Towering Traditions of Blackpool

In Counties, Lancashire, Mini Breaks, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, UK Travel by Janis2 Comments

Amongst the tango of illuminations

Well, in 2017 our timing could have been better, as we were greeted by hurricane Ophelia on arrival. However, we were not going to be defeated; the show must go on.

The 'Frigate Tram' waiting outside the Pleasure Beach during Blackpool's Illuminations.

The Frigate at the Pleasure Beach

And so, it did….minus a few light bulbs and billboards.

'The Trawler' tram, one of the special trams for Blackpool Illuminations

Illuminated tram at night

Every year since 1879 (bar a few of the wartime years) Blackpool promenade is awash with twinkling lights for 66 nights, from early September to early November.

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With the wind in our hair

Blackpool is located on the Northwest coast of the UK and has an amazing ‘Golden Mile’ shoreline with the Irish Sea.

On sunnier days, the seashore would have been full of excited children building sandcastles, but as the bracing winds took hold, we were struggling to stand up, let alone a sandcastle support itself.

Blackpool's seafront from Wlton Parade, with the North Pier and Blackpool tower in the distance.

The listed North Pier and Tower

The amazing free light display which stretches 6 miles/10km along the coast from Starr Gate to Bispham, is the main attraction this time of year and is enjoyed by visitors young and old, nobody is excluded.

The Art Deco-styled illuminated entrance to the Pleasure Beach featuring a tower with a neon casino sign.

The Pleasure Beach Entrance

One of the lamp decorations for Blackpool's illuminations of a showgirl all in blue

Close-up of the lights

One of Blackpool's Illumination features setup as a classic theatre stage with a bit of an erotic twist names 'Theatre D'Amour'

Theatre D'Amour

Lights On

On 4th September 2020, the annual illuminations will be switched on virtually.

For the first time the illuminations have been extended by a further 2 months until 3rd January 2021.


A Blackpool Illumination decoration featuring a selection of lollies protruding from a Blackpool rock centre.

Blackpool Rocks

Many people choose to drive along the route taking in the displays hanging above them, but we believe the best way to enjoy them is strolling along the coastline.

One of the original displays from Blackpool's Illuminations.

Little Miss Muffet

An early Blackpool Illumination decoration of Swan Lake.

Swan Lake

Particularly by Bispham where you can wander next to the older traditional illuminations, that families have enjoyed for decades.

An early Blackpool Illumination decoration of Swan Lake.

Alice in Wonderland

Head south

But certainly, don’t miss the ever-changing light display on Blackpool’s iconic tower. If you walk from Bispham towards the tower, you get an incredible view for a couple of miles.

The Frigate Tram with the illuminated Blackpool Tower in the background.

Tram and the Tower

Don't forget

Every week the lights are turned on 15 minutes earlier. Check out the times on the Visit Blackpool Website.

Take a ride

Another way to enjoy the illuminations is to jump on a tram; there are of course the usual trams which run through the day along the promenade.

One of Blackpool's special trams for the Illuminations, decorated as a steam locomotive.

The illuminated Train

However, an extra special ride is on one of the three themed historical trams cars. You have a choice of either the Great Western train, a frigate or a trawler, which is picked up at the Pleasure Beach.


Remember; The illuminations are only on for 66 nights, for 2020 they run from 4th September until 8th November.

It’s not just the illuminations

The centrepiece of Blackpool is undoubtedly the wonderful iconic tower, built in 1894 and inspired by the Eiffel Tower; it stands 518 feet (158 metres) tall. It is an amazing site day or night.

Looking up at the red ironwork of Blackpool Tower to the observation tower against a deep blue, cloudless, sky.

The mighty Blackpool Tower

Looking up at the Blackpool Tower with its red brick base, and red wrought iron framework.

The Blackpool Tower

The Blackpool tower with a historic tram at its base.

Retro Tower and Tram

I really cannot stress enough, that you can’t visit Blackpool without walking into the incredible Tower Ballroom. It is breathtaking, the décor and the sprung dancefloor are quite astonishing.

It was a must for me to visit, as I love watching BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing (or “Dancing with the Stars” if you are from the States), it’s liked you’ve stepped into another era.

A view of the magnificently ornate Tower Ballroom in Blackpool.

Inside the Tower Ballroom

However, if you are not proficient in a Waltz or a Tango like us, you can just sit and admire others as they elegantly glide across the floor.

The Wurlitzer, and organist, on the stage of Blackpool Tower's Ballroom.

The Wurlitzer inside the Tower Ballroom

If you are confident enough and you don’t mind an audience, you can even take to the dance floor yourself. There is the traditional ballroom and Latin music being played on a lovely old Wurlitzer organ.

Couples dancing on the dancefloor of the  Blackpool Tower's Ballroom.

The dancefloor of the Tower Ballroom

Unfortunately, due to the high winds, we were unable to visit the top of the tower (Hurricane Ophelia had a lot to answer for).

Ticket Tip

Blackpool Tower tickets can be purchased at the Tourist Information office opposite the tower, at a discounted price. The Tower Ballroom ticket was £2.95 cheaper per person, and you were even able to jump the queues.

Comedy Carpet

The edge of the 'Comedy Carpet' art installation; consisting of the names of comedians, and memorable comedy phrases, laid out in front of Blackpool Tower on Blackpool Promenade

The Comedy Carpet

A more recent bit of fun to be added to Blackpool promenade is the Comedy Carpet. Situated just opposite the Tower is a fantastic 1880 square-metre floor covering, which include whimsical quotes from 850 writer and comedians.

'What's so funny about Biggus Dickus?' on the 'Comedy Carpet' art installation.  That memorable quote from the life of Brian

Biggus Dickus

This free piece of public art is just full of funny quips and lines from famous geniuses past and present.

The 'Don't Mention the War' section of the Comedy Carpet on Blackpool Seafront

Dont Mention the War

Three Piers

The illuminated entrance to Blackpool's South Pier after dark.

The South Pier

Blackpool is one of those British seaside resorts which is steeped in history. Although, it is a bit tarnished by modern influences, it still hugely fun to enjoy.

The view along the sea wall towards Blackpool's South pier, with Blackpool Tower in the distance.

The Central Pier

Hidden behind some of the showy facades, with a little bit of TLC, a bygone era is crying to be let out.

The North Pier on Blackpool's seafront after the tide has gone out.

The North Pier at low tide

Even its three piers mix the past with the present, with the North Pier being a Grade II listed building.
Unfortunately, again the North Pier was closed due to the weather.

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A short stroll back from the promenade and the Grand Theatre comes into view, the wonderful Victorian theatre was built in 1894 and is still used today.

The listed exterior of the Blackpool's historic Grand Theatre

The Grand Theatre

The entrance to Blackpool's Winter Gardens

Image Caption

Just beyond the theatre, the Winter Gardens complex can be found. Also, a Grade II Listed building built in 1878. It appears to be currently undergoing a facelift.

The Great Promenade Show

A more recent installation is “The Great Promenade Show” which is a free display of ten pieces of artwork, along Blackpool Promenade, by the Pleasure Beach.

Our favourite here was the High Tide Organ. However, as the waves were lashing over the sea wall, we didn’t hang around too long. We had recently returned from a trip to Croatia so wanted to compare Blackpool’s to Zadar.
Perhaps it was the time of year, but Zadar won it for us (sorry Blackpool).

The decorated iron High Tide Sea Organ on Blackpools seafront

The High Tide Sea Organ

A large stainless steel artwork, known as 'The Fin', on Blackpool's seafront.

The Fin

Don't forget

To check the high tide times for the Organ

Janis stanging under the Giant Glitterball on Blackpools seafront on a crisp October's day.

The Giant Glitterball

The rusting iron art installation, known as Desire, on Blackpool's seafront

Desire - The Great Promenade Show

But also along the New South Promenade was the world’s largest mirror ball, which is covered in 47,000 mirrors & weighs six tonnes.

Our Tip

If you want to see “The Great Promenade Show”, which includes the High Tide Organ, catch a tram to Starr Gate and head north to the Pleasure Beach. We found it easier this way.

Getting Around

As with most places and Blackpool is no exception, the best way to explore and discover, is to put on your comfy shoes and start walking.

A classic tram on Blackpool's seafront with the Blackpool Tower in the background

Heritage Tram and Blackpool Tower

However, the promenade here is long and a day on your feet can take its toll. The trams are so easy to use, you can just jump on and pay the conductor on board. If you didn’t want to use the modern trams there is also a Heritage Line, for a bit of nostalgia. (these are a little more expensive)

Saver Ticket

If you want to hop on and off the trams, I suggest you purchase a Saver Ticket which is £6.00 for 24 hours, as most fares are £2.40 for even a fairly short journey.

Where we stayed

Our accommodation for the two nights we were in Blackpool was at “The Imperial Hotel”. Sitting high on the North Promenade, this elegant 19th-century hotel has over the years been frequented by Royalty, politicians and the legendary Bruce Forsyth.

The exterior of the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool

The Imperial Hotel

The busy hotel bar is called No.10, as currently eight British politicians have stayed at the Imperial and now all have a mirror inscribed to them.

Its location was ideal for us, about 10/15 minutes walk north of the Tower and had ample parking at £6 a night. (2017)

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Have You?

Visited Blackpool to watch the illuminations, or did you go for a spin in the wonderful ballroom, we’d love to know what you enjoyed?

Inspired to visit Blackpool?

Do the Illuminations tempt you? Don’t worry if you’ve missed them though, there’s plenty to see all year around?
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  1. Oh, so many things to love about this! The lights, the pier, the amusement rides, did I mention the lights?! Wonderful, and I would love to visit this place if given the opportunity! #farawayfiles

    1. There’s something quite unique about Blackpool, it’s definitely your old style seaside town. Wandering along the promenade and seeing the old trams and Blackpool Tower makes you smile whatever age you are.

      You must visit the Tower Ballroom if you get the chance to go.

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