Nothing beats some time spent in the great outdoors, whether on a walking tour, an urban guided walk or exploring the hills and dales of the countryside that surrounds us. Here are our picks of the best walks and walking tours on offer.
Here are our top 5 picks
Set apart from the Manchester suburb of Sale’s more obvious distractions is a garden whose very unexpectedness is part of its charm. Known locally as The Secret Garden, Walkden Gardens echoes its counterparts in children’s novels: happened upon for the first time, it can feel at once too extensive and too unreal to be hidden by nondescript suburban streets. Fittingly, the gardens are a gift. Harry Walkden, a noted hybridist of golden rod and orchids, left them as a bequest to Sale Borough Council, with the stipulation that they be put to use for the public good. The current – entirely voluntary – Friends of Walkden Gardens and their predecessors have honoured this stipulation in ground and vision.
This historic little boozer just outside Manchester supplies, if you ask nicely, the map for a four-mile country walk that starts and ends at its doors.
Visiting Manchester Jewish Museum? There are some lovely walks in the surrounding Cheetham Hill area. Follow the River Irk along Collyhurst and Smedley Roads and you’ll you travel through no fewer than four parks, making Cheetham Hill something of a green oasis within walking distance the city centre. Of these, Queen’s Park (one of the first municipal parks in the entire country when it opened in 1846) is the best for families, with a large lake, an elegant fountain and a spacious play area. Also worth visiting is Cheetham Park, crowned with an ornate, though crumbling, iron bandstand.
Once an escape from the industrial smog of the city, Sheffield Botanical Gardens now offer a quiet retreat from the chaos of everyday life. Find a secluded spot to read a book, take a group of friends for a picnic – however you choose to visit, the Gardens’ 19 acres offer plenty of space to unwind. There’s also a 90-metre-long glass roofed pavilion, humid with exotic plants, and a lesser-spotted bear pit tucked away in one corner. Two live bears used to live here – now, a lone bronze statue stands in their stead; shinier, more moral and less likely to bite.
Lyme Park is a grand country house, gardens and estate close to Stockport – and something of a National Trust beauty. The Grade I-listed house dates back (in parts) to the 16th century, the formal gardens offer a pleasant meander, while the sprawling grounds include a 15-acre deer park and an odd tower-on-the-hill (called the Cage; it was once a hunting lodge but has also served as a prison). We recommend the courtyard cafe and, if you have kids, the excellent Crow Wood adventure playground. Two cafes and two shops round out the offer.