Manchester’s tourism and hospitality venues may be temporarily closed but there are still plenty of outdoor activities in the city, where you can exercise and boost your mood at the same time. From alfresco art and an ancient deer park to views over the city, here’s where you can discover more of Manchester, safely, this lockdown.
Five Manchester adventures
1. Enjoy alfresco art in the city centre
Manchester is famous for its creativity and, on a walk around the city centre’s Northern Quarter, you can take in some of its best street art. Start at the wrought-iron gates of its former wholesale fish market on High Street to see an enormous new mural of NHS nurse Melanie Senior opposite, which was commissioned by The National Portrait Gallery. Then head up recently pedestrianised Thomas Street to Stevenson Square. On your way, stop to look at a painting of an orangutan wearing a facemask on an old substation on the corner of Tib Street. Part of the #ProtectPongo street art campaign, it highlights the negative impact of palm oil.
The buildings in Stevenson Square are repainted every three months by street artists as part of Manchester’s Outhouse Project. Admire these then find Little Lever Street, just off the square, to see Serenity, a huge mural of a woman in a scarlet dress, which is a tribute to women who stand against injustice.
Peckish after your walk? Grab an excellent takeout coffee and piece of cake from Takk Coffee House (takkmcr.com) on Tariff Street.
Insider tip: Hungry for more art? There’s a self-guided art trail across the city centre until December 5 called 50 Windows of Creativity, which showcases the work of Manchester artists. Download a map from beeinthecitymcr.co.uk. You can also learn more about the Northern Quarter’s street art with a virtual tour by guide Hayley Flynn (theskyliner.org).
2. Visit the graves of some of Manchester’s most famous residents
In the south Manchester suburb of Chorlton, Southern Cemetery is one of the largest municipal cemeteries in the UK. Enjoy a peaceful autumn stroll here, crunching through golden leaves on its tree-lined paths and spotting wildlife.
It’s also the final resting place of some of Manchester’s most famous residents. The grand hexagonal monument in memory of the city’s first multi-millionaire, textile entrepreneur and philanthropist, John Rylands, can be found next to the West Chapel. From here, with Rylands’ monument on your left, walk for a couple of minutes to find the sleek black gravestone of Tony Wilson, also known as Mr Manchester, who founded Factory Records (the label of Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays) and the Hacienda nightclub.
Artist LS Lowry is buried in plot number C 722, which is in the first section on the right after the main entrance on Nell Lane. Look out for a simple white cross which has his parents’ names on its front, with his inscription tucked around the side. Other graves to look out for include Manchester United manager Sir Matt Busby’s, pilot of the first non-stop transatlantic flight Sir John Alcock, and footballer Billy Meredith.
Insider tip: If you’d like to find a specific grave, look up its plot number before your visit as the cemetery’s size will make it tricky.
3. Take a stroll among ancient oaks and deer
Book a slot online to explore the National Trust’s Dunham Massey estate (nationaltrust.org.uk) with its garden and deer park. Around half an hour’s drive south of the city centre, it’s hard not to be excited as wild deer casually stroll by.
The Grade-I listed hall is closed throughout lockdown but the grounds are what makes this place special, with towering ancient trees – look out for the 500-year-old oak tree as you enter – and one of the largest winter gardens in the UK, where trees and evergreens have been chosen for their scent as well as good looks.
Children will love squelching through mud and rust-coloured leaves in the deer park and building dens among the trees, while keen wildlife fans should bring binoculars to get a closer look at the deer and birds, such as Canada geese, swans and coots, on Old Man Pool or Smithy Pool.
Takeaway food and drink is available from the Stamford café, drinks and ice-cream from the Parlour, and stonebaked pizza from a pizza van (weather dependent).
Insider tip: Slots are released on a Friday for the following week, so log on then to stand the best chance of nabbing the day and time you’d like.
4. Head north for a fantastic view
There’s plenty of room to spread out in the 640-acre Heaton Park, Manchester’s biggest park, in the north of the city. Explore the vast green space on its network of paths or delve into woodland where friendly squirrels scamper close by in the hope of being fed.
Walk to the Neoclassical Heaton Hall and its orangery, which was once home to Sir Thomas Egerton and from here head to the nearby hilltop temple, which is believed to have been Sir Thomas’ observatory. The viewpoint here has been incorrectly labelled as the highest point in the city of Manchester (apparently, it’s actually nearby in a wooded area) but, either way, you’ll still enjoy a fabulous view over a golf course to the city’s rooftops.
On a stroll you can also see the park’s boating lake, a curved memorial to honour soldiers who lost their lives during the Battle of the Somme, and, despite the animal farm being closed, children can say hi to the horses and donkeys who graze in fields. Cafés in the boathouse and stable block are open serving takeaway food and drink until 3.30pm.
Insider tip: It’s free to visit Heaton Park but you’ll have to pay up to £3 to park.
5. Learn about the city’s industrial past
Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum (scienceandindustrymuseum.org.uk) is temporarily closed but its building is a great place to start a walk to learn all about how Manchester was created and became such a powerful industrial city. The museum’s five buildings are listed, with the world’s oldest surviving railway station being here, which sped up the transport of passengers and goods between Liverpool and Manchester when it opened in 1830.
Walk from the museum towards the canal-side Castlefield area whose industrial warehouses are now apartments and waterside bars and restaurants. On your way, pass the ruins of the Roman fort of Mamucium, the first recorded human settlement in the city from 79 AD and where Manchester’s name derives from. Continue under the railway arches to reach a network of towpaths and bridges.
Admiring canal boats and walking waterside is a pleasant way to spend an hour or two but there’s also more history to discover, with plaques telling the area’s stories and remnants of its industrial past such as a coal shaft to peer down.
Head up Deansgate afterwards for a sweet treat from Alex’s Bakery (alexsbakery.co.uk), which is open for takeaways on Thursdays and Fridays.
Insider tip: Children in tow? Turn your walk into an adventure by following the Treasure Trails Manchester Castlefield Spy Mission Trail (treasuretrails.co.uk), which is packed with facts about the area. If you complete the 1.3-mile trail and complete its mission, you can be entered into a £100 monthly draw.