As a Scot when I think of a pier I think of a short wooden structure which is used primarily as a means to get onto a boat but may also be used for fishing. The English however built many leisure piers during Victorian times so that people could walk out into sea and breathe some sea air even if the tide was out. Blackpool has three of these piers which are still used for leisure purposes today. Central pier, as the name suggests, is around half way along the golden mile and is right in the heart of the tourist area of Blackpool.
Central Pier was opened in 1868 and is almost a quarter of a mile long. Many of the original features are still visible such as the wooden deck or the cast iron seating all along the sides of the pier. You can also walk underneath the pier when the tide is out and see the network of pillars and supports which have kept the structure standing for over 140 years and marvel at the feat of engineering work.
The first thing you will come to at Central Pier is the amusement arcades; no matter where you go in Blackpool you cannot escape them! These are obviously indoors and make a reasonable place to spend some time if it is raining but there is nothing special about this area and the amazing Coral Island amusements are just across the road if you really want to play some slot machines. If you want to avoid the arcades then you can walk along little side alleys onto the main pier but beware the gaming stalls here where the stallholders will try and part you with some of your cash offering you the chance to win prizes for hitting a target with some darts.
Once you come onto the main pier the first thing that you can see is the huge big wheel which dominates the structure standing at 32 metres tall. It only costs a couple of pounds to ride the big wheel and the views can be spectacular, looking over onto the promenade you can see the sites and illuminations and on a clear day you can see for miles as far as Wales by gazing out to sea. There are other fairground rides mainly aimed at young children but there is also a bungee type jump where you are catapulted into the air in a sling and this is fairly expensive.
There are numerous small shops and cafes along the length of the pier, some are fairly nice but most shops just sell the typical tourist tat and most cafes just serve up typical greasy spoon type food. The one food that is worth buying on the pier is the freshly fried doughnuts which are divine. If you want to have your fortune told there are also a couple of clairvoyants, all of whom seem to be the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter and appear in weekly magazines.
Of course you can bypass all of the entertainment and simply walk along the pier, you can get right along to the end and enjoy the view and watch the world go by. The traditional wrought iron seating going along the edges of the pier is still intact although sadly the white paint is peeling in places but you can still sit and rest and just soak up the atmosphere and it is free to sit here unlike on South Pier where you need to pay for a sun lounger to sit down.
Central Pier is a prime example of Victorian design and it is lovely to visit for that reason however it is sad that the grandeur of the pier is faded and that the entertainment is just of the same variety that is all along the rest of the promenade. While Central Pier is probably the best of Blackpool's three piers for entertainment it sadly it looks as if it is past it's prime and like many other sites in Blackpool has descended into tackiness.
OK place to spend an hour or so. Advise to AVOID the DARTS throwing game near the centre of the pier. Trader was RACIST, shouting out "willy wolly wing wong" at myself and my girlfriend as I walked passed. Not once, but twice - on the way passed, and on the return. With me being of Chinese decent, this was highly offensive and was not appropriate. I thought this was meant to be a family orientated attraction?
Last week found me in Blackpool for the day with my daughter.
Day trips run from the west coast of Scotland throughout the year, and I wanted my daughter to experience the town for a day before deciding whether we would want to come back for longer in the future. So we booked a trip with Parks of Hamilton which would give us 6 hours in the town.
I have not visited Blackpool in many years - the last time I was there was as a teenager back in 1981 so clearly much has changed. My memories of previous day trips from childhood were ostensibly of the beach and the piers.
This time my companion was my 12 year old daughter, and for her the attractions of a seaside town are fairground rides and arcades, both of which were on offer at Central Pier.
The Central Pier opened in 1868 and this pier has never been one for those who like a long stroll to the end of the pier for a sly fumble. Central Pier was always designed for fun and games and this hasn't changed in its 140 year history.
There is no admission fee to enter the pier but as soon as you arrive there are attractions galore, designed to relieve you of your cash.
My daughter is a huge fan of the Nintendo character Mario, and she has a plush Mario toy that goes everywhere with her - Blackpool being no exception. Many of the sideshows on the pier offer plush Mario toys as prizes and everywhere we went stallholders would ask us where she "won" Mario!
My daughter usually enjoys sideshows but this put her off a little so we passed them by, but needless to say there are a plethora of them, some of them offering soft toys so huge we would probably have had to pay for a seat for them on the bus home had we won!
The funfair offers a good range of rides - the main one being the big wheel. I lost my head for heights and going on such rides a few years ago so I was dreading my daughter asking if she could go on it, but fortunately her attention was drawn towards a speed ride called Crazy Frog and she went on that instead.
Like most funfairs these days, you have to purchase tokens to pay for rides, and one token costs £1. A ride on Crazy Frog required 3 tokens. I have to say I was impressed with the safety standards on this ride - the attendant went round several times to ensure everyone was safely strapped in before the ride began.
I was also very impressed at how long the ride lasted. My daughter had been on a similar ride at a fairground in Edinburgh earlier in the year and was barely on it before it stopped. On Central Pier the ride lasted a good five minutes and I really felt you got your money's worth which is a refreshing change for a parent.
We then spent a little time browsing the arcade games, with my daughter thoroughly enjoying throwing the money I gave her away on slot machines which offered little or no chance of a prize. I remember loving these machines when I was her age so I couldn't really refuse.
There is a theatre on the pier which stages the Legends show - which is a tribute show featuring people impersonating the famous. Not really my cup of tea, but this has been running on the pier for over 10 years and is clearly very popular.
There are also souvenir stalls, fortune tellers and novelty photographers to be found on the pier should any of these tickle your fancy.
We worked our way down to the end of the pier, which hosts a Family Bar. This was ideal and we timed our arrival just after a quiz had started. The host was very good - he made sure to include questions that all the family could answer - and I was only sorry I hadn't been able to take part myself as I knew most of the answers! My daughter enjoyed it here too and felt quite grown up being able to participate in the entertainment.
If you are in town with children and want an evening out, this is the place to go as there is a family cabaret held here every evening. The Family Bar also has an area filled with arcade games for distracted kids.
Given our time in the town was so limited we didn't spend anything like as long on the Central Pier as my daughter would have liked. While the selection of rides on here is pretty tame in comparison to those on Brighton Pier, that suited both of us fine and we liked the range of attractions on offer.
The emphasis on the Central Pier seems to be fun for all the family and it was mostly families we encountered here.
I would definitely recommend a visit here with children as there is plenty to keep them amused and since the Pleasure Beach introduced an admission fee, this is one place you can go with the kids and only pay for rides used, which helps your spending money stretch a little further.
The pier is located just to the south of Blackpool Tower and is very easy to spot thanks to the big wheel!
Since I have now submitted my opinions on both the North Pier and the South Pier at Blackpool I felt that I couldn’t leave out the Central Pier – it just wouldn’t be fair! Anyway someone has already made the remark that I have completed two opinions in my ‘trilogy’ so now I’ll do the third! I’ll start by saying that the Central Pier, like the other two piers, has free access at all times. You must know by now that I do like a bargain so this is a big plus point for me. The Central Pier, not surprisingly, is situated in between the North and South Piers, roughly opposite the Tower. It is easily accessible by the bus, which runs along the seafront, or from the famous Blackpool Trams, which run regularly in both directions and stop right outside the pier. The Central Pier was the second of the three piers to be opened Blackpool in 1868. It was called the South Pier until the current South Pier was opened in 1893. It is now 339 metres long. It was originally longer when there was a landing jetty on the end for use by pleasure craft. At the landward end of the pier there is a big amusement arcade containing all the usual machines from the two penny push off types to the mind boggling bandit types with flashing lights and nudges galore – most of which I have to ignore because they baffle me completely! The main showpiece of the Central Pier is the huge Ferris wheel, which was built in 1990. It is 32.7 metres in diameter and I understand the views from the top and amazing. I can’t verify this, as I have no head for heights and you wouldn’t catch me on the wheel in a month of Sundays! It does look pretty when it is all lit up as part of the illuminations. At the seaward end of the pier there is another amusement arcade, which also houses a small ten-pin bowling alley. There are also a few gift shops and a pub with a family bar. The theatre on the Cen
tral Pier is called the Legends Showbar and it features tribute artistes, many of whom have been on the BBC programme, Stars in Their Eyes. When we were last in Blackpool they were advertising tributes to Roy Orbison, Shirley Bassey and Elvis Presley. The other ‘scary’ thing on the Central Pier is a death slide, and what an unfortunate name that is! This is basically a rope slide attached to the pier itself at the top and to a Land Rover on the beach below (when the tide is out of course!). The rider is attached by the wrists to a contraption that slides down the rope and he steps off the pier to glide gracefully to the beach. At least that is the theory and if you think I’m trying that you can think again! I’ve told you before that I’m a wuss, especially where heights are concerned! Anyway that’s pretty much it for the Central Pier, apart from to say that like the other two it retains much of it’s original wrought ironwork and the traditional wooden flooring. For me this is the least interesting of the three piers but maybe you think differently?
For me a seaside resort is not complete without a pier and judging by the number of people who were on the piers at Blackpool they still are a big draw for many visitors to the town. The Central Pier was originally called the South Jetty and was built in 1868 and is 336 metres long. There is a big amusement arcade at the start of the pier, but then you come out to the Big Wheel. This is an outstanding attraction of Blackpool and can be seen from anywhere on the seafront. (A good guide if you get a bit lost). I am told that there is a magnificent view over Blackpool from the top, but I am afraid I am not going up there to see it. Further up the pier there is another amusement arcade, which also includes a small indoor bowling alley. There are a number of small shops and the Pier End family bar. At the end of the pier is the Legends Showbar. The shows here are put on by “lookalikes”, a number of whom have been on the television programme Stars In Their Eyes. Each show normally has four “stars” and tickets are £10 each. An unusual attraction on this pier is a rope slide from the side of the pier down onto the beach. The rope is fixed onto the pier and on the beach it is attached to the back of a “4 x 4” vehicle. It is quite spectacular to see people going down this. Obviously this is only available when the tide is out!