Friday Photo: The Hoylake-Rhyl hovercraft service that never quite was

hoylake hovercraft river dee

In the 1960s the world’s first commercial passenger hovercraft service operated between Wirral and Rhyl in north Wales.

The hovercraft service was originally intended to operate from Hoylake but after trials it was decided that the flat sands and embankment at Moreton offered a more suitable landing and takeoff at high tide.  Though this information, taken from the British Caledonian community site, seems to be contradicted by this video that clearly shows the service ran from Wallasey.

An old Pathe News item confirms that the service was originally set to depart from Hoylake. And this ITN archive clip features the hovercraft during trials.

The Vickers VA-3 hovercraft (pictured above – source) could carry 24 passengers and two crew and was capable of travelling at speeds of up to 70mph. Passengers sat in a rear facing seat and a single fare was £1.00 – or about £17.55 in today’s money. The 15mile journey took 20 minutes according to this article in Popular Science. Starting in July, 1962 the service ran for just a few weeks. For more information and photos visit this page.

Did any readers travel in the hovercraft or can you recall seeing the hovercraft at Hoylake and in the River Dee? Leave a comment below.


  1. Ian says

    Yes I have vague memories of the Hovercraft on Hoylake beach, as I lived in Alderley road, it was a short walk to the beach, although I was only 1 in 1962! I’m sure it returned a few yrs later?

    • says

      We also lived in Alderley road- however I was “more than 1″ in 1962. I didn’t go on it but my parents did and somewhere in the family archive there’s a certificate to prove it. It was a massive experience for them as they’d only travelled by car and train. They’d never flown at that point and often spoke of the hovercraft.

  2. Hazel says

    Yes, I remember travelling on this along with my brothers, we visited the fairground and then returned the same way. My memories are a little vague although I recollect it being a beautiful sunny day! – I think there could be a certificate somewhere amongst my papers and also photos, probably rather poor ones. My father felt we should all experience this mode of travel. I also have the feeling it was incredibly noisy.

  3. Chris Hankin says

    Although the hovercraft certainly “flew” around the Hoylake foreshore from time to time, the service was from the beach near Leasowe lighthouse.
    I can remember cycling along to watch it several times.

    The link below takes you to an Echo report detailing the episode.…/#ixzz21AiMikkQ

    • Chris Hankin says

      The link in my previous comment has been “edited” by the blogsite software – you’ll need to type in the whole of the character string to get the correct connection.

  4. Mike Scott says

    Many locals will remember the trials at the bottom of Stanley Road, and should also remember the real reason behind locating to Leasowe–Well heeled gentry residing in Stanly Road objected to the noise and expected traffic in Stanley Road. Hoylake was always the preferred site with the slipway for refueling the Hovercraft. The demise of the Hovercraft was mechanical failure due to the ingress of sand in to the bearings of the blowers (see Vickers website)

  5. Keith Hatton says

    Yes, I remember my Mum and Dad taking me to see this at Leasowe Lighthouse. It was a very foggy day and I remember being terrified as this monster emerged from the mist – well I must only have been about 5 or 6 years old.
    I also remember a few years later being on Hilbre and watching the hovercraft pass. Wasn’t scared this time as by then I knew what a hovercraft was. This must have been approximately 1965.
    Great video clip,

  6. mason edwards says

    I do remember it, and but probably more from the news clips about it on Look North, than actually going down to the prom and seeing it in the flesh. Strange, as I would have jumped at the chance to see it if it happened nowadays.

    We DID go down to the sand dunes at Meols a few years later 1967? to see the helicopter which landed there one Sunday to lift and ferry the new navigation mast to Hilbre Island – still there to this day I think. We stayed there all day as the pilot waited for calm wind conditions before lifting the mast and taking it the mile or so to Hilbre. Has anyone any photos of that event ? I think the helicopter was a BEA Sea King and the pilot had a “proper”uniform on… or did i imagine that?

    • Chris Hankin says

      Hi Mason – I’ve just seen your note from months ago saying hello….strange to realise it’s so many years since we left Calday.
      Regards, Chris.

      • mason edwards says

        Hi to you too, Chris… yes Calday is a long time ago! You were one of the stalwarts of the School Bus maintenance crew I seem to remember.Cannot imagine anything like that happening nowadays, but what a innovative idea it was at the time. I have not kept in touch with anyone I was at school with.. i saw Len Shackleton on Newsnight last year. He is Vice-Principal of University of East London think. Apart from that…. no one! Judging by your comments on West Kirby Station Yard I assume that you still have a keen interest in railways. I do too…. but you have to keep quiet about it these days. Just off to iron my anorack!
        Best wishes, mason

  7. Pat says

    There was a “VIP” run quite early on during the “trials” from Rhyl to Leasowe but the name of the VIP wasn’t reported so hundreds of people were waiting on the embankment at Leasowe to see who the VIP was and Ken Dodd got off the Hovercraft – apparently he was in a show in Rhyl at the time.

  8. linda whitney-brooks says

    Does anyone have any pics of the first hovercraft trials at Rhyl or Hoylake. All i remember is being on holiday in Cheshire when my auntie who took us to the beach where the trials were taking place.
    I was with my twin sister and we were about 10/11 years old. They actually put us on the Hovercraft and took photo’s and it was being filmed at the same time. Love to see any memorabilia after all these years. Thank. Linda.

  9. David Lawless says

    I can remember holidaying at Rhyl in early 1960’s and seeing a large black hovercraft on the beach but can’t recall seeing it running I think it was beached near to the Rhyl lifeboat

  10. Dave Cummings says

    Never witnessed it as I was born in Liverpool 1965 however I remember my relations who live on the Wirral talking of it when I was a kid. In the mid 1980s I raised the issue (BBC Radio Merseyside, Roger Phillips phone in) of why couldn’t it return, with an option of travel up the North west coast to Blackpool. Now it seems to be in the process of becoming a reality. As I said then “A Hovercraft would enhance-stimulate economic growth, and social-cultural links across our region”

  11. Paul Greening says

    I was 9 at the time and it ran from the end of Pasture Road on the slipway there near the lighthouse.
    I was there as often as could, watching it come and go, it was very impressive and noisy. I can still remember the smell of the fuel.

  12. Gwyn Jones says

    Just having a quick look at this site as the Daily Post this week Jan 2014. is saying that we could have a Hovercraft running again from Rhyl and colwyn bay.
    Seems we have been here before!!
    Hopefully this time could work better engines etc.
    I was under the impression these crafts were not very economical. so could thay not be very good for the marine and environment ?
    This is only a question not based on any facts so hopefully the correct people have looked into this???
    All the best if this works this time. would low to be one if the passengers as I have distant memories of the FIrst craft.

  13. Robert Usher says

    I have some 8mm film my dad took at Hoylake of the hovercraft trials prior to the proposed service from Hoylake. The film was transferred to video twenty or so years ago – I’ll look it out for you. Best regards, Bob

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