Sorry to any international readers, but this posting is most likely to be relevant to people in the UK, though if you are coming over here on holiday, it may have some interest for you. I have just returned from a work trip to Blackpool which is on the coast of the county of Lancashire in North-West England, not far from Manchester. I must say, that in all my travels across the UK and continental Europe I have never been to a town that is so bleak and depressing. Blackpool is a holiday resort, famous for its three piers, its tower and its illuminations (these bright vignettes all along the promenade are currently showing and attracting loads of familes to watch them). Going there in November, I was prepared for it to be dreary as any resort is out of season, but Blackpool is far worse than that, and I can imagine it being just as bad in the height of Summer (given the amount of litter everywhere it probably smells even stronger). I knew that Blackpool had built its success on being a holiday resort for people from the textile mills of Lancashire and the potteries of Staffordshire and shipyards of Glasgow, Scotland, in the nineteenth century and this industry has closed down, so it was never really going to be a luxury resort. However, even taking these factors into consideration that it is a resort aimed at working class people, out of season, it is a terrible place.
The buildings are drab, even the brightest lights cannot conceal this. There are numerous shabby bed & breakfast guest houses, but even the larger hotels are shabby often with crumbling paintwork. There seems to be little of interest to do bar the Blackpool Tower and terribly trashy amusement arcades with dated attractions. There is a real lack of restaurants. You can get takeaways all over and some of the fish & chip shops are decent (fish & chip shops outnumber any other food outlet about 4 to 1) but if you want to sit down for a meal, you have to walk through streets and streets (haunted by shifty looking young men hanging around on the corners) to find anything and then just two restaurants next to each other. We paid £17 each (€24; U$35) for a small piece of steak in a heavy brown sauce with chips (rather than roast potatoes as offered and requested) and for the vegetables there was simply a dish of boiled carrots withour even any garnish. This was in the restaurant recommended by the hotel owners. What adds to the problem is that there are so many burnt out and boarded up shops and houses and roads where the tarmac surface has worn away. The town appears to be like a factory town where the main industry has closed down.
I accept that thousands of people go to Blackpool even in November and have fun. However, they are in such an unpleasant place it suggests they must live terrible lives the rest of the year. A lot of things are dated, such as the tram system with trams themselves which date back 60 years. Throughout there is a feel that nothing has been updated since the 1970s at the latest. Even in the larger hotels, we transferred to one after spending a sleepless night in a smaller one (with a shower so small you kept hitting your arm or chest on the control and a mattress so thin you felt like you were sleeping on a board) as the hotel opposite had a 'singer' howling away until 2am, you find the worst sandwiches I have ever eaten (with white bread that breakes into sticky lumps in your mouth) and no idea that a ham sandwich needs anything except ham in it. In the smaller hotel, the 'secure parking' was a yard down a narrow, barely surfaced road. A woman in a wheelchair we met had similarly been lied to and when she arrived at her hotel she had specifically booked for wheelchair access found six steps up to the reception.
Blackpool may be cheap and provide the beer and chips people want (and I must say a very, very long, clean beach) but so much of it is derelict and dated and covered in litter and you feel so threatened when walking around, that I would advise anyone who has ever considered going to Blackpool for work or pleasure to think again. Manchester, that huge industrial city, has more to offer than Blackpool. In its defence, Blackpool does not have the gun crime of Manchester, maybe Coventry or Birmingham, those Midlands industrial towns are better substitutes. If you are driving through Blackpool, watch out, visitors to the town seem to be suicidal (maybe that is unsurprising) and constantly simply step off the pavement in front of you. You might often have a view; a set of assumptions about a town, but it is only when you go there that you can find truly how terribly wrong those assumptions were.