Manchester’s a fabulous city with lots to do but, if you fancy escaping the hustle and bustle, you’ll find beautiful countryside, charming seaside towns and world-class theme parks waiting to be explored. Luckily, you don’t need a car (or expert map reading skills) to see everything that’s on offer near Manchester. The city has fantastic transport links just waiting to connect you with some intriguing locations. And when you’ve finished your day trip, it’s good to know you can flop down into your bed at your local Premier Inn.
Still the most popular resort in Britain, Blackpool attracts ten million visitors a year. Take the train from Manchester Piccadilly and less than an hour and a half later you can be playing the arcades, eating fish and chips or visiting the Pleasure Beach amusement park. Millions are being pumped into the town to bring it right up to date, but there’s still plenty of seaside nostalgia to be had, like the tea dances at the Tower Ballroom.
You could drive to Edale in the heart of the Peak District. But if you did, you’d be missing a treat. The village is just 45 minutes by train from Manchester Piccadilly, but it’s one of the most scenic lines in the UK. Once you get here you’ll find that Edale is incredibly pretty, but it’s the walks that really draw people here. Lying just below a plateau called Kinder Scout, it’s also the start of the Pennine Way, the UK’s most picturesque footpath.
Yes, the queues can be long. Yes, the car park can be packed. But if you love the exhilaration of rollercoaster-riding, you’ll find Alton Towers worth the two-hour drive from the centre of Manchester. The theme park has some world beating rides, like the brand new virtual reality rollercoaster called Galactica. But if being utterly terrified doesn’t float your boat, there are more gentle attractions, as well as a water park and an aquarium.
Penny arcades, a model railway village, boats you can hire on Marine Lake – Southport’s been a popular resort since Victorian times, and many of its popular pastimes haven’t changed that much. It’s just over an hour away from Manchester by train but well worth the trip, particularly if your visit coincides with the annual Southport Flower Show. Held in August, it attracts 50,000 green-fingered people to the town.
Just 20 miles from Manchester, this magnificent 19th century mansion sits within a 1,000-acre deer park. There’s also 50 acres of landscaped gardens, an adventure playground and woodland trail. Children will love Tatton Park Farm, where they can feed the goats, meet the donkeys and even milk a wooden cow. A National Trust property, Tatton Park has a year-round calendar of events, including the RHS Flower Show.
Half an hour away from Manchester, Hebden Bridge is a quirky market town that’s gathering an amazing reputation for its art and culture. Music is big here – Ed Sheeran was born in the town and legends like Patti Smith and the Fall have performed at the Trades social club. But there’s plenty of non-music activities, too. Explore the independent shops and cafes, or lace up your walking boots for a stroll along the river.