Go to any seaside town in the UK and you won’t be able to turn around without coming across a shop that sells sticks of rock. On a trip to the beach, buying a stick of rock is as traditional as taking your bucket and spade.
Having threatened many a tooth filling on this stuff as a child, I’ve always had a fondness for it, but never really eaten it since then. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I live in Scotland and with our climate; there aren’t a lot of opportunities to get to the seaside.
Although there a number of European countries who make rock, there are few other places where it has become as synonymous with its home as the rock from Blackpool.
For anybody out there who has never tried it, it comes in cylindrical sticks, think the shape of a magic wand, and is made from a diet-destroying mixture of sugar and glucose syrup. Its main feature is the lettering which runs through it, usually the name of the town it’s being sold in.
You may think it’s quite a simple thing to make, but it is a specialized skill and is hand made by a “Sugar Boiler” as it cannot be made in single bars due to the method of production.
First of all, the sugar and syrup are boiled up to approximately 300 degrees and then poured onto cooling tables, where the mixture is divided up, some will form the coloured part of the rock and the lettering, and the rest will form the white centre of the stick of rock.
The lettering of the rock is made by layering strips of coloured and white toffee is a delicate job and letters which are rounded have to be made last as the toffee is still quite soft at this point and could lose their shape when the rock is assembled. Once the letters have been made, they will be assembled in the correct order, each with a strip of white toffee between them, so the words are legible.
The core of the rock is then sandwiched between the layers of lettering and this is then encased in the coloured outer casing. The rock is then placed into a piece of machinery called a batch roller which helps it to keep its shape as it is pulled into long strips and then cut into the desired length and is ready to be wrapped.
It is probably an unwritten law somewhere that if you visit Blackpool you have to buy a stick of rock from the Pier. It’s probably also a certainty that you will visit Blackpool Tower when you’re there.
The tower opened in 1894 and took inspiration from the Eiffel Tower; it is also a Grade 1 listed building. In addition to being one of the UK’s most recognisable landmarks, in its time it has also been used as a radar station, an FM radio transmitter and for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, the top of the tower was painted silver in commemoration.
The tower is open every day except Christmas Day, and for more information, visit the website so you can plan your visit.
Staying in Blackpool can present visitors with problems are there are hundreds of hotels and B&s in the area, so you can be spoiled for choice. One of the nicest hotels you could choose is the Village Urban Resort Blackpool (formerly the Blackpool Heron’s Reach). No matter what you’re visiting Blackpool for, the hotel will give you a luxurious base to stay while you enjoy all the sights and sounds that it has to offer. Each room is fitted with comfy beds, flat screen TVs and satellite and free Wi-Fi if you need it. So after you experienced the entertainment of the town you can head back to your hotel room and relax.