Fancy a breath of fresh air? There should be something to tickle your fancy in our round up that takes in the follies of Portmeirion, Chatsworth House, the beach and red squirrel sanctuary at Formby, Hardcastle Crags forest and a simple hill walk at Edale.

1. Weird world & great views at Portmeirion
Ok so you have to be a devoted driver to make Portmeirion worth your while. Clocking in at 2.5hrs from Manchester city centre (on a good day), it’s one for the passionate day-outer only. But the rewards are mighty. This giant holiday resort (built in two stages between 1925 to 1939 and 1954-76) has found fame as the setting of TV series, The Prisoner, as well as the home of contemporary Festival Number 6. Explore the sweet-coloured village of quirky holiday homes, shops, cafes and ceramic stores, before heading into the forest and out onto the estuary. There’s even a pet cemetery.
Drive from Mcr: 2.5hrs
Nearest train: Minffordd
Postcode: LL48 6ET

2. The ultimate country house and gardens at Chatsworth
The setting of the film version of Pride and Prejudice (2004) is one of the best preserved stately homes in the UK. The house itself is transformed into a themed wonderland over the festive period (until 3 Jan) but incredible works of art and state of the art furnishings reward the eye at any time of year. There’s also a maze, Victorian rock garden and delightful landscape created by ‘Capability’ Brown. An immaculately kept farmyard and adventure playground for children completes the picture.
Drive from Mcr: 1.5hrs
Nearest train: Chesterfield.
Postcode: DE45 1PP

3. Head for the beach and meet the red squirrels at Formby (pic) 
Manchester is surprisingly close to the seaside town of Formby – and it’s a real gem. Drive through the millionaire’s mansions to the National Trust managed forest and red squirrel sanctuary, with ample parking and great walks. Stroll through the pine forests and dunes or along the beach itself, complete with views of distant power stations and fairground rides.
Drive from Mcr: 1-1.5hrs
Nearest train: Formby
Postcode: L37 1LJ

4. Explore a magical forest landscape at Hardcastle Crags
Hardcastle Crags is a mossy valley, full of ancient trees, the ruins of Victorian cotton mills and leafy places to play hide and seek. Managed by the National Trust, the best place to start your adventure is Midgehole car park near Hebden Bridge. From here there’s an easy walk down to the stream at the the bottom of the valley, along to Gibson Mill complete with tearooms around 1.5miles away and back along the main track to the carpark. This walk takes 45min-1.5hrs and offers a taste of the diverse and picturesque landscape.
Drive from Mcr: 1hr+
Nearest train: Hebden Bridge
Postcode: HX7 7AA

5. Climb an easy mountain at Edale
Edale station car park is the perfect starting point for either a walk up Kinder Scout onto the famous moorland plateau of the Dark Peak or along a clearly worn path through the valley as streams trickle down the mountain sides. They say that big ideas spring from big vistas, and this famous hill walk is one of the nearest places to Manchester to test that theory.
Drive from Mcr: 1hr or less
Nearest train: Edale.
Postcode: S33 7ZP

Fri 30 Dec - Tue 31 Jan
Ruth Allan
Published on:
Mon 30 Jan 2017