6 extraordinary day trips from Manchester
Enjoyable drives to unexpected days out near Manchester
The city of Manchester in the north-west of the UK is bursting at the seams with weird and wonderful things to do, but it gets even better when you can travel that bit further afield.
Renting a car means you can explore Manchester inside and out – and we’ve got a selection of the most unique trips you could take to make sure each day is different to the next.
From space telescopes to a walk through the TV set of one of the UK’s oldest soap operas, you’ll be sure to fit a lot in.
1. Marvel at the great unknown at Jodrell Bank Observatory
Did you know that deep in the Cheshire countryside 50 minutes by car to the south of Manchester is a giant steerable radio telescope? The Lovell Telescope is one of the largest movable telescopes in the world. It was built in 1957 and is now used for astrophysics research at the University of Manchester.
A wonderful spot for aspiring scientists both young and old, you’ll be able to join in with hands-on experiments and play around with soundwaves, using the whispering dishes.
You might recognise this impressive observatory from the likes of Doctor Who, Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and BBC Stargazing. Hidden down the lanes near Holmes Chapel in Cheshire, you’ll certainly need a car for a day out that’s out of this world.
2. Admire majestic birds at the Gauntlet Birds of Prey Eagle and Vulture Park
For a chance to see some of the most impressive birds of prey up close, head to Knutsford for the day – just 25 minutes’ drive outside Manchester city centre. You’ll be able to learn about over 45 different species.
We recommend one of their ‘owls by moonlight’ events, which is a fantastic opportunity to see the owls flying after dark, swooping silently over your head. From the tiniest of owls right through to the largest of eagles, you’ll get to admire over 120 birds of prey.
3. See the mysterious Mam Tor in the town of Castleton
In the rolling hills of the Peak District is the quaint little town of Castleton. As you approach it in your car hire, you’ll be immediately impressed by Winnats Pass, a breathtaking limestone gorge. Castleton is steeped in history – particularly the ruins of Peveril Castle, one of England’s earliest Norman fortresses, built-in 1086 for William Peverel, one of William the Conqueror’s most favoured knights.
Climb to the top of the castle and you’ll be struck by the dramatic view of Mam Tor, an ethereal 517m hill also known as the ‘Shivering Mountain’. Just below, you’ll find a cavern with a secret unique to Castleton – this is the only place in the world where you can find the semi-precious stone known as Blue John, in the Treak Cliff Cavern.
Castleton is around 50 minutes’ drive from Manchester in the Hope Valley region – park up in the town and discover it for yourself.
4. Take a trip down Penny Lane on the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour
You might be surprised, but the dockside city of Liverpool is around one hour’s drive from Manchester. Both cities are renowned for their rich musical heritage, so why not see both in one trip?
Discover the Liverpool that inspired the Beatles on this two-hour tour on the colourful Magical Mystery Tour Bus. You’ll be transported back in time to where the Fab Four grew up, met and created the band that changed the face of music forever. Visit their childhood homes and iconic spots such as Strawberry Field and Penny Lane. You’ll have a Beatles aficionado as your tour guide, and you’ll conclude the trip at the world-famous Cavern Club to see exactly where history was made.
This is a great day out if you’re looking for a break from the wheel, but still want to see as much as possible in a short period. You can park at the Liverpool ONE shopping centre, or use the park and ride outside the city centre.
5. Wander through Weatherfield on the Coronation Street set
Corrie fans, assemble! A road trip to Salford Quays will mean you can experience the fictitious Mancunian suburb of Weatherfield in the best way possible – this 80-minute experience takes you on a guided tour of the working set.
Located in MediaCityUK, the hub of the BBC and ITV, you might even see an actor or two pottering about. You’ll get a chance to hear the secrets of filming, recall storylines from years ago, and wander into the Rovers Return pub. Coronation Street perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Manchester, and it’s just four miles (20min drive) outside the centre.
6. Rediscover the past at the Imperial War Museum North
A truly impressive museum, this award-winning structure was designed by architect Daniel Libeskind. Sitting on the edge of Salford Quays, the Imperial War Museum North is a modern masterpiece that hosts a series of interactive exhibitions about the impact of conflict upon our world. Stories are brought to life, and the Big Picture Show offers a 360-degree light and sound experience.
We recommend heading up to the Air Shard viewing platform, which at 29 metres in height, is a fantastic place to take in views across Manchester and the Quays. Just over 5 miles or 25 minutes’ drive from Manchester City Centre.