This is Cheshire's only coastal village that residents hail "the best place on Earth". Visitors flock to Parkgate on the Wirral peninsula for award-winning ice creams and tranquil walks.
It boasts a wall of pretty black and white Victorian houses on what was once the sea front, although the water itself now lies more than two miles out across the saltmarshes. Parkgate was a thriving port until the late 1700s – and Cheshire ’s gateway to Ireland.
But as waters began to recede it gave Parkgate a new life as a beach resort. However, over the years further silting took the River Dee away from the village entirely.
Now the waters have been replaced by a sea of swaying bulrushes and grasses that catch waves of air blowing in off the sea, reports Cheshire Live.
The rapid expansion of the marshes over the last century has sparked a renaissance for wildlife in the area. Rare birds pop up from behind tall grass and skim the mirror-like waters to the amusement of ice-cream wielding day trippers.
In spite of the recent fire down in Little Neston which spread towards Parkgate, the marshes still appear to be teeming with life. And the village remains a popular haunt for day-trippers and bird-watchers.
Joe Lyon, 28, is used to serving queues of customers who flock to his award-winning Parkgate Homemade Ice Cream Shop on sunny days. The shop is located in one of the many distinctive black and white properties in the village.
He has lived in the village all his life and has no hesitation in singing its praises. “It’s the best place on Earth,” he says, listing “the sense of community, the people, the scenery.”
“There’s nowhere like Parkgate,” he continues. “I wouldn’t live anywhere else. All my friends who don’t live here all love it; they all want to move here.” He adds “It’s up and coming. The Ship pub has reopened, and so has The Red Lion.”
The mile-long stretch of sea front now boasts four pubs, three restaurants, two cafés, a tearoom, a popular chippy and two award-winning ice-cream parlours set side-by-side in prime position in the middle of the strip. Looking across the Dee Estuary the village is distinctive for its row of preserved black and white Victorian houses along the parade.
Among well-known local buildings here included the former Mostyn House School. Local legend states that composer George Frideric Handel stayed here, composing the Hallelujah Chorus from his 'Messiah' in Parkgate before sailing to Dublin.
The Ship and The Red Lion pubs have both just reopened after major refits. Meanwhile Elephant Coffee sits just beyond the Lion, a café that becomes a trendy bar at night, with customers relaxing in the bearpit out back.
Mostyn Square lies in the centre of the strip, with the small church overseeing squat, black and white houses with bay windows looking out to sea. Tucked under the church is a small café, Mozkitos.
Inside, Helen talks with the rest of the staff in the shady café. She says what she loves about Parkgate.
“The atmosphere – it’s just lovely, and the view, when all the geese are flying over. It’s quite special,” she tells me.
“The history,” she continues, “it’s quite well preserved. They have quite strict rules about what colour you can paint your house.” She adds that Parkgate is becoming “quite good for young people,” echoing Joe’s words.
Another member of the staff recalls a ghost story about the village. Up towards Neston is a road named Buggen Lane, she tells me. ‘Buggen’ is an old local word for ghost, derived from the many different dialects of miners who came to work on the coal fields here more than two-hundred years ago.
Everyone in the café seems to know the story: A woman appears from an old wooden gate in a long sandstone wall on Buggen Lane, before making her way to the marshes to search for her drowned son.
One man even claims that his father saw the phantom: "He had been drinking, though," he smiled.
How to get there
Parkgate is located on the Cheshire side of the Wirral peninsula, close to the historic market town of Neston, which is around 40 miles from Manchester city centre. The easiest way to access the village from Manchester is by road on the M56 motorway and then the A540 towards Hoylake.
There is a train station in Neston that is on the Wrexham to Bidston Line operated by Transport for Wales. There are also three bus services through Neston and Parkgate - the 22 from Chester, 487 from Liverpool and 272 via Ellesmere Port.
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