Manchester always holds a special place in my heart as my university city. In fact, I loved it so much that I stayed there for another 5 years after graduation – between travels, of course! During my many years in Manchester, I got to know that best day trips that are easily doable by car or train and I’m sharing the best day trips from Manchester with you today.
If I could give you one piece of advice it’s this – it rains a lot in Manchester and surrounding areas – make sure that you have a rain jacket and prepare yourself for changeable weather!
Top Day Trips from Manchester
Blackpool tends to get a bit of bad press which is a little unfair, there’s still plenty of things to do and enough of a good time in the town to truly enjoy yourself. Sure, it’s not the Victorian times anymore, and the beach is a cold, desolate place, but head to one of the many boozers, or some of the fantastic attractions and you’ve got yourself a cracking day out.
At the top of the list is Blackpool Pleasure Beach, which still entertains thousands of people each year with its rickety rollercoasters and The Big One (once called the Pepsi Max). There is even a brand-new rollercoaster named ICON which is brilliant. Of course, there is also Blackpool Tower, as well as a new Madame Tussauds, the Piers, loads of pubs and bars, and multiple high-quality hotels.
A visit to Chester is a must, with its huge Tudor-style half-timber buildings stretching as far as the eyes can see. Yet it’s a small and walkable city, and possible for you to see a lot in 24 hours in Chester. Famed for it’s quality shopping, Chester is a beautiful, compact centre, surrounded by the ancient city walls, providing the perfect path to explore a little further such as the Roman Amphitheatre, the River Dee or even the racetrack. There are also plenty of lovely pubs around here too such as The Old Boot Inn on Eastgate.
It’s also a short bus ride from the centre to Chester Zoo where you can gaze at some elephants and see some meerkats. Chester is one of the best day trips from Manchester.
Situated right on the edge of the Peak District, Buxton is an ideal distance away from Manchester and a great place to go and spend the day. This is the perfect day trip from Manchester if you love hiking and outdoor scenery.
If you’re into caves there’s the Pooles Cavern, with Go Ape next door if you fancy putting on a harness. Down in the town centre, not only is there a little fountain where you can fill up your water bottle with pure, spring Buxton water, there’s the stunning Pavilion Gardens which are perfect for a romantic stroll and frolicking picnic, as well as some great boozers nearby.
There is also the Opera House, and Maggie May’s Antique shop which is the kind of shop where you could just browse and while away an hour of your life.
There are some excellent Peak District tours from Manchester available to book online through Get Your Guide.
From Manchester Piccadilly train station you can get to the beautiful leafy city of Sheffield in less than an hour. Sheffield is a lovely day trip from Manchester – the city has a more laid back feel. Sheffield is a hilly student city with great shopping, restaurants and nightlife – a city full of adventure. You never have to walk far before you hit a woodland or park. From sleeping on a barge to a super cute cat cafe to quirky, there are hidden gems everywhere, you just need to know where to look. There are so many fun things to do in Sheffield including the street art walking tour, Manga Zipline and botanical gardens.
Just over an hour’s drive away, you’ll find yourself among mountains and lakes in the middle of one of the country’s best loved National Parks. The Lake District is the complete day trip from Manchester if you’re looking for hiking opportunities, fresh air, attractive villages or Michelin-star food offering all this and more. The perfect trip to the Lakes would involve a wander around one of its picturesque villages (such as Grasmere, where you’ll find the best gingerbread in the UK), a short hike up a tall peak (take on the Old Man on Coniston if you dare) and a ride on a boat on one of its many lakes.
Jump on the train to Leeds and you’ll pass the small yet bustling town of Hebden Bridge, located in the Upper Calder Valley. Beloved by many locals, this is the location of a mass exodus of 30-somethings seeking to escape the city and raise their children surrounded by beautiful countryside and quirky cafés. Multiple touring bands visit the town’s Trades Club and there is always a street market or small festival going on, meaning that even though you’re in the middle of the countryside, Hebden feels like one of Manchester’s suburbs.
In the words of Ian Brown, ‘Manchester has everything apart from a beach.’ It’s lucky then that the picturesque seaside town of Southport is only a small journey away. The perfect place to head on a sunny day, Southport offers miles of beautiful beaches, stunning Victorian architecture and even a quirky museum (a visit to the British Lawnmower Museum, anyone?). Visitors flock to Southport for the annual flower show, air show and golf tournaments, but it’s a fun day trip at any time of year.
Art lovers should aim for Crosby Beach, where Antony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’ exhibition is on permanent display. The human statues disappear out to sea and covered when the tide comes in.
If you’d like to visit another vibrant and diverse city, Manchester is conveniently located within an hour’s train journey of the bustling Yorkshire town of Leeds. Here, you’ll find a thriving arts and music scene with a scattering of eclectic coffee shops, craft beer bars and award-winning restaurants. Arts lovers can enjoy an entire day of browsing contemporary galleries and art spaces, with The Henry Moore Institute and Leeds College of Art Gallery at the top of many visitor’s lists. Don’t miss a visit to the Corn Exchange and the many Victorian shopping arcades located around the centre, housing many independent boutiques, design stores and even a beer market.
If you’re looking for something more historical, where you can take a river boat trip and have an English tea, take a trip to the beautiful city of York. York is best seen by train as it’s around an hour and a half train journey from Manchester and everything is walkable from the station. It’s one of my favourite day trips from Manchester.
York used to be the capital during Roman times. In fact, York was invaded by the Romans, Normans and the Viking in the past. A great way to explore York in a day is to walk the circuit of York city walls (it’s free but weather dependant).
If you want to find out more about the Viking history of York, visit the Jorvik Viking Centre. No trip to York is complete without admiring York Minster, one of the most beautiful Gothic Cathedrals in Europe. Also don’t miss The Shambles, one of Britain’s oldest streets. If you’re interested, here are some of the best things to do in York
If you don’t fancy Leeds or York, take a train in the opposite direction and you’ll soon be in Liverpool, famed for being the home of the Beatles. In just 40 mins to an hour by train, you can get to this exciting Northern city with fabulous nightlife! (Yes, it’s a good idea to stay overnight!) If you’re a fan of the Fab Four, no doubt you’ll enjoy the Magical Mystery Tour and the Beatles Story experience at Albert Docks (check out my Beatles fan Guide to Liverpool), but there’s plenty more to the Merseyside city.
The city possesses its very own Tate gallery containing a collection of contemporary art, along with an array of historical museums. If you’re seeking something a little more alternative, head to the Baltic Triangle to discover an eclectic collection of bars, bakeries and microbreweries. Here you’ll find beloved local venue, the Camp and Furnace, a huge space used for events, festivals and exhibitions where you can have a relaxed drink and grab a bite to eat.
Macclesfield, on the Bollin River 27 kilometres South of Manchester, was once one of England’s major centres of silk manufacturing and today hosts the Macclesfield Silk Museum highlighting the industry’s history. Another attraction of this once important industrial hub is the world-famous Lovell Telescope, a giant dish 76 meters in diameter. Built in 1957 (it was the world’s largest steerable radio telescope until 1971) and part of the Jodrell Bank Science Centre and the Nuffield Radio Astronomy Laboratories, the site includes fascinating interactive displays on astronomy, space, energy, and satellites, along with planetarium shows and an arboretum.
Also, worth a visit is Hare Hill, a nearby National Trust property that includes a lovely walled garden, as well as extensive parkland. A little closer to Manchester but on the main Macclesfield road is Alderley Edge, a steep red sandstone escarpment enjoyed by day trippers attracted by the rolling fields and surrounding woodland.
Further Reading on Travel in the UK
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