As much as we love residing in one of the best cities in the world, nothing beats a weekend escape from the hustle and bustle of Manchester city life and we’re very lucky to have so many picturesque retreats pretty much on our doorstep.
From secluded spots less than an hour’s drive away, to safari parks and award-winning theme parks, it’s the time of the season for a winter staycation and we’ve rounded up our top picks for varying itineraries.
If booze is top of your agenda, there’s some great crawls and cocktail bars that are serving up drinks difficult to contend with and there’s also a plenty places to take the kiddies, too, as we’re aware that you’re probably panicking trying to fill the next few days with worthwhile fun.
There’s no way we were starting this list with anywhere else. Blackpool holds a special place in the heart of many a working class Brit that, over the years, has gained fond memories of long, illuminated tram trips, cruel donkey rides and soggy sandy chips atop the pier. It’s the epitome of British summer time, and is very easy to get to from Manchester for a nostalgic day out.
There wasn’t a year that passed by without us making the hour round trip to the seaside destination, and Blackpool’s famous pleasure beach was always at the top of our list. The theme park attracts thousands of visitors each year seeking thrills on the iconic The Big One, Grand National, or steel shuttle coaster, Revolution, or if you don’t class yourself as a daredevil, you can always opt to hold everyone’s bags.
The seaside town is also complete with a myriad of cracking pubs, which you’ll often catch a drag act or karaoke session in at whatever time of day – and the town’s Latin America Las Iguanas restaurant sits directly below Blackpool Tower, so drink enough Pina Coladas and you could be in Paris.
One of the UK’s most quaint and historic cities, Chester makes for an informative but very enjoyable trip out of Manchester. Complete with city walls and the largest Roman Amphitheatre in Britain, there’s plenty to see and do, as you’ll find yourself standing exactly where Roman legionaries once marched to war.
Its rows, which now house an abundance of independent and more recognised stores, also make for a unique shopping experience as the district is distinguished by 2-level covered arcades, and Tudor-style half timber buildings. There’s also an amazing range of pubs, loads of traditional boozers and some mint places to grab a bit of grub, including Shrub and Telford’s Warehouse.
Marsden is truly one of West Yorkshire’s hidden gems. With peaks, canals, valleys and reservoirs, as well as a burgeoning, up and coming food scene, the village has become a must-visit for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, lace up the walking boots and try some award-winning grub.
The Yorkshire village is also home to BBC’s timeless ‘Last Of The Summer Wine’ series, and, more recently, the BBC Three zombie drama ‘In The Flesh’. Namely for its picturesque setting, the inspiring endless landscape makes it a great popular with filmmakers, artists and creatives alike as its a total retreat from reality that’s complete with a rich, cultural heritage.
A destination that may not automatically spring to mind when planning your next day trip, Buxton is a town full of character that sits right on the edge of the Peak District. Known for being a ‘thermal spa town’ and housing the UK’s oldest National Park which spans stunning ornamental gardens and some incredible Georgian and Victorian architecture, you should book a relaxing getaway to the town as soon as possible!
The Pavilion Gardens are great for a romantic stroll, and the Opera House hosts a programme of one-off, world-class performances from a range of established artists, comedians and theatre companies. If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, though, Buxton also has Go Ape! which will have you wading through the trees like a true wild beast (complete with a rather unsightly harness-induced camel toe).
There’s nowhere quite like rolling Northern hills of The Pennines, and, lucky for us, the destination is only a short journey away from Manchester. Get the train from Victoria to Greenfield and you’ll find yourself in a lovely area of the world, with stunning views, loads of greenery and plenty of sheep.
There’s Uppermill, Delph, Denshaw and Dobcross in the area, too, where you’ll be greeted with some cracking old school boozers, some great walks and the odd fantastic restaurant.
We’re pretty big fans of The Old Bell Inn in Delph, which is a hotel, brasserie and bar with an insane collection of over 600 gins! It’s absolutely perfect for a winter walk, but make sure you also check out the The Bank’s award-winning Sunday Roast and endless list of cocktails.
Somewhere you’d expect to be overrun with pensioners, ancient butchers, one post office and a catholic church is actually one of the best day trips to book yourself out of Manchester. Hebden Bridge is great for walkers, and one of the town’s most exciting trails will take you past Stoodley Pike, ending up at one of the UK’s highest beaches in Todmorden, Gaddings Dam. Providing gorgeous 360º views and one of the best wild swimming spots you’ll find, Gaddings Dam has continued to become hugely popular, especially in the summer months.
Back on dry land, though, there’s plenty of arts and crafts shops in the heart of the town, as well as a mint veggie brunch spot, Leila’s Kitchen and award-winning Greek and Mediterranean retreat, Aya Sophia where you’ll find traditional cuisine and some of the best cocktails in town.
Jodrell Bank & Tatton Park
We’ve combined these two together as they aren’t too far from each other and, when paired, make for a cracking day out. Home of music, science and innovation, Jodrell Bank is a great place for an educational jaunt, especially if you have kids in tow as there’s plenty to keep them occupied, including the Lovell Telescope and the Pavilions which offer state-of-the-art exhibitions for all the family.
Once you’re finished there, head on over to Tatton Park, which is home to a massive Neo-Classical stately home, award-winning gardens, a deer park with real deer and an actual working farm. You can also pre-ordered picnics full of homemade sandwiches and cakes to enjoy out on the grass during the warmer months.
Located over in Cheshire, Delamere Forest gives you a chance to be at one with nature without having to spend your evening in a cramped pop-up tent complete with she-wee. The landscape is truly breathtaking with plenty of activities to keep you busy during a full day of exploring.
The forest sits very close to the town of Frodsham, which is great to stop off for some lunch and a couple of bevs after exhausting yourself with a lengthy walk. Make sure you factor Kash 22 into your day, a pub full of character that often hosts a regular calendar of live music and karaoke. The stage is yours!
Blasphemy, I hear you cry. But Liverpool is mint, and I’m happy to challenge anyone who doesn’t agree with me on that one. There’s absolutely loads to do here, from the coveted Magical Mystery Tour to the British Music Experience Museum that’s complete with Marc Bolan’s outlandish outfits and even Cilla Black’s frocks, you won’t be bored.
If the sun’s out in the city, Liverpool has loads of incredible beer gardens and terraces, head on over to Bold Street and take a waltz around there, or get your drinking hat on and head to Mathew Street for a pretty enjoyable session. There’s loads more places, but I just don’t have the space. However, if the heavens have opened, get yourself to Baltic Market – a huge street food and drink venue that sees burgers, vietnamese cuisine, greek dishes and everything in between make up its menu.
If water sports are your thing, Hollingworth Lake is the place to be. Many Mancs might already be familiar with the school trip destination, which allows visitors to partake in windsurfing, kayaking, canoeing, sailing and rowing. There’s a couple of decent pubs on the shoreline of the lake, with plenty cosy seating, too.
There’s a bike trail that runs past the lake, which will no doubt get you a few chipper ‘hellos’ from those cycling through the area, but if you’re also a keen rider yourself, pop your bike in the car before you head down. Don’t forget your picnic either, as there’s loads of beauty spots to enjoy a disappointing ham and cheese butty.
Knowsley Safari Park
Everyone loves a zoo, especially one that allows you to drive through the enclosures and get up close and personal with a load of monkeys. Apart from your Dad, though, who won’t stop going on about the scratches on the paintwork of his precious Corsa for months after.
Knowsley Safari Park also offers a trail on foot, where you’ll get a glimpse into the lives of sea lions, meerkats, giraffes, and the incredible tiger trail and a huge amusement park for kids with a carousel, roundabout and all the fun of the fair! There’s places to fuel your fun as well, with an outdoor food court and a restaurant and grill also making up the diverse offerings.
Home of the Brontë sisters, anyone with a love for the bleak landscapes and cruel beauty of Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre should definitely give this place a try. At the top of the hill is the Brontë Parsonage Museum, where the brilliant staff will take pleasure in showing you around their house and giving you all the information you could ever need on these literary legends.
On top of that, there’s some corking pubs and food establishments, of which we found that some sort of elaborate ‘crawl’ is the best way to get the most out of the town. There’s also some great little antique shops too, which sell some random goodies – perfect for an afternoon mooch.
The Lake District
A little further out of Manchester, The Lake District is one of those places you could never get bored of. Complete with beautiful landscapes, cosy pubs, quaint little shops and some incredibly fancy hotels if you really want to treat yourself.
Its a vast part of the world, so personally we would recommend heading on over to Bowness-on-Windermere, right on the banks of the lake where you can get a lovely little boat which will take you on the water and over to other imaginatively named towns such as Ambleside or Lakeside.
In Bowness itself, there is a stunning Garden Terrace at The Belsfield Hotel which overlooks the lake, perfect for a few drinks and some excellent food in the sun. I would also highly recommend The Albert Pub, run by Stockport’s Robinsons Brewery – top boozer and they sell Ginger Tom which is amazing.
Another destination not too far at all from Manchester city centre, Macclesfied will take you around 20 minutes to get to and, once you’re there, you’ll be spoilt for choice for things to do.
Once home to Joy Division frontman, Ian Curtis, you can visit where he lived on 77 Barton Street or marvel at the new mural that was erected in the town centre this year. Aside from this, Macclesfield is home to its very own Mackie Mayor-style food hub, Picturedrome Macclesfield and loads of mint bars, which range from traditional inns to more upmarket cocktail bars. If you’re staying over, get up to Tegg’s Nose Country Park the next day for a well-needed detox.
Finally, another beach to round off the list, Southport is only an hours train journey away from Manchester and is great for a short break or staycation. With 22 miles of coastline to explore, you’ll be surrounded by natural beauty and the charm of a traditional seaside town with a number of award-winning restaurants and bars to choose from, too.
Southport Market is also an incredible space, complete with Greek, Canadian, Mexican, Italian and more from ten local, independent traders who cover a variety of cuisines from around the world, and are joined by a stunning feature bar.