For freshers, final years and international students alike, exploring Manchester is an exciting and never-ending pursuit. The city is full of cosy cafés, inspiring shops and funky social spaces. However, if you are interested in going a little further afield and exploring Manchester’s greener surroundings, then look no further as the county of Cheshire awaits you.
Just a short train ride away, perfect to escape the urban hustle and bustle, here are some of my favourite spots to encourage you to see the surrounding area for yourself.
My top recommendation for an afternoon trip is Alderley Edge village which has a folklore history consisting of wizardry and magic, and a large woodland to explore. Local legend has it that Merlin made an appearance within its forest groves, but in recent times the only legends in Alderley have been a variety of Manchester footballers making it their home, such as David Beckham and Ronaldo during their United days.
As you wander down the central high street of local shops and eateries, stop at the Village Cafe for a hearty lunch, or perhaps the award-winning Fosters Fish and Chips. Here you can enjoy an English culinary classic at one of the top ten chippies in the UK! With Google Maps at the ready, you can walk to the woodlands, and the cliff-edge viewpoint – from which Alderly gets it’s name. It is a bit of a climb but it’s all worth it once you see the views of the rolling Cheshire countryside and, on a clearer day, the Manchester skyline.
Return train ticket prices from Piccadilly start at £12 (with railcard), £18 (without), and is a mere 24 minutes one-way.
Next-door to Alderley Edge is the larger town of Wilmslow, with a greater variety of high street shops, bars and restaurants. It’s a good place to end a day trip to Alderley, being one train stop closer to Manchester on the route back home. Here you can visit The Rex, an independent art-deco cinema, which shows the latest blockbuster releases just like any chain in Manchester, but with comfier plush seating and plenty of legroom in a theatre-like cinema hall. It certainly makes for a more characteristic and atmospheric setting for a film viewing, along with a glass of wine to accompany your film of choice.
Check out The Rex Wilmslow website for screenings and to book. Student discount for standard seating starts at £8.
Return train ticket prices from Piccadilly start at £7.80 (with railcard), £12.60 (without), and is around 16 minutes one-way.
Close to Manchester Airport, Styal has ample woodland to explore. Arriving at the station, it’s a 15 minute walk to reach the historic centre of the woods – the grounds of Quarry Bank Mill. Once an important force of the Industrial Revolution, this old textile mill is now a museum with beautiful gardens and grounds, and a café to warm up from the autumnal temperatures. Another place to grab a hot drink and shelter from the cold is, near the station at the volunteer-run, Earlam’s Community Café.
Tickets for Quarry Bank Mill whole property access (museum and gardens) is a pricey £20.25, but definitely worth it. However, woodland access is completely free!
Return train ticket prices from Piccadilly start at £8.50 (with railcard), £12.80 (without), and is about 35 minutes one-way.
Next time you need a break and have a free day, explore further then the Northern Quarter and hop on a train to these easily accessible and idyllic gems.