Weekend breaks! Get out of the city – our tips for some rural & seaside action

Susie Stubbs
north wales by road rail and sea for creative tourist

Use your time off at the weekend wisely – get out of the city you call home.

Much as we love the city, sometimes it’s good to escape it. So, swap traffic and urban life for woods, hills, sea and sky. First stop? Make for the Mersey Coast, and for the red squirrels and sand dunes of Formby, or head to Crosby to see Gormley’s mad, staring-out-to-see men for yourself. There’s always Blackpool, too; you’ll find all three and more in our guide to the best beaches in the North West.

If beaches are your thing, Llandudno should make it onto your list; it is a surprisingly close and pretty drive from Manchester. Or you can try our drive through North Wales, an itinerary with a clutch of cute stop-offs along the way, or our potted guide to Southport.

The hardy should strike out for the Lake District. Normally, we head to the quiet delights of the Eden Valley, but the campsite at Low Wray should be reasonably quiet at this time of year. It can be found just outside Ambleside, on the shores of Lake Windermere and a short lakeside walk from the epic Wray Castle.

Swap traffic and urban life for woods, hills, sea and sky on the May Bank Holidays

A day trip to Liverpool always feels, to us, like something of a holiday. Start at the sunny pavement cafés up around Hope Street (close to the Hope Street Hotel) and then meander down to the waterfront for the Tate and, over the later Bank Holiday, the coming of the “three queens”. You can detour via the Bluecoat, the indie shops and eateries of Bold Street, or via the World Heritage Site that is the area around St. George’s Hall and the Walker. Our complete city guide to Liverpool will help you on your way, as will our guides to coffee shops and places to eat.

Another day trip beckons, this time to Wakefield. Don’t turn up your nose: this city has reinvented itself, mainly via the joy that is the Hepworth and the even greater joy (and Museum of the Year) that is Yorkshire Sculpture Park. With Henry Moore, Ai Weiwei, Lynda Benglis and many more, this is where to head for some seriously big cultural hitters. Our day trip guide to Wakefield, meanwhile, gives a flavour of the diminutive city itself.

Another Museum of the Year, this time one that’s in the running for the coveted title for 2015, is Dunham Massey. A few miles outside Altrincham, this country park and deer park-filled estate is owned by the National Trust and is good for easy walks, a great NT café and, just a field away, the Swan with Two Nicks.

One of the joys of Manchester is its proximity to hill and dale. Villages like Disley (close to another National Trust place, Lyme Park), towns like Ramsbottom (with its superb tapas – yes, tapas) and halls like Haigh Hall are all within easy reach of Manchester, as our guide to rural escapes testifies. Or take a walk up Winter Hill (Rivington Moor) for the most incredible view over the city, as well as Snowdonia, the Peaks, the Lakes, the Yorkshire Dales, even as far as the Mersey Coast. Be wary, though: such views come with a price, i.e. the hike up the hill to the top. Another view comes courtesy of the 128 foot-high Peel Tower near Ramsbottom; it may be open to the public on 3 May (if there’s a flag flying at its top, it’s open, or call 0161 253 5111 to check).

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