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We first visited the National Trust site of Formby in January last year as part of a collaboration on Instagram. We had such a lovely time that I’ve been dying to take the kids back ever since. We had hoped to go over during the summer last year but for one reason or another it just didn’t happen. When I saw that the weather forecast for February half term was looking fairly good I knew that I had to factor in a coastal adventure and Formby was top of the list, especially since I signed us up for National Trust membership at the weekend!
If you have ever visited the North West coast you’ll know that the sea is often so far out that you can barely see it, never mind walk to it. It’s not so much of a day at the seaside as a day on the sand. The fact that the tide comes right in at Formby is one of the things I love most about it. As such, I planned our day around high tide to make sure we’d be able to dip our toes in (albeit fully clad in wellies!).
We arrived at Formby at shortly after 10am, the Victoria Road car park down by the beach was practically empty – by the time we left at around 12.30pm the car park was rammed and there was a queue onto the road to access the site.
Aside from the incredible coastline and sand dunes, one of the main attractions of Formby is the red squirrels who live in the forest and local area. Because we tend to visit Formby for coastal adventures, we haven’t yet taken the Formby red squirrel walk, however whilst queuing to get in on Monday, we were treated to a sighting of two of the cheeky little fellows chasing each other over the top of some fencing. I don’t honestly remember seeing a red squirrel before!
Once we’d parked the car we made our way down the dunes onto the beach and were pleased to see that we’d timed our visit really well and the tide was just on its way out. The beach at Formby was relatively empty and the sun shining – the kids ran wild and I took great pleasure in watching them and enjoying the peace that the sea brings.
Often when I take the kids out on an adventure I have another adult with me, be it Dave or a friend and their children. It felt quite strange to be sat on the beach watching them play and realising that they were quite happy for me to leave them to it. I almost got my phone out to read a book on my kindle app – but instead I spent time filming them for our half term vlog and taking photos.
As you’d expect, it was cold and windy so I knew that our visit to Formby would be limited by how long we could withstand the weather – it turns out that a flask of hot chocolate can extend your adventures quite considerably! As well as a blanket and hot chocolate, I had packed an array of snacks which provided enough sustenance that nobody complained about having a late lunch. I had considered a hot picnic of soup but in the end decided that hot chocolate would make a nice treat and we’d grab some lunch on the way home instead.
Because I was in charge of carrying everything, I decided against taking buckets and spades (which they all said was a shame and that they’d wished we’d taken them) but it’s amazing what you can do with the things you find on the beach – they had soon created sand sculptures with their hands, collected shells and drawn pictures with huge sticks. We did have a football with us but it proved too windy to keep control of it and we ended up chasing down the beach after it when it blew away!
All three kids decided they’d had enough at around about the same time, so we packed up and made our way back up the dunes – which isn’t the easiest walk when you’re tired and cold! Chloe had managed to get pretty wet just before we left thanks to a last minute paddle but I’d planned ahead and had full changes of clothes for everyone in the car so we were able to get her warm and dry before we set off home!
Winter trips to Formby are a win for us – but we’re definitely looking forward to visiting again in the summer too!
Ten Top Tips for visiting Formby
1. Check high tides – one of the bonuses of visiting Formby is that the tide does come right in. We planned our visit to intentionally arrive at high tide so that we’d be able to paddle in our wellies but if the tide comes up while you’re walking the coast you might find yourself stuck.
2. Dogs are welcome at Formby and are allowed on the beach and in the woods though there is a specific dog free picnic area at Victoria Road. We found that most people had their dogs off the lead on the beach – but it was quiet and the dogs were well controlled so this didn’t bother us at all.
3. When we visited last year we were advised to be careful of the palm oil on the beach posing a danger to dogs, this wasn’t mentioned to us this time but a quick google suggests it is still something to be aware of.
4. Parking is free with your National Trust membership, otherwise this costs around £6 I think. Other than this there is no entrance charge.
5. If you do want to access the beach, make sure you drive right down to the beach car park and don’t just park in the woodland car park – it’s further than you think!
6. Be aware that parking is limited and on peak days it’s one in one out which can created a long queue on the road. We arrived at 10am and by the time we left at 12.30 the car park was heaving and the queue to get in lengthy. With this in mind, I’d get there as early as you can or plan alternative arrangements for your day out just in case!
7. It’s quite exposed and windy at Formby – you might find you want a windbreak if you’re planning to sit for any length of time.
8. There are toilets and food vendors but if you’re down on the beach you’re probably not going to want to have to walk back up to the woods to access those – we packed a picnic and flasks of hot drinks.
9. Take spare clothes in case of sea related incidents!
10. The beach is only accessible via steep sandy dunes from the Victoria Road car park. The Lifeboat Road car park offers access via a hard standing path though we’ve not used this ourselves.