I have a confession: I am in love with the UK. Like madly, deeply, head-over-heels in love. And while Manchester is a precious gem of the north, there is plenty to see beyond the city.
But I get it – travel can be pricey, and often doesn’t fit into a student’s schedule. I’m here to tell you that with the right planning, brief holidays don’t need to break the bank. Plus, they provide much-needed breaks from academics. Whether as a reward for finishing exams, or as a calm day away between tackling assignments, do yourself a favour and check these places out!
First of all, let’s talk money. I advise investing in a Railcard if you qualify (whether 16-25, 26-30, disabled, or senior). Alternatively, consider taking Megabus. Yes, it can be smelly, and sometimes the person sitting behind you shouts at himself for the entire six-hour journey, but the prices are unbeatable. At least consider it. With either option, book early to save money, and consider going at off-peak times for reduced rates.
Now, onto some of my favourite places nearby Manchester:
If a three hour train trip doesn’t sound too unappealing to you, do your best to visit Edinburgh. I recommend booking a trip in springtime, when daffodils freckle the hills of Princes Street Gardens. Try to visit one of many brilliant art galleries (The Scottish National Gallery, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and Fruitmarket Gallery), museums (The Surgeon’s Hall, Writer’s Museum , and The National Museum of Scotland), do some vintage shopping at Armstrongs Vintage, and go for a hike at Arthur’s Seat. And if you’re looking for Edinburgh’s best cocktail bar, visit the basement of Bramble for a cosy night with friends.
Just a couple hours away, York is quaint yet diverse enough to comfortably spend a day. Take a stroll around the iconic York Minster and Shambles, enjoy the art and architecture of St. Mary’s Abbey, and take your time at the York Museum and its surrounding gardens. For drinks, Sutlers Bar & Kitchen has an unbeatable gin & tonic happy hour (highly recommended!).
If you like The Beatles, decent vintage shopping, and urban architecture like me, Liverpool’s your sort of place. Music fans shouldn’t miss the (admittedly, very cheesy) Beatles Museum or bus tour, whereas mod shoppers would enjoy Soho’s and Total Recall. History buffs will enjoy St. Luke’s Church, which was partially bombed out during WWII. Perhaps the closest city to Manchester, Liverpool offers a different sort of city experience without venturing too far from home!
A nearby destination for Roman history, Tudor architecture, and shopping, Chester is a fantastic little day trip. Fairly small yet bustling with people, this is the perfect place for a laid-back day of wandering. Walk along the city walls, and take a while to soak in the beauty of Chester Cathedral (be sure to listen to the church bells at the top of the hour… simply gorgeous!) Stop by Mad Hatters tea room an afternoon snack, and a great view of the city streets.
- The Lake District
Easily the most beautiful area in northern England, the Lakes have plenty to offer for a break from the city. If you take the train to Windermere, you can stroll along nature paths and see the homes of classic British authors before hitting a local pub or tea room. If you’re fortunate enough to have access to a car, I recommend less touristy towns such as Coniston and Keswick.
Lancaster is totally slept on, in my opinion. Maybe I’m biased (I studied abroad here as an undergraduate, and admit that Lancaster was my first true British love), but nowhere is as quintessentially-small-town-England as here. Go on the tour of Lancaster Castle if you’re into dark, witchy history, and stroll through the nearby countryside and canal. The Sun Hotel & Bar has fantastic food, as does veggie café Whale Tail. Hit up The Apothecary for cocktails, while The Music Room and Sunbury have the sweetest afternoon tea.
For a different Scottish experience, head to the western coast. Unlike Edinburgh, Scotland’s biggest city is full of urban flavour. Littered with galleries and museums galore, Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art is to die for. My favourite site, however, is the Necropolis, a massive cemetery of 50,000 graves that overlooks the city below.
Surprise – another small town favourite. Less than two hours by train or bus, Rivington’s humble size and country location make it an ideal change from Manchester’s cityscape. I recommend this town for one reason – the Rivington Pike trail. If you enjoy nature walks or hikes as much as I do, do yourself a favour and visit Rivington. Particularly in late spring or early summer, you’ll encounter dozens of wildflowers, a hidden garden, and a spectacular view from the tower.
Alright, this one goes without saying. I’ll admit that I’m not a London enthusiast (hence my interest in little towns, sheep, and tea houses). But if you’re a foreigner studying in Manchester, you especially need to make it down to London at least once. While certainly too big to do everything in a day, London still offers plenty if you book the proper trains. My advice: plan your day in advance to avoid fumbling around on the Underground, back-and-forth between dispersed locations. Oh, and bring a lunch with you if you want to cut costs.
Although I could go on and on with this list, I’ll leave it at this. The UK has plenty to offer outside of Manchester, so do your best to try and travel!