Geo domes in Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve

Pitch close to one of Britain’s best expanses of sandy beach and dunes.

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Geo domes in Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve guide


This inviting tract of beach and vegetated dunes forms the central swathe of the Sefton Coast, a long line of sand between Liverpool and Southport. The Ainsdale Sand Dunes NNR, alongside several other reserves, protect the area’s dune grasslands and Corsican pinewoods, which rise behind the beach and offer diverse habitat for endangered creatures like natterjack toad. Caravan campers fare better than those with just tents along the coast thanks to touring parks at Formby and Ainsdale—tent campers should try heading a bit inland for the best bets.

Where to go

Sefton Coast

Reaching from Crossens near Southport 21 miles down to Crosby on the edge of Merseyside, Sefton Coast is one of the UK’s most important sandy coastlines. The unbroken, gold-brown beachfront and epic dunes behind, containing 40% of the nationally rare dune slack habitat, make this area special—and it’s all linked by coastal trail. Camping on the coast is difficult, but small-scale campsites can be found just a short way from the water.

Leeds & Liverpool Canal

This fully navigable 127-mile waterway between Liverpool and Leeds pulls off engineering feats a-plenty—negotiating the steep contours of the Pennines, for example—but just as it provides excellent narrow-boating, walking, and cycling, the canal’s camping possibilities are also impressive. The canal loops to within seven miles east of Ainsdale Sands near Downholland—look out for farm glamping near Lathom for a sleep in a fully furnished bell tent.

Ribble Estuary

North of Crossens and about five miles northeast of Ainsdale Sand Dunes NNR, the sand merges into the marsh and mudflats of the Ribble Estuary, one of England’s largest saltmarshes. Over half the estuary is protected as an NNR, and its south side has the best camping. It’s a brilliant area for wildlife-watching, especially for wildfowl.

West Pennine Moors

A locally popular but nationally little-known chunk of stark moorland, the West Pennine Moors swoop east of Chorley, 25 miles east of Ainsdale Sand Dunes. The handiest parts of this outdoor playground are Anglezarke and Rivington Moors, where two long reservoirs divide the higher ground from the conurbation to the west. The region offers great contrasts with the Ainsdale area’s flat, sandy coastscape, as well as charming campsites with several hiking routes into the wilder terrain beyond.

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