Day 1. The National Waterways Museum, The Wirral

After recently spending an enjoyable weekend in nearby Liverpool, we decided to turn our attention to the Wirral Peninsula.  This stretch of land is bordered by the River Mersey to the east, the Irish Sea and River Dee to the west and the Shropshire Union Canal to the south providing us with 25 miles of coastline to explore.

Visitor Centre & Cafe, National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port
Visitor Centre & Cafe at the National Waterways Museum

We began our first day with a visit to The National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port.  Open daily 10.00 – 17.00 with standard admission £9.75 (ticket valid for unlimited return visits in a year).  The museum is located in the historic docks which are at the junction of the Shropshire Union Canal, Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey.  Designed by the great civil engineer Thomas Telford, it was the largest inland waterway dock complex in the United Kingdom.

National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port
Old dockside warehouses form part of the museum

This delightful waterside setting is mostly open-air with old warehouses and cottages set around the locks of the canal basin with its historic narrow boats.  We were provided with a detailed map at the ticket desk and it was explained that QR codes were available at strategic points for listening to commentaries on our phones, if we so wished.

Main exhibition hall, National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port
One of the many boats on display in the main exhibition hall

A large canal-side warehouse has been converted into the main exhibition area detailing how Ellesmere Port began its life in 1795 with the opening of the Wirral Line of the Ellesmere canal, connecting to the River Mersey and the Port of Liverpool.  We learnt that goods brought here by canal were then transferred into sea going vessels whilst imported raw materials were taken by canal boats to neighbouring mills and factories.  The extensive display includes over fifty boats and 15,000 objects making it the largest inland waterways collection in the U.K.

Power Hall, National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port
On of the engines on display in the Power Hall

Moving on to the Power Hall, we found this to be packed full of engines ranging from steam to diesel, each of them originally used to move water or propel vessels through it.  At certain times of day various machines are powered up to demonstrate their working parts.  From there we explored the stables and forge where the museum’s resident blacksmith offers demonstrations in creating wrought iron products.

Porters Row Cottages, National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port
Porters Row Cottages

Next it was time to take a look at the oldest surviving row of cottages in Ellesmere Port known as Porters Row.  Located slightly separate from the rest of the docks, twelve cottages were originally built for the dock workers in 1833 and were home to shipwrights, blacksmiths, railway workers, porters and their families.

Interior of Porters Row Cottages, National Waterways Museum
Interior of one of the Porters Row Cottages

Only four cottages remain today, numbers 9 to 12 and internally they have been furnished to reflect different time periods.  The styles of the living rooms and kitchens reflecting the social history of the period covering 1830, 1900, 1936 and 1952.  Although I enjoyed touring all parts of the museum, this row of cottages was one of my favourites.

Porters Row Cottage Garden, National Waterways Museum
The garden behind the Porters Row cottages

A garden lies behind the terrace which we accessed through a gate at the side of the cottages and has been planted in a similar style to how it would have looked in days gone by.

Locks at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port
Locks at the National Waterways Museum

It was then time to investigate the locks which were receiving a coat of paint at the time of our visit.  There are two sets of locks between the upper lock and canal dock basin.  The wider locks date from before the Manchester Ship Canal was built.  The narrow locks were added some 80 years later for narrow boats to pass through and use less water.

Narrowboats at the National Waterways Museum
On board one of the narrowboats at the National Waterways Museum

It’s possible to clamber on board several of the boats moored at the museum and short boat trips are currently available Thursday to Sunday but its best to consult the website before visiting to avoid disappointment in case this changes.

National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port
Narrowboats at the National Waterways Museum

To round off our visit to the museum we looked in the well stocked museum shop and then enjoyed a cream tea in the cafe which has a pleasant outdoor terrace overlooking the canal.

Cream Tea at the National Waterways Museum Cafe
Cream Tea in the museum cafe

Leaving the National Waterways Museum it was just a few minutes drive to Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet Village for a spot of retail therapy.  The outlet has several large car parks but these were all full and it took awhile for us to find a vacant parking space to leave the car.

Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet Village
The Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet Village

Despite it being very busy, we still enjoyed a wander around the shops and true to form as an avid traveller, I came away with yet another suitcase to add to my collection!

Tudor architecture in West Kirby, Wirral
Tudor architecture in West Kirby

Shopping trip over, it was back in the car and onto West Kirby, located on the north western tip of the Wirral peninsula at the mouth of the River Dee.  The town centre features some Tudor architecture and has a mixture of high street brands and small independent shops and cafes on its high street.

Causeway to Hilbre Island, West Kirby
The causeway across to Hilbre Island

We enjoyed a stroll along the seafront and around the Marine Lake.  Being low tide, the beach was exposed towards Hoylake where we were heading next.  It’s possible to walk to Hilbre Island at low tide but important to check the tide timetable first to prevent getting cut off.

Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake
The Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake

The Royal Liverpool Golf Club lies mid-way between West Kirby and Hoylake.  This world renowned club frequently plays host to the Open Championship on its challenging links course with the tournament taking place there next in 2023.  The Royal Liverpool is the second oldest of all the English seaside clubs after Westward Ho! in Devon.

The famous Links Course at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club
The famous Links Course at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club

Its beautiful, ivy clad clubhouse overlooking the first tee was built in 1895 with a library containing a fine collection of literature about golf in general and the Hoylake club in particular.

Hoylake Jills cookshop
One of the attractive small shops in Hoylake

Back in the car we continued into the centre of Hoylake where we had planned to stay.  Along with West Kirby just down the road, it’s a pleasant small town with an attractive high street lined with a good selection of cafes, restaurants and small shops.

Monte Carlo Restaurant, Hoylake
One of the many wine bars and restaurants in Hoylake

Our first day on the Wirral peninsula had been fun filled with our visit to the National Waterways Museum being a highlight.  With more interesting activities planned for the following day, we were tucked up in bed early hoping for good weather.


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National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port



41 thoughts on “Day 1. The National Waterways Museum, The Wirral

  1. I love the Porter’s Row cottages too Marion. Seeing the pram reminded me of my mother telling me she would put me in my pram in Swansea (exactly like this large pram) and pop me out on the front garden with our german shepherd to watch over me whilst she returned inside to do whatever she had to do. Wouldn’t even dream of doing that these days of course but it’s a lovely memory I will always have. I wonder what happened to my pram!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting to read about the waterway history there and how the museum is retaining that heritage. I had to laugh out loud when you mentioned you bought a suitcase because that sounds very like me. I seem to be exceeding my number suitcases to the space I have to put them. There’s just nothing better than finding another great case for another yet planned adventure 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. How funny that you are a collector of suitcases for every occasion too! I think our attic will soon be starting to resemble an airline baggage hall Meg! Thanks for taking the time to comment, it’s much appreciated. The Waterways Museum is such a great place to visit.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Went to the Waterways museum many years ago. Loved the way the old houses were set out. Living just across the pond in the Isle of Man, we often travel through Liverpool and it’s surrounds but too infrequently stop to explore. The Liverpool Museum on the Waterfront and the nearby Beatles museum are good. Look up at the older buildings and marvel at the architecture – fascinating.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on this post on the Waterways Museum. It is a splendid place to visit. I also enjoy walking along the Liverpool waterfront marvelling at the three beautiful buildings there. I’m yet to visit the IOM but would like to go there sometime.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think that like you I would have liked to see these houses renovated in different periods, it is always interesting to see the advance of progress and finally the improvement of living conditions. We are not always aware that what we enjoy today did not always exist.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Always happy to follow around the canals and would have loved to see this exhibition. I was also inspired by the Tudor building. I’m so glad GB is conscious of preserving its heritage. Too many of our treasures have been destroyed over the years to make way for “progress.”

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I like the look of the narrowboats and the history you gave about the waterways – that was really interesting! And you’re right that the golf clubhouse is beautiful – love the ivy climbing up on the walls! And as for your cream tea … wow, that looks delicious! Thanks Marion, it was a great Sunday morning stroll on the Wirral Peninsula.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The old metal pram is of the type that would be in use then before the days when there were cars and the prams needed to be portable. The Waterways Museum is really big and a great day out for all the family. It was just a pity that the boat trips weren’t operating that day. Thanks for taking an interest. Marion

      Liked by 2 people

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