10 Top-Rated Day Trips from Manchester
Thanks to its ideal location in the middle of England - and the fact that it's served by a major international airport - Manchester makes an excellent base from which to explore everything this great country has to offer. But before heading too far afield, be sure to take time to explore the many wonderful small towns and villages within an easy drive (or rail trip) from the city. If you do, you'll be rewarded with a chance to enjoy stately old manor homes, including a number run by Britain's National Trust, along with some beautiful countryside. Larger destinations that make great day trips include cities such as Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham, and Coventry, all within an easy commute.
1 Liverpool: Birthplace of the Beatles
Just a short train ride west of Manchester is another of Britain's most visited cities: Liverpool. Visitors come from far and wide to visit the birthplace of The Beatles, taking in such iconic landmarks as Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields, as well as the rebuilt Cavern Club, where the Fab Four thrilled audiences in 1961 before hitting the big time. Other related attractions include the fun Beatles Story in Liverpool's trendy Albert Dock area, with its renovated old warehouses and wharves; Paul McCartney's childhood home on Forthlin Road, now a museum with many interesting displays of Beatles' memorabilia; and the famous Beatles Shop, where fans can get their fix shopping for everything from Fab Four inspired clothing to signed photos and artwork. For those willing to explore these and other Beatles-inspired locations on foot, look into the Cavern Walks, an excellent walking tour around many of the above sites.
2 Little Moreton Hall
Little Moreton Hall is a fun excursion, just 35 kilometers south of Manchester in the pretty village of Congleton. Widely regarded as one of the most impressive half-timbered mansions in England, Little Moreton Hall was built in 1480 and is a perfectly preserved, large multi-storied building with superb half-timbered construction and a pretty inner courtyard, moat, and garden that together paint an excellent picture of rural life in 15th- and 16th-century Cheshire. Now owned and operated by the National Trust, the property offers a number of interesting interpretive tour options (ask for the court jester), as well as a variety of fun events and programs year-round.
Address: Congleton, Cheshire
3 Salford and the Art of L.S. Lowry
Just five kilometers west of downtown Manchester, the university town of Salford lies on the River Irwell and boasts many first-rate attractions, including Ordsall Hall, a 15th-century manor house well-known for its magnificent timbered Great Hall. Also of interest is the Bridgewater Canal, one of the best-preserved historic inland waterways in England. Another must-see is the Lowry Centre, a beautifully designed art gallery as famous for its architecture as it is for its collections. Located on the redeveloped Salford Quays, the Lowry Centre is best-known for its large collection of original works by artist L.S. Lowry, famous for his unique "matchstick" figures set against the backdrop of everyday Salford scenes. In addition to its Lowry collection, the facility also boasts two performing arts theaters.
4 The Old Market Town of Altrincham
About 13 kilometers southwest of Manchester, Altrincham began as a market town in 1290 and makes for a pleasant day trip. Attractions include Stamford Park and its numerous historic sites, as well as the town's medieval market square, with its restored whipping post, a rather somber reminder of the cruel justice once meted out to thieves and those accused of witchcraft. A must-see is lovely Dunham Massey Hall, a spectacular 18th-century National Trust property worth visiting for its extensively replanted grounds, deer park, and watermill. The property's White Cottage is also well worth a visit. Built around 1500 or so, this timber-framed structure is famous for its beautiful trussed open hall.
Ashton-Under-Lyne lies on the Tame River just nine kilometers east of Manchester, and is home to one of the Midland's oldest churches, St. Michael and All Angels. Completed in 1262, this fine old church is in fact one of the best preserved of the 116 medieval churches to be found in the area. Another attraction worth exploring is the Museum of the Manchester Regiment. In the majestic old Ashton Town Hall, this fascinating museum illustrates the history of the Manchester Regiment as well as the local community from the 18th century (check out the excellent exhibition about the history of military medals).
6 The Bolton and Bury Loop
A fun excursion if traveling by car, the Bolton and Bury loop takes you through some of the prettiest countryside north of Manchester. Bolton should be your first stop, where you'll enjoy wandering the nearly 800-year-old town center. Notable landmarks include Bolton Parish Church, completed in 1871, and the Town Hall, opened in 1873. Another great tourist attraction is Hall i'th' Wood, a typical medieval merchant's house containing both Stuart and Georgian furniture. Also worth a visit is Smithills Hall. Set above Ravenden Brook on the lower slopes of Smithills Moor, this 15th-century structure features a nature trail and garden center. Next stop is Bury, a short drive east of Bolton, where you'll find a vibrant arts scene, including a museum, art gallery, and library all under one roof. Also of interest is the Bury Market, located on the same site for the past 600 years and attracting visitors from miles around.
7 Stockport's Tudor Mansions
An easy 30-minute drive southeast of Manchester (or just 10 minutes by high-speed train), Stockport and its surrounds have much to recommend them. Perhaps best known for its famous viaduct built in 1840 - and made famous by local artist L.S. Lowry - the town also contains a great many fine old mansions, the most interesting being beautiful Underbank Hall. With its oldest sections built in the 14th century, this fine Tudor building makes a perfect photo stop, as does the majestic Stockport Town Hall, with its tall wedding-cake-like cupola (the site also serves as home base of the Stockport Symphony Orchestra, who regularly offer first-rate classical concerts). A short drive south of Stockport is the village of Disley, home to splendid Lyme Park, one of the biggest Tudor houses in Cheshire. Highlights include a chance to view the building's detailed decorative work and fine quality furnishings, along with its magnificent country park setting and splendid views. Another landmark home in the area is Bramall Hall, one of Cheshire's most important black and white timber framed houses (1590).
8 Quarry Bank Mill
About 20 kilometers due south of Manchester and easily accessible by car and train, the tiny village of Styal, near Wilmslow, is home to Quarry Bank Mill, Europe's largest working textile museum. Here, in the Apprentice House, you'll see sobering displays relating to the often-difficult lives of the many children forced to work in the cotton industry. As you make your way through the factory, costumed interpreters explain the history of cotton production from bale to bolt, offering a fascinating insight into one of the industries that helped establish the British Empire. Afterward, visit the stunning gardens and stroll to the picturesque village of Styal and through the ancient woods along the River Bollin.
Address: Styal, Wilmslow, Cheshire
Macclesfield, on the Bollin River 27 kilometers south of Manchester, was once one of England's major centers of silk manufacturing and today hosts the Macclesfield Silk Museum highlighting the industry's history. Another attraction of this once important industrial hub is the world-famous Lovell Telescope, a giant dish 76 meters in diameter. Built in 1957 (it was the world's largest steerable radio telescope until 1971) and part of the Jodrell Bank Science Centre and the Nuffield Radio Astronomy Laboratories, the site includes fascinating interactive displays on astronomy, space, energy, and satellites, along with planetarium shows and an arboretum. Also worth a visit is Hare Hill, a nearby National Trust property that includes a lovely walled garden as well as extensive parkland. A little closer to Manchester but on the main Macclesfield road is Alderley Edge, a steep red sandstone escarpment enjoyed by day trippers attracted by the rolling fields and surrounding woodland.
Picturesque Knutsford, about 21 kilometers southwest of Manchester, is noted as a popular dining destination thanks to its many splendid restaurants. It's also famous for being the setting of author Elizabeth Gaskell's best-selling Cranford novel. A must-see is nearby Tatton Park, one of Northern England's most popular historic attractions. Highlights include a 1930s working farm, a medieval old hall, and a magnificent mansion, along with a deer park set amid 1,000 acres of parkland and lakes. Also, be sure to visit Uppermill, the largest village in Saddleworth, with its museum, craft shops, and tearooms. Home to the Rushcart Festival each August, it's a great place to catch a glimpse of England's famed Morris Dancers.