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Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside
Weston-super-Mare in General
Member Name: alyson29
Weston-super-Mare in General
Date: 30/09/11, updated on 05/10/11 (110 review reads)
Advantages: Easily accessible, the area is entirely level and plenty to see and do
Disadvantages: None for me
A place I've enjoyed visiting ever since I was a toddler is Weston-Super-Mare, which is in Somerset and more commonly known as simply Weston. My parents would regularly take my younger sister and me to Weston, particularly as we have quite a few family members living there and as a result, it holds some very special memories for me. Weston is a very popular holiday destination, particularly for older persons, which is due to the fact that it is all on the flat and there is so much to see and do within a small radius. However, saying that, Weston is suitable for everyone, as it welcomes families and all needs are catered for. I have probably visited on 500+ occasions, as I lived there for a few months in my late teens and it is not too far from my home, so the 100 mile return journey is made several times each year and I would like to share my experience with you.
~~ A LITTLE HISTORY ABOUT THE NAME OF WESTON-SUPER-MARE ~~
Before I start discussing Weston itself it was only when I began writing my review that I learned of where the name came from, which was something I had never thought about before. Weston has a considerable history, which I do not intend discussing in my review, but my research taught me a lot about the town. I discovered that the name "Weston" is made up of two Saxon words that mean the "west tun" or "settlement". The "Super-Mare" is medieval Latin with "super" meaning "on or above" and "mare" meaning "sea". The additional two words were used to differentiate the area, particularly as there are a few other places in Somerset named Weston.
~~ THE GRAND PIER ~~
The most eye-catching landmark in Weston is the Grand Pier, which originally opened in 1904 and became a Grade II listed building in 1974. Unfortunately, the beautiful pier was totally destroyed by a devastating fire in 2008 caused by an electrical fault. News stories showed the pier engulfed in flames and black smoke, which was a total tragedy, particularly as many people flock to Weston solely for the enjoyment of the pier, which in my opinion, is the best pier I have ever visited. However, in 2010 the pier reopened and can now be described as simply magnificent and state of the art. Whenever we visit Weston our first port of call is always the pier, which is easily accessible and is located in the centre of the town. Admission is free and you can either choose to travel on the pier's train or simply stroll on either of the outer areas or walk through the central part, which is undercover.
Uplifting and happy music plays constantly at a reasonable level and it is these sounds that always whisk me back to my childhood, as I can vividly recall the long walk to reach the amusement area located at the end. The calming whooshing sound of the waves of the sea in combination with the happy music always uplifts me and sends me to that very special place where I can vividly recall holding my father's hand whilst I enjoyed my luscious ice cream adorned with a chocolate flake. I've never had a head for heights and would constantly find myself looking downwards and seeing the vast amount of sea looming below. Fortunately, the wooden slats on the pier are now located much closer together and I no longer feel the constant need to look down! My husband and I always choose to amble slowly down the length of the pier, which generally takes us about half an hour, but could easily be walked at a brisk space in around 5 minutes.
However, we favour sitting on one of the numerous seats, which run the entire length of the pier, where we take in the picturesque views where we peacefully watch people enjoying themselves on the beach with their metal detectors, people laughing and swimming in the clear sea waters, the donkeys and the jet skiers. The centre of the pier is scattered with small kiosks where you can obtain lollies, snacks and holiday gifts, but during our last visit these were not all manned. The amusement area located directly at the end of the pier used to be my favourite attraction, as I would love collecting a plastic cup full of pennies in exchange for a pound note and piling the coins into various slot machines. Unfortunately, penny machines have long since been replaced with 10p machines, so we tend to simply walk through these areas, particularly as they are very noisy and crowded although my husband and I love the shooting games where we can hit targets that will disperse a huge jet of water and that's when I generally get soaking wet, as I always lose!
Whilst this is not an area we have visited, the pier now boasts a 4D cinema experience where seats will move, water is sprayed, legs are tickled and air is blasted. This is definitely on our list for our next visit, which hopefully, will be before the end of the autumn. You can choose to enjoy an exciting ride on one of the indoor go karts or for those of you who prefer a simple sit down and some refreshments, a cup of tea and a piece of cake or a delicious meal can be purchased in the luxurious restaurant situated directly behind the huge amusement area. Unfortunately, I am unable to speak of pricing, as I have never eaten in there. There is a large outdoor seating and table area located directly at the end of the pier where you can simply gaze out and watch the sea, which is something we absolutely love doing.
My favourite ice cream of all times is sold on the pier, as I adore 99's with the swirly whirly ice cream and a visit to the pier is not complete without one. Toilets are available within the amusement area and they are always clean and tidy and well stocked with liquid soap and hand dryers. Facilities are available for baby changing and for those with disabilities. Following our visit to the pier we like to take a short stroll down the extremely wide promenade until we reach the entrance to the shops, which is located on the opposite side of the road.
~~ SHOPPING IN WESTON-SUPER-MARE ~~
I am an avid collector of Betty Boop figurines and despite having visited Weston hundreds of times it was only during a visit in June that we discovered a slightly hidden shop full of the gorgeous collectables. Unfortunately, the shop owner informed us that she was due to close, as the entire area was being knocked down and I believe she informed us it would soon be a huge bowling complex. The main shopping area is considerably wide as well as being pedestrianised, which I find makes my shopping experience much more pleasant and it is here that you will find stores such as Poundland, Smiths and Boots. There are plenty of benches where you can sit down and rest your feet as you trudge from one store to the next and we will often treat ourselves to a cake from one of the gorgeous cake shops and enjoy eating it in the beautiful warm sunshine.
I particularly like The Sovereign Arcade, which is entirely undercover and houses a large amount of high street stores, such as Currys, Savers, Fish Spa (where you can enjoy small fish nibbling at your feet!), Orange, Ann Harvey, Birthdays, Marks and Spencer, Wilkinsons, The Body Shop, Card Factory and the 99p store. There are a few places to eat and drink, such as Burger King and Costa Coffee. There is a large café situated at the end of the Arcade, but I cannot speak of the quality of food or drink, as I've never eaten in there.
~~ EATING AND DRINKING ~~
Somerset means "land of the summer people" and is famous for its' apples, which in turn are made into thirst quenching Somerset cider and you will be able to find many shops selling scrumpy, which I had considerable experience of tasting during my younger days! Of course, Cheddar cheese originates from nearby Cheddar where you can watch the creation of this delicious cheese. Weston is scattered with numerous places to eat and drink where you will find many cafes, fish and chip shops and restaurants located along the sea front and within the town itself. I cannot speak of my experience of recently eating in any cafes or restaurants, as these days, both my husband and I choose to enjoy some traditional fish and chips from the chip shop located directly opposite the entrance to the Grand Pier. The chip shop offers a small seating area and we are often lucky enough to obtain a seat where we sit underneath one of the sun umbrellas whilst we enjoy our food. There are dozens of pubs and clubs situated throughout the town centre and along the sea front, but again, my experience of frequenting them is from my younger days.
~~ OTHER ATTRACTIONS AND PLACES TO STAY ~~
Located almost the entire length of the road directly opposite the pier are all of the amusement arcades, which can be heard from the end of the road. I can't say that I'm particularly fond of these areas, as they are so noisy and will simply gobble my money although I will often find myself pushing a £1 coin into the slot of one of the grabber machines to try and win a soft toy. There are shops galore selling candy floss, ice creams and the usual sticks of rock, buckets and spades and other bits of tacky holiday bits and pieces. However, a seaside resort would never be a seaside resort without the odd tacky gift shop selling a "kiss me quick" sunhat! After our browse around the shops and following a bite to eat we will head back to the promenade and take a leisurely stroll where we are always overtaken by the land train that runs on the promenade and it is always filled with happy holiday makers. I'm unsure of the cost to travel by this means having never used it before.
The promenade has a fairly low stone built wall running the entire length, which separates the beautiful sandy beach from the pavement and we often sit down and take a breather. The donkeys gather in a location near to the pier where little ones can enjoy a short walk on their choice of four legged friend whose names are displayed on a band on their heads. Ever since my childhood the beach has housed large trampolines, which are intended solely for children, so I cannot discuss any recent experiences of my bouncing up and down! Weston is often the location for an absolutely spectacular sand sculpture festival where you will be amazed at the perfect displays created from the golden sand. The World's well known artists gather at Weston for this fantastic event and seeing is quite simply believing, as it is so difficult to comprehend the fact that the skilled professionals are chiselling into the sand to create the most breathtaking sculptures. The event for this year has now finished, but if you are interested in attending a future event the best place to check would be on the website for the Somerset Tourism Association.
There are so many other places to see, such as the Winter Gardens Pavilion, which is situated on the sea front where, during my childhood the comedian Bernie Winters would regularly perform. My apologies to the younger readers who have never heard of Bernie Winters who became well known for his comedy acts and his adorable St Bernard, named Schnorbitz. Winter Gardens is a centre that regularly holds plays, offers conference rooms and special events. Located a short walk from the centre is a large expanse of grass where, during our last visit we witnessed people walking inside huge clear balls and I have absolutely no idea what this is called. I was very tempted to have a go, but the £10 charge for only a short ball walk was rather off-putting, so I changed my mind. Situated along the long sea front are dozens of Bed and Breakfasts and hotels, but as I've only stayed overnight in Weston many years ago I am not in a position to advise of what's good and what's not.
However, there is considerable information provided on the official website for Weston where you will be able to research a large variety of places to stay. There is a second pier in Weston named Birnbeck, which is currently under construction, as it was literally crumbling away and falling into the sea. Through a little online research I learned that it is the only pier in the world that is attached to an island. It was built in 1897 and is a Grade II listed building, but unfortunately, it has been closed to the public for many years due to its' current state. This pier is the end of our promenade walk and it is at this point that we enjoy a drink and yet another ice cream from a kiosk that sells numerous drinks and snacks.
Located a short distance from the Grand Pier and situated on the beach is the Sea Aquarium, which is a chargeable attraction that allows you to witness a variety of sea creatures. I have never visited myself, but have seen the Aquarium from the outside and would advise that after viewing the creatures you can relax and enjoy some refreshments in the sea view tea room. One of the newest attractions to Weston is the 40 metre tall Observation Wheel, which costs £6.50 for adults and £4 for children over the age of 14. There is a long list of prices, dependent on the size of your party where family tickets are more cost effective. The Wheel is similar to that of the London Eye where you can witness the most spectacular views and on a clear day I have learned that you can see as far as Cardiff, which is 40 miles away by road, but just a short distance across the sea. There are dozens more attractions to see; some of which will involve a car journey, such as Wookey Hole, Cheddar Gorge and its' magnificent caves, Fleet Air Way and the Helicopter Museum and I intend reviewing some of the attractions over the forthcoming months.
~~ PARKING ~~
There is adequate car parking situated around Weston Super Mare where if you are lucky, you can park on the sea front, but we've only once been able to obtain a space, as these are highly sought after. There are a considerable amount of disabled parking spaces and if my memory serves me correctly, particularly as my husband holds a blue badge, the first hour is free and then normal charges apply, where we paid just over £10 for the day. Whilst a few years ago we would park in a side street, the entire area is now either permit parking or is double yellow lines with kerb markings, so blue badge holders are not able to park there.
There is a large indoor car park suitable for 850 cars at The Sovereign Arcade, which is located within a few minutes' walk from the sea front and Grand Pier with charges starting at £1.20 for an hour and increasing in increments of approximately £1 per additional hour. However, the most economical if you are intending on staying more than 5 hours would be the £5 charge, which will cover you for up to 12 hours. The car park uses yellow recyclable tokens, which have recently replaced the paper parking tickets. Overnight parking is allowed and is charged at a rate of £5 per night and you have the assurance of your vehicle being safe, as the car park has been awarded the "Park Mark" Safer Parking Award, which means their safety methods have been assessed by the Police. There are several outdoor car parks situated on the outskirts of the town although some of them involve a short walk, which may not be suitable for those with mobility problems.
~~ TRANSPORT LINKS ~~
Weston-Super-Mare is easily accessible by car, rail and bus and many coach companies offer regular bus trips to the beautiful seaside town.
A visit to Weston-Super-Mare comes with my full recommendation hence my visiting time and time again.
I hope you found my review useful and would thank you for reading.
This review will appear on both Ciao and Dooyoo under the same user name.
Summary: A superb place to visit for all of the family
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