Evolving from its industrial past, Manchester has taken up a proud place in more recent years as a city of innovation, with culinary, musical and cultural scenes that are thriving. What’s more, just a little way out of the city, there’s even more variety to explore. To the west are stretches of seaside, while heading north or east takes you to some of the largest national parks in the UK. From nearby cities to quaint villages and market towns, we round up some of the best places to get to in under 90 minutes for a day trip from Manchester.
Tudor-style half-timber buildings line the streets of Chester, originally founded as a Roman fortress. Reachable in roughly an hour by car or train from Manchester, the city is still known for its extensive Roman sandstone walls that envelop the town. Chester Cathedral, the Eastgate Clock and the Roman amphitheatre are among the city’s most popular spots for visitors, but there are also plenty of restaurants, cosy pubs and boutiques occupying the medieval buildings, while the River Dee can make for a scenic stroll. Head to Lower Bridge Street near Old Dee Bridge for a selection of old Tudor-style and Victorian-heritage pubs.
2. Port Sunlight
Driving west for just over an hour to Merseyside will bring you to the historic village of Port Sunlight. Here, 900 Grade II-listed buildings line wide boulevards with landscaped parks and woodland dotted in between. The village was the project of entrepreneur and industrialist William Hesketh Lever, whose aim was to provide housing for soap-factory workers. A walk around the village, with visits to the Port Sunlight Museum and Lady Lever Art Gallery, reveals a space bristling with history and creativity — every building has its own unique design. Walking tours are available to book from the Port Sunlight Village Trust’s website, and there are tea rooms and cosy pubs where you can fuel up along your route.
Head south on the train to the edge of the Peak District and you’ll reach the pretty village of Congleton in about 40 minutes. Here, Little Moreton Hall is worth a visit — the beautiful old building is one of the most notable half-timbered mansions in England. Having been restored and preserved since being built in 1508, it’s now run by the National Trust. The hall hosts a selection of events throughout the year, and has a restaurant and tearoom. Elsewhere in Congleton, the Macclesfield Canal runs through the town, where you can embark upon peaceful walks surrounded by countryside.
4. Peak District
To the southeast of the city is yet another national park filled with dramatic landscapes. Reachable in roughly an hour by car, the Peak District has numerous moorland plateaus and valleys to hike through, as well as caves, rivers and other wildly beautiful spots. A more gentle walk through Padley Gorge encompasses ancient woodland, shallow streams and large flat rocks, while The Roaches, a gritstone ridge, provides a more challenging route with the reward of exceptional panoramic views. The thermal-spa town of Buxton is a great point to stop for food or rest ahead of the trip back to Manchester.
5. Delamere Forest
Roughly an hour’s drive southwest from Manchester, Delamere Forest in Cheshire is a scenic 2,400-acre plot of woodland laced with deciduous and evergreen trees. There are Segway tours for those wanting to explore the breadth of the forest, but the landscapes here are stunning and there are plenty of hiking, cycling and horse-riding trails running throughout if you wish to see the forest at a gentler pace. Above the serene strolls, a Go Ape tree-top adventure playground is spread over the estate, where you can climb over platforms and swing from ropes up high.
6. Hebden Bridge
A breather from the hustle and bustle of city life, Hebden Bridge is a leafy market town in West Yorkshire’s Upper Calder Valley that’s roughly a 30-minute train journey from Manchester Victoria. There’s a string of small towns to check out in the area, all with plenty of independent shops to browse and restaurants to dive into, with Hebden Bridge at the epicentre. Its popularity has recently resulted in a younger demographic setting down roots — coffee shops, craft stalls and pubs now dot the town, while regular antique markets draw crowds from further afield.
7. The Pennines
The Pennines runs as an almost continuous line of mountain ranges and hills, separating North West and North East England. Getting the train from Manchester Victoria to Greenfield (20 minutes) lands you in a great spot to explore the area, on the western end of the Chew Valley, surrounded by hills and lush grassland. Excellent walks along the Pennine Bridleway trail — alongside cosy pubs in which to fuel up, such as The Old Bell Inn with its record-breaking collection of more than 1,000 gins — start from Uppermill, Delph, Denshaw and Dobcross.
8. Lake District
Rugged mountains, glacial ribbon lakes and manicured fields dominate this national park region in Cumbria. Hit the traffic right and you can reach the Lake District in under 90 minutes by car from Manchester city centre. Lake Windermere is one of the most southerly and easiest points to access for a day trip — it’s also one of the largest of the lakes and has 18 islands. Pack walking boots and hike around the terrain or opt for a watersport activity, such as paddleboarding. The nearby market town of Kendal is a great spot for refreshment or browsing local art galleries.
This seaside town on the fringes of the Irish Sea makes for a wonderful coastal escape that’s about an hour and 20 minutes by car or train from Manchester. It has 22 miles of coastline lined with beaches and footpaths, and the town is dotted with boulevards, Victorian buildings and scenic gardens. The pier draws the crowds for its classic seaside style, complete with a buzzy arcade and takeaway shops touting fish and chips. For a more active coastal trip, the Trans Pennine Trail is a great walking and cycling route connecting Southport and Hornsea in East Yorkshire.
Another of the most visited cities in the UK, Liverpool is reachable in 40 minutes by train from Manchester. Famously, it’s the birthplace of The Beatles, and as such, there are many landmarks, tours, attractions and memorabilia around the city to explore. Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields are some of the top hits for day trips, as are some of the warehouses and wharves around the Royal Albert Dock area, including the Tate Liverpool museum and art gallery. There’s been an influx of bars and restaurants opening in the city, too — Bold Street or Mathew Street provide plenty of options.
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