‘The Greatest Light Show on Earth’
Is there such a thing?? The illuminations are very popular and get very busy, especially at weekend, we see every year cars coming off the motorway and heading into long queues of traffic just to get to the start of the illuminations ……never mind the 2 miles an hour you drive for along most of the route…… to be quite blunt, as locals, we just wouldn’t do it….. but that being said…… we do, every year see the illumination, spend time watching the best ones and zoom past those which are ‘sponsored’ or repetitive and whats more, we do it without any of the stress of the kids playing up on the back seat or getting frustrated at the car ahead that wants to stop in front of you and take a million photos of a bulb! So, how do we do it?? Good question! 🙂 Let us try to enlighten you as to what we do to make experiencing the illuminations stress free.
So first thing we thought about trying to avoid was the queuing in traffic, sure, if its pouring down it might be the only way to go (though visibility will be reduced so we wouldn’t recommend) and as such, the obvious answer was to use a different form of transport, walking (Its quite a walk) Cycling (good option but if you want freedom to head into a few shops along the way, get a tray of chips or whatever, might not be the best as you’ll have to ‘sort out the bike’) or the one we plumped for, tram it!
The illuminations start at Starr Gate, which is also where the tram terminal is located. Each year we walk to the tram terminal (you could drive and park up, theres free parking very close, ten minutes walk in land there would be plenty even on the busiest of nights). We always pick a night when the lights are switched on around 19:00 – 20:00 when the weather is cold but still, October is ideal (but this year, you have all November and December of course!!). Catch a tram early evening and take it north to Red Bank Road, Bispham. (You can of course just on a tram anywhere along the sea front, you don’t have to start at Starr Gate). We always time it so when we get to Bispham we have enough time before the lights switch on to head into one of the chippys down Red Bank Road (opposite the tram stop). We always go to Bispham Kitchen which is sit in and always good quality but we’ve not heard any bad reports about any of the chippys down there. If you miss time things, theres also a pub called the Highland which is friendly and you can bob into for a drink or two whilst you await the light switch on!
Once the switch on has occurred, we then head out and walk along the big displays which really are the best part of the illumination. They’re best seen ‘up close and personal’ on foot rather than driven past so even if you’ve made the trip in your car, we’d recommend parking up and having a wander anyway – loads of photo opps and for some of the displays, you need to watch and wait for the display to play out!
After walking past the tableaus, depending how we’re feeling we either continue walking or we jump back on a tram and head to the tower. Most years we try to tie in our illuminations trip with the world fireworks championship which is run from the end of North Pier and runs over 4 Fridays in September / October (canceled this year unfortunately due to the Rhona!!). Opposite the tower there is a must see, a light show is projected against the tower building and is a fairly recent addition and pretty impressive when compared with some of the err…. ‘traditional’ illuminations (there are some really dated!). Last year there were a load of other displays around the area opposite the tower, we’re not sure if they’ll return this year or in the future.
After watching the display at the tower, we tend to walk further down the promenade, taking in some of the sights and sounds and general vibe with a bag of doughnuts (other unhealthy snacks are available) however, there is an opportunity to head a little in town to Birley Street to experience ‘brilliance’ which is a light and sounds show down one of the roads just off the promenade….. we’ll be honest, we’d seen it and wasn’t impressed hence don’t make it part of our illuminations trip but that might just be personal taste, don’t rule it out!
Once we’ve had our fill of doughnuts and sweets and the kids start getting bored / tired, we jump back onto a tram and head back to Starr Gate and head off home. The Illuminations south of the centre are pretty repetitive and quite easy to experience from the comfort of a tram! So there you have it, how we do the illuminations ‘stress free’. Let us know if you try to follow our tips and how you get on….. else….. if you don’t fancy visiting them in person, we have added a ‘fast motion’ video on YouTube you can watch. It was taken just before lockdown 2.
What’s your tips for seeing the illuminations? Whats your favourite part? Let us know in the comments and please like / share / hate far and wide 🙂