By Ade Blackburn
Runcorn and Widnes are well worth a visit to explore their unique outdoor and indoor attractions. The towns offer beautiful garden spaces, Halton Castle, a cutting edge science museum and the excellent Brindley Theatre.
1. Norton Priory Museum and Gardens
Norton Priory is the most excavated monastic site in Europe. Boasting the priory ruins, and an 18th century Walled Garden, it is located within an oasis of 42 acres of tranquil woodland and wildflower meadows.
The museum includes two exhibition galleries which explore the site’s history, including the archaeological digs which took place in the 1970s and 1980s. Thousands of artefacts from Norton’s 900 year history are on display, including the 14th century statue of St. Christopher, which features in Lucy M. Boston’s classic children’s book, The Children of Green Knowe.
Norton Priory: Tudor Road, Runcorn, WA7 1SX.
2. The Brindley Theatre
Located by the Bridgewater Canal, the centre is named after the canal’s engineer, James Brindley. It opened in autumn 2004. The Brindley Theatre has won several awards for its architecture including the Architectural Award from the Royal Institute of British Architects.
The venue plays host to touring productions, a professional pantomime each Christmas season, local amateur shows and in-house productions. A separate studio space serves as a single screen cinema, an exhibition and gallery. The venue’s bar and café overlook the scenic canal.
The Brindley Theatre: High Street, Runcorn, WA7 1BG.
3. Halton Castle
The castle is one of the two surviving Norman castles in Cheshire and stands on a rocky hill overlooking the Mersey River above the former village of Halton. This location is a clear choice for it’s elevation and potential as an observation post.
At Halton Castle, there are a number of fascinating features such as the sally port, garderobe and tower. The castle itself is opened for special events and tours several times a year, however it is accessible to walk around the castle walls at any time of the year.
Halton Castle: Castle Road, Runcorn, WA7 2BE.
4. Wigg Island Community Park
A community park and local nature reserve, Wigg Island was originally Runcorn saltmarsh. A community park was opened in 2002 by the Mayor of Halton and celebrity birdwatcher Bill Oddie.
The nature reserve covers 57 acres and is very popular with birdwatchers. There are a number of bird hides and long views over the Mersey estuary, with plenty of wide open spaces. It’s also great for dogs and there’s woodland walks with trolls and sculptures, Bee Orchids are amongst the wild flowers found there.
The area has a cycle path leading from Wigg to Port Warrington and Moore Nature Reserve as well as a visitor centre and a wind turbine.
Wigg Island Community Park: Expressway A553, off Astmoor Industrial Estate, Runcorn, WA7 1LU.
5. Catalyst Science Discovery Centre
Catalayst makes science exciting and accessible to people of all ages and abilities, explore the award winning galleries, visit the stunning interactive theatre, experience fun activities in the lab or travel 30m above the River Mersey in the external glass lift to the glass walled observatory gallery.
The museum regularly hosts family shows and hands-on workshops to help get everyone involved in the world of science. The centre also has an Elements cafe with scenic riverside views.
Catalyst is normally open Tuesday to Sunday and has free car parking.
Catalyst Science Discovery Centre: Mersey Road, Widnes, WA8 ODF.
6. Pickerings Pasture
A nice area for a short walk, free parking, plenty of grassed areas to explore and to see the lovely wild flowers and birds. Pickerings Pasture is a beautiful, relaxing, local riverside walking spot. The site was many years ago the local council’s household refuse tip but has been brilliantly reclaimed.
A Green Flag Award winning local nature reserve with acres of wild flower meadows and a fabulous view across the upper Mersey estuary.
Pickerings Pasture: Mersey View Road, Widnes, WA8 8LP.
7. Widnes Market
Both indoor and outdoor, Widnes Market offers the shopper traditional value in a modern setting.
Stallholders provide fresh fruit, fish, vegetables, flowers, fresh and cooked meats, a wide range of clothing and furnishings, hardware, telephone accessories, Cafe, and even haircuts! Wednesdays there’s a flea and collectors market selling second hand goods, from books to vacuum cleaners and coins.
Open every day except Tuesday and Sunday, they offer free parking, next to the bus station and near the central shopping area.
Widnes Market: Bradley Way, Widnes, Cheshire, WA8 6UE.
8. Spike Island
A lovely local, canal side walking area, situated at the end of the old St Helens canal, on the edge of the River Mersey. It is an artificial island between the Sankey Canal and the estuary of the river. The area plays host to a range of waterfowl and friendly swans. There are also short hiking trails you can take, with a suggested duration of 1-2 hours.
The island is also famous for being the site of the legendary Stone Roses one day festival in 1990. The gig briefly turned Spike Island into the coolest place in the country.
Spike Island: Upper Mersey Rd, Widnes WA8 0DG.
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