Mills, museums and a truly mad music scene; what’s not to love about Manchester? If you’re visiting for work or pleasure, there are heaps of attractions to keep you entertained – but how about getting out of the city for a day?
If you’re relaxing after business is finished or you’re in Manchester on a city break and fancy checking out some of its farther flung features, there’s plenty of places to enjoy a day trip in the surrounding areas.
Need a bit of help? We’ve wracked our brains and come up with some fantastic options which are all less than two hours from the heart of the city.
For beautiful scenery and a chance to up your step count, potter across to the Peak District
The thing about Manchester, there’s loads of green spaces just outside the city. If you like walking, you’re in for a treat in the Peak District.
It’s less than an hour away from Manchester City Centre and is a warren of wonderful hiking routes (plus there’s a handful of fantastic pubs if you like to finish your walks off with a cheeky pint, who doesn’t!).
Mam Tor is one of the most popular trails to try and affords incredible views of Derbyshire from the top. As the locals would say, it’s “mint”. Trust us they do say that in these parts.
After reaching the summit and walking down the south side towards charming Castleton, you’ll find a traditional tearoom, a tiny local history museum and a ruined Norman castle.
Or you could park up in Edale and follow the signs for Kinder Scout. You can don your walking boots and stroll across lush fields, through magnificent moorland and up craggy crevices that’ll give you a really rewarding work out. Got a pooch? Bring them along too!
Drive time: 50 minutes
For media, museums and discount shopping malls, cross the river to reach Salford Quays
Okay, so this pick doesn’t take you that far out of Manchester, but it’s still not technically part of the city. Just a short drive over the River Irwell, Salford Quays is famed for being the home of Media City where you’ll spot both BBC and ITV studios.
Secretly always wanted to audition for The Voice? Well now’s your chance!
As well as wandering around the slick, modern riverfront (and possibly bumping into some well-known TV presenters), you’ll have the chance to swot up on military history at the Imperial War Museum North or get some absolute bargains at the Quayside MediaCityUK outlet mall. Once you’re done, why not pop into The Alchemist right on the water for a drink and then catch a show at The Lowry theatre?
Drive time: 15 minutes
For cheetahs, chimps and creepie crawlies, make your way to Chester Zoo
You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy this fun day trip from Manchester. Chester Zoo is one of the best animal parks in the UK and even has its own TV show titled The Secret Life of the Zoo!
Fortunately, its treasures aren’t a secret!
The zoo is just north of Chester (another great day trip destination, especially if you’re a fan of Roman history) and it’s jam-packed with incredible species from all four corners of the globe.
Got all day for animal-friendly fun? You can spend a full day exploring Chester Zoo’s enclosures, from gazing at gentle giants in the wonderful Asian elephant house to spotting sloths, jaguars and macaws in the tropical zone.
Chester Zoo is also very big on conservation and you’ll be able to learn all about the work they do to protect endangered species. Tickets cost around £32 for adults and £24 for kids, but it’s well-worth paying to see the 20,000+ awesome animals which call the zoo home.
Chester Zoo, Chester, CH2 1EU
Drive time: 55 minutes
For a taste of the high life, set your sights on Chatsworth House
Can’t resist exploring a big old house? Well then Chatsworth is one of the best. It’s set among the rolling hills of the Peak District and has been the seat of the Dukes of Devonshire for a whopping five hundred years!
So, what to expect? Chatsworth House’s interiors are grand. There’s no two ways about it! Think floor to ceiling windows, sweeping staircases, elaborate ceiling frescoes and lots of marble busts. Want a bit of fresh air? You just have to check out its grounds. Highlights include the restored Victorian rock garden, the peaceful Cascade water feature and the lush yew tree labyrinth.
Got kids with you? Don’t skip Chatsworth House’s farmyard where little ones can get up close with baby animals before letting off some steam in the fantastic playground that’s reached via a mysterious tunnel…
Top tip: After you’ve seen everything, hop in your car and drive 3.5 miles down the road to Bakewell to try the town’s namesake tarts. We love them!
Drive time: 90 minutes
For fresh sea air and sand dunes galore, Formby is the one
A beach? Near Manchester? Yep, that’s right; the Northern Powerhouse isn’t as far from the coast as you might think.
Formby Beach is a huge sandy stretch, as well as being a National Trust site and one of the most beautiful beaches in Britain. You can shimmy up the sand dunes and check out the little critters in the red squirrel sanctuary in the woodlands behind the beach.
And best of all? Formby is pretty huge, so there’s always space to stretch out, even on busy summer days.
Top tip: If you’re visiting during peak times, set off early for the best chance of nabbing a parking space in the two carparks closest to the sand.
Drive time: 70 minutes
For canal-side pubs and literary landmarks, head to Hebden Bridge
If a good country pub is always high on your agenda, you’re not alone. They love a pint round these parts!
The good news? You’ll find heaps of pubs around Hebden Bridge.
The former mill town just over the Yorkshire border is a bit of a creative mecca and positively brimming with bohemian boutiques, cool music venues, indie art studios and amazing antique centres.
And the best thing? Its location along the Rochdale Canal. You can enjoy a walk along the water towards Todmorden and stop off at the lovely Stubbing Wharf pub that’s right on the canal for a cold one. You know it’s all about the pubs!
Bit of a literature lover? If you make your way to the northern edge of Hebden Bridge and take The Buttress pathway up to Heptonstall, you’ll find a stunning village that’s famed for its connections to Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. You can even visit their former home and find the latter’s grave in the churchyard of the St Thomas The Apostle Church.
Drive time: 60 minutes
Why not venture even further north once you’re done exploring Manchester and get to grips with the lush lochs and gorgeous glens of the Scottish Highlands?