The Wirral. Tips for Traveling by Bicycle
The Wirral peninsula lies between the Dee and Mersey estuaries and has something of an island feel because of it. It’s a busy place; the whole north-east side of the Wirral is built up and is really part of the Greater Merseyside conurbation, although the only links to Liverpool are via tunnels and on the famous ferry. The Wirral is also a hive of cycling activity, with many small lanes on the peninsula itself and the whole of North Wales lying just across the Dee. There are lots of cyclists here. The Olympic gold medallist, Tour de France stage winner and world record holder Chris Boardman is from the Wirral and still rides in the lanes. A number of other internationals and national champions also come from here.
The Wirral is only 15 miles long and seven miles wide, so inevitably a 100-mile ride is going to spill over. This one starts in Chester, and 13 of the first 14 miles are in North Wales. No mountains, though, just the climb of Northop Hill above Connah’s Quay, although you do get a nice view of the Clwydian Range over in the west. Chester used to be a thriving sea port, much bigger than Liverpool, but the Dee silted up, leaving a magnificent ecosystem for birds but favouring Liverpool, on the Mersey, as the major port of the industrial north-west. The ride threads around the Dee estuary, with a small detour inland through Two Mills. The Eureka Cafe in Two Mills is a cycling heritage site, a truly traditional cyclists’ cafe, and it’s stuffed with bike-racing memorabilia.
The next 45 miles follow the outline of the peninsula. You go along the north bank of the Dee to Hoylake, then along the Liverpool Bay coast to the sea front at New Brighton. This was once a popular holiday resort; created to rival Blackpool, it had its own tower with a glittery ballroom underneath. The next section is through Birkenhead, another place in northern England where fortunes changed, but here they did so with breathtaking speed. The shipbuilders Cammell Laird built some great vessels in Birkenhead, but it wasn’t long before they were hit by the slump in shipbuilding in the UK. In the short boom Birkenhead built a fabulous town centre, but that was it – the money ran out, and the magnificent buildings sit in the middle of town like an abandoned film set.
The route avoids the busiest parts by sticking to a B-road that runs south-west to the pretty village of Willaston, then through Ellesmere Port, close to the Vauxhall car factory and the massive Stanlow oil refinery, and out of the Wirral. This section of ride is unashamedly industrial. As you climb Helsby Hill and even more so through Frodsham you get amazing views of Stanlow, the Mersey beyond it, and Runcorn and Widnes straddling the river. You can also see the Manchester Ship Canal, just south of the Mersey, built to enable ships to come straight from the sea and sail directly to Manchester for off-loading there. The final leg is another contrast because it runs through Delamere Forest, a tiny remnant of the old forests of Mara and Mondrem, two huge areas of woodland that covered all of north-west Cheshire. It still makes a very pleasant ride back to Chester.
Head south from Chester city centre on the A483, go right at the roundabout onto the A5104, then right onto the B5129, straight at the next roundabout and then turn right. Go under the A55, turn right onto the A5119 and then go right and left to Flint. Turn right and right again to Queensferry, where you turn left. Join the A494, then the A550 going through Two Mills, and then take the second left. Go right onto the A540 and first left to Burton and Neston. Turn left onto the B5135 and follow this to the A540, where you turn left. Turn left at the roundabout just before West Kirby and follow the sea road to join the A540 again. Continue through Hoylake to Moreton. Turn left there and follow the A551 through Wallasey to New Brighton sea front, where you turn right and follow signs to Birkenhead.
Ride around the back of the docks into Birkenhead, turn left opposite a church, then right onto the B5151, and head south-east through Birkenhead over the M53 to Willaston. There turn left onto the B5133, right onto the A41 and left onto the A5117. Turn right to Stoak, then Picton, and turn left onto the A56. Continue to Frodsham and turn right onto the B5152 to Delamere. This is where you get the views of Stanlow, and maybe you’ll see why it inspired Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark to write a song about it. Turn right onto the A556, then take the A54 and A51 back to Chester.
Start + Finish. The Wirral: Chester.
Getting There. The Wirral: Chester is at the western end of the M56, about 40 miles south-west of Manchester. It’s served by two rail stations and well connected to the national network.
Bike Shop. The Wirral: The Bike Factory in Boughton, which is right next to Chester city centrer.
Cafe. The Wirral: There are a number of cafes in Chester, but it’s also worth visiting the Eureka in Two Mills. It’s one of those things every cyclist should do at least once, just to say you’ve been.
Local Delicacy. The Wirral: Wirral watercress.
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