Next on my Bucket List: Blackpool, England

In which author Lisa Bonnice sets her intention for her next goal: a lengthy visit to the UK, with the pinnacle of the trip being a photo of the sunset over the Irish Sea from the “Eye” of the Blackpool Tower.

Sunset over the Irish Sea, and the Blackpool Tower. (from the Blackpool Tower facebook page,

I just completed the first major item on my lifetime Bucket List. I have officially become a best-selling author. Boom. Done.

So now what? I didn’t really make any big plans beyond that, because it’s taken 52 years to accomplish this one. It’s sort of been an obsession, so I didn’t make a bucket list beyond that one thing. But now that I’ve achieved that goal, I want to make the next one fun and easy.

Our plan (my husband Jeff and I) is to indulge some of our curiosity about the UK from what we’ve seen on BBC America and our love of the Beatles. We’re going to visit some of the Doctor Who sites and museums (including Cardiff), then go to Liverpool to visit the Cavern Club and do whatever Beatles site-seeing is available, and finally head to Blackpool.

Why Blackpool? A British friend of mine asked that very question. “Why Blackpool!? It’s the Coney Island of the UK!”

I responded, “That’s exactly why. I love kitsch.”

But there’s more to it than that. The BBC aired a mini-series a few years ago filmed in and entitled Blackpool. Through a long and winding trail of links about David Tennant (the Tenth Doctor) I found a bunch of YouTube videos that allowed me to watch the whole thing (all six hours, ten minutes at a time).

Watch Blackpool

Your mileage may vary, but I found this miniseries to be one of the most well-written, well-acted and well-executed productions I’ve ever seen. And it made me fall head over heels in love with the town of Blackpool! I simply MUST BE THERE!

I must step foot inside the arcade where Ripley Holden’s life began to unravel. I have to walk along the Promenade where DI Peter Carlisle wooed Natalie Holden. And (he doesn’t know this yet) Jeff and I will have tea, and then dance in the famous Blackpool Ballroom!

The Blackpool Ballroom, with its famous Wurlitzer Organ. (from the Blackpool Tower facebook page,

We’re shooting for summer of next year, 2014. We’re intending to align our visit to Blackpool with their annual Illuminations festival. We have a year to make this happen, and I’ve already started the process.

And … go!

75 responses to “Next on my Bucket List: Blackpool, England

  1. Post LOTS of pictures!!!

  2. Michael Garfield

    At the time of the illuminations it can get cold, especially at night, so be prepared. Unfortunately, Blackpool has seen its glory days, and can seem a little run down and seedy in places – though I quite enjoy its faded charms. The sea front has had a lot of construction work going on for the last few years, extending it seawards. Hopefully they might have finished most of it by the time of your visit. Many famous names have appeared in the town, from Frank Sinatra to the Beatles. If you have the time, visit the Lake District National Park, in the neighbouring county of Cumbria (Blackpool is in the county of Lancashire). It’s a truly beautiful part of England, one of many. Stunning mountain scenery and lakes.

    Blackpool has three piers. The one used in the TV show is North Pier – the one where D.I. Carlisle and Ripley Holden’s wife first kiss (though in reality it closes at night) and where, in the last episode, Ripley Holden’s daughter gets married – though don’t expect to find the ballroom at the end of the pier. The Wedding scene was filmed at a ballroom in London. In 2014 the illuminations will run from August 25th to October 29th. If you need any more info about the TV series, locations, etc, I’ll try my best to answer them.

    • Michael, you are my hero! I had a feeling that the wedding wasn’t filmed where the production implied. I’ve watched the series so many times now that I’m starting to pick up on little things like that. I’ve seen, on Google Maps, that the Samaritan’s location in the series is not where the actual office is, and they never really tell you where Carlisle’s “posh hotel” is, it’s just sort of implied that it’s at the north end of the Promenade.

      Does the arcade look the same inside as it did in the series?

      I have so many questions! Do you live in Blackpool or did you work on the series?

      • Michael Garfield

        Hello There! First of all I don’t live in Blackpool, or worked on the series (unfortunately). The last time I was there was about three years ago, but before that I went at least once a year for several years. From the outside, the arcade looks the same, but is nothing like the one in the show on the inside. Much smaller. I take it the inside was a studio mock-up. If you’ve used ‘street view’ on Google maps, you’ll probably know where Ripley’s arcade is. If not then find South Pier and it’s on the opposite side of the road from that. I think the inspiration for the arcade (according to the creator of the show, Peter Bowker) was an arcade called ‘Coral Island’, which is further down the promanade, and is quite big. The ‘posh hotel’ that D.I. Carlisle stays at is (probably) The Grand Metropole Hotel (near North Pier). When Carlisle throws Natalie out of his hotel room, the next shot is of an hotel window, which the camera pans down from to show Natalie walking past. The hotel window is part of the Metropole. Here is the hotel’s website: The interior shots are probably, in most cases, shot elsewhere. The Ballroom that the wedding was shot in is the Rivoli Ballroom in London:

        The large fun fair/amusement part is located at the southern end of the promenade. If you walk a little beyond it you will see the large glitter ball that Ripley and his accountant dance around during Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’.

        Ripley’s flats are located just behind the arcade, down a small alleyway – in reality the flats are the rear of a guest house. This is also the location for the scene in which Ripley invites prospective investors to look at his proposals, where they dance to ‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me’.

        Let’s not forget Carlisle’s and Natalie’s first date at ‘Funny Girls’. It does exist and it is a transvestite venue, as in the TV show.

        The main location I don’t know of is the location of Ripley’s home. Another location used was Brentford, a town in West London. I’ve no idea which scenes were filmed there.

        Anything else you want to know, just ask.


  3. That’s fantastic! Thanks so much for your helpful info. This is exactly the kind of stuff I’m wanting to find out. I did Google streetview many of the locations and have found a large number of them. I’m seriously bummed out that the aquarium is no longer below the tower, though, and that there is construction scaffolding around the tower. I hope it will be finished before next summer.

    Where did you get the info about Peter Bowker? I’m having a hard time finding any interviews with him regarding Blackpool. I have the DVD set that they sent out for BBC America (which was severely edited, unfortunately) and that includes an interview segment, so I was able to see a small interview with him, and I have the soundtrack CD where he talks about why he chose the specific songs. But I cannot find any info about Peter Bowker at all, beyond

  4. Michael Garfield

    Here’s some info on Peter Bowker.

    This is an interview with him about the one-off sequel to Blackpool. Have you ever seen the sequel? Nowhere near as good as Blackpool but pleasant enough.

    I just google ‘Peter Bowker’ and I get quite a few articles about him and his work.

    Here’s one about the aquarium:

    Blackpool Tower’s official site:

  5. Michael Garfield

    Oops, double post (well, almost).

    • Hmmm. There is no reason your comments should have to be approved. I didn’t realize they were there! Sorry about that, and thank you again for the great information! I’ll be doing a lot of clicking!

      Are you on facebook by any chance? It might be easier to communicate there. If so, drop me a friend request:

      • Michael Garfield

        Unfortunately I’m not on Facebook. I’m not really into social networking sites. I was on Myspace for a few years but I eventually deleted my account. Here’s a temporary email address of mine:

        If you contact me on that then I’ll send you my proper email address.


      • Michael Garfield

        Hello Lisa
        Thought you might like to see this. First time I’ve seen it myself.

  6. What a fun video! Thanks for finding that. It’s hard to believe it will be 10 years since they made this series by the time I get to Blackpool. I wonder if anyone there even remembers it.

  7. Michael Garfield

    Of course, there have been other TV shows, movies shot there. Have you seen Funny Bones? Starts off in Vegas but quickly ends up in Blackpool! This is the full movie.

    Here’s another TV show set in Blackpool. Rather more grittier and near the knuckle than Blackpool.

  8. Funny Bones was on my “to watch” list. Thanks for finding the vid for me. Now it’s at the top of the list. I’ve never heard of Funland. I’ll check it out.

  9. I watched Funny Bones. Thank you so much for the link! I’ll be watching it again and again and again … It gives a totally different image of Blackpool, and now we have even more points of interest to check out.

    I’ll watch Funland next.

  10. Michael Garfield

    Hello Lisa
    Glad you liked it. Be prepared for ‘Funland’ (8 episodes I think). It’s much grittier – and ruder!


    • Hi Mike,

      I have been rewatching Blackpool and saw that they do show the Metropole Hotel early on and, theoretically, Carlisle’s window. You were right! Is that really a “posh” hotel? Where do you usually stay when you visit Blackpool?

      Also, where do they arrest Danny? It looks like kind of a seedy area, at night, but during the day it’s probably a safe enough place, right on the beach. Is that accurate?


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  12. Hello Lisa

    Here is the location of the scene where Danny gets arrested (the ‘Boy With A Thorn In His Side’ sequence). The North Shore Colonnades. As you can see, there is more than one of them, but another view of the episode might tell us which one.

    Actually, I think that the Metropole has much nicer rooms than the one Carlisle stays in, which was no doubt filmed elsewhere anyway. There are hundreds of small guest houses and hotels in Blackpool – wall-to-wall with them you might say!
    Here’s a room at the metropole:

    Go to this page and hold your cursor over the photo and click the ‘next’ tab. It’ll show you other parts of the Hotel. It’s by no means the biggest or most expensive. One of the biggest is the Norbeck Castle Hotel, with about 500 rooms:
    I’ve only stayed in Blackpool a couple of times. I mostly go there for just a day and come back the same day. When I have stayed there it is usually in one of the cheaper guest houses (though I did stay at the Norbeck once), though they do vary in quality. My advice is to stay in one of the bigger hotels.

    Blackpool is generally a safe place, but like most places it has its down sides. I’ve never had any trouble, but I tend to stay away from the rowdier bars and nightclubs.

    Here’s a video of the illuminations, though they never look as good on film as they do in person.

  13. Wow! Thanks for the links, especially to the North Shore Colonnades!

    We’re still trying to decide if we want to do this trip on the cheap, or if we want to spend some money and stay in fancy places. Both ways are fun–in fact, going cheaply tends to be more of an adventure–but I kind of want to stay in the Metropole, just because it’ll be part of the whole movie theme. We’ll see how it plays out. The Norbreck Castle looks amazing!

    By the way, my blog site is still moderating your posts for some reason, even though I’ve auto-approved you. I don’t know why that’s happening. Just wanted you to know it’s not because I’ve got you filtered.

  14. Michael Garfield

    I wonder if it filters out my comments because they contain links? Anyway. here’s a clip to the one off sequel to Blackpool (it was called ‘Viva Blackpool over here, whereas in the States it was the original series that had that title). This is the opening number. Not sure if you’ve seen the whole thing. By the way, Ripleys ‘Chapel of Love’ was (I say ‘was’ because it has now been demolished) in reality a public toilet, dressed up with neon lights, etc. So though I did visit the ‘Chapel of Love, it wasn’t to get married!

  15. I haven’t watched the sequel. I thought it took place in Las Vegas, so I wasn’t very interested (not a huge fan of Vegas). Plus it got lousy reviews. But now you’ve got me curious. 😉 I’ll check it out.

  16. Michael Garfield

    The one you’re thinking about is the American version of ‘Blackpool’, which was pulled after just two episodes. This one is where Ripley comes back from Vegas and opens up a Chapel of Love’. Here’s some more clips:

    Also, here’s another link to the Colonnades. More correctly called the Middle Walk Colonnades apparently.

  17. Hello Lisa
    Here’s another film from the ’90s that was filmed in Blackpool, with a rather surreal edge to it.

  18. Michael Garfield

    Hello Lisa
    Here’s a link to the hotel that the cast & crew stayed in during the filming of Blackpool.

  19. Wow! How do you find this information? You are a goldmine!

  20. Hello Lisa
    Basically, I trawl through the internet looking for Blackpool related articles. I was looking for (but with no luck) the location used as Ripley’s house. I came across a site dedicated to Georgia Taylor, the actress who plays Ripley’s daughter. If you scroll down the page on the following link (second but last article) you’ll see the mention of the Big Blue Hotel there.

  21. Well done! Now we have to decide whether to stay there or at the Metropole. I get the feeling that the decision will be made for us, once we start budgeting the trip’s finances. 😉

  22. Well the Big Blue Hotel seems a bit pricey. As I said, there are many guest houses and hotels in Blackpool, with a collective 180,000 beds between them! Some are good, some not very good. Here’s hoping you choose well.

  23. Here’s a photo I took back in 2007, of the Pleasure Beach entrance, not too far from Ripley Holden’s ‘Lucky Star’.

  24. LOL! After seeing Funland, I’m gonna be VERY picky about where we stay. 😉

    That’s a gorgeous photo. Thanks for sharing it!

  25. Hello Lisa.
    I found out where they filmed Ripley’s Arcade (interior scenes). It was a custom built set, on an industrial estate in Perivale, Greater London.

  26. Another location found. In episode two we see Ripley pick Danny up from College. This was the location used. It is in Bushey, mentioned in the above link by the actor who plays Deaf Barry. He mentions Bushley, though he or the other actors he mentions (apart from David Morrissey and the actor who plays his son) don’t feature in it.

  27. Here’s a photo of The Rivoli ballroom from the outside. (I hope the link works).

  28. Those are fantastic links! Thank you!

  29. Cool! I noticed that his building had Sutton Court on the front of it, and planned to look it up. Thanks for finding it for me!

  30. Hello Lisa
    Here’s a few more. This time I’ve linked a scene from the show to where the location is and how it looks now. I’ll do a few more soon.

  31. That’s fantastic! I had seen that Gifts Galore was different, but I hadn’t yet found the two cafes. I know that Samaritans isn’t on the Promenade, but do you have any idea where they shot those storefront scenes?

  32. Hello Lisa.
    Right, here’s one storefront I’ve located. It’s where Natalie goes shopping and Carlisle pretends to go shopping on the pretence of talking to her. It was a little hard to find but I managed to. As you can see, the store has changed somewhat, and is now called ‘Nisa Local’. It’s located at 137 Pitshanger Lane, Ealing, Greater London. The interior scenes were actually filmed in the store. It isn’t very far from Perivale, where the interior arcade scenes were filmed.

    The following ones are Blackpool Locations.
    This one is the guest house where Hailey stays after Ripley burns down the Flats. Again, the name has changed.

    This one is where Danny beats up Steve. The green-painted Tram Stop where Steve is standing has been demolished and replaced by the one in the photo.

    The Flats.

  33. I meant the false front they used for Samaritans when I said “storefront.” It was sloppy language. Sorry for the misunderstanding. But I love how you are able to find pretty much every shot in the series! Are you sure you didn’t work on set? 😉

  34. Holy cow! I posted my last comment before I saw that your newest one was waiting to be approved. Seriously, how do you know so much about this? You’re finding amazing stuff!

  35. I finally found the setting that was filtering your comments. You were right, it was because of the links. I have it set now where it will allow 6 links per comment.

  36. Hello Lisa.
    No, never worked in the sets unfortunately. I use different methods for finding them, and then checking them to see if they match. This could be looking for things that are common to the shots featured in the series and the present day locations. This could be anything from damaged brickwork on a wall to matching names on adjacent buildings and so forth. The thing that makes it a little harder is the fact that some of the locations change from how they looked in the series. The Blackpool locations were pretty easy to find as I know Blackpool first hand. There are now two locations that elude me: The police station and the house used as Ripley’s home. Google Earth is a great help, but if, for instance, the house used as Ripley’s home is located on a private road then the street level google cameras may not have been allowed access, so identifying it might prove difficult. The first thing to do is find it first! All I know is that it seems a rather quiet, leafy location – perhaps a leafy suburb of a small town. All I know of it is that the house number is 7. The police station is, I think, located somewhere in London. I freeze framed a scene which features the police notice boards outside, and I’m pretty sure that the police crest featured one one of them is that of the metropolitan police. The search goes on! If I can think of any other locations to feature then I’ll certainly post them.

  37. Okay, after much searching I managed to find Ripley Holden’s house! It’s located at 7 Main Drive, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire. It’s a private road so Google Earth doesn’t have a street level view. The following is a screen grab from the series and an aerial view using Earth Earth, I was determined to find it!!

  38. I meant Google Earth, not Earth Earth, lol.

  39. Dude! That’s amazing! What do you do for a living? You could get a job with the NSA!! 😉

  40. Michael Garfield

    Hello Lisa
    Just thought I’d post a link to this photo. It wasn’t featured in Blackpool, but the writer of ‘Blackpool’ used to take his kids there when visiting Blackpool. This is much more Ripley Holdenesque in appearance on the inside than the actual Lucky Star arcade further down the promenade. So when you visit Blackpool, take a look inside.


  41. I guarantee that there is no way Jeff would be able to walk past a place like that without going inside, so even if not for your recommendation, I will be seeing the inside. 😉

  42. Michael Garfield

    Here’s a TV commercial for Specsavers (eye-wear, eye care, etc) that was shot in Blackpool.

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  45. beware of the British climate , warm clothes and WATERPROOFS required !!!

    • LOL! It’s going to be hard to gauge, considering I live in the desert where it gets up to 120 in the summer. We’ll probably bring our winter clothes for the British summer. 😉

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  47. Hello Lisa.
    Just thought I’d post a link to a documentary series about Blackpool from the 1990’s – specifically about the Pleasure Beach. There are six parts in all (all on YouTube). Here is part one. Hopefully it can be seen in your part of the world.

    • Thanks, Mike! Good to hear from you. I’ll definitely check it out.

      Remember our conversation about cameras, where you suggested trying a GoPro? My son-in-law just bought one, and offered to let me play with it to see if it’s what I’m looking for. I’ll be posting a blog about it, as soon as I have anything worth talking about. 😉

  48. When you do get to try out the camera, see if it has that annoying ‘fish eye’ effect (well I find it annoying) or if they’ve actually reduced the effect. As to the Blackpool documentary series, it’s about 17 years old now so some things will be out of date – that’s if it’s viewable in the States. The other parts are there on YouTube. It’s an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the Pleasure Beach.

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  51. Hello Lisa. Long time no speak! Anyway I thought I’d let you know that the house used as Ripley Holden’s house is now up for sale. You can view the pics here:

    • Well, hi there! Thanks for the link! It’s cool to see the inside of the house. So many times they’ll just use an exterior of the house and shoot the interior scenes in a studio. It’s fun to see that they actually used some of the rooms inside. Even the curtains in the bedroom are the same!

      As you probably noticed, due to lack of blogs on the topic, that we didn’t make it this past summer. Life got in the way, big time, but I’m going to try to make it happen next summer.

  52. Hello Lisa. Long time no speak. Went to Blackpool on Saturday to see the lights. Unfortunately, Ripley Holden’s ‘Lucky Star’ amusement arcade is no more. This is its replacement.

  53. Hi! I hope you thought positive things about me while you were there, to help increase the magical pull to get me across the Pond! I saw that the Lucky Star is no longer there, a couple months ago. I was telling my husband, “If we don’t get over there pretty soon, none of it will look the same!” So I Googled to see if it was still there and discovered that it is not. 😦

    My only solace is that maybe they will have taken the scaffolding down from the Tower by the time I get there.

    • Yes, it’s changing all right. The place where they sing ‘Secrets That You Keep’ (or should I say mime to) no longer has the tables & chairs in there now. It now serves as the ticket office for the Pleasure Beach. Even if you don’t go on any of the rides you still have to pay just to walk around it. The weather is starting to turn colder now, and I was freezing my bits off! One sad development since I last spoke to you is that my relationship of seven years broke down, and I’m now living back in my home city of Birmingham. It broke my heart and I’m still trying to get over it. I detest it here, and I’m busy looking for a job at the moment.

      • I’m sorry to hear that! I hope you can find some happiness, wherever that may take you. Maybe Blackpool, offering tours. 😉

        We’re definitely planning a summer visit. We live in the dessert, where it’s 115 in the summer, so I’m pretty sure a winter visit to England would kill me on the spot.

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