On the 15th of July, thousands of athletes from around the world will descend upon Bolton to take on the 2018 UK Ironman triathlon.

This will be the tenth time the race has taken place in Bolton since the race moved from Sherborne in 2009. Since then, Boltonians have gained a reputation for their extraordinary enthusiasm and support for the athletes that other races around the world struggle to match.

If you’re planning on watching this year’s UK Ironman, you should choose a spot that gives you a combined view of all the different things on offer, from seeing the athletes in action to the plentiful live entertainment.

We’ve picked out 6 of our favourite spots in and around Bolton to make sure you get the most from the action.

Pennington Flash

  • Directions: Sign posted from the A580 East Lancs Road. Follow the signs for Pennington Flash from the A580 East Lancs and turn onto the A579 Atherleigh Way. Take a left onto the A572 St Helens Road. You’ll see the entrance across from Leigh Fire Station. For sat nav users, the postcode is WN7 3PA.
  • Parking: Pennington Flash car park, £1.20 for 2 hours.
  • Best to see: Swimming
  • Best time to be there: 5.30am till 8.30am

If you’re enough of an early bird, you should get down to Pennington Flash to watch the Ironman race kick off.  In the icy waters of the lake, the athletes will take on the first part of their epic Ironman journey: a vicious 2.4-mile swim. It’s a savage start that sets the tone for the rest of the race for all the athletes involved and a real spectacle to watch.

A children’s play area and plenty of picnic benches make it an ideal location for families. Why not bring along some breakfast to share and make a real morning of it?

Sheephouse Lane

  • Directions: Take the A58 North from junction 5 of the M61. Join Chorley Old Road, following it until it becomes Lee Lane. Turn into Hope St. Turn left onto Fearnhead Ave, then turn right onto Rivington Lane.
  • Parking: Rivington Hall Barn, free.
  • Best to see: Cycling
  • Best time to be there: 8am to 11pm

UPDATE: Due to the recent fires on Winter Hill, Sheephouse Lane will no longer be included on this year’s course.

Sheephouse lane has become a notorious spot for pushing cyclists to their limits. It’s a gruelling 1km climb against an elevation of 183 metres: that’s an agonising 22% gradient on average. The athletes will need the full support of spectators here, perhaps more so than anywhere else on the course.

Thankfully, supporters come out in droves to cheerlead those brave souls battling the hill. Expect a Tour de France atmosphere coupled with the vibes of a music festival; spectators come in fancy dress and cheer on triathletes as they toil against the punishing ascent.

There’s even
a group of Mexican wrestlers that congregate at the top of the hill each year, brandishing motivational slogans like “Don’t stop when you’re tired —- stop when you’re done” and “Don’t watch the clock: do what it does and keep going!”

Hilldale

  • Directions:  From Pennington Flash, you join the M6 at junction 23 and travel north to junction 27. From there take the A5209 Hall Lane to the B5246 Lancaster Lane to the Chorley Rd in Hilldale.
  • Parking: The Farmer’s Arms, paid (normally £2 per car).
  • Best to see: Cycling
  • Best time to be there: 8.30am till 12pm

Since the Iron Man came to Bolton ten years ago, the sleepy village of Hilldale has become an annual festival of fun, attracting thousands of excited spectators each year. It’s handily located on the loop section of the cycling route, which means there are two opportunities to see the athletes: once at the 40-mile mark and another at around the 90th. This makes Hilldale a great all-day spot for supporters to get a good glimpse of the riders, with pubs and cafes to keep them occupied in the interim.

Adlington

  • Directions: Follow the A579 Atherleigh Way through Atherton and then joining the M61 at J5. Travel up the M61 and join the A6 from junction 6. Head north on the A6 to get to Adlington high street.
  • Parking: Street parking available along Bolton road
  • Best to see: Cycling
  • Best time to be there: 9.30am to 1pm.

If you’re lucky enough to bag a spot in Adlington, you’ll be able to see your athlete a full three times before their transition to the run.

If it’s sunny, make sure you arrive early enough to reserve a bench in one of Adlington’s many beer gardens so you can watch the cyclists fly by while you and the family tuck into some proper northern pub grub and sip on a midday pint.

If you want to get to the running course later on, stay on the southern side of the track: it’ll make it much easier to navigate the road closures.

Queen’s Park

  • Directions: Entering Bolton from Hunger Hill, continue straight along the A58 onto the A676 until you reach the intersection at Bolton College, then go left onto College Way. Once you’re over the bridge, turn right onto Spa Road and Queen’s Park is on your left.
  • Parking: Topp Way on Duke Street (BL1  2DJ), Deane Road on Wellington Street (BL3 5DX) and the Octagon car park on Great Moor Street (BL1 1TN) are all free on race day.
  • Best to see: Running
  • Best time to be there: 12pm to 6pm

This year, the second transition has moved from the Macron Stadium in Horwich to Bolton town centre, so athletes and their supporters only need to plan their movements around two key locations: Pennington Flash and the centre of Bolton.

If you want to catch transition 2 (the transition between cycling and running), head down to Queens Park, only a ten-minute walk from the town centre. Grab a spot here and you can watch all the athletes finish their cycling stint and switch over to the final run.

Le Mans Crescent

  • Directions: Walk into town from Queen’s Park along Spa Road and take a right where Deansgate ends to walk towards Victoria Square where the town hall is. Le Mans Crescent is behind Bolton town hall.
  • Parking: Topp Way on Duke Street (BL1  2DJ), Deane Road on Wellington Street (BL3 5DX) and the Octagon car park on Great Moor Street (BL1 1TN) are all free on race day.
  • Best to see: Running, race end
  • Best time to be there: 4pm to Midnight

This is it: the finish line. This is the place to be for those who want to capture the mix of pride and disbelief on the faces of those few athletes that complete the full 140 miles demanded of them. It’s an incredible achievement, and those that get a spot at Le Mans Crescent can be there to witness it.

The best part is that there’s a huge after party there as well.  Whether you’re cheering on your friend or family member, or simply don’t want to miss out on the celebrations, Le Mans Crescent is the place to be.