16 May Travel Guide: 48 Hours Around Manchester, England
Most people have probably heard of Manchester because it has a famous football (soccer) team: Manchester United. But beyond a game of premier league football, this is a fun destination city to spend a night or two, offering an exciting mix of old and new architecture as well as hip restaurants, unique shops and of course plenty of sports pubs. Beyond the city is an area that is made for history buffs as it features some of the most well preserved British heritage in the United Kingdom. In Chester, for instance, you’ll find Britain’s most complete city walls, which date back to Roman occupation some 2,000 years ago. Here is how I spend my 48 hours in the region before heading to the Lake Country.
Day One: Manchester
I spend my first day exploring Manchester. A great way to get a feel for the city is to sign up for a walking tour with Manchester Guided Tours and Walks. The company offers all kinds of guided walks and tours. Our guide, Helen, is great and has lots of energy and enthusiasm and knows the back-story on all the city highlights.
We stop at the National Football Museum, where the story of soccer in the UK is told. Admission to the museum is free, but what makes a visit here really fun is to partake in the “Football Plus” experiences offered, which cost a fee, but let museum goers test their skills in everything from showboating to commentating. You can also take a photograph with the victory trophy for the League Cup, FA Cup or Premier League, a must for soccer fans who like to show off on social media. We also visit Chethams Library on the tour. It was founded in 1653 and is the oldest surviving public library in Britain. The building dates back to 1421, and looks like it is part of a Harry Potter film set.
After my walking tour, I’m hungry so I head to lunch at Home. The space, plays triple duty as an art gallery, movie theater and restaurant serving burgers, pizza, sandwiches and some healthy salad choices. At this point in the trip, I am seriously craving greens so I opt for the Home Super Food Salad, which is made with quinoa, broccoli, avocado, peas, feta, cucumber, seeds, alfalfa, maple syrup and wholegrain mustard dressing and does a good job of satisfying my craving. When I’ve finished lunch I check out the Whitworth Art Gallery, which just underwent a £15 million renovation that doubled its size and transformed the gallery into multiple new spaces that embrace the park it calls home. It’s a cool place to wander around. Also visit the John Rylands Gallery, which is also known as the University of Manchester Library. It is one of only five National Research Libraries and holds more than 4 million printed books and manuscripts as well as some 41,000 electronic journals and 500,000 e-books!
For dinner I try one of the city’s innovative new restaurants, Tattu, which itself is a work of art. Inspired by tattoos and body art, the lavish interiors are a modern East meets West design fusion featuring intricate rope effect lighting, glass, skull globes and giant anchors in the main windows adorned with more lighting and roses on the ground floor. While upstairs in the 94-seat restaurant the view is all about the 12-foot high cherry blossom tree at its center. The food is as good as this place looks and the menu is contemporary Chinese, with the delicious dishes also coming out in an artfully presented way. I love the crispy pork belly and black cod and prawn dishes. The cocktails are also excellent and each is inspired by the designs of different body artists with unusual flavor combinations.
After such a fantastic dinner, I’m ready for bed, and am happy to crash at the 4-star
Macdonald Manchester Hotel & Spa. It has really comfortable beds in spacious rooms and a great location in the Cottonpolis neighborhood. After a quick nightcap at the lovely bar, I head straight to bed and fall asleep easily.
Day Two: Chester
On my second day, I decide to focus on history and heritage and head to Chester. The heritage city is home to the most complete ancient city walls in Britain. They date back some 2,000 years to Roman occupation and walking along them is a rewarding experience – you’ll also see the largest Roman Amphitheatre in the UK and have great views of the River Dee, on which Chester sits. Other must-sees in Chester include the east gate clock, which is one of the world’s most photographed clocks, and was constructed in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and the thousand-year old Chester Cathedral. The Tudor style architecture of the town is also interesting to look at and there are a number of shops in the center. Finally, keep an out for quirky paintings around town that incorporate Dr. Who characters. They are the work of artist John Donnelly, who has been painting here for some 20 years now.
For lunch I head just outside of town into the countryside to dine at the Cholmondeley Arms, which sits adjacent to Cholmondeley Castle and is one of England’s most unique pubs. It is located inside what once served as a village schoolhouse during Victorian times. Today the pub retains many of its original features like large mirrors, blackboards, and schoolhouse furnishings and has won accolades over the years for its quintessentially English food, although personally my favorite thing I the menu was the seafood tray. The pub, which does have six en-suite rooms for rent as well, is also famed for offering nearly 200 different gins and local ales brewed within 30-miles of the location, and it attracts a diverse crowd from farmers to business men in suits.
Set on a rocky crag with awesome views from the Pennies to the Welsh Mountains on a clear day, Beeston Castle is my next stop. Accessed via a walking trail, it is one of the most dramatically sited medieval castles in England is has a 4,000-year history that includes a 100-meter-deep well where Richard II’s lost treasure is said to be located.
As you know, I’m a big fan of sweets, so I am very excited to check out the Ice Cream Farm after exploring the castle. It blows Baskin Robbins out of the water by offering a staggering 50 different flavors of ice cream. The honeycomb is my top pick, and was the perfect mix of flavor and creamy frozen deliciousness. This is also the home to the award-winning Cheshire Farm Ice Cream company, which supplies more than 1,000 pubs, restaurants and other retail shops around the UK, and as such the site attracts more than half a million visitors a year. It’s pretty impressive. Especially if you’re travelling with kids as it also features a petting zoo and multiple play areas including a massive sand and water playground.
After another day of castles and sweets, I’m tired again, so I head to my home for the evening, which is inside an 18th century Georgian country house hotel known as Mottram Hall Hotel. The sprawling country property was constructed in 1721 by the Booth family, some of who died on the Titanic, and has been passed along through the generations since. Beyond the comfortable rooms it features amenites from an attractive swimming pool to gym and spa areas, a golf course, and miles of walking trails. After dinner at the onsite Carrington Grill, which does English country fare with a focus on the seasonal, I’m ready for bed. It’s been a whirlwind trip to England’s north country, but I’m so glad I made the journey to this magical land of castles and hills, cold seas and brooding moors and lakes, and am already plotting my return.