We’re an extremely lucky bunch here in Manchester, almost literally surrounded on all sides by areas of outstanding beauty, be it the wild barren landscape of the Pennines, Lancashire’s Ribble Valley, the Lake District and the Peaks – they’re all easily accessible by car or public transport from our city.
As a result, there are some world-class hikes, forest walks, reservoirs, breath-taking landscapes and even waterfalls and beaches that are only an hour or so away on the train – perfect for a little weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Contrary to its name, you won’t find a church in sight along this route on the outskirts of Buxton and Macclesfield – but you will step straight into a prehistoric landscape that wouldn’t feel out of place on the set of Jurassic Park. It may only be a short route, but the scenery is immense. Hidden high up in the moorland over an ancient, wooded valley, Lud’s Church offers a truly atmospheric day out. Sometimes known as Ludchurch, this charismatic chasm was created by a massive landslip on the hillside above Gradbach.
Tegg’s Nose Country Park
Another located just outside of Macclesfield, Tegg’s Nose is a perfect place for walking, rock climbing and in winter a favoured place for sledging where exposed moorland is often snow-covered. Offering stunning views of the Cheshire plain, Tegg’s Nose is rife with history. Dating as far back as the Bronze Age, the area has a burial chamber and you can learn about how the area has been shaped by quarrying since the 16th Century.
The Forgotten Japanese Garden in the Lancashire Hills
If you’ve ever ventured up Rivington Pike you’ll know just how busy that place gets, especially if the sun makes an appearance. Hidden around halfway up the path to the peak is, according to Countryfile in 2014, “one of Britain’s best lost gardens.”. The Japanese Lake is part of the Rivington Terraced Gardens built by the founder of the former Lever Brothers company – now known as Unilever – Lord Leverhulme, who was inspired by one of his trips to Japan. Constructed between 1905 and 1925, The Terraced Gardens were originally filled with Japanese tea houses, lanterns, and exotic plants, and had two gorgeous waterfalls. In the unexpected tranquil oasis, only the lake and stone bases of the tea houses remain, but it is still a gorgeous stop on a walk!
Owned by the National Trust, Lyme Park is a beautiful estate surrounded by gardens, moorland and even a Deer Park. Inside the house, expect to see lavish interiors, Regency era regalia in the Dressing Room and billiards tables in the Long Gallery. A reflecting lake in one of the gardens was actually featured in BBC’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’.
Just beyond Skipton, in the world-famous Yorkshire Dales, discover landscapes forged in the last Ice Age, rare flora and fauna and some of northern England’s most spectacular views. One of the outstanding points of interest around here is Malham Cove, a huge, curved amphitheatre-shaped rock formation outside the picturesque village of Malham. Some might remember this neck of the woods from ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’, others will have seen pictures in countless guide books, postcards and photography exhibitions.
A working forest located in the East of Cheshire and part of the Peak District, you can visit Macclesfield Forest to hike, cycle, bird watch, fish and even horse ride. Originally stretching from the Pennines to the Staffordshire Moorlands, this wooded area includes two reservoirs, a chapel and plenty of pubs to rest your weary feet afterwards, including the famous 18th Century Leather’s Smithy.
South Pennine Water Trail
Starting and ending at Hollingworth Lake in Littleborough, this stunning trail gives you views of not just the lake but also the ‘Everest’ of canals – Rochdale Canal. The canal rises over 55 locks at its highest point of 600ft above sea level on the west of the Pennines. For animal lovers, there’s also a nature reserve and bird hide near the lake. The trail distance is a short 5 miles, with a bit of a testing last stretch, better for those who don’t want to take on a massive hike.
Gaddings Dam – The Highest Beach in England
Located in the high Pennines of Todmorden, it’s probably the last place on Earth that you’d expect to find a beach, but make the trek up there and Gaddings Dam awaits. Originally built in 1833, the dam was made to supply water to the mills in the surrounding areas, and the water provides a rather lovely place for swimming and paddling, whilst the beach is great for catching some rays. There’s also plenty of paths leading away and around the dam – providing even more stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
In the Dark Peak (yes, really) of the Derbyshire Peak District, Kinder Scout is a moorland plateau and National Nature Reserve. On days where the weather is good and clear, views of the city are fantastic and you can even see as far out as Winter Hill near Bolton and on really good days, Snowdonia in North Wales. The most spectacular feature of Kinder Scout has to be ‘Kinder Downfall’, where the Kinder River flows off the plateau into an amazing waterfall.
Just outside Glossop, UFO hotspot Bleaklow lets you explore air crash wreckages and barren wildernesses, a Peak District spot where a US Air Force Boeing Superfortress hit the ground in 1948 flying by rudimentary instruments due to thick cloud and mistakenly thinking they had passed the hilltop. All 13 on board perished. The area is also the site of another crash, this time a Canadian Avro Lancaster Bomber that came down less than two weeks after the war in Europe finished, in May 1945.
Near Castleton, this 2-hour walk takes you to a viewpoint where you can see landscape stretching from Edale Valley to Kinder Scout and the Derwent Waters. Known as the ‘shivering mountain’, Mam Tour is said to be one of the best ridge walks in the country. For the more intrepid explorers, you can opt to extend the route to 8 miles, which includes a walk along the river on your way back to Castleton.
Worsley Village Circular
Bridgewater Canal, the birthplace of the transport revolution is amongst this walk, as well as black and white timbered houses and woodlands. 3 miles in total, there are also a handful of picturesque pubs and restaurants on the canal side that you can enjoy after exploring all the heritage Worsley Village has to offer.
A walk through the picturesque Pennines, to enjoy the best of British vines, and a landscape pockmarked with traditional villages, barren-but-beautiful moorland, and vast expanses of water. Through the barren beauty of the moors and ample reservoirs, you’ll reach Holmfirth Vineyard – the highest wine producing spot in the UK, sitting at 840 feet above sea level. With the area regularly freezing over, only hybrid vines can grow, capable of surviving temperatures as low as -24°C. Our recommendation is a glass of Solaris, a white tipple billed as Britain’s answer to Sauvignon Blanc, and an ideal way to round off an excellent experience.
Arguably one of the most jam-packed walks you could try, opt for the 4 mile or 8 mile to take in the views and scenery of Bolton, Wigan and the West Pennines Moors. Highest Hill walk takes you around the medieval manor house Smithills Hall, Winter Hill and through Barrow Bridge – an old, quaint mill village. At Winter Hill, you will reach heights of 1500 feet, the highest hill in the West Pennines Moors.
Eyam ‘Plague Village’
Not a typical walk or by any means for a light-hearted Sunday stroll, Eyam Walk provides regular reminders throughout about the atrocities endured by people in Eyam during the Plague. Views of Stoney Middleton are then surrounded by Boundary Stone where supplies were left during the plague. You then descend a path into Riley Grave where seven members of the Hancock family are buried, all of whom died within a week of each other, buried by the mother who was the only survivor. Cheery, right? Towards the end of the walk, you will find a Mompesson’s well which was once ladened with vinegar-soaked coins to disinfect them after medicines and food were brought for plague sufferers.
The Pendle Witch Trail
Lancashire’s Pendle Hill is famous for its links to the notorious witch trials of 1612. Beautiful Pennine countryside is visible from Pendle Hill, including the mill towns of Nelson, Colne and Barrowford and Barnoldswick. The main attraction, though, is the sites of the Pendle Witches, where they were tried and sentenced to death over 400 years ago for acts of sorcery. Their story can be followed throughout the walk.
A pine forest full of wonder on the crossing between Glossop and Sheffield. The crossing between Glossop and Sheffield across the north Peaks is majority open moorland, a vast expanse of tonal browns and biting wind, but before you reach the brow on the Glossop side of Snake Rd is a Pine forest full of wonder.
This is a good 20km walk that will definitely blow your cobwebs off after a boozy festive season. The path is nice and easy and pretty consistently flat all the way around but it will take you a good 3-4 hours at a leisurely pace. Also home to The Howden Dam, which you pass around 10 minutes into the beginning of your walk, which was used by Lancaster Bomber pilots to practice bombing runs and targeting. They also tested the legendary ‘Bouncing Bomb’ for the 1943 raid of the dams on the German Ruhr.
Situated in the picturesque Calder Valley — long since prime commuter zone for both Manchester and Leeds — Hebden Bridge is hardly off the beaten track. Explore the stunning surrounding hills and valleys of this historic mill town, including a stop off at the adventure’s crown jewel — the “hidden” waters of Lumb Hole Falls. There’s also the semi-wilderness of Hardcastle Craggs, where an abundance of rock formations score the protected area, ideal for climbing on and over.