UK & Ireland

7 of the best places to visit near Manchester

From a unique art installation on the beach and an inland surf lagoon to an enormous telescope, there are plenty of exciting attractions near Manchester.

While Manchester’s extensive range of cultural, sporting and musical attractions means you’ll never be bored on a visit to the city, its central location also makes it a prime base to explore some fascinating spots elsewhere in the UK. Manchester is only around an hour’s drive from the border of Wales, the Peak District, the Merseyside coast and is a short drive, bus or rail journey from Cheshire and Salford’s attractions.

Whether you’re travelling with kids, as a couple or solo, here we detail seven of the best places to visit near Manchester, from a unique art installation on a beach to a historic spa town to a Unesco World Heritage Site.

1. Learn all about Romans, Rows and red pandas in Chester

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In the historic city of Chester, you can walk atop the most complete city walls in Britain, which were first built by the Romans, then visit its Roman amphitheatre. And, to learn even more about its Roman history, you could book on to a Roman tour, which is run by a Roman soldier – the kids will love it. For a unique shopping experience, explore Chester’s Rows, which add an extra, covered walkway of shops above those at street level and are thought to date back to the late 13th century.

Or, head to Chester Zoo, three miles north of the city centre, to see more than 30,000 animals, including Asian elephants, jaguars, lions, black rhinos and incredibly cute red pandas. To see the zoo from a different perspective, allow time for a lazy river boat trip in its Islands area.

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2. Explore the Peak District's “Plague Village"

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The small Peak District village of Eyam became famous in the 17th century when it closed itself off from the rest of the world to prevent an outbreak of the plague from spreading. On a visit, you’ll find out how the plague entered the village in a parcel of cloth from London, which was infested by rat’s fleas. To prevent the plague from transmitting outside of Eyam, the villagers set up a quarantine zone where no-one could enter or leave.

To learn all about the story, plan stops in places including Eyam Museum, Plague Cottages and, just outside the village Mompesson’s Well where coins disinfected in vinegar were left in exchange for food and medicine from people outside of the village.

3. Spot sculptures, squirrels and huge swathes of sand

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The 22-mile Sefton Coast is a fantastically diverse stretch to explore between the Ribble Estuary in the north and Crosby in the south. It’s home to some of the most easily accessible stretches of sand from Manchester.

For a day of traditional seaside fun, head to Southport which has the oldest iron pier in the UK and huge sandy beach. Or explore Formby’s sand dunes and pine woods, which are home to red squirrels, before heading to its long stretch of golden sand to relax. For an unusual day out at the beach, visit Crosby Beach where Antony Gormley’s Another Place sculptures stand gazing out to sea. The 100 cast-iron men were made from casts of Gormley’s body and are often dressed up by locals.

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4. Relax in a huge garden in Salford

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The RHS opened its fifth garden, RHS Garden Bridgewater, in summer 2021, transforming the 154-acre Worsley New Hall Estate into a top spot for horticulture fans.

A highlight is The Paradise Garden by landscape architect Tom Stuart- Smith with a lily pond at its centre where you can sit and unwind. If you’re visiting with children, they’ll love the seven-acre woodland play area too with everything from a low ropes course and Hobbit Houses to a bog garden.

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5. Go on an adventure in Snowdonia

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Want to surf somewhere unique? At Adventure Parc Snowdonia, you can ride waves in a 300-metre inland surf lagoon with mountains and forests behind you. There are lessons and courses for everyone from beginners to those who want to improve their technique, or “just surf” sessions if you are experienced on your board.

There are three zones at the adventure resort – Adventures, Spa and Surf – so, once you’ve had your fix catching waves, you could keep the adrenaline pumping in the adventure zone, perhaps tackling a ninja assault course and extreme slides indoors or riding your bike on its pump track outdoors. Or, treat yourself to a thermal journey and treatment in the Wave Garden Spa, which has views over the surf lagoon and Snowdonia Mountains.

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6. Bathe in thermal waters in the Peak District

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Buxton, in the Peak District, was a sought-after thermal spa spot in the Georgian and Victorian eras, with its Crescent, a Grade-I listed Georgian terrace, being one of the first purpose-built hotels in England. After shutting its doors to the public in the 1990s, Buxton Crescent opened again in 2020 as a hotel and spa. Visit to bathe in Buxton’s natural thermal waters in its thermal pool and indoor-to-outside roof-top pool, or for a relaxing treatment.

Outside of the water, there’s plenty more to do in Buxton, whether it’s walking around its pretty Pavilion Gardens, or admiring the Devonshire Dome, the largest unsupported dome in the UK, which has a larger span that St Paul’s Cathedral and is now a university building. Buxton is also known as the gateway to the Peak District, so is an excellent base for planning walks and other activities in the national park.

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7. Visit a scientific Unesco World Heritage Site in Cheshire

You can see Jodrell Bank’s Grade-I listed Lovell Telescope from miles around – it looks like a huge white bowl. Visit the site, which is owned by the University of Manchester, to see the spectacular structure up close and to join a talk to learn all about its history and what it’s discovered.

If you’re visiting with kids, they will love the whispering dishes next to the telescope where they can communicate with a friend a distance away. And the Jodrell Bank Arboretum is a place where visitors big and small can relax while wandering among a wide range of trees.

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