You may be staying in one of our Manchester hotels to enjoy the bright lights of this buzzing, metropolitan city, but if you fancy a break from the hustle and bustle, you’ll find plenty of green space right on your doorstep. Despite its cool, urban feel, Manchester has 138 parks, 31 of which have been awarded the Green Flag award for excellence.
But best of them all is a park that’s three miles north of the city centre. Heaton Park is a green oasis so huge that seeing it all would take you all day. At 600 acres, it’s even bigger than Hyde Park - and equally as famous. Not only does it host the legendary Parklife Festival each summer, it’s also played host to the BBC's Proms in the Park and both Oasis and the Stone Roses have played gigs here. And, while it’s lovely to walk by the boating lake, picnic in the woodlands or admire one of the ornamental gardens, there’s so much more to do here than stroll. There’s a free animal park, a treetop adventure playground, several historic buildings and sporting opportunities from golf to orienteering.
If that’s got you tempted, you’ll be pleased to hear that the Premier Inn Heaton Park is just a stone’s throw away from all of its many attractions. The hotel’s well connected to the city centre making your visit to Manchester a walk in the park!
From rock concerts to sports events, nature trails to yoga, there’s always something going on in the Heaton Park.
The highlight of the park’s calendar of musical events has to be Parklife, the summer festival that attracts over 140,000 festival goers, along with some of the world’s best bands and DJs. But it’s not all about dance music. Both Oasis and the Stone Roses have played here in the past, and there have been some fantastic outdoor classical concerts by the renowned Halle Orchestra.
From Easter egg hunts to spooktacular Halloween fun runs, Heaton Park has a packed calendar of seasonal events. It plays host to the city’s biggest fireworks display and at Christmas there’s a winter fun fair and Santa’s Grotto. Then, when the temperature rises, a huge artificial beach and paddling pool arrives as part of the park’s annual Come To The Beach event.
Walks and talks
Throughout the year there are free guided walks as well as talks on everything from astronomy to beekeeping - check out the Heaton Park website to see if one coincides with your visit. There are weekly health walks for people of all ages and, while Heaton Hall is not generally open to the public, it does open for Heritage Tours on selected days throughout the year.
Heaton Park is a runner’s paradise, whatever distance you like to jog. There are Halloween and Christmas fun runs, plus a Parkrun every Saturday at 9am where you race the clock to complete your 5km in your best time. In the summer you’ll find outdoor yoga and zumba, as well as the chance to show off your rowing skills - you can hire boats on the lake, weather permitting!
Within the park is a fabulous ornamental building called The Temple which sits on the highest point in Manchester. On a clear day, it’s worth the hike up here for views right across the city and beyond.
The Temple used to be an observatory and it’s a tradition the park continues today. The Heaton park astronomy group run free stargazing sessions every Thursday from September to March, starting at 7pm at the bowls pavilion.
From where to head for a round of golf to how to get around in a wheelchair, we’ve got all the essentials covered.
Heaton Park is open from 8am until dusk every day, and you’ll find it at Middleton Road, Higher Blackley M25 2SW. The park is so huge that you may need a map - you can download one from the Manchester City Council website, or pick one up from the office at the Animal Centre.
There’s a recently refurbished playground where all the slides and climbing frames have a UFO theme. When they’ve finished swinging and climbing, take them to the Animal Centre to pet (but not feed!) the chickens, alpacas and goats. If they prefer messy play, go to the garden centre to find The Place To Potter - an arts cafe with mud kitchens, paint and crafting.
The park has its own 18-hole municipal golf, course as well as a fun pitch and putt. But if golf’s not your thing, why not try orienteering? Pick up a map at the Animal Centre for a small fee, and then navigate the seven different difficulty levels. For the more adventurous, there’s Treetop Nets, an adventure playground high up in the tree canopy which costs £20 for up to two hours.
All areas of the park are accessible by paths, but some areas are quite steep. There’s a disabled toilet at the Animal Centre but you’ll need a RADAR key. The park’s car parks have disabled spaces and in the playground you’ll find plenty of accessible swings and slides designed with accessibility in mind.
If spending a day in Heaton Park has given you a taste for nature, get even more of the great outdoors at Blackley Forest Nature Reserve. Just a short walk away, this woodland was planted by local residents in 1953 and is now a stunning nature reserve with the River Irk running through it.
You’re also not far from the pretty town of Prestwich which is well worth a look around. It’s full of independent shops, bars and cafes - and has a real village feel.
With 600 acres of rolling parkland, ornamental gardens and magical woodlands, you won’t be short of a picnic spot. But if you didn’t bring your hamper, the park has three cafes to enjoy - and plenty of eating and drinking options beyond its gates.
The Stables and Pavilion Cafe
Both of these Heaton Park cafes are run by social enterprise Eat Pennines which helps train local young people. While the Pavilion is an ice cream parlour that also serves coffee and milkshakes, if you’re looking for lunch, head to the Stables adjacent to the old working farm. With beautiful views across the Pleasure Grounds, there’s fabulous afternoon tea, sandwiches and hot food - with local beers and a selection of fabulous ‘Kilner Cocktails’ to wash it all down. It even has its own deli, where you can take home some Heaton Park honey, made by the park’s very own bees. Both venues are open from 9am until dusk.
Hidden Gem Coffee Shop
When it’s cold outside, head to the Hidden Gem cafe at the Heaton Park garden centre to warm up. It’s always nice and toasty, because it’s in a greenhouse - it even has its own 800 year old grapevine! Take a seat to enjoy unspoilt views of the garden beyond, then choose what to eat! There’s coffee and teas served with homemade organic cakes and pastries, or go for something more substantial. Food here is seasonal, locally sourced and organic, from summer salads to delicious stews. Open from 9.30am to 4.30pm every day, everything you eat comes with uninterrupted views of the surrounding gardens beyond.
The Friendship Inn
Consistently winning rave reviews for its food and service, the Friendship Inn is less than a ten-minute walk away from the southern-most edge of the park. Great if you just fancied a quick drink, this pub has a warm and welcoming atmosphere, a good wine list and a choice of six ales on tap. But if all that walking has given you an appetite, you’re in luck. The food here is hearty and wholesome, with home-cooked pies and large portions of tasty roasts the order of the day.
Beefeater Heaton Park
For a family-friendly option that’s closest to the park, try the Beefeater Heaton Park. Right on Middleton Road just outside the gates, it’s famous for its delicious steaks and traditional, lip-smacking desserts, but you could just tuck into a sharing platter if you fancied something smaller. There’s a great kids menu, as well as a little play area and colouring activities to keep the kids entertained (if they’re not already worn out by their trip to the park, that is!).
Just three miles north of the city centre, Heaton Park is very well connected. But is it best to get there by car, bus or tram?
Car parks can be found near St Margaret's Road, the Sheepfoot Lane entrance and the Smithy Lodge entrance on Middleton Road.
Heaton Park is easy to get to by bus, and is served by the following routes: 135, 59, 64, 484, 495, 164 and 165.
To get to Heaton Park from the city centre using the Metrolink, get on the Bury line and get off at the Heaton Park stop.
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