Under an hour from Manchester

The cliché has it that often we can’t see what’s right under our nose until someone points it out. And, as is often the case, it’s a cliché because it’s true. So here are some of the best sights and activities that are less than an hour’s train ride from Manchester that you might not know about, or just forgot are right on the doorstep.

Edale (46 minutes)

When you’re in Manchester centre you only need rise a storey or two above ground level to see the Pennines – cloud cover notwithstanding. It’s the city's very own 2-million-year-old present from the past which is why so many of us already have favourite local points along its spine.

Edale is a tiny, Derbyshire village popular as the southern starting point of the Pennine Way. Here you'll find plenty of walks of different intensities that lead you around the town or much, much further afield. Heading up to Kinder Scout, the birthplace of open access England, is a good, though strenuous first move. Or you can just get the train, stroll around the village, take in the fresh air and inhale a warming pot of tea at the Penny Pot Cafe.

The Vale of Edale walk includes a moderate wander on the outskirts of the town and ends up back at the cafe… or you can carry on a few yards, turn left and cross the railway line and end up at The Rambler Inn for something stronger.

Leeds (53 minutes)

What? ‘Right under your nose? Leeds?’ You may ask with high-pitched incredulity. But, that’s right. Trains to Leeds from Manchester are, at their best, just 53 minutes from Piccadilly station. Read our Leeds destination guide for a meatier steer on the city, but here are a few extras for a day trip...

Leeds Art Gallery
Leeds Art Gallery

Leeds Art Gallery was reopened after a refurb in October 2017 and is a spectacular building housing one of the UK’s finest art collections.The gallery is a cornerstone of the Leeds European Capital of Culture 2023 bid and features new works as well as amazing examples of modern-era masters like Francis Bacon and Paula Rego.

Tony Cragg, Postcard Flag (Union Jack), 1981
Tony Cragg, Postcard Flag (Union Jack), 1981
If your definition of an aesthetic work is something that sends you to sleep, then why not do what comes natural in Leeds: go shopping. In 2017, and for the second year running, Kirkgate Market has come first at the Great British Market Awards. The market stocks an eclectic mix of goods and is presented as a traditional northern shopping emporium. If you want something a little more glam then you can always pop to Harvey Nichols which is just opposite on the sculptural and brand-filled King Edward Street.

Preston (from 41 minutes)

Often in Manchester, the city can distract you from the things that are going on within arm’s reach and Lancashire has a wonderful array of municipal art galleries, parks, restaurants and pubs to suit all tastes. One place that’s often overlooked is the city of Preston – which in 2016 beat Manchester and Liverpool (and everywhere else in the north-west) as the best city to live and work in.

We love a good-looking edifice and Preston doesn’t let us down as home of St Walburge's Church - which has the tallest spire of any church in England. It’s a remarkable building in its own right and not just because it’s Instagram-friendly. Another spot that will get your images Internet-likes is one of the finest Georgian squares in the North: Winckley Square. Wander around the park at its heart, then go to Winckley Street for somewhere to sit down, post your pics and grab a bite to eat.

Finally, if you don’t mind a short bus or taxi ride Samlesbury Hall is an amazing half-timbered black and white stately home where the kids can play, and you can all eat in the restaurant or Dottie’s Wafflery while relaxing in the splendid surroundings dating back to 1325 (the year, not the departure time).

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