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Blackpool to Ryde – finest British piers to visit when they open on April 12

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FORGET The End Of The Pier Show . . . the fun is just beginning. Our piers are preparing to open up again on April 12.

These historic landmarks are the beating heart of entertainment and family fun in many seaside resorts. Trisha Harbord discovers what treats we can expect.

Piers are the beating heart of entertainment and family fun in many seaside resorts

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Piers are the beating heart of entertainment and family fun in many seaside resorts

BLACKPOOL

Opened: North 1863, Central 1868, South 1893

Length: 1,650ft, 1,112ft, 489ft

Blackpool's North pier is its longest and oldest.

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Blackpool’s North pier is its longest and oldest.Credit: �VisitBritain/Joshua Trigg

FUN-LOVING Blackpool has three Victorian masterpieces buzzing with entertainment.

The Grade II-listed North is its longest and oldest. Hop on the carousel, listen to live music or watch sporting events in the Merrie England Bar or shows in the Joe Longthorne Theatre.

The 108ft Big Wheel is the Central Pier’s showpiece, giving superb views of the Lancashire resort.

It’s part of Sedgwick’s funfair including waltzers, dodgems and an amusement arcade. South Pier is even racier thanks to the Adrenalin Zone featuring Extreme rides such as Skyscreamer, where you are catapulted into the air at 100mph.

Thrill-seekers wanting more stomach-churning rides can just cross the road to Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

See visitblackpool.com

GREAT YARMOUTH

Opened: Wellington 1853, Britannia 1901

Length: 700ft, 810ft

Great Yarmouth’s Britannia Pier is one big comedy fest

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Great Yarmouth’s Britannia Pier is one big comedy festCredit: Getty Images – Getty

WE’RE all looking for a laugh this summer and Great Yarmouth’s Britannia Pier is one big comedy fest.

TV comics Jimmy Carr, Sarah Millican and Jim Davidson are all appearing at the theatre, along with musical acts.

It’s the pier’s fourth theatre, the others were destroyed by fire, as was the original 1858 wooden pier. The present land-mark opened in 1901.

Britannia rules the entertainment waves with a funfair including dodgems, carousel and a ghost train.

Refuel at the Sea Chef restaurant or burger bar and there’s no shortage of ice-cream, doughnuts and sweets.

The Norfolk resort has 15 miles of safe beaches and its promenade, The Golden Mile, is packed with attractions – the Sea Life aquarium, award-winning Merrivale Model Village and the Pleasure Beach theme park.

See britannia-pier.co.uk

RYDE

Opened: 1814

Length: 2,234ft

Ryde Pier is the oldest in British history

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Ryde Pier is the oldest in British historyCredit: Alamy

NEVER mind funfairs and shows, the Isle of Wight’s traditional Ryde Pier will always have its place in British history – as it’s the world’s oldest.

The wooden structure – now nearly half a mile long after a couple of extensions – sparked the building of pleasure piers across the UK.

It is also unique because you can drive along the walkway to the pier head, where ferries run a service across the Solent to Portsmouth. There is a railway track on the pier, too, from where you can get a train to the resort of Shanklin eight miles away. Talking of trains, you can also explore the beautiful ­countryside on the steam railway at nearby Havenstreet.

Ryde’s award-winning beaches are superb for bird-watching, or go east of the pier to find amusements, cafes, the harbour and other attractions include karting, ten-pin bowling and a tree-climbing centre.

See visitisleofwight.co.uk

BOURNEMOUTH

Opened: 1880

Length: 1,000ft

Bournemouth pier has the world’s first pier-to-shore zipwire

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Bournemouth pier has the world’s first pier-to-shore zipwire

TAKE a leisurely walk . . . or get the adrenaline going with the world’s first pier-to-shore zipwire.

Thrill-seekers are launched from a platform 82ft over the sea, zooming 820ft to the beach.

RockReef will re-open its indoor ­activity attraction, featuring ­obstacle courses, high ropes and ­climbing walls, on May 29.

The Key West Bar & Grill has stunning views and a huge menu, on which the scrummy fresh-fish platters are a­ ­highlight. It will be back in business for al fresco dining on April 12.

It is a great place to watch the sun set – and to take in the Red Arrows’ display on September 4.

Bournemouth has seven miles of sands – recently voted among Europe’s ten best by TripAdvisor – with colourful beach huts dotted along the lovely Dorset coastline. The beaches are ideal for watersports such as kayaking, windsurfing and scuba diving.

See thebournemouthpier.com

BRIGHTON

Opened: 1899

Length: 1,722ft

Brighton Palace Pier has seen a huge transformation

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Brighton Palace Pier has seen a huge transformationCredit: �VisitBritain/ Andr�s Balcazar

BUILT for £27,000 (more than £2million today), Brighton Palace Pier has seen a huge transformation. It used to have just a palm reader and a few punch ball machines to amuse crowds – now there’s a giant funfair.

Millions of pounds have been spent turning one of the finest ever piers into a superb entertainment centre for holidaymakers.

Your bones will be shaken by the loops and dives on Air Race and stirred by The Booster, where you will be turned upside down and catapulted 130ft in the air.

Little ones will love the teacups, mega slides and bouncy castle, just three of the rides and attractions, along with games in the Palace Of Fun.

The glass-fronted Palm Court restaurant offers fantastic views across the Channel. Sit in a deckchair on the pier boards and watch a live show or concert.

Brighton is packed with attractions, including the majestic Royal Pavilion museum and art gallery, Sea Life aquarium and the 530ft British Airways i360 observation tower.

Oh, and you’ll see the burned-out remains of the Palace Pier’s old rival, the once grand West Pier.

See brightonpier.co.uk

SKEGNESS

Opened: 1881

Length: 387ft

Skegness Pier is one of Europe’s largest amusement centres

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Skegness Pier is one of Europe’s largest amusement centresCredit: Canopy – Getty

RECENTLY sold for £3million, Skegness Pier is to be restored to its “former glory” by its new owners.

The iron structure may even be extended – it was 1,844ft when it opened, but after being damaged by a storm and a fire, it ended up just 387ft.

Despite this, there is still a lot packed on to the Lincolnshire pier.

The pier entrance has become one of Europe’s largest amusement centres, with a ten-pin bowling centre, a fantastic Captain Kids’ Adventure World, with slides and ball pools, escape rooms, amusements and an adrenalin-rush Laser Quest where you can hunt down your family and friends.

On a clear day, you can see the towering wind farm in the North Sea and the Norfolk coast.

Chill out at the beach bar on the sands below the pier, or for more thrills, head to nearby theme park Fantasy Island. And don’t miss a visit to Natureland Seal Sanctuary, which does incredible work rescuing injured or orphaned animals from local beaches.

Or to escape the crowds, drive along the coast to the nature reserve at Gibraltar Point.

See skegnesspier.co.uk

LLANDUDNO

Opened: 1886

Length: 2,295ft

Llandudno Pier is the longest in Wales

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Llandudno Pier is the longest in WalesCredit: �VisitBritain/ Lee Beel

THE beautiful landscape wrapped around Llandudno Pier makes it one of the most appealing.

With its blue and white railings stretching out into the Irish Sea, the striking pier is the longest in Wales, set against the backdrop of promenade fringed by ­pastel Victorian houses.

Llandudno is an unspoilt resort and the pier reflects that, with traditional attractions such as a Punch & Judy show and stalls selling crafts and local produce including oysters, pies, cheese and beer – plus fish and chips, doughnuts and ice-cream.

An amusement arcade is the raciest this pier gets, but the town offers many more attractions.

Take the tram or cable car to the top of Great Orme Country Park, whizz down headland on a dry ski slope, take a boat trip or fishing tour, or visit the prehistoric copper mines, museum and art gallery.

Enjoy the glorious beaches and dramatic sunsets.

See the white rabbit statue on the west shore – Alice Liddell, who inspired Lewis Carroll’s beloved character, had childhood holidays in this picturesque part of the world.

See llandudnopier.com

SOUTHEND

Opened: 1889

Length: 7,080ft

STROLL along Southend Pier and dive into the cafe for a refreshing drink. You will have earned it after walking more than a mile over the Thames ­Estuary along the world’s longest pleasure pier.

A great idea to save your legs is to walk one way and take the train back for £5, or take it both ways for £5.50. The cafe, boasts a great choice of food and is part of the super modern Royal Pavilion, a venue for concerts and exhibitions. Artists regularly make an appearance while you are eating.

Southend Pier is the world’s longest pleasure pier

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Southend Pier is the world’s longest pleasure pierCredit: Alamy

Play crazy golf or giant chess on the pier and. because it is in the heart of ­Foreshore Nature Reserve, you can spot wildlife including seals, porpoise and even dolphins.

Fancy fishing? Get a day pass and throw your line off the pier to catch mackerel, plaice or flounder.

Visit the museum at the pier entrance to learn about the landmark’s history and pick up souvenirs from one of the colourful beach huts on the Pier Head.

Nearby Adventure Island has more than 40 family rides and attractions.

See southendpier.co.uk

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