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Things to do in Greater Manchester

The Town Hall, Manchester
Town Hall, Manchester

The County of Greater Manchester is situated in the north west of England. It comprises two cities and eight Metropolitan Boroughs. This was one of England's largest manufacturing areas; at one time the main source of cotton weaving and textile manufacturing in Britain.

Over the centuries the area has undergone periods of prosperity and decline.

The era of the industrial revolution brought great prosperity, the Manchester Ship Canal was developed and it encouraged other industries into the area.

With them came huge growths in population.

Today as in many old industrial areas, there is less industry and more focus on commerce, education and tourism.

Canal boat on the Liverpool and Leeds Canal
Liverpool and Leeds Canal

Tourism in Greater Manchester usually starts in the city of Manchester itself, where the tourist information centre can be found at the Town Hall extension off St Peter's Square. Manchester is a vibrant multi cultural city, with many attractions both historic and contemporary, shopping and dining facilities to suit all tastes plus culture and entertainment of all sorts.

Manchester has the largest number of theatres outside London and great leisure and sporting amenities. For those who enjoy the outdoors, Manchester has over 100 parks and gardens to explore and many children's play areas.

Aerial image of Dovestone Reservoir, Greenfield in the Peak District National Park, Greater Manchester
Dovestone Reservoir

Here are a few of Manchester's attractions:

Pennington Flash Nature Reserve
Pennington Flash

Best Villages near Manchester

NameHighlightPopulation
1. UppermillMoorland setting3,500
2. WorsleyBeautiful canal walks1,035
3. AdlingtonHalf-timbered hall1,081
4. StyalQuarry Bank Mill5,014

Best Villages near Manchester

The Boroughs of Greater Manchester

Bolton

Clock tower on Bolton Town Hall on a sunny day
Bolton Town Hall

The Borough of Bolton comprises the towns of Blackrod, Bolton, Farnworth, Horwich, Kearsley, Little Lever, South Turton and Westhoughton.

Until the 19th century its main town - Bolton - was titled Bolton-le-Moors. It was the birth-place of Samuel Crompton, the inventor of the 'Spinning Mule', which was to revolutionise the textile industry.

Within the borough today are good shopping centres, restaurants and leisure facilities.

Attractions in Bolton include Bolton Museum, Art Gallery and Aquarium and the historic Smithills Hall and Estate which dates from the 14th century.

Bury

The borough encompasses the towns of Bury, Prestwich, Tottington, Ramsbottom, Radcliffe and Whitefield.

Steam locomotive approaching Ramsbottom Station.
Approaching Ramsbottom Station

The main town of Bury was the birth-place of Sir Robert Peel, founder of the Metropolitan Police Force and Prime Minister of Britain.

On Holcombe Hill outside the town is Peel Tower, a commemorative monument to Sir Robert. When the tower is open you can climb the 148 steps to enjoy fine views of the County.

The borourgh has many urban parks, gardens and walks.

Bury Museum and Art Gallery shows displays of local history and the art gallery exhibits the Wrigley collection of Victorian paintings and contemporary works of art.

Prestwich is the home of Heaton Hall, a wonderful, neo-classical country house set amidst rolling parkland.

Heaton Park, Manchester
Heaton Park

Oldham


The borough is named after its largest town and includes the towns of Chadderton, Failsworth, Lees, Royton and Shaw and Crompton as well as the Saddleworth area - an old parish of Yorkshire. The tourist information office for this area can be found in Albion Street, Oldham.

The town thrived during the industrial revolution and the boom time of the textile industry in Britain. Oldham is home to Tommyfield, one of the north of England's largest markets.

Gallery Oldham is a progressive gallery, where workshops and events take place. It also includes an impressive collection of works by Constable, Turner and Lowry.

In the Saddleworth area the Saddleworth Museum and Art Gallery, offers an intriguing visit for all the family. Daisy Nook Country Park offers a lovely circular walk in National Trust parkland, with the River Medlock running through a wooded valley between Oldham and Ashton under Lyne.

Rochdale

The Borough was named after the town of Rochdale - here you will find Rochdale Art Gallery, Museum and Local Studies Centre, which is well worth a visit.

Town Hall, Rochdale, Greater Manchester.
Rochdale Town Hall

Other towns in the borough include Middleton, Heywood, Littleborough, Castleton, Milnrow and Wardle. Rochdale can trace its history back to the Doomsday Book. It has been an important area in the woollen, cotton and silk industries since Tudor times.

Rochdale was the birth-place of the Co-operative Movement, begun in the mid 1800s. The Rochdale Pioneers Museum illustrates the history of this movement. Rochdale also boasts one of the finest Victorian Gothic town halls in the country. The town has a retail park, shopping centres and restaurants.

The Rochdale Way is a circular walk around the borough, some 50 miles long, which can be tackled in shorter sections. Healy Dell is a Nature Reserve and wildlife sanctuary.

The town of Rochdale was the birth-place of the singer Gracie Fields.

Salford

Salford is Greater Manchester's second city. Older and larger than Manchester, Salford was one of Britain's first industrial cities and as such was often associated with poverty and poor living conditions.

Today after much regeneration and development, the city is transformed into a very interesting place for tourists to visit. Salford Museum and Art Gallery, is well worth visiting to get an insight into the city's past.

The Lowry is a theatre and gallery complex situated at Salford Quays, Greater Manchester, England
The Lowry, Salford Quays

The Quays area has been redeveloped and now offers designer shopping, river cruises, water sports and attractions such as The Lowry, a complex with two theatres, a studio for performing arts, galleries showing the works of L.S. Lowry and contemporary artists.

Ordsall Hall, is one of the finest examples of Tudor architecture in the area. Salford is a historic city with several historic buildings of interest. The University city is a bustling centre for shopping, where you will find many quiet parks and gardens in which to relax.

Stockport

This Borough is named after its largest town and includes the towns of Cheadle, Chedle Hume, Marple, Bredbury, Reddish and Romiley.

Stockport Town Hall, Greater Manchester
Stockport Town Hall

The borough is near the borders of the Peak District National Park, which offers outdoor pursuits in stunning scenery.

The town of Stockport has through the centuries manufactured rope, muslin and silk, but even today is best known for its creation of hats. Stockport has many interesting features from the impressive 27 arch railway viaduct, built in 1840, to the modern Mersey Shopping Precinct built on enormous stilts over the River Mersey.

Some must-visit attractions are:

  • Stockport Museum - home to many interesting artefacts.
  • Stockport Art Gallery.
  • Hat Works - Britain's only museum dedicated to hats and the craft of the hatter.
  • Bramall Hall - dating back to Medieval times it's set in 70 acres of parkland.
  • Staircase House - a Medieval merchant's town house famous for its 17th century cage newel staircase.

Motor tail lights on the motorway passing under Stockport Viaduct
Stockport Viaduct

Tameside

This borough encompasses the towns of Ashton-under-Lyne, Audenshaw, Denton, Droylsden, Dukinfield, Hyde, Longdendale, Mossley and Stalybridge. The River Tame runs through the borough and the Thame Valley. This regenerated location offers walks in its green valleys and woodlands.

Places of interest in Tameside include:

  • Portland Basin Museum in Ashton-under-Lyme.
  • Ashton-under-Lyme Town Hall is home to Museum of the Manchesters, devoted to the Manchester Regiment. Also in the same building is Setantii, telling the story of the people of the Tameside area through the ages.
  • Hartshead Pike is a favourite destination for walkers, with views over several counties.
  • Buckton Castle, an Iron Age hill fort in Mossley.
  • St Lawrence's Church, Denton.

Hartshead Pike
Hartshead Pike

Trafford

Trafford includes the towns of Altrincham, Sale, Stretford and Urmston. It is home to the famousTrafford Centre, the most comprehensive shopping complex in north west England. Situated at Old Trafford, are the grounds of Manchester United and Lancashire County Cricket Club. Trafford Park is home to Imperial War Museum North.

Old Trafford Stadium, home to Manchester United.
Old Trafford Stadium

Wigan

The tourist nformation office for this Borough can be found in Wigan on the famous Wigan Pier. The borough also includes the towns of Ashton-in-Makerfield, Hindley, Ince-in-Makerfield and Leigh.

Wigan was an old coal mining town, resembling George Orwell's description in his novel "The Road toWigan Pier". Wigan Pier has been restored and is now home to the Wigan Pier Experience.

Today it is a much cleaner town than depicted in times gone by, offering modern shopping and leisure facilities.

Imperial War Museum, Salford Quays, Greater Manchester
Imperial War Museum, Salford Quays

Country Parks in the borough include Wigan Flashes which boats lakes, ponds and a rich variety of plants and wildlife.

The Leeds Liverpool Canal links country parks at Haigh and Pennington Flash, in Leigh. Pennington has nature trails and hides from which to observe the flocks of water birds which visit the lake.

The last remaining vintage windmill left in the Greater Manchester area at Haigh, Wigan, Northwest England.
Haigh Country Park, Wigan

Canal enthusiasts should visit the famous 'Wigan Flight' a series of 23 locks in a two mile stretch between Ince and Aspull.

The borough of Wigan encompasses 22 ancient woodland sites, home to many species of wildlife.


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Days out in Greater Manchester

  • Haworth Art Gallery
    Originally called Hollins Hill, the Gallery is a Tudor-style Edwardian house designed and built for William Haworth and his sister Anne in 1909 by Walter Brierley, FSA of York. It is now Accrington's art gallery.
    Haworth Art Gallery
  • Imperial War Museum North
    Imperial War Museum North tells the story of how war has shaped people's lives from 1900 to the present day. With the story still unfolding, the Museum will continue to develop and change over time.
    Imperial War Museum North
  • Manchester Art Gallery
    The gallery's amazing collection of art is displayed in an innovative and imaginative way. An undoubted highlight is the outstanding collection of 19th century Pre-Raphaelite paintings.
    Manchester Art Gallery
  • Museum of Science and Industry
    The Museum of Science and Industry is the largest museum in Manchester, housed in five historic industrial buildings on a huge site.
    Museum of Science and Industry
  • Ordsall Hall
    Ordsall Hall, once home to the wealthy Radclyffe family, is one of the finest examples of Tudor architecture in North West England.
    Ordsall Hall
  • People's History Museum
    The People's History Museum tells the dramatic story of the British working classes struggle for democracy and social justice - told at the only national museum in Manchester city centre, the radical city where it belongs.
    People's History Museum
  • Salford Museum & Art Gallery
    Museum of Salford's local history and art, including a recreation of a typical northern street scene from the beginning of the 20th century featuring many original shop fronts.
    Salford Museum & Art Gallery
  • Whitworth Art Gallery
    The Gallery is home to an impressive range of watercolours, prints, drawings, modern art and sculpture, as well as the largest collections of textiles and wallpapers outside London.
    Whitworth Art Gallery



Places to Visit in Greater Manchester

  • Altrincham
    Altrincham is a market town with barely defined boundaries as it is an upmarket suburb of Greater Manchester.
    Altrincham
  • Birch
    Birch-in-Heywood is a small village situated on the road between Hopwood, Heywood and Rhodes. It's believed to have been formed around the mill which is now used for industrial purposes.
  • Bolton
    The historic mill town of Bolton is on the edge of the West Pennine Moors, 10 miles northwest of Manchester.
    Bolton
  • Bury
    Bury is a market town in Greater Manchester, about 8 miles north west of Manchester on the River Irwell.
    Bury
  • Chadderton
    Chadderton is a town of 34,000 people lying at the foot of the Pennines with the town of Oldham to the East, Middleton to the West and the City of Manchester to the south, it has lots to offer the visitor. Chadderton is blessed with 5 park
    Chadderton
  • Cheadle
    Cheadle is situated between Stockport and Manchester. It is a suburb of the Borough of Stockport and blends seamlessly into the larger metropolis without any real defining boundary.
    Cheadle
  • Diggle
    Diggle is one of the quieter villages in terms of trans-pennine traffic noise and pollution, it is situated in Saddleworth, traditionally a West Yorkshire community.
    Diggle
  • Heywood
    The town of Heywood, three miles west of Rochdale, has its origins in the 13th century, but the area owes much of its charm and character to Robert Peel, (the father of Sir Robert Peel, originator of Britain's first police force).
    Heywood
  • Lees
    Although the village of Lees dates back to the 14th Century it wasn't until the 19th Century that the village gained recognition due to its mineral springs. Eleven cotton mills were built in Lees which totally changed its character.
    Lees
  • Littleborough
    Despite its name, Littleborough is one of the larger settlements in the borough, yet retains its village atmosphere. It gained importance, because it stood at the junction of two ancient routes over the Pennines.
    Littleborough
  • Manchester
    Manchester is an exciting cosmopolitan city with hundreds of excellent museums, tourist attractions and places to shop, eat and stay - you're guaranteed a great time when you visit this vibrant city.
    Manchester
  • Middleton (Gt Mcr)
    Middleton is more than just another 19th century industrial Lancashire town; it is an ancient place and has much that remains from an illustrious past.
    Middleton (Gt Mcr)
  • Milnrow
    Junction 21 on the M62 is where you will find Milnrow. Although Milnrow's history goes back to the Norman Conquest it is remembered for wool and the weaving of wool.
    Milnrow
  • Moorside
    Moorside, Oldham, is indeed beside the moors. Only a cockstride away (meaning: adjacent to) are the Saddleworth moors and the beautiful Saddleworth villages, five in all.
    Moorside
  • Oldham
    Oldham sits high on the Pennines, surrounded by hills and offers many vantage points for viewing many miles around. Oldham can be dated back to 865 A.D. when Danish invaders settled here.
    Oldham
  • Prestwich
    Prestwich is simply a leafy, residential suburb to the north of Manchester city centre. For many years,along with its sister suburb of Whitefield,just to the north, it remained North Manchester's best kept secret
    Prestwich
  • Ramsbottom
    Ramsbottom is a Victorian mill town, on the south side of the West Yorkshire Moors, where there has been a settlement since 4000BC.
    Ramsbottom
  • Rochdale
    Visit the borough of Rochdale and you will find a wealth of fascinating heritage and beautiful countryside that makes this a great area to explore.
    Rochdale
  • Saddleworth
    The area of Saddleworth encompasses several villages, they are Denshaw, Delph, Diggle, Uppermill, Greenfield and Grasscroft, these villages were in the area known as the West Riding of Yorkshire.
    Saddleworth
  • Sale
    The town of Sale is part of the Borough of Trafford in Greater Manchester, five miles south west of Manchester city centre.
  • Salford
    Salford is a city of 72,750 inhabitants in the larger Borough of Salford in Greater Manchester. It is located on a bend of the River Irwell and is three miles west of Manchester city centre.
    Salford
  • Shaw
    Shaw is a delightful little town which borders the very scenic Saddleworth villages in one direction and borders Oldham in the other. It was once known as the Golden Town as it had the largest number of mills in the whole of England.
  • Stockport
    Stockport is a large town approximately 6 miles south of Manchester city centre. The main road through Stockport is the A6. There is much to see in Stockport, visitors will find plenty to occupy their time.
    Stockport
  • Stretford
    Modern Stretford is a town built mainly on the community forged by the workers of former Trafford Park stalwart GEC. Though not always noted for its picturesque views, Stretford boasts many public parks which are enjoyed by local residents.
  • Uppermill
    The small town/large village of Uppermill is on the northeast side of Greater Manchester, tucked away in a valley of the Pennines.
    Uppermill
  • Wigan
    Wigan is Lancashire's oldest town - of Celtic and Roman origin, Wigan stands on high ground above the River Douglas. During the late 1800's Wigan had over 1,000 pit shafts within 5 miles of the town centre.
    Wigan










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