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Formby Pinewoods: Our Complete Guide

Just a short drive or train ride from Liverpool lies the tranquil Formby Pinewoods, a National Trust gem that offers the perfect woodland escape.

The Pinewoods contain several walking trails that cater to all ages and abilities. Meander gently along the Squirrel Trail in search of the resident red squirrels who call these woods home. Or embark on a more challenging walk along the woodland paths out to the sandy shores of Formby Beach.

Trail In Formby Pinewoods

If you’re thinking of visiting with children, then you will be pleased to know there are plenty of things to do to keep them entertained – and there’s usually an ice cream van at the entrance too!

Brief History of Formby Pinewoods

Formby Woods is a large conifer plantation, originally created to protect the sand dunes. In 1967, the mile-long stretch of pinewoods and dunes was acquired by the National Trust after a large fundraising appeal in a bid by the charity to protect Britain’s coastline.

National Trust At Formby Woods

Over 50 years later, staff and volunteers continue their conservation work, restoring the sand dunes and preserving the rare protected wildlife which calls Formby Woods ‘home’.

Formby Woods is protected by law, due to its rare wildlife inhabitants such as the red squirrel and naterjack toad.

The site is steeped in history, from prehistoric footprints discovered on the shoreline, shipwrecks and an Asparagus farm that thrived in the early 1900s.

Getting To Formby Woods

Formby Woods has good transport links and is a reasonable drive (40 minutes) from Liverpool city centre. The drive is definitely worth it for the contrast in scenery and the chance to enjoy the area at a slower pace. There are three main areas of the woods to discover; Lifeboat Road, Red Squirrel Reserve & Fisherman’s Path.

Parking at Formby Woods

If it’s your first time visiting Formby Woods, we would recommend heading to the Red Squirrel Reserve. There are two car parks, one located in the woodland area and another further along in the dunes with access to Formby Beach via a steep, sandy path.

Formby Woods Car Park

The car parks are owned by National Trust and it costs £7.50 for the day. If you are a National Trust member then the parking is free. The postcode for the car park located at the red squirrel reserve is L37 1XU and for the Victoria Road beach car park, the postcode is L37 1YD.

Beach Car Park At Formby Woods

Alternatively, if you don’t wish to pay for parking, head to Larkhill Lane where you should be able to secure a free parking space in close proximity to the woods.

Beware at peak times, during sunny weather, the car parks and nearby on-road parking are taken up quickly. So make sure you arrive early if you want to ensure you get a parking space.

The car park at Lifeboat Road is slightly lesser known and therefore not as busy. Lifeboat Road allows beach access via hardstanding and boardwalk so is the most accessible option for those looking to see the sea.

The postcode for the National Trust car park is L37 2EB and costs £7.50 for the day. There is also free, on-road parking along St. Luke’s Church Road and surrounding areas, although this will require a longer walk through the woods in order to reach the beach.

Getting the train to Formby Woods

If you are heading to the Lifeboat Road area of the woods, the nearest train station is Formby, which is approximately a 14-minute walk away from the woods.

Freshfield train station is the closest to Fisherman’s Path and the Red-Squirrel Reserve. At the station, you will find The Kiosk Cafe and The Good Catch fish and chip shop, which are both great places to stop and refuel at the beginning or end of your outing.

Kiosk Coffee - Freshfield Station

If you are heading to Fisherman’s Path, walk down Montagu Road until you reach the crossing point on the train tracks.

Railway crossing at Fishermans Path - Formby Woods

If you are heading to the Red Squirrel Reserve, continue on Victoria Road for approximately 13 minutes until you reach the entrance to the car park. From here you can use the amenities and select your route through the pinewoods.

Formby Woods Opening Hours

Of course, you can enter the woods on foot at any time. However, the car parking opening times are as follows:

Car Park Opening Hours
Lifeboat Road9am -5pm *exit any time
Victoria Road Beach9am -5pm
Red Squirrel ReserveOpen all-day

We have visited Formby Woods beyond the times stated and all three car park gates have always been open. We are assuming that the car park opening hours just refer to times when staff are around to assist if needed and to check guests have paid for parking. However, operations may change day to day so we would recommend visiting between the opening hours of the car park you wish to use.

Formby Woods Walks

There are many different walking routes through Formby Woods and dunes to suit all abilities. You can of course just turn up and see where the day takes you, but if you’d like to follow a particular walking route, below are a few of the most popular. The first three routes are located in the Red Squirrel Nature Reserve area of the woods on Victoria Road. The latter three begin in different locations. All of the walking routes we have listed, bar the last one, are all fairly easy walks which would take no more than 1-2hours (depending on your pace and how strictly you stick to the route).

Cornerstone Walk

The Cornerstone Walk is on the right-hand side of the woods car park on Victoria Road. There are a couple of entry points onto the Cornerstone Walk, with the most obvious situated by the toilets. Look out for the sign.

Cornerstone Walk At Formby Woods

The Cornerstone Walk is an enjoyable walk through the forest, passing by a woodland play area with stepping stones and walkways. The majority of the trail is accessible for prams and wheelchairs (at a push) but the path is on pretty rough terrain in parts and there are some small hills.

There are a couple of paths along the route that will take you to the dunes and onto the beach (this option would not be suitable for prams or wheelchair users).

Red Squirrel Trail

The Red Squirrel Trail takes you through the heart of the Pinewoods through the Red Squirrel Reserve. The Red Squirrel population has declined massively in recent years due to a deadly pox virus. Don’t let this put you off, if you’re not lucky enough to spot a squirrel, there are other wildlife to look out for on route and it’s a beautiful walk nonetheless.

Squirrel Walk At Formby Woods

There are many minor paths leading away from the main route, so you could easily spend a couple of hours exploring. The path takes you nearby the picnic area and you can continue your stay by visiting the beach.

The majority of the route is suitable for prams and wheelchairs, although there are hills and the route may be more difficult in poor weather as the path will be muddy.

Asparagus Trail

Asparagus has been farmed in Formby since the 19th century. This circular trail passes through a variety of terrain- woodland, grassland and towards the dunes, but is accessible throughout. Look out for the wooden sculptures and statues and check out the signage along the route that features lots of fascinating facts about the history of asparagus farming in Formby.

Formby Asparagus Trail

Lifeboat Road

We would definitely encourage visitors to explore this area of the woods as it has some fascinating history. As you head towards Ravenmeols Local Nature Reserve, look for signposts for ‘The Devil’s Hole’, a huge dune blow-out, thought to be the result of bombs dropping during WW2. Target decoys were in place at the time to divert bombs away from Bootle and Seaforth Docks.

Check out ‘The Lost Resort Trail’ which is located nearby. On the trail you will discover all that remains of the 19th century attempt at a seaside town to rival Southport, which was to be named ‘Formby-by-the-Sea’.

Please note these walking routes are not accessible and require you to pass through various terrains including soft sand and steep dunes.

However, Lifeboat Road is the best place to head to if you’re looking for the easiest access to the beach. There is a route of boardwalk and hardstanding so this is the most wheelchair and pram-friendly option.

Fisherman’s Path

Fisherman’s Path is a relaxing walk beginning on Montagu Road next to Freshfield train station. As you head down the road you will come to a level crossing. After crossing the track and passing by Formby Golf Course, the path will take you through the woodlands towards the dunes and beach.

Formby Beach From Fishermans Path

Formby to Crosby Beach and Another Place

This is the longest and most challenging of all the walks we have mentioned but definitely worth it for a chance to see two of Sefton’s beautiful beaches and Antony Gormley’s famous Iron Men. Join the Sefton Coastal Path for the second segment of the journey, following points 5 through to 7, for those using the official Sefton Coastal Path map.

Once you’ve reached Crosby Beach, you can head to Crosby & Blundellsands station and catch the train back to Freshfield station.

Formby Woods Amenities

There are toilets located in the car park at the Red Squirrel Reserve on Victoria Road. The toilets are open daily 10am – 4pm.

Toilets At Formby Woods

There is also an ice cream van situated near the toilets, which is pretty much always onsite during peak times. A refreshment van used to be present during peak times, selling hot drinks, cakes and pastries at really reasonable prices. Unfortunately, we’ve not seen it for a while, but we would very much welcome its return, as there are no other hot food or drink facilities onsite.

Ice Cream Van At Formby Woods

A picnic area is situated not far from the car park at the Red Squirrel Reserve, with benches and a sandy area – a perfect place to stop for lunch, if you didn’t fancy heading to the beach. Please note dogs are not allowed in this area.

There are no fixed amenities at Lifeboat Road or along Fisherman’s Path. However, the nearby cafes, restaurants and shops of both Formby (closest to Lifeboat Road) and Freshfield (closest to Fisherman’s Path) are not far from the woods.

Things To Do With Children

Formby Woods is a great place to head to with children of all ages. Below is our list of top things to do with children during your visit.

Spot the Wildlife

Formby Woods is home to an array of wildlife including the rare natterjack toad and red squirrel. Why not bring along some monkey nuts for the squirrels or bird seeds to feed the ducks? Here’s where you have the best chance of spotting some wildlife:

  • Red Squirrel – Red Squirrel Walk, Victoria Road. Please note the red squirrel population is in decline, so sightings are rare
  • Grey Squirrel- Can be found throughout Formby Woods
  • Rabbits- On the fields near the picnic area located at Victoria Road
  • Ducks and other birds – Duck pond located in the Lifeboat Road area
  • Natterjack Toads- Fisherman’s Path look out for the signs with more information
Wildlife At Formby Pinewoods

Enjoy a Picnic

Head to the picnic area located near the Red Squirrel Reserve car park on Victoria Road. This is a nice spot to stop and let the little ones play in the sand if you don’t fancy heading to the beach – remember your bucket and spade! If you visit during term time there are often school trips that will stop here for lunch.

Picnic Area At Formby Woods

Play on the Stepping Stones

As you face the beach, on the right-hand side of the Red Squirrel Reserve car park is Cornerstone Walk. The entrance of the path is signposted and situated close to the toilets.

Stepping Stones At Formby Woods

If you follow this path round you will come to a series of walkways and stepping stones, which are always a big hit with our young children.

Create a Tune on the Hanging Xylophone

Next to the stepping stones, you will find a hanging xylophone made from logs. Grab a stick and make some music!

Xylophone At Formby Woods

Go on a Rorest Treasure Hunt

The forest is full of natural treasures for little minds to explore. Why not go on a ‘treasure hunt’ collecting pinecones, shells, sticks and leaves to take home as a memoir of your day?

Build a Den

If you’re feeling adventurous, why not have a go at building a den out of logs and branches? The kids will love getting involved in this one, but if you’re struggling, look out for the pre-existing dens dotted around the woods.

A Den At Formby Pinewoods

Head to the Beach

Grab your picnic blanket, bucket and spade, and head to the beach. The closest car park with direct access to the beach is situated on Victoria Road. During warmer days, the beach is popular with both locals and those who have traveled from further afar, so arrive early to secure a parking space or use public transport.

Formby Beach

Our Tips For Visiting Formby Woods

Save on Parking

If you plan on visiting regularly or are keen to explore other National Trust sites across the UK, consider becoming a National Trust member. Parking is free for members, along with entry into National Trust attractions, so this does work out cheaper in the long run- plus you’ll be supporting their great preservation and conservation efforts. You can sign up here, or at any National Trust site (Look for the kiosk located in the Red Squirrel Reserve car park)

If you don’t plan on becoming an NT member and want to avoid paying for parking, use nearby on-road parking for your visit.

Beat the Rush

Formby Woods is becoming increasingly popular, particularly during sunny weather at peak times. If you’re arriving by car, get here early to ensure you get a parking space as the beach car park, in particular, fills up quickly. At very busy times, the car parks are closed off to prevent any other cars from gaining access.

Use public transport if you are able to during busy times. Alternatively, head to Lifeboat Road which tends to be on the quieter side.

Take a Picnic

As we mentioned earlier, there are few amenities in the way of food and drink. We would recommend taking a picnic and encourage you to stay for the full day as there are lots of things to discover.

Are there squirrels in Formby Woods?

There has been an overall decline over the last two decades in the red squirrel population due to the pox virus, so they are a very rare sighting at the moment in Formby Woods. You are much more likely to see a grey squirrel.

Has Formby Woods got toilets?

Yes, there are toilets near the entrance of the Red Squirrel Reserve car park on Victoria Road.

Formby Woods dog friendly?

Formby Woods welcomes dogs but please note dogs need to be kept on leads on the squirrel walk and they aren’t allowed in the picnic area.

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