Liverpool with trains to West Kirby or New Brighton.
- 4 Birkenhead Central (+2), Argyle Street South, Birkenhead. CH41 9DB. This station is across the A552 from the shopping district, & is the closest station to the Priory. The station can be accessed from Liverpool with trains to Chester or Ellesmere Port, and vice versa.
- 5 Birkenhead Park (+4), Duke Street, Birkenhead. CH41 8BT. This is the best station for the famous park, and can be accessed from Liverpool with trains to West Kirby or New Brighton.
- 6 Twelve Quays ferry terminal, Tower Road, Birkenhead. CH41 1FE (Entrance on Tower Roundabout. Conway Park or Birkenhead Hamilton Square). The terminal is served by Stena Line ro-ro ferries from Belfast in Northern Ireland.
- Dublin, via Isle of Man Steam Packet, MS Ben-my-Chree during winter.
Frequent and reliable Merseyrail services operate between the town's stations. There is also an extensive bus network. Saveaway tickets are valid on all public transport in Birkenhead. These can be purchased at any staffed railway or bus stations in Merseyside. An "all areas" ticket is best, if intending to also travel to Liverpool, Chester, Ellesmere Port, Formby or Southport. The ticket costs about £5 per day, for off-peak use. Alternatively, a slightly cheaper "area B" ticket will cover most of Wirral.
- 1 Hamilton Square ( Birkenhead Hamilton Square). A beautiful Georgian Square with gardens in the middle designed by James Gillespie Graham. The square contains the largest cluster of Grade I listed buildings outside Trafalgar Square in London.
- 2 Birkenhead Park (Visitors' Centre), Park Drive, Birkenhead, CH41 4HY ( Birkenhead Park (+4) & 5-minute walk), ☏ . Designed by Joseph Paxton and opened on 5 April 1847, it is generally acknowledged as the first publicly-funded civic park in Britain. American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted incorporated many of the features he observed into his design for New York's Central Park. free.
- 3 Wirral Transport Museum, 1 Taylor Street, Birkenhead, Merseyside, CH41 1BG ( Birkenhead Hamilton Square), ☏ . free.
- 4 Birkenhead Priory (St Mary's Tower), 4 Priory Street, Birkenhead, Merseyside, CH41 5JH ( Birkenhead Central), ☏ . Wed to Sun afternoons. This former monastery dates back to when monks ferried passengers over the River Mersey and is the oldest building in Merseyside. free.
- 5 The U-Boat Story (Woodside Ferry Terminal and Visitor Centre), Wirral Museum Office, Woodside, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 6DU ( Birkenhead Hamilton Square & 3-minute walk), ☏ .
- 6 The John Laird Centre, Park Road North, Birkenhead, Merseyside ( Birkenhead Park (+4)). Originally the Laird School of Art, the first British public school of art outside London. It is opposite Birkenhead Park's grand entrance, in use as offices, and not open to the general public.
At Woodside, the riverside by the Mersey affords an excellent panorama of Liverpool city centre including all of its iconic buildings. There is also a wealth of interesting industrial buildings, structures and artefacts in the outlying docklands area. Some of these are very well-kept, while others are either derelict, or in quite unkempt surroundings; but all reflect the town's industrial heritage. Examples include:
- 7 Cammell Laird's shipyard ( Green Lane (+4)). Closed to the public. Established in 1824, the shipyard is best seen from the Mersey Ferry. Unfortunately, it has no visitor centre or museum, though it greatly deserves such facilities.
- 8 Shore Road Pumping Station, 1 Pacific Rd, CH41 6DN ( Birkenhead Hamilton Square), ☏ . Open weekend afternoons, closed weekdays except by appointment. Open Wednesday-Sunday afternoons, during school holidays. free.
- 9 Pacific Road Business Hub (formerly the Pacific Road Arts Centre), Pacific Road, CH41 1LJ ( Birkenhead Hamilton Square). Built as a railway goods transit shed.
- 10 Cheshire Lines Building, Canning Street. CH41 1ND ( Birkenhead Hamilton Square). Built as a railway goods station.
- 11 The One o'Clock Gun (about 300 metres north of Woodside ferry terminal, along the riverside walkway). The cannon was in use from 1867 to 1969, although it didn't fire during World War II. The cannon was controlled from Bidston Observatory, and was used to set the marine chronometers of ships on the Mersey.
- 12 Egerton Bridge, Egerton Wharf, Birkenhead ( Birkenhead Hamilton Square or Conway Park). This bridge separates Egerton and Morpeth Docks. Egerton House, originally a dockside warehouse, is visible from the bridge.
- 13 The Central Hydraulic Tower, Tower Road, Birkenhead ( Conway Park or Birkenhead Hamilton Square). On the opposite side of Tower Road to the Twelve Quays ferry terminal. The building is derelict and not open to the public. The Wallasey Dock impounding station is within the ro-ro ferry terminal and, although inaccessible to tourists, can be clearly seen from a Mersey ferry travelling between Seacombe and Woodside.
- 14 Duke Street Bridge, Duke Street, Birkenhead ( Birkenhead Park). Separating East and West Floats, this bridge is about a mile inland from the riverside. Dockside viewing points are accessible at the northeast and southwest quarters of the bridge.
Further outside the centre of town, Bidston Hill provides an interesting group of buildings amongst the heathland:
- 15 Bidston Windmill, 2 Vyner Road North, Bidston. CH43 7PZ ( Birkenhead North). First Saturday of the month, April-September 10AM-noon. Built in 1800, a prominent local landmark.
- 16 Bidston Observatory, Vyner Road North, Bidston. CH43 7PZ (journey to Bidston Windmill, and walk 400 metres north along the hill, Birkenhead North or Bidston). Not open to the public. The Grade II listed observatory was built in 1866.
- 17 Bidston Lighthouse, 4 Lighthouse Cottages, Bidston. CH43 7RA (When facing the observatory, take the path around the left-hand side.). 31 Mar-1 Sep: Sa noon-3OM. Built in 1873, and over two miles from the sea, it has a claim as the world's most inland lighthouse used for marine navigation.
- 1 Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, Slatey Road, Oxton. CH43 4UE ( Birkenhead Central or Park), ☏ . Near to Birkenhead Park on Slatey Road, has some great artwork. Free.
- 2 Vue Cinemas, Conway Park, Europa Boulevard, CH41 4PE ( Conway Park & 2-minute walk).
- 3 Tam o'Shanter Urban Farm, Boundary Road, Bidston Hill. CH43 7PD ( Birkenhead North). Daily 9:30AM-4:30PM. The farm has a variety of animals, which love to be hand-fed. Free.
- Watch football (ie soccer) at 4 Tranmere Rovers FC, Prenton Park, Prenton Rd West, Birkenhead, CH42 9PY ( Rock Ferry, 40-minute walk.). Although Rovers have always lived in the shadow of Liverpool they have a long tradition and a great family atmosphere. In 2019 they were promoted so they now play in League One, the third tier of English football.
- 5 Europa Pools, 136 Conway Street. CH41 6RN ( Conway Park. Outside Conway Park station, turn right. Halfway along Europa Boulevard turn right, again. The building is straight ahead, just past the cinema.). Indoor swimming with a wave machine, flumes and competition pool
- Take a short trip on a vintage tram along the Wirral Tramway, between Woodside ferry terminal and the Wirral Transport Museum, during summer weekend afternoons. Birkenhead Hamilton Square.
Explore Birkenhead Park. The first public park and the inspiration for Central Park, New York. It is larger than most parks and has some beautiful wooded areas and duck ponds. Especially popular in the summer months. Birkenhead Park.
The Ferry 'cross the Mersey, immortalised in the Gerry and the Pacemakers song, is considered by many to be essential on any trip to Liverpool, and by definition involves a trip to Birkenhead. Terminals are Birkenhead Woodside and Liverpool Pier Head. Birkenhead Hamilton Square or Liverpool James Street.
Visit Birkenhead Shopping Precinct. Birkenhead has the usual unexciting array of British high-street chain stores for your everyday requirements. Those seeking specialist shops or anything a cut above the norm should head across the water to Liverpool. Conway Park or Birkenhead Central.
- Birkenhead Central Library ( Birkenhead Central). Birkenhead Central Library, which was opened in 1934 by George V was the country's first public library in an unincorporated borough
- The Pyramids Shopping centre ( Conway Park or Birkenhead Central). Shopping centre that has all commodities and has some great deals
- 1 The Brass Balance (JD Wetherspoons), 39-45 Argyle Street, CH41 6AB ( Birkenhead Hamilton Square or Conway Park), ☏ .
- 2 Buffet 88, 46 Conway Street, CH41 6JD ( Conway Park or Birkenhead Central), ☏ .
- 3 Capitol Restaurant, 24 Argyle Street ( Birkenhead Hamilton Square or Conway Park), ☏ . Generally considered to be the best Chinese/Canton/Peking restaurant in Merseyside. Award winning dim sum, banquets and specials. Friendly service.
- 4 Home, Woodside Ferry Terminal, Birkenhead, CH41 6DU ( Birkenhead Hamilton Square), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 10AM-4:30PM.
- 5 Fraiche, 11 Rose Mount, Prenton, CH43 5SG ( Birkenhead Central), ☏ .
- 6 Oxton Bar & Kitchen, Claughton Firs, Oxton. CH43 5TQ ( Birkenhead Central), ☏ .
- 7 Venezia, 14-16 Prenton Road West. CH42 9PN (Opposite Tranmere Rovers' Prenton Park stadium. Rock Ferry), ☏ . Italian food.
- 8 Yiamas Greek Taverna, 300 Borough Road. CH41 2UW ( Birkenhead Central), ☏ .
- 9 Mr. Yummie (Yummies), 11 Oxton Road. CH41 2QQ ( Birkenhead Central or Conway Park), ☏ . Su-Th 6PM-3AM, F Sa 6PM-4AM. Fast food take-away, providing pizzas, kebabs, burgers and vegetarian options, with congenial staff. Useful as a very late-night stop-off, on the way back from a night out in Liverpool.
- 1 The Stork Hotel, 41 Price Street. CH41 6JN ( Conway Park), ☏ . A must-visit pub for the pub architecture/real ale fan. The Edwardian tiling, mosaic floor and etched windows make for a sumptuous drinking experience. There is always a selection of real ale, and cheap hearty food is served at lunchtimes. 200 yards (180 m) from Hamilton Square and a similar distance from Conway Park station.
- 2 The Caernarvon Castle, 10 Bidston Road, Prenton. CH43 2JZ ( Birkenhead Park), ☏ .
- The Brass Balance (JD Wetherspoons), 39-45 Argyle Street, Birkenhead, CH41 6AB ( Birkenhead Hamilton Square or Conway Park), ☏ .
- Yew Tree Hotel (Kellson), 56 Rock Lane West, CH42 4PA ( Rock Ferry), ☏ . £49.50.
- 1 The RiverHill Hotel and Bay Tree Restaurant, Oxton Old Hall, Talbot Rd, Prenton, CH43 2HJ ( Birkenhead Park or Central, then half-hour walk.), ☏ . £69.50+.
- Port Sunlight, William Lever's model village, is 15 minutes away and is easily accessed by rail or road. 4-6 trains per hour
- The Wirral coast between New Brighton and West Kirby has some excellent walking and off-road cycling opportunities, including the Wirral Way. 2-4 trains per hour on each branch.
- The ancient walled city of Chester is 30 minutes away by road or rail. 2-4 trains per hour