As exam season draws to a close and the weather begins to get warmer, there’s no better time than now to start exploring some of the great destinations just a train or coach ride away from Manchester. Day trips are cheap, don’t require much planning and can easily be fitted around university work, and some of my happiest memories from first year revolve around Saturdays spent visiting neighbouring cities with my flatmates.
Below I’ve provided a few of my favourite places to visit nearby with something for everyone.
Just an hour and a half away by direct train, visiting York feels like stepping into a Harry Potter novel. The Shambles is a famous street rumoured to have inspired Diagon Alley due to its historic character, with buildings dating back to as early as the 13th century. Walk the city walls as soon as you arrive as this is a free, scenic way to get your bearings of the city. Other attractions to check out include the Jorvik Viking Centre and York’s Chocolate Story.
My flatmates and I also paid a few pounds to go on a ghost walk when we visited last summer, which I’d definitely recommend as it was something different and really fun. There are signs outside the Minster advertising the day’s tours almost all year round.
As England’s second largest city, Birmingham boasts plenty to do. From historic attractions such as the Back-to-Back houses or Aston Hall, the Bullring or Digbeth’s Red Brick market for shopping or Villa Park and Edgbaston Stadium for some sport, it’s a great day out for all interests.
If you’re looking for culture, check out the Ikon gallery, Symphony Hall or REP Theatre, or catch a film at the Electric Cinema – the oldest working cinema in the country. Birmingham also has more miles of canals than Venice, so isn’t as grey and concrete as you may be imagining!
Buxton is a pretty spa-town that is really accessible from Manchester, as it’s only an hour away by train and single tickets are currently only £3.80! There are some great shops such as the Cavendish Arcade, which is a redeveloped Victoria spa baths, as well as some lovely cafes and tearooms for a really British experience.
You can even venture underground at Poole’s Cavern, taking a guided tour of the limestone caves said to have once been visited by Mary Queen of Scots. If you prefer to stay above ground, check out the Pavilion Gardens or Solomon’s temple, perfect for a walk or picnic.
Home of the Beatles, the Royal Albert Dock and the Tate, Liverpool is rich in culture and brimming with attractions to explore. Both coach and train tickets are often under £5 too!
The Beatles Story Museum and British Music Experience are a must for any music fans, as well as taking a photo in front of the famous Beatles statue. The Dock is really pretty and a great place to grab some food, which my flatmates and I did when we visited last summer before shopping on Bold Street and walking to the iconic Liverpool Wings, a now-infamous piece of graffiti that makes for a great Instagram post.
Outside of the centre, Liverpool’s Formby beach should be on every Manchester student’s bucket list as a beautiful spot that is pretty close by, especially as summer draws nearer.
This list wouldn’t be complete without Blackpool. It’s a staple-British holiday destination and is really easy to get to, thanks to a direct train every half an hour from Piccadilly. As the weather gets warmer, its sandy beaches are perfect for swimming or sunbathing, but there is plenty to do even if the sun isn’t out.
Visit The Blackpool Tower, Blackpool Zoo and Madame Tussauds for a proper tourist experience, making sure to also save some change for the arcade and to buy a stick of rock. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, Blackpool Pleasure beach is a massive theme park full of rollercoasters worth a day-trip in itself.
Famous for its sweet pastry treat, Bakewell is only a coach ride away from Manchester. Take a relaxing hike through the Derbyshire countryside or enjoy picturesque views without the exertion on a steam train with Peak country rail. Chatsworth House and Bakewell Old House Museum are great for any history or culture lovers, and you can finish your day with a tea and Bakewell tart in a traditional tearoom. There are also some cute gift and antique shops to browse.