The Pier Head to Otterspool

This walk from the Pier Head to Otterspool is about 4½ miles (7½ km) in length and takes in the magnificent Pier Head buildings and the southern dock areas. After this it follows the secluded Mersey Way along the riverside and finishes in the equally secluded Otterspool Park. This section is best at high tides when you have the water close by your side all the way to Otterspool. The route is unfortunately not circular, but there are frequent buses along Aigburth Road back to the bus station in Liverpool One. The second half of the walk can be omitted by catching a train back into town (or a bus) at Brunswick station, giving a 2 mile (3 km) tour of the waterfront. The way is all on hard surfaces, so wear something comfortable on your feet.

Start at the Pier Head and take in the splendour of the Three Graces: the Royal Liver Building [1], the Cunard Building [2] and the Port of Liverpool Building [3]. The famous Royal Liver Building was completed in 1911 for the Royal Liver Friendly Society. It is unique in design in this country, incorporating Baroque, Art Nouveau and Byzantine influences and drawing inspiration from some early American tall buildings. Structurally it is notable for being one of the first large reinforced concrete buildings in the world. The clocks, 25 ft (7½ m) in diameter, were the largest electrically driven clocks in the UK when installed. There are four altogether, three on the seaward tower and one on the other, facing the city. The two iconic Liver Birds perched on the top are 18 ft (5½ m) high. The Cunard Building represents the restrained, elegant and Italianate face of the Three Graces and was the last to be completed in 1916 as the head offices and passenger terminal for the Cunard Steamship Company.

The Port of Liverpool Building was originally the head office of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board and was completed in 1907. It is constructed in Portland stone and is somewhat reminiscent of the Capitol in Washington DC, its extravagance (inside as much as outside) at a total cost £350,000 did not go without criticism even in those more confident times. The Pier Head area has recently been completely and rather successfully reconstructed and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal extension to the Albert dock now runs elegantly through. There are various statues and memorials around here, such as the one of Edward VII. This is, of course, also a good place to watch the famous Mersey ferries come and go.

In front of you as you head south is the new Museum of Liverpool [4], well worth a look and it's free! It opened in 2011 and has since won a number of awards, most recently the Council of Europe Museum Prize for 2013. There has been not a little negative press about the building, particularly from architects and architectural journalists. Go past the museum and cross the Albert Dock lock gates to the Piermasters House [5].

The Piermaster's House [5] stands at the end of the Canning Half-Tide Dock, which marks the location of the mouth of the former tidal creek known as the Pool (from which Liverpool partly derives its name). In front of you are the lock gates to the Albert Dock [6] with its monumental warehouses, which were opened in 1845 and built to last at a staggering cost of over £700,000. The fireproof design was a reaction to the enormous losses previously sustained in warehouse fires. The design also allowed direct loading and unloading between ships and warehouses for the first time in Liverpool.

Head down between the Albert Dock warehouses and the river. As you leave the warehouse area, the flashy new Echo Arena and Conference Centre [7] looms into view. Keep heading south along the riverside, past the suitably imposing HM Customs and Excise offices [8] and the large Queen's Dock [9] to a little inlet, the South Ferry Basin, completed in 1823 for ferries and fishermen and unaltered since. Here you have a fine view over the marina in Coburg Dock [10]. A little further on is the Brunswick River Entrance, now the main lock gate serving the marina, where there is a hydraulic lift bridge to allow yachts to pass through at high tide into Brunswick Dock [11]. Go past the next block of waterfront buildings and Brunswick station [12] is just up on the left, should you want it.

To continue the walk, keep along the waterfront. Just after Riverside Drive joins from the left is the Britannia Inn [13], where you can sit outside in the sun in a superb location or, even better, watch a raging winter storm at high tide from the comfort of inside. Keep going along a long, splendidly isolated section by a grassy embankment with no buildings at all on the left (the International Garden Festival site) and the widening expanse of the Mersey estuary on the right.

Eventually paths start coming down to the river. Look out for a red buoy number G6 [14] in the river. After this, ignore the first little path on the left and take the next broad path that comes out at the Otters Pool pub [15]. Go right at the pub and when you see a large grassy hollow on the left [16] (the original Otters Pool), take the path branching off to the left to enter Otterspool Park. Soon after take the path that doubles back around the left side of the hollow and leads by the left of a derelict café. You enter a nice, quiet, leafy valley where the little River Jordan used to flow in cascades until it was dammed to make the lake in Sefton Park. Pass under a railway bridge [17] and emerge eventually to the bustle of Aigburth Road [18] for the bus back into town.