Last week I spent a couple of days in Liverpool. Ok, not as exotic or glamorous as many of the places I’ve been over the past few years, but it was an outing all the same.
Liverpool, of course, is the birthplace of the Beatles, and the city doesn’t let you forget it for one solitary second. You can pay homage to the city’s most famous export with various tours, from Beatle walking tours in the centre, Beatle taxi tours, Magical Mystery Bus tours and even a tour of both Lennon and McCartney’s childhood homes. You can also stay in a Beatle-themed hotel called Hard Day’s Night.
However I was on a shoestring budget and anyway I’m not keen on being herded around on tours. Instead I opted to track down a few spots on my own.
The Beatles story Museum
The most famous Beatle spot is the Beatles Story museum on the Albert dock. It costs a massive £16.95 to get in, but they do have an amazing array of memorabilia and it includes a very detailed audio guide. The museum has reproduced the Cavern club, the Casbah, Abbey Road studios and other places from Beatle history and you can walk from room to room learning about it.
Unfortunately they do let too many people in at the same time; I arrived around the same time as a whole pile of French language students and the rooms were very crowded with teenagers taking selfies and chattering, so much so that I skipped over a couple of rooms just to get ahead of them.
The famous club where the Beatles played. The Cavern was in Matthew street.
The club was demolished long ago, however they have built a replica Cavern a few doors along from where the Cavern once stood, using many of the original bricks. I didn’t go in; the whole of Matthew street was awash with bars; there was a Lennon bar, Rubber Soul pub, Cavern pub and Cavern club. Notice a theme going on?
The next day I was keen to find what treasures I could unearth in suburban Liverpool and so I headed out on the bus to the leafy Woolton area. I found the 75 bus very useful for this; not only does it go to Woolton itself but it passes by Penny Lane and also within walking distance of Strawberry Fields and Mendips (John Lennon’s childhood home).
I saw Penny lane from the bus but didn’t get off for it. There isn’t much to see or do there, apart from taking a selfie with the road sign (well secured down these days to stop people stealing them). Plus I hadn’t had the foresight to buy a one-day bus ticket, so knew that if I got off and then got back on I’d have to pay again.
Strawberry Fields (supposedly inspiration for the song Strawberry Fields Forever) is a former Salvation Army home where Lennon would go as a child for annual summer fetes (John Lennon’s aunt recalled him getting very excited when he heard the Salvation Army band start up, urging her to hurry up so they didn’t miss anything).
The home has long since closed and all that remains is the big red gates (replica gates; they ship all over the world should you feel like purchasing a replica strawberry field gates for you own home).
John Lennon’s childhood home is just around the corner from the gates. You can go inside but only as part of a tour. The home, along with Paul McCartney’s, are owned by the National Trust and the only way to go inside is to book a tour. It costs £25 and they pick you up in a minibus and take you to both homes (because it is a suburban neighbourhood and they don’t want hoards of people turning up at all hours annoying the neighbours). However there’s nothing to stop you from just looking at the outside, and that’s free.
Just as I arrived at Mendips a huge bunch of people turned up in a minibus. This was a recurring them on my trip; I spent ages tracking down a place only to find a bus tour turn up at the same time. It’s like they were taunting me saying ‘see, you should have taken a tour’.
Grave of Eleanor Rigby
After this I headed on down to Woolton village and St Peter’s church, where you can find the grave of Eleanor Rigby, presumed to be the inspiration for the song of the same name.