Whether you’re a family of rambling explorers, thrill-seeking white-knucklers or you just enjoy shopping in a different city, Manchester offers unrivalled access to some of the country’s top day trip destinations over the summer holidays.

Featuring scenic mountain walks, award-winning museums, golden-age piers and more, here are some of the best day trips for families while school’s out.

Liverpool | Merseyside

Casually world-dominating cultural output, a huge selection of galleries, endless family-friendly fun and a unique urban quarter? Perhaps we aren’t so different after all. Serving Mancunians throughout history as the perfect change of scene for all-ages retail therapy, educational jaunts and sun-kissed adventure, Liverpool remains the ultimate short stop day trip. Eminently walkable, kids can enjoy the outdoors with a frolic around Sefton Park or Royal Albert Dock, exhaust themselves in a variety of activity centres like Ninja Warrior UK and Escape Live, soak in some profoundly rich history across an expansive array of esteemed museums including the Maritime Museum, World Museum and the Beatles Museum, or even tour Anfield.

Liverpool is under an hour by train from Piccadilly, and about 40 minutes by car.

Jodrell Bank | Macclesfield

A short trip south of the city, regional astronomy hub Jodrell Bank invites families to ‘find their outer space in a field in Cheshire’, with four pavilions full of exhibitions and events and a team of experts ready to impart the wonders of the universe. Perfect for space-obsessed kids (and parents), the UNESCO World Heritage Site has been delivering world-renowned educational day trips across the cosmos for over fifty years, and runs a range of exhibitions over the summer, including Our Fragile Space and Jodrell Bank at Work.

Jodrell Bank is around 40 minutes from the city centre by car.

Bomish Ln, Macclesfield SK11 9DW, Tel: 01477 571766
Llandudno | North Wales

Perhaps the platonic ideal of seaside towns, Llandudno is a beloved time-locked day trip destination that will likely outlast the collapse of our sun. Sat in the shadow of the Great Orme – a huge limestone headland which offers trams to its summit and Britain’s longest toboggan run back down – Llandudno features a bustling centre, a sprawling two-mile promenade with regular Punch & Judy puppet shows, a spacious sandy beach with shrimp-filled rock pools at low tide and a fun-packed Victorian pier which reserves modernisation exclusively for its arcade machines and ice cream flavours. If the kids are restless after a few hours, head to nearby Colwyn Bay for an afternoon at the Welsh Mountain Zoo.

Llandudno is just under two hours from Manchester City Centre both by car and by train.

Chester | Cheshire

Featuring Britain’s largest Roman amphitheatre, oldest racecourse and a cathedral bearing flawlessly preserved medieval carvings, Chester’s cobbled streets offer a peerlessly broad family-friendly tour of human civilisation packed within its full-circuit defensive city walls – the only structure of its kind in the country. Ideal for fans of Horrible Histories, visitors can stroll along the same paths used by Vikings and Legionnaires alike, shop along The Rows – itself 700 years old – or head straight to Chester Zoo, which houses over 20,000 animals.

Chester is just 40 miles southwest of Manchester, and takes around an hour to reach both by train and by car.

Lyme Park | Disley

Sat on the edge of the Peak District, Cheshire’s Lyme Park is the archetypal National Trust day out. With a thousand-acre deer park, woodlands, cafes, off-lead dog walking areas, the Old Hall and a neo-classical mansion at its centre, Lyme Park is an accessible slice of history amongst the county’s best scenery.

Lyme Park is around 45 minutes’ drive from Manchester City Centre, and under half an hour by train

Disley, Stockport SK12 2NR, Tel: 01663 762023
Edale | Peak District

Offering easy access to Castleton’s caves and comforts, Edale village is a gateway to the wider Peak District and some of the UK’s best rural landscapes. Featuring a range of accommodation options and nearby attractions, Edale marks the starting point of Britain’s first and most famous long-distance walking path, the Pennine Way.

Edale is around 75 minutes’ drive from Manchester, and under three quarters of an hour from Piccadilly by train.

Lake District | Cumbria

Whether it’s a spartan trek across achingly beautiful mountain ranges, an afternoon spent playing – or lounging – on the shore of England’s largest lake or a mellow browse around the various romantic market towns with plenty of cakes and afternoon teas on offer, the expansive diversity of the Lake District offers every imaginable component of the ideal summer holiday day trip. From Kendal to Keswick and Windermere to Wastwater, the country’s most popular holiday region requires several visits to fit everything in

Car journeys to Oxenholme (gateway to the Lakes) take just over 2 hours, while a train is around 1 hour 20 minutes.

Hebden Bridge | West Yorkshire

Shorthand for progressive, modern, creative communities, market town Hebden Bridge is known as one of Europe’s best places to visit – and live. Quaint and unassuming, the gorgeous countryside village features a staunchly independent high street, endless artisanal cafes and an irresistibly hospitable atmosphere with a fresh influx of young families over the last decade or so.

Hebden Bridge is just over an hour’s drive, and only half an hour by train from Piccadilly.

Formby | Merseyside

Another National Trust gem, nature hotspot Formby is a coastal idyll just north of Liverpool. Lined by woodlands and rolling meadows with views out to sea – punctuated by the occasional shipwreck – Formby’s enormous beach is perfect for families who prefer exploration to relaxation, with ample space for dogs and even horses.

Formby is an hour’s drive from Manchester City Centre or around 90 minutes by train.

Blackpool | Lancashire

For those who want to experience the quintessential northern seaside trip, Blackpool has it all. The South Pier has attractions for all ages, from thrilling rollercoasters, to the Kiddie’s Ride Arena – both of which can be found at the nearby Pleasure Beach amusement park, home to the Haunted House, perpetually swirling candy floss, colossal hard candy pacifiers and, of course, The Big One. For entertainment without the adrenaline, perhaps you’d enjoy a Mr. Whippy and a sanguine donkey ride on the area’s recently renovated seafront.

Blackpool is just over an hour’s drive from Manchester, and around the same by train.

Castleton | Peak District

Arguably the North West’s most well-regarded spot among hikers and cavers, Castleton’s boundless rambling options send walkers across the Peak District in every direction, with routes ranging from 2 to 8 miles to satisfy even the most intrepid family. Featuring trails up Mam Tor, walks passing the UK’s largest natural cave entrance, gentle village-to-village strolls, jaw-dropping views over Edale and Hope Valley, tours around the world-famous Blue John Cavern and much, much more, Castleton is the perfect base camp from which to discover Britain’s most beautiful landscapes on a sunny day.

Castleton is a 40-minute drive from Manchester, or just over an hour by train.

Wolf McFarlane
Published on:
Fri 23 Jun 2023