Travel guide to Blackpool – the Strictly Come Dancing destination of the north

Strictly returns to the sparkling seaside town this weekend for a live show. Ahead of the dancing drama we explore the famous Tower Ballroom and seaside town...

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This weekend Strictly Come Dancing comes to arguably Britain’s most kitsch holiday spot – Blackpool. The BBC will film a one off live show (watch it on screen at 6:30pm, 17 November on BBC1), in which the final five will battle it out to avoid eviction.

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Contrary to popular belief, Blackpool is not all hen nights and donkey rides (although there are still plenty of them about). The Lancashire town boasts miles of beautifully sandy beaches, some fantastic attractions and is a genuinely family-friendly destination.

Blackpool is attempting to ditch its naughty postcard image with a multimillion-pound regeneration project intended to bring its faded grandeur into the 21st century. Here are more than a few reasons to visit…

The Blackpool Tower is the town’s most famous landmark – and rightly so. Inspired by the Eiffel Tower, the 158-metre tall structure was built in 1894 and has incredible views over the town and surrounding countryside. Those brave enough can travel to the top and stand on the glass floored “Skywalk” in the Blackpool Tower Eye. From there, you can look straight down to the seafront below, where an artwork called the Comedy Carpet pays tribute to Blackpool’s hilarious heritage, with catchphrases from everyone from Tommy Cooper to Reeves and Mortimer. If you prefer to stay on terra firma, the Tower complex has something for everyone, and also includes the Blackpool Tower Circus and Blackpool Tower Dungeon, with Madame Tussauds and SEA LIFE close by.


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See the lights…

The Blackpool Illuminations started back in 1879, and are an annual institution, taking up six miles of seafront and using over a million light bulbs: the best way to see them in their entirety is from a tram. They run from late August to November each year, but the rest of the time there are plenty of other glittery goings on. The Brilliance on Birley Street is a year-round 21st century son et lumière, with a pumping sound system and light show, while the South Shore promenade has a giant mirror ball that lights up every evening.


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Dance Strictly-style...

Those in search of a bit of old-school glamour should look no further than the Blackpool Tower Ballroom. Strictly makes an annual visit, but there’s waltzing, foxtrotting and jiving every day to the sound of the famous Wurlitzer organ. For those who would rather watch than participate, you can sit and have tea while the dancers strut their stuff, and take the time to appreciate the glorious decor. The Winter Garden is Blackpool’s biggest venue and hosts concerts, comedy and, of course, dancing.


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Take a ride…

The Pleasure Beach has been a Blackpool fixture since 1896. Its oldest ride is the Big Dipper, a classic wooden rollercoaster, but it’s the Big One that draws the most attention – more than a mile long and reaching heights of 235 feet, it’s a force to be reckoned with. For fans of the spooky, there’s the Pasaje del Terror and, further along the promenade, Carnesky’s Ghost Train. Each of Blackpool’s three piers (North, South and Central) has a selection of rides, with Central’s Ferris wheel a standout.


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As seen on TV…

The Las Vegas of the North BBC TV drama Blackpool (the clue is in the title) filmed on location in the town in 2003. A pre-Doctor Who David Tennant, alongside David Morrissey and Sarah Parish, showcased the adult side of Blackpool, with its late night world of amusement arcades, bars and nightclubs. Similarly dark ground was covered in BBC3’s cult Funland in 2005.

Life’s a Beach Lee Evans starred in Funny Bones (1994), a comedy about a washed-up end-of-the-pier comedian, which shot all over Blackpool, including the beach, the Circus, the Tower and the Pleasure Beach. Blackpool is also the beach in the title of 1993 movie Bhaji on the Beach, in which a group of Asian women take an eventful day trip.

Region: Lancashire

TV and films shot here: Blackpool, Funland, The Red Riding trilogy, The Parole Officer, Funny Bones, Bhaji on the Beach

Stay: The Imperial Hotel, a historic four-star hotel on the seafront. Rooms from £47 per night.

Eat and drink: The best fish and chips in town are found at Yorkshire Fisheries, while family-run Notariannis has been making ice cream (vanilla only!) for more than 70 years. The Winter Gardens Mazzei café is an old-fashioned delight, and The Grill offers fine dining in art deco luxury next to the Pleasure Beach.

Getting there: Trains to Blackpool North from Preston leave four times an hour. Trains leave hourly from London Euston (journey three hours, fares from £39).

Getting around: Trams are cheap and frequent, while horse and carriage rides along the prom are expensive, but popular, and a great way to see the sights.


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Visit Blackpool with Radio Times Travel, see here for more details