If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life then a day trip to some nearby islands could be exactly what you need.
Just an hour-and-a-half drive from Manchester lie three tidal islands – the Hilbre Islands – with beautiful views and rare wildlife, and even seal-spotting.
Hilbre is the largest, followed by Middle Eye and Little Eye.
The picturesque nature reserve is situated just off the West Kirby coast, at the mouth of the Dee Estuary.
You can reach the archipelago by foot from the mainland, among just 43 unbridged tidal islands in the UK.
It’s the ideal place to clear your head as you take in the fresh air and panoramic views of North Wales and the Wirral coastline.
Liverpool’s skyline can also be seen from the cluster of islands.
As you’d expect, there is not much there in terms of facilities, with no shops or fresh water.
But there is plenty to soak up, including the Hilbre Island Bird Observatory, which often sees uncommon species of visiting birds.
Its unique location makes it one of the ten most important estuaries in Europe for overwintering wildfowl and waders, Visit Wirral says.
The landscape is also an important stopping off point for the twice-yearly migration of birds along the west coast of Britain.
There is the opportunity to spot seals swimming or hauled out on sandbanks in the distance, as they are present on Hilbre all year round, but numbers are highest in the summer.
Recent visitors say there is a jetty and also a secret ladder set into the stone at Hilbre that only the more adventurous will be able to find and climb.
A fair few hours can be spent exploring the many rock pools and wildlife, and it’s a good idea to take a picnic.
There is also a Telegraph Station information center and an old lifeboat station and slipway.
But timing is everything with a visit to Hilbre.
The rocky peninsula is cut off from the mainland by the tide for up to four hours out of every 12.
So if you are planning a visit, you must allow yourself enough time to leave Hilbre at least three hours before high water, or longer if any of your party walks slowly. And it takes about one hour to cross the two miles to Hilbre.
how to get there
The Friends of Hilbre website has explained the safest route.
They suggest starting from Dee Lane Slipway, which is adjacent to Marine Lake, West Kirby. Walk toward Little Eye, the smallest of the three islands, keeping it on your right.
As soon as you pass Little Eye, turn right and continue on the sand, passing Middle Eye on your left.
Between Middle Eye, and Hilbre, take the rough track over the rocks towards the south end of Hilbre where there is a footpath leading onto the island.
They warn not to cross direct to Hilbre and not to cross from Hoylake.
Before visiting, remember to check tidal times. Tide tables are on display at Dee Lane slipway and you can also get an idea of the tide times here.
Dogs are welcome on the islands on short leads and there are also toilets.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.