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Six epic road trips that you can start from Manchester

Ready to hit the road and see something other than the four walls of your bedroom? It's nearly time! Check out the best short trips you can take this summer

Rob Martin
Written by
Rob Martin

Manchester is brilliant, there's no doubt about it. But when you've been stuck in the same place for a year, no matter how good that place is, it feels great to dream about hitting the open road and getting out of town. Plus, we could all do with some post-lockdown inspiration, right?. So, why not start planning your summer road trip now? We've narrowed down the best road trips you can do from Manchester into one handy list. Whether you want to escape for the day or the whole weekend, we've got you covered. Before you know it you could be perusing world-famous art in a glorious green space, spotting wildlife along rugged, rural coastlines or feeling fancy in a regency spa town.

Day trips

Lake District

How far? One hour 20 minutes. 

Why go? The Lake District should be on the domestic bucket list of any self-respecting Brit. The landscape of the Lakes is dramatic, with jagged mountains meeting deep mirrored lakes. It’s the largest National Park in England, and home to Scafell Pike, its highest mountain, and Wastwater, its deepest lake. Cool, eh?

Do this: Got the energy and enthusiasm to climb a mountain? Take on Scafell Pike for a real challenge or Old Man Coniston for an easier but still rewarding hike. Next, zip over to Bowness-on-Windermere to rent a boat and mess around on pretty Lake Windermere. National Trust’s Hill Top, where children’s author Beatrix Potter lived, is a charming seventeenth-century cottage full of her favourite things. Enjoying those literary vibes? Pop to Rydal Mount to wander in William Wordsworth’s gardens, peek inside his writing hut and browse his library. 

Eat this: Sat on a crossroad in what feels like the middle of nowhere, The Drunken Duck Inn is a gorgeous place to hole up for a feast. Dishes are clever and creative: think wild mushrooms and truffle on a toasted crumpet, mulled cider, poached pears with gingerbread, and fish with sea purslane and anchovy hollandaise. 


How far? One hour 20 minutes. 

Why go? Famous for cream teas and Turkish baths, Harrogate is a classic English spa town with quaint streets, independent shops, glorious antique stores and cosy pubs, all surrounded by rolling green hills. It’s a total treat for visitors. 

Do this: Pursue brilliant nineteenth and twentieth-century art in the beautiful Mercer Art Gallery before exploring RHS Garden Harlow Carr, a 58-acre garden at the foot of the Yorkshire Dales. Next up, the Turkish Baths Harrogate is the place to soothe yourself into serenity. Visit the colourful, decoratively designed spa, mosaicked steam room and plunge pool, or indulge in a massage with warmed Himalayan salt stones. 

Eat this: A trip to Harrogate would be incomplete without a mid-afternoon stop at Bettys. The Yorkshire institution has been serving up Fat Rascals (that’s fruit-studded scones) with jam and clotted cream since 1919. If you’re still hungry, order generous Sunday lunches from The Fat Badger. 


How far? One hour ten minutes. 

Why go? Yorkshire Sculpture Park is one of the best open-air galleries you’ll ever set eyes on. Visitors can wander across the 500 acres of rolling countryside just outside Wakefield and stumble upon more than 80 sculptures of all shapes, sizes and materials.

Do this: Yorkshire Sculpture Park is beautiful countryside dotted with awe-inspiring sculptures. The collection comprises works by the likes of Ai Weiwei, Barbara Hepworth, Andy Goldsworthy and Henry Moore – and you’ll also find world-class exhibitions in the Underground Gallery, YSP Centre, Longside Gallery and the Chapel. 

Eat this: YSP is so stunning, why go anywhere else? Eat soup, sausage rolls or local Yorkshire pies in the restaurant while eyeing those lush views over the park. Or grab chunky sandwiches, slices of homemade cake and scones with cream and jam for an open-air picnic among the artworks.

Weekend getaways


How far? Five hours 50 minutes to Inverness; eight hours 20 minutes to Duncansby Head.

Why go? There’s no way to properly immerse yourself in nature than deserted beaches and long expansive horizons – and the Scottish Highlands are as remote and awe-inspiring as it gets in the UK. Shake off the city with a road trip along the North Coast 500, from Inverness to what seems like the edge of the world. 

Do this: Stop off for a little monster-hunting at Loch Ness before heading north on the NC500 out of Inverness. Chanonry Point is your next pitstop, where you can spot bottlenose dolphins from the edge of the peninsula. Pull over to see one of the route’s brochs: iron-age fortifications found only in Scotland. Eventually, you’ll arrive at John O’Groats, the northernmost inhabited spot in mainland Britain. Take the blustery walk out to see the fang-like stacks at Duncansby Head.

Eat this: Park up at Whaligoe Steps Café and Restaurant for a really rather special meal with the horizon as its backdrop. Order hot bowls of Scottish smoked salmon ramen, lentil curries and black pudding and haggis burgers. 


How far? Three hours ten minutes. 

Why go? The Cotswolds’ lush green hills and pretty villages, populated with cute stone cottages, are postcard-ready all year round. Get ready to get lost in the England of daydreams; think impossibly quaint streets, abundant gardens and charming shops.

Do this: Spend a day village-hopping for the full Cotswolds experience. Visit Bourton-on-the Water for pretty waterways and cafés, Broadway for its imposing stone tower, Stow-on-the-Wold for antique shops, its church door, which is said to have inspired JRR Tolkien, and Arlington Row in Bibury for possibly the prettiest row of stone cottages you’ll ever see. All that driving around taken it out of you? Pop to Bamford Haybarn spa for lush treatments in plush surroundings. 

Eat this: The tiny village of Daylesford is home to a farm shop and restaurant, serving up delicious dishes from breakfast through to supper. This is real farm-to-fork eating: meat and poultry, fruit and veg, homemade bread. Even their cheese, milk and yoghurt is made onsite at the creamery. Dreamy, right? 

Stay here: The Wild Rabbit in Kingham is a wonderfully serene place to lay your head. Inspired by the Cotswolds countryside, each room or cottage is kitted out with luxe beds and fine linens in calming, muted tones. 


How far? Three hours 20 minutes. 

Why go? Honey-coloured Bath has been drawing in visitors since Roman times, thanks to the thermal spring which bubbles up under the city. The Roman Baths aren’t for splashing about in these days but there are plenty of places to wallow in warm waters, as well as pretty parks and an indie high street. 

Do this: Soak up Bath’s fascinating history. Stroll around Prior Park Landscape Garden, promenade along the architecturally impressive Royal Crescent, pop into the Jane Austen Centre and take in the ancient Roman Baths. Then, enjoy the city’s more modern pursuits with a trip to the Thermae Bath Spa, which boasts a stunning rooftop pool and super-luxe facilities. 

Eat this: Head to one of the oldest houses in the city for a famous Bath bunn. Sally Lunn’s has been serving up sticky bunns for centuries. Like the vibe? Pop to the Pump Room for the kind of afternoon tea Jane Austen would have enjoyed.

Stay here: Head out of the town for a night in the nearby Mendip Hills. The Pig near Bath is found in a pretty country townhouse, with animals roaming nearby as well as an enormous kitchen garden that supplies the dreamy restaurant.


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