Manchester’s location makes it the perfect base for day trips to explore the northern part of the UK, from scenic Yorkshire to the charming Lake District.
Manchester is a city filled to the brim with culture and curiosities. There’s plenty to see and do in this proud, heritage-packed UK city, but its location also makes it the perfect launch pad for a journey of discovery across the wider region.
From the pull of fellow northern cities like Leeds and Beatles-steeped Liverpool to the unrivaled natural beauty of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, there’s a rich variety of attractions across the north of England just waiting to be explored on a day trip from Manchester.
So close that you can be there in an hour from Manchester, the coastal town of Southport is a perfect example of the traditional British seaside resort. Packed with plenty of charm and unashamed of its nods to the past, it’s a joyous place to be when the sun is shining.
Southport has been attracting visitors since Victorian times, and its pier is a stunning throwback to those days. Take a walk along this picturesque structure, suspended above the waves. Check out the vintage attractions and try a traditional ice cream cone.
There’s more to this lovely Lancashire resort than just the pier, though. Visiting Southport will open up over 20 miles of stunning coastline to explore, as well as a range of annual events, from air shows to food and drink festivals. For those with an interest in the arts, the town also hosts a remarkable installation of sculptor Antony Gormley’s trademark iron figures – some 100 of them line Crosby Beach, creating a spectacular scene.
Visit Victorian architecture, traditional souvenir shops and cafes aplenty in Southport. If you haven’t sampled traditional British fish and chips with lashings of salt and vinegar before, this is the perfect place to do it.
Across the Pennine Hills lies Leeds. It’s a similar city to Manchester in many ways, and the two actually share a rivalry dating back through the centuries. Today, that competition remains – especially between the soccer teams of Manchester United and Leeds United, and the cricket clubs of Lancashire and Yorkshire.
Leeds has dramatically upped its game over the last couple of decades, transforming the heart of the city into a vibrant hive of activity. An influx of attractive shopping locations (including a northern outpost of legendary London store Harvey Nichols), swanky cocktail bars and hip eateries have given the city a buzzy, glossy vibe.
But even in the cosmopolitan center, you’re still never too far from a traditional Yorkshire pub. The pick of these is Whitelock’s. The city’s oldest pub first opened its doors in 1715 and is tucked away in a charming little alleyway in the heart of Leeds, complete with plenty of its original charm. Make sure your group has a designated driver before visiting this relic.
Food-wise, Leeds is a match for Manchester, especially since the whimsical and talented chef, Michael O’Hare, first brought a Michelin star to the city at The Man Behind the Curtain. The closest you’ll get to a wondrous Wizard of Oz food experience, you can try dishes such as Black Cod Emancipation, Miyagi oyster strawberry kimchi and wagyu beef with olive juice.
Just around the corner, the more relaxed Ox Club is busy winning plenty of plaudits. An evolving menu is home to some classic dishes – try the cauliflower with romesco and almonds, or one of their meat and fish dishes cooked on a Josper grill.
The Lake District
You’re spoiled for choice if you want to experience some of England’s green and pleasant land from Manchester. Nearby, just to the south-east of the city, sits the Peak District, the UK’s first ever national park. It’s a breathtaking sight to behold, spanning several counties. North of Manchester you’ll skirt around the Forest of Bowland and can also opt to head into the stunning sanctuary that is the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
For now, however, make your way to the Lake District, a stunning area that’s the UK’s most visited national park – and with good reason. You can climb, walk, hike, boat and cycle through the ever-changing scenery here, stopping off to take photo after photo of the gorgeous green backdrop. On top of the scenery, a visit to the Lake District will allow you to transport yourself into a world of imagination.
The literary pedigree of this area is unrivaled, with children’s author Beatrix Potter, romantic poets Coleridge and Wordsworth all having been left spellbound by the area, weaving it into their works for years after. If you can tear yourself away from the spectacle outdoors, head over to the quirky Keswick Museum, or perhaps Wordsworth House – where the legendary poet was born – and Dove Cottage – where he later lived.
Liverpool, much like Leeds, enjoys a fierce soccer rivalry with Manchester, but it’s not the only area where the two are in endless competition. From music to the world of art, the cities’ residents are in constant disagreement over which has the richest heritage – but if you’re a fan of the Beatles then a visit to Liverpool is a must.
There are many opportunities to explore the Fab Four’s heritage around the city. At the Albert Docks, you can visit the Beatles Story museum, complete with mountains of memorabilia and a mini-reproduction of the Cavern Club, the legendary venue where the Beatles first performed and were discovered.
You can visit the (almost) real thing on Mathew Street, where they eventually realized the folly of turning this iconic venue into part of the city’s rail system and opened a carbon copy of the Cavern across the street. Part of the wider ‘Cavern Quarter’, there’s plenty of live music here to this day, but Beatles fans will probably want to sing along with the tribute band that plays here every week.
There’s more to Liverpool than the Beatles though. Take time to check out the countless buildings of architectural importance – including the famous Royal Liver building, topped with statues of a pair of liver birds, the mythical symbol of the city. There’s also the country’s largest cathedral and brilliant museums celebrating natural history, space travel and the city itself in equal measure.
After the hustle and bustle of the busy cities, enjoy a more sedate experience with the slowed down pace of Hebden Bridge across the border in Yorkshire. A market town with a river and canal running through its heart, Hebden Bridge is known for its artistic side. It’s a place overflowing with arts and crafts, artisan eateries and a deep-rooted sense of creativity.
Perhaps that feeling inspired pop star Ed Sheeran, who was born here, or the poet Sylvia Plath, who is buried nearby. The town’s arts festival is the highlight of the annual calendar, and the laidback, bohemian vibe that suffuses Hebden Bridge is testament to its remarkable renaissance from an ailing mill town to one of the north’s brightest cultural stars.
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