Our biggest trip so far is certainly our trip over to Ireland. Leaving from the English port of Birkenhead, we got a ferry overnight to Belfast, to explore two countries that make the Island of Ireland…
Status: Wirral District, Merseyside, Town, England
Travel: Merseyrail (Southport – Hamilton Square, Via Liverpool Moorfields), Stena Line Ferries (Birkenhead – Belfast)
Eating & Sleeping: McDonalds, Ferry Restaurant
Attractions: Town Hall, War Memorial, Waterfront, Mersey Ferry, U-Boat Museum, Heritage Tramway etc
We didn’t go too far around Birkenhead as we had a suitcase with us, but we started by the riverside, to get a fantastic view back over at the city of Liverpool. The buildings known as the Three Graces (Liver Building, Cunard Building and Port of Liverpool Building) are all visible along the sea front. Further down we could see clearly Liverpool Cathedral.
Next to the riverside there is the small terminal for ferries over the Mersey to Liverpool, as well as the U-Boat Museum, containing a real German U-Boat. In front of this is one end of the Heritage Tramway preserved in the town. Most towns and cities in the UK used to have tram systems before they were all taken out to allow for more vehicles such as cars to use the streets, and since then a few modern versions have been reinstated, such as those in Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield.
The main attraction in the town we had wanted to see is the Town Hall and Square above, containing the imposing Town Hall (completed in 1887, with the Clock Tower giving it an overall height of 200 foot) and the large War Memorial stood opposite it. The whole square itself is called Hamilton Square and the Merseyrail station we arrived on isn’t far from here.
In the centre of the square, flanked by trees is a memorial to Queen Victoria in the form of a tall spire, erected in 1905. On the other three sides of the square it is lined with old style buildings, and there are a few statues in the area too.
After we had finished our quick tour of the town, we wandered down to the Stena Line port to check in for our ferry. The official port name is Liverpool – Birkenhead, and we sat in the waiting room whilst the ferry arrived.
Our ferry is pictured above, the Stena Mersey. There are two boats that operate the Birkenhead – Belfast route, The Stena Mersey (named after the River Mersey at Birkenhead and Liverpool), and the Stena Lagan (named after the river that runs through Belfast). As it happens we got the Stena Mersey there and back. It is spacious inside, with a restaurant, bar, news room, shop, multiple cabins and decks you can go out on to take in the view.
The ship has gone through a few name changes in her operational history, starting as the Mersey Viking, then Mersey Seaways, and now Stena Mersey. Built in Italy in 2005 and is now registered at Belfast, it underwent a complete overall in early 2012.
It turns out that when we visited Liverpool in October 2012, we could see a Stena Line ship across at Birkenhead, and after checking the pictures we realised it was the Stena Mersey.
The restaurant on board is a very pleasant environment, and includes a bar. There is a wide selection of food and drink available, and it doesn’t take long to prepare. We snacked on some pizzas and cheese cake, it was very nice!
The cabin’s themselves are quite spacious considering it’s only a small ship. There are two normal bunks, one on either side of the room, and above each of a them a wooden panel swings down to reveal another bed each, with some small steps that can hook onto the side to let you climb up available near the door.
It was a very comfortable crossing, we hardly felt it on the water and the beds were comfortable too. The cabins are ensuite, and have everything you need in, including plug sockets. We picked a 4 Berth cabin as it was the smallest they did, but we are glad we did for the overnight crossing. There are larger cabins for larger groups if required.
The ferry departed at 10 pm, due into Belfast at 6:30 am the following morning.
So we put our heads down for the crossing, excited at the thought of waking up in Belfast in the morning…