Some seaside piers are household names – the three in Blackpool, Brighton's Palace Pier, the long walk to the end of Southend Pier, while others are still loved and visited by millions of people every year.
The National Piers Society lists 60 surviving and publicly accessible piers of all lengths. These vary from the 1.3mile long Southend Pier in Essex to short stubby beach protrusions such as Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset, which runs to all of 117ft. NB: I've used 'old money' when using measurements, as this seems more befitting with these piers’ Victorian or early Edwardian origins.
Here's a list of my six most favourite piers that offer more than just a bracing walk with the chance of a coffee or fish and chips at the far end. You'll also find recommendations for nearby holiday cottages, perfect for a weekend break or longer holiday at the seaside resort for each pier.
The South Pier is so typically Blackpool. The razzamatastic, brightly coloured signage that greets kiss-me-quick visitors on arrival nicely prepares you for the exhilarating rides you'll discover on deck. Choose from white-knuckle rides (step aboard the Skycoaster and the Skyscreamer to whiten yours) or more sedate roundabouts for the very youngest. And while there are chips, candy floss and ice creams galore to nibble and lick, adults might be forgiven for showing an unhealthy 'educational' interest in the Pier's latest offering, The Gin House, home to an array of specialist craft gins and a live music stage. All in all, the South Pier offers visitors a thoroughly enjoyable traditional day out in Blackpool: Plenty of thrills – no spills.
Toilets: Yes - including a disabled toilet
Other piers nearby
While you are in Blackpool and having enjoyed an afternoon on the South Pier, why not compare it with Blackpool's other two piers:
Two Recommended Holiday Cottages
Colonial-Style Glamping: Bleasdale is a child-friendly Colonial canvas cottage in a deeply rural location near the village of the same name that offers glamping at its finest, with a fully plumbed shower room, wood-burning stove. Sleeps 6 in 3 bedrooms
Within an easy day or half-day trip distance of Blackpool, this charming cottage for couples offers plenty of cosy peace and relaxation after your white knuckle day on the South Pier. Sleeps 2.
This is one of my favourite piers. As a teenager, I used to work on The Grand Pier in the summer holidays, having survived a possible sacking in my first week when on 'shore gate duty'. Rather than expecting the visiting and heavily pregnant film star Diana Dors to squeeze herself through its narrow Victorian admissions turnstile, I allowed her through a side gate. This was much to the consternation of the Gate Manager, a true jobs-worth, who threatened to sack me unless I paid her admission fee, a princely sum of 5p. I paid, kept my job and shortly afterwards was moved by a more understanding manager to work on the dodgems – a handsome reward!
I'm glad to say that The Grand Pier's care for customers is in a different league these days. For example, it schedules a quiet hour to help those with sensory conditions enjoy a visit when background music is switched off and its bright flashing lights subdued. How considerate is that! Diana Dors would have approved.
At the end of the Pier, the Pavilion was rebuilt following a massive fire in 2008, winning the National Piers Society's Outstanding Achievement Award in 2010 and a Pier of the Year Winner in 2011. The Pier Pavilion houses all kinds of modern rides and seaside amusements, including Britain's smallest roller coaster, an F1 Drive Simulator, a Laser Maze, a soft play area and a more traditional House of Horrors.
The Pier also contains a delightful Museum of Memories guaranteeing nostalgic memories of toys, sweets, TV programmes, breakfast cereals and possibly, I shouldn't wonder, my 5p coin from 1975.
Admission: Buy wristbands for rides and attractions.
Other nearby piers
Recommended Holiday Cottage: The Retreat, Lympsham
This large rural holiday cottage in. the peaceful Somerset village of Lymppsham is but a short drive to all the action on The Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare. Sleeps 10
3. Teignmouth Grand Pier
Much loved by photographers who like to capture it in the early morning or late evening sunshine, entertainment on Teignmouth Pier comprises a long, covered amusement arcade with suitably appealing mini-rides such as children's go-karts. With typically saucy seaside humour, an ice cream parlour proudly advises customers that 'A Balanced Diet is an ice cream in each hand.' We like that! And it's a nice walk out to sea and back to work off the calories. Or, just relax on its deck, soak up the sun and enjoy the views of Teignmouth and its beaches from an off-shore location.
When we used to visit Teignmouth Pier (after much beseeching) in the late 1960's everything in the arcades was a penny. My Mother (after much more beseeching) would hand my sister and me about 2/6d (30p) worth of loose change each, with the words "When it's gone, it's gone, and then we'll go and buy ice creams." We thought she was being incredibly generous, not realising that from her perspective, the sooner we spent our money, the sooner we could be out of the arcade and sitting down with a 99 cornet. Her plan didn't always work out. On one visit, an hour later, I was dragged away while showing a profit of 1/3d.
Other nearby Piers
Recommended Holiday Cottages:
After your seaside exertions on the pier, relax in the Hot tub at Willow Lodge, a family-friendly holiday lodge in the countryside outside Exeter.
For group accommodation, enjoy a weekend break or longer holiday in style at this luxury 5-bedroom country cottage with a hot tub with superb views across the Teign Estuary in South Devon.
4. Southend Pier
The World's longest pleasure pier has its own railway to carry you 1/.33 miles into the Thames estuary. Ride it one way and walk the other so as not to miss its attractions, including a crazy golf course, museum, RNLI Lifeboat Station and the Pier Museum.
There's proper bucket and spade holiday food ranging from a fish and chip beach hut to the sedate Tea With The Tide tearoom for high-tea treats. Those with seriously sweet teeth should explore The Beach Huts, where they can encounter a calorific cornucopia of doughnuts, ice creams, slushies and other sugar-related products. Don’t worry, the long and bracing walk back to the shore will shave off a few of the calories involved.
Admission: In 2021, prices ranged from £2.00 for a 'Walk Both Ways' ticket to £5.60 for a return train ticket.
Other Nearby Piers
Recommended Holiday Cottage:
If you don't mind the odd flight of stairs, you'll love this place - a beautifully converted water tower with marvellous estuary views near Lewes on the East Sussex coast. Sleeps 6 and it's absolutely stunning!
5. Brighton Palace Pier
Named as one of the UK's top attractions by TripAdvisor in 2021, you simply don't go anywhere near Brighton's seafront without walking the decks on The Palace Pier. Don't ask why; it's just one of those things.
It's undoubtedly one of the world's most recognisable piers and a visit won't disappoint. There's everything here, from traditional fairground rides to arcades for gamers. For the littlies, there's the slides and a gentle spin on the Cup and Saucers. Teenagers will be more at home on the Turbo Coaster or The Booster (where the big challenge is to ride it with your eyes open). And for the nostalgic, well, there's a set of Dodgems and an eloquent Edwardian-style fairground carousel to be ridden on wooden horseback.
The Palace Pier also plays hosts to several terrific events, from live entertainment and super-hero days to firework displays. Check out the Pier's website for details and booking.
You won't go hungry. Aside from the Palm Court Restaurant serving classic British dishes, traditional fast-food aromas of doughnuts, hotdogs and fish and chips aromas may prevail. There's a much greater variety of sticky taste-tastic food on offer, from milkshakes and churros to vegetarian food and pizza. Oh, and of course, this is the perfect place to buy your stick of Brighton Rock. You can ask for a sugar-free stick, but it always seems to be sold out whenever I visit. Strange that.
Admission: Free, but you'll need to buy wristbands for the fairground rides
Other Nearby Piers:
Recommended Holiday Cottage:
Cherry Cottage is a spacious contemporary rural cottage in the South Downs near Lewes in East Sussex. Sleeps 6. Pets welcome.
Any arcade amusements on Cromer Pier take a back seat. This is a pier with a theatre at its end that promotes a wildly popular traditional summer season. It's the only 'full-season end of pier show in the world' and it is very popular indeed. Shows usually run from mid-July until early October. Other popular entertainment shows and tribute acts from Elvis to Queen also feature within its calendar in the spring and autumn, making it a popular visitor destination for spring and autumn visitors. Advance booking recommended.
Summer visitors too young to sit still in the stalls will be wildly happy with crabbing off the pier. It's free of charge, while crab lines and bait can be purchased from the pier's shop. Top tips: Crabs are apparently partial to mackerel and a bit of squid, but failing that, a nice bit of bacon rind might do the trick.
At the Pier Head is 'the RNLI Lifeboat Station. Access to the station is free, but you can enjoy a more informative tour if booked at least 3 weeks ahead. In exchange for your newly acquired knowledge on what is involved in attending a 'shout', support the RNLI. Buy a suitably seafaring souvenir or book from the Lifeboat Shop.
Other Nearby Piers
Recommended Holiday Cottage:
Stable Cottage is a luxury holiday cottage in a quiet fishing village near Cromer and a Blue Flag beach. Sleeps 6. Pets welcome.