Days out in Greater Manchester
Making up just one part of the popular North West region of England, Greater Manchester offers a whole range of places to visit and things to do for everyone. Being widely urbanised, the heart of the county is the city of Manchester, with well known large towns including Wigan, Bolton, Rochdale, Oldham, and Stockport surrounding it.
As a major cultural hub, Manchester has a keen reputation as a vibrant and diverse city with plenty to do. Football fans have their choice of two huge football teams in City and United, with both offering stadium tours around their iconic Etihad and Old Trafford homes. The National Football Museum in the city centre is filled with exhibitions and interactive games.
The Science and Industry Museum provides a fascinating look back at the city’s history of industry and invention, while Manchester Art Gallery provides collections of historic and contemporary art from across six centuries. Music fans are also well-represented with the city being home to many legendary bands over the decades. Manchester has helped shape musical culture, so there’s plenty of iconic places to visit including the former Haçienda club and Salford Lads Club.
There’s a host of additional places and attractions to whet your appetite and more highlights include the trendy Northern Quarter, full of cool bars, boutique shops, and different architecture, catch a performance or take in some art at the Lowry Centre, and the neo-Gothic architecture of the iconic Manchester City Hall.
Further afield, Wigan is home to the Haigh Woodland Park and a great collection of playgrounds, high rope courses, crazy golf and outdoor activities for kids. While Bolton Museum, Aquarium, and Archive has collections spanning Ancient Egypt, local history, and fine art, as well as an aquarium with collections of freshwater fish from all over the world.
For some outdoor activities, Hollingworth Lake in Rochdale is a wonderful spot. Try your hand at sailing, rowing, windsurfing, or kayaking on the water or take in the scenery and views of the Pennines on a circular walk.
The historic town of Stockport is filled with interesting, curious, and historic places including Staircase House, with its unique Jacobean cage-newel staircase, The Hat Museum, for a fascinating look back at the town’s millinery industry. Stockport Air Raid Shelters offer a first-hand look at how the tunnels were built to accommodate up to 6,500 people.
This large park lies to the south of Gorton Lower Reservoir and offers a range of recreational and sports facilities. It has ornamental gardens, wooded areas and a community room in the former Aviary.
The gardens feature an ornamental grassed walkway, with individual garden 'rooms' attached. Features include a fuschia garden, a Japanese garden and a dovecote re-sited from Sale Old Hall. The site is modelled on Hidcote gardens in Gloucestershire.
Topography, geology, and climate
While having a mix of semi-rural, open areas alongside highly populated urban areas, Greater Manchester still has some distinct land qualities under the surface and provides a mix of soil types and fertility levels.
Large portions of northern Greater Manchester are largely permeable and seasonally wet, slightly acid loam and clay soils of low fertility. In contrast is a large chunk of land between Rochdale and Oldham which is still low fertility and slightly acidic, but sandy in composition.
One notable area in the southwest of the county is an area of open land which is largely raised bog peat soils with very low fertility, before turning to a high acid mix of sand and loam around Sale. South-eastern areas are predominantly seasonally wet, slightly acid but base-rich loam and clay soils of medium fertility.
With a climate similar to its Merseyside neighbour, Greater Manchester rarely suffers from weather extremes. Temperatures across the summer months reach an average high of around 20ºC (68ºF), while winter lows hover around 2ºC (35ºF). But Greater Manchester is a fairly wet county, with rainfall averaging around 830mm (33”) across the year.
Greater Manchester's Parks & Gardens
With Greater Manchester’s abundance of public green spaces, there are a handful of standout parks to visit across the county. And there are some notable gardens for gardeners and horticulturalists to enjoy as well. Together, these highlights are a collection of inspirational spaces for everyone to relax in and enjoy.
- Greater Manchester North
RHS Garden Bridgewater in Worsley is the fifth display garden from the RHS and is certainly a treat. Opening in May 2021, the formerly derelict site has been transformed into a majestic garden that covers 154-acres, and is filled with plenty of highlights. With so much to discover, there’s no shortage of areas to explore and enjoy.
Standout gardens include the Weston Walled Garden which is home to different connecting gardens including the Paradise Garden, Kitchen Garden, Fruit House, and Mediterranean House. But there are more areas to explore including the Bee and Butterfly Garden and Orchard Gardens together with extensive walks through the surrounding woodland. And don’t miss the Chinese Streamside Garden as you walk towards Ellesmere Lake. Like every other RHS garden, Bridgewater is unmissable.
For town centre parks, Alexandra Park in Oldham and Leverhulme Park in Bolton are just two highlights. Covering nearly 60-acres, the Grade ll listed site of Alexandra Park is home to ornamental gardens, herbaceous beds and borders, and small woodland areas. There are also two walking routes taking in the wider parts of the park, including the boating lake, adding an oasis of calm in the centre of town.
Bolton’s Leverhulme Park is the town’s largest at nearly 35-acres. With plenty of walks through its woodland and along the banks of the River Tong and Bradshaw Brook, the park offers an opportunity to get back to nature without leaving town. And nearby Seven Acres Country Park is a 79-acre space that includes a nature reserve with meadows, heathland, woodland and wetland areas and an abundance of wildlife.
- Greater Manchester South
In Altrincham, Dunham Massey is a National Trust-owned Georgian house with glorious surrounding formal gardens, parkland, and moat. With plenty of seasonal colour and interest, the gardens come alive in spring with fantastic displays of Snowdrops, Bluebells, and Tulips and are swiftly followed by the stunning Rose garden with a vibrant display of different varieties.
Don’t think late summer is the end of garden delights at Dunham. The property is home to one of the largest Winter Gardens in the UK and has over 1,600 winter shrubs and trees on display, all showing off their winter colours, scents, and textures.
Tucked away in the heart of Sale, the Walkden Gardens are a public space and a real hidden gem. A testament to the volunteers who maintain and improve them, the gardens are a delight to visit and include a fuschia garden, rose garden, and Japanese garden, all lovingly tended and looked after. And don’t miss the striking 70ft long Wisteria arch which comes alive with colour in Spring.
The Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens in Didsbury is another hidden treat in a highly urban area. Covering around 90-acres, this award-winning public garden is entirely looked after by volunteers and offers another slice of peace and tranquillity. Though the large and restored rock garden is the main showpiece, the gardens also include water features, cherry blossoms, and a host of other flowers and trees on display as well as plenty of wildflowers and wildlife.