When thinking about Great Britain, we are instantly drawn to the Royal Family, the international city of London, and Soccer (or football as it is known to most around the globe). Yet, Great Britain has so much more to offer the worldly traveller! Fly into the north, where you will discover the vibrant city of Manchester, then head south west and you will find yourself in breathtaking Wales, two intriguing regions of this great nation that do not get the same exposure as their better-known counterparts.
Escape the Crowds: Two British destinations. One journey.
Known as Britain’s ‘capital of cool’, this once industrial town has grown into Great Britain’s edgiest city. Home to a world-class arts and culture scene, notable landmarks and the world’s most popular football clubs, you won’t be at loss to keep yourself entertained.
For football fans and history buffs, Manchester’s free attractions are an unquestionable must see, including the National Football Museum, the Manchester Museum, and the People’s History Museum. And if you like a good pint of beer and good food after a day of sight-seeing then you will be spoilt for choice with all the traditional pubs, modern bars, and great restaurants. Enjoy traditional British dishes at Sam’s Chop House and Manchester House, or the independent bars and restaurants in the Northern Quarter. Then wash it all down with a nearby pint – Greater Manchester is home to more than 30 independent breweries, with many of them offering guided tours and tastings sessions.
Immerse yourself in Manchester’s artistic, industrial & political history at its wide variety of museums. The Lowry houses the largest public collection of paintings and drawings by LS Lowry, one of Great Britain’s most adored twentieth century artists. Science buff? You’ll adore the creative displays and interactive exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry. Check out the working loom spinning yarn into cloth and a replica of the Baby computer, all on the site of the world’s first passenger railway.
Music, Festivals & Nightlife
Manchester is the city that gave the world Oasis, The Smiths, The Chemical Brothers, amongst many others, and the tradition of live music and up and coming bands still lives on there. Take in Manchester’s nightlife with cocktails at Cloud 23 or Manchester House. Be a part of what gives Manchester its cool reputation at the bohemian bars of the Northern Quarter or the lively bars and clubs of Manchester’s Deansgate and Printworks areas. The biennial Manchester International Festival, described by The New Yorker as “probably the most radical and important arts festival today” spotlights Manchester on the international stage. Look out for 18 days of premieres, performances and events this July, including the premiere of “wonder.land,” a new musical inspired by Lewis Carroll’s iconic Alice in Wonderland with music by Damon Albarn, amongst the hot tickets.
When it comes to sport, Manchester tops it all and is home to two of the world’s most popular football clubs – Manchester United and Manchester City. If you’re a real football fanatic, discover more than 140,000 items of memorabilia and world-class exhibits exploring the past, present and future of football at the National Football Museum; or get up close to the clubs with a backstage tour of Old Trafford or the Etihad Stadium.
Manchester is one of Britain’s leading shopping destinations. Head to Market Street, Manchester Arndale or the acclaimed Trafford Centre, to discover the best British brands. Uncover the boutiques on New Cathedral Street, The Avenue at Spinningfields or Selfridges, and Harvey Nichols on Exchange Square.
It may be full of fashionable shops and trendy restaurants and bars, but Manchester’s history & culture is what sets it apart from the rest. The magnificent seventeenth-century Chetham’s Library, the oldest public library in the English-speaking world, is housed in well-preserved medieval college buildings. The entire collection at Chetham’s Library has been designated as one of national and international importance. Don’t miss the free midday concerts on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during term-time, performed by pupils at the adjacent School of Music.
With Manchester as your gateway, it’s just over an hour to Wales where you can embrace your adventurous side and explore new delights in absolutely stunning Welsh countryside. Find wonderful medieval castles filled with absorbing history, cosy B&B’s, delicious local food, crowd-free beaches & scenic walks at every turn. From the mystical coastal Isle of Anglesey to spirited seaside villages and charming market towns, the beautiful country of Wales offers plenty for the curious explorer.
Welsh culture is unique within Britain. You’ll hear the ancient Welsh language spoken in the local pubs and shops, feel the Celtic legacy in Welsh music and legends, and soak up culture both old and new in galleries, museums and attractions. If it’s your first trip to here, it surely won’t be your last and if you’ve come before, there’s a warm welcome always waiting for you in the hills of Wales.
No one does castles like Wales – the country is home to 641 of them! In North Wales, you’ll uncover the four imposing fortresses commissioned by King Edward I. Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Conwy and Harlech Castles all make up one UNESCO World Heritage Site with four different locations. History buffs agree the walls-within-walls design of Beaumaris Castle on the Isle of Anglesey makes it the most technically perfect castle in Great Britain. Meanwhile, Conwy Castle is arguably the most stop-you-in-your-tracks of the Welsh fortresses built by Edward I in the 13th century. When you’re done climbing castle towers, take a stroll around Conwy to experience this charming seaside town and its medieval walls.
The 870-mile, long-distance walking trail, combines with the Offa’s Dyke trail along the Welsh English border, making Wales the world’s first country with a path around its entire perimeter. Northern regions of the path stretch across the dramatic seascape on the Isle of Anglesey and the ancient monuments erected by pilgrims enroute to Bardsey Island off the Llyn Peninsula. Note to self: bring walking boots.
Return to a bygone era as you travel on one of many heritage steam railways in Wales. Ride the Llangollen Railway for a relaxing ride with countryside views; take the Snowdon Mountain Railway to the top of the highest mountain peak in Wales; or hop aboard the Welsh Highland Railway through the heart of Snowdonia National Park.
No matter the season, Bodnant Gardens features a beautiful display. The 80-acre estate is lovingly cared for by the National Trust. But come in May to see Bodnant’s world famous Laburnum Arch, a cascade of golden blooms that forms a 118 foot long tunnel. Fall visits are rewarded by an amazing display of reds, greens, purples and golds. After a day of exploring the gardens stop by the neighbouring Bodnant Food Centre for mouth-watering Welsh cuisine. They even make their own dairy and honey on site – it doesn’t get more local than that!
There’s nowhere in the world like Portmeirion. This Italianate-style fantasy village was designed by the late Welsh architect, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in the 1920s. It’s a whimsical oasis of pastel painted buildings garden walks and seaside dining. The entire village is a hotel and guests can enjoy its architectural flourishes while staying in one of many quirky cottages on the grounds. Portmeirion was formerly the surreal stage for the 1960s cult TV series, The Prisoner and now hosts an exciting music event, Festival Number 6, each September
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Trace Alice’s story to Wales where Lewis Carroll, the author of the famed books, met the real-life Alice Liddell, his muse for the stories, in the town of Llandudno. Pick up the White Rabbit Trail map from the Tourist Information Centre or download a pair of new augmented-reality apps to reveal more about the little girl behind the story.
Want to know what it feels like to fly? Wales is the place to find out. Soar through the sky at speeds of up to 100mph at Zip World Snowdonia, which now operates two zip wire sites: Zip World Velocity at Bethesda is the fastest zip line in the world; Zip World Titan at Blaenau Ffestiniog is Europe’s only four-person zip line. Nerves of steel are optional.
So have we sparked your interest? Then why don’t you start planning your trip to Manchester and Wales now.
Text by Claudia Trimde