It’s not all about the bright lights and urban attractions when you’re on a Manchester city break - unless you want it to be! The city is blessed with miles of beautiful countryside, plus there’s a smattering of great National Trust properties right on its doorstep. And all just a stone’s throw away from one of our Manchester hotels, to boot.
Take the thought-provoking living museum called Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire. This Grade II-listed former textile mill is now owned by the National Trust and it’s so well-preserved, it’s now one of Britain’s finest industrial heritage sites. Close to Manchester Airport, it makes a great day trip if you’re booked into the Premier Inn Manchester (Wilmslow) before you catch your flight, because it’s only a mile and a half away from your hotel.
Once the hub of Britain’s cotton industry, and with a beautiful setting on the banks of the river Bollin, the mill is part of the Styal Estate. A simple, four-storey structure when it was first built in 1784, it expanded to become the headquarters of one of the largest textile businesses in the world. As Quarry Bank Mill grew, nearby farm buildings on the estate were converted into accommodation for the workers, some as young as eight. Today, you can look around the Apprentice House and really get a feel for how the children lived and worked. But while the mill gives a fascinating glimpse at the lives of an entire industrial community, it’s not just for history buffs. Quarry Bank Mill also has delightful gardens to wander around, plus riverside walks and caves to explore.
Experience what life was like for the Greg family, the mill’s rich owners, by touring their house and exploring gardens where exotic fruits and vegetables were grown just for them. Then prepare for a stark contrast at the cramped, confined Apprentice House, where children lived under the stern eye of the mill superintendents.
Experience all the sights and sounds of the mill for yourself, from the roar of the machinery to the hiss of the steam engines. With updated galleries and interactive installations, you’ll feel like you’re living the Industrial Revolution.
The Apprentice House
The mill’s cheap labour was provided by apprentices, children as young as eight often taken from workhouses. Take a guided tour of where they lived, ate and slept and see the garden that they tended to provide their own vegetables.
The grounds are extensive but worth the effort to explore. Follow the path of the river Bollin and cross the folly bridges, then visit the three beautifully-kept gardens. Best of all is the kitchen garden with its restored glasshouse, still growing an array of exotic fruits.
During school holidays, Quarry Bank Mill plays host to lots of fun activities. Recent events have included a children’s literary festival where kids could meet their favourite authors and take part in creative workshops and craft. There’s also been history-packed interactive trails.
With so much to see and do, expect to spend the whole day here, and be sure to arrive early as it can get quite busy.
You’ll find Quarry Bank Mill Styal, Cheshire, SK9 4LA and its phone number is 01625 445896. The grounds open from 8am to 6pm each day, but the National Trust buildings like the mill and Apprentice House open from 10am until 5pm.
At the gift shop you’ll find lots of lovely items made with cloth from the mill’s own heritage looms. There are baby-change facilities, a children's play area and family trails. Dogs on leads are welcome, and there’s woodland for them to play in.
Free for National Trust members, if you need to buy a ticket go to the Visitor Reception. Separate Apprentice House tour tickets are available, while tickets for the whole property cost £12 for adults, £6 for children.
You’ll find designated disabled parking in the main car park. There’s a buggy transfer service for those with limited mobility or in wheelchairs and a Tramper all-terrain mobility scooter available for visitors. Call 01625 527 468 to book.
If fitness is your thing, head to nearby Energi Trampoline Park in Handforth. Just over a mile away from Quarry Bank Mill, an hour of bouncing will cost you under £11. But there are also special Energi Fit sessions to tone up muscles you never even knew you had, along with a cracking soundtrack of disco hits.
If you’re staying in a hotel near Quarry Bank Mill to catch a flight from Manchester Airport, don’t miss the Runway Visitors Park. Perfect if you’ve got a few hours to kill before take-off, it’s free to get in and the raised grass mounds give you front row seats to the runway. There’s a restaurant, coffee shop and children’s play area, as well as a Concorde tour (which you do have to pay for) that lets you climb aboard the flagship airliner and experience its luxurious leather seats for yourself.
From take-away snacks you can eat outside with your four-legged friends, to full sit-down meals, you won’t leave Quarry Bank Mill hungry! But should you decide to eat elsewhere, nearby Wilmslow has plenty of options.
The Mill Cafe
With a building as beautiful as the view of the river Bollin below, this stunning cafe is situated in the old Weaving Shed, built in the 1830s. Everything on offer here is fresh and in season and there are daily specials to choose from. Popular choices are the sandwiches and soup, or the homemade cakes. It’s open between 12pm and 2.30pm.
The Garden Cafe
Sun got its hat on? Make your way to the Garden Cafe. Right in the heart of the beautiful upper garden, it’s a lovely spot to grab a light lunch, hot snack, slice of cake or an ice-cream. The glass building is stunning to look at and has a retractable roof to bring the outside in. Eco-friendly, all the crockery and cutlery is made of recyclable corn starch.
Fancy a coffee and a snack to take away? Head to the Pantry for a cuppa - and a delicious slice of homemade cake to go with it. In the summer it’s the perfect spot for an ice cream, but it’s worth stopping by in winter, too, when you’ll find hearty homemade soup, toasted sandwiches and paninis - as well as fresh water for your furry friends.
The Ship Inn
When you’ve finished soaking up the history, head to the pub on the Styal Estate which boasts plenty of history of its own. The Ship dates back 350 years to when it was a farm building used to store manure. Luckily it smells much sweeter today, thanks to the 260 year-old wisteria growing up the front. But it’s even more lovely inside, with low-lighting, wood panels and flickering candles, as well as a crackling fire in winter. Drinks-wise there are real ales and craft beers, but it’s the food that’s the real draw. Made with local produce, the menu is quirky. But if the giant scotch egg and brown sauce don’t tempt you, you’ll find something you enjoy on the sharing board of pub nibbles, from cockles to baby bangers.
Fancy a meal at Her Majesty’s Pleasure? Your family may think you’ve gone mad when you suggest a posh lunch at Styal Prison, but a meal at the Clink is nothing short of a five-star experience. Opened in April 2015, this innovative restaurant not only offers a high-end dining experience full of modern British dishes, it also aims to improve the lives of the staff - all women prisoners working towards a City & Guilds NVQs in Food Service and Food Preparation. There’s no alcohol on offer, but that doesn’t detract from the service - or the quality of the food. Expect a gourmet menu that includes pan-fried lamb rump, confit pork belly and spinach-infused pappardelle with pesto.
Quarry Bank Mill is about ten miles south of Manchester city and you can get there by car, train, bus or taxi.
Follow signs for Manchester Airport, then take the B5166 to Cheadle. Stay on the B5166 past Styal village and you’ll see the signposts to Quarry Bank Mill.
From Manchester Airport take the number 200 bus towards Wilmslow. It’s a 20-minute journey that drops you off at the gates of Quarry Bank Mill, but only runs once an hour.
Nearest train stations are Manchester Airport or Wilmslow, both just two miles away. From here you could jump on a bus, but these aren’t very frequent, so a taxi is best.
To improve and personalise your visit we use first and third party marketing and analytical cookies. By using this site you agree to this. You can withdraw your consent at any time. See our Cookie notice for information on how to block or disable cookies.
Cookies, pixel tags and similar technologies we use
First and third party cookies and similar technologies are used on this site to provide a personalised online experience, commercial messages tailored to your interests, advertising based on your browsing habits and for measurement purposes to improve our site, services and interest based content and adverts. By using our site, you agree to cookies and such technologies being used and the sharing of your data with our trusted affiliates and partners. You can find out more and withdraw your consent at any time.
See our Cookie Notice for full information including how to block or disable them. To accept cookies, click I consent.