Celebrating the best bits and bobs to be found while exploring Britain, Ireland and beyond. Much is inspired by real outings, whether they were walking, cycling or photographic in nature, while virtual blundering in the name of planning them has turned up some gems too. Regardless of how they were found, I hope that they keep coming so I can continue to share new things with you.
Now that I have parcelled visitor information for Cheshire, Cumbria, Northumberland and Yorkshire into their own pages, here's where you'll find equivalents for other parts of the north of England. There are regional portals for England's Northwest and Northeast but information otherwise is provided at the county level, an ever changing set-up due to changes in economic and political fortunes. Still, some edifices like Hadrian's Wall go across multiple area so it cannot be all local either.
Even with all the upheaval that there can be, local identities can be resilient. Those of Cheshire and Yorkshire come to mind here and both continue as viable visitor destination brands. Lancashire was diminished when Cumbria, Greater Manchester and Merseyside came into being a matter of decades ago. The county of Durham is another construct dating from the same era that is developing its own form of permanence.
Each of these inherits the heritage and countryside from what went before them and many of the attractions are reachable from my Cheshire on a day trip. However, there is only so much that can be done on a day out so a longer stay can be needed to do more in the way of justice to am place. Any excuse to escape everyday life is good too so this is a good mix.
The official visitor website for the county of Durham unusually does feature the word "visit" in its title. The are may not be among the more visible ports of call for outsiders but the city seems to warrant more attention than the glimpses that I have been allotting it from passing trains. Then, there is its portion of the North Pennines and that's not all. Maybe, I need to return to Teesdale after a solitary visit a few years back...
County Durham has its dales too and Weardale is but one of them. Once upon a time, it was a very industrialised place and that's why Killhope has a mining museum at its heart. Reassuringly for some, the signs of that mining activity have receded with more natural appearances have taken over since it ceased. It's the countryside that's the main attraction now in this part of the North Pennines and there are museums and heritage railways to savour too.
This part of the world has seen me only the once already and it looks as if more visits as deserved. The Pennine Way passes this way for one thing and the Teesdale is another walking option. The surrounding countryside is alluring too with the waterfalls of Low Force and High Force being well known for good reason. Pleasant spots like Barnard Castle and Middleton-in-Teesdale could make for good bases for exploring the area too.
The county of Greater Manchester has only been in place since 1974 but the growth of what initially was a village to become a city commenced several hundred years ago. The cause was the industrial revolution so there's a bit history here. After all, there's the Museum of Science and Industry, located where the world's first railway station stood for services between Manchester and Liverpool, and the Imperial War Museum North among many others. What also cannot be missed is the city's contribution to football with Manchester United and Manchester City being two prominent rivals. Maybe it's not for nothing that the National Football Museum is based here. The rise of football among working class folk needing a break from their daily industrial grind makes apt sense given Manchester's past.
There was a time when I thought that Stockport was in the county of Cheshire prior to the creation of Greater Manchester in 1974. However, the truth is not as simple as that since it straddles both sides of the River Mersey so part of the place must have been in Lancashire too. Aside from this curiosity, it is tempting to think that there is not a lot to detain the passing visitor apart from its shops but there's more there than that. After all, there is an old heart to the place whose character you'd wish was more pervasive throughout the town. The Hat Museum reflects some of the industrialisation that usurped the older feel to be found around the town's main parish church and its markets. The latter offers a useful escape from the relative tyranny of red-brick buildings that is much needed.
Boltonians may disagree but this is another part of Greater Manchester that never stood out in my mind, Nevertheless, it too has industrial heritage with some fine buildings from the period and all this is complemented by older edifices from before then. There is some countryside to savour too so there is a mix here. Adding to all that is one of its more famous sons: steeplejack Fred Dibnah. So, a less prepossessing mill town may have a lot more to it than I expected.
You just have to wonder how many folk pass through present day Lancashire while en route to elsewhere. After all, hill wandering types like me are drawn to the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District. When the southern part of the latter still remained within Lancashire, it continued to have a hold on visitors but boundary changes in the 1970's altered all of that. Still, the county didn't lose other delights such as the Forest of Bowland or its portion of the Pennines so not all has been lost. In fact, seeking out those could be just the tonic for the stresses and strains of modern living.
If Blackpool were the only destination of note in Lancashire, then I wouldn't be bothering with it; well, seasides aren't really my cup of tea, to be honest. However, there's countryside like the Forest of Bowland and the Lune valley to draw my like and being blinded by parts further north has always had me passing through the county. Stopping off for a little while sounds in order then.
The city is Lancaster, the coast is that around Morecombe and the Lune valley is the countryside. What's hard to believe is that all this is governed by Lancaster City Council, a misnamed local authority if ever there was one. After all, all that stretches from the Irish Sea to the county boundaries with North Yorkshire and Cumbria. That this part of the world doesn't strike me as an obvious visitor destination makes me think that it's a good place to frequent if you want to escape the madding (or maddening?) crowds.
A hell of a lot of villages in Lancashire have websites as the list on this website will reveal. As a way of getting to know these places, a good number of which are located in hill country, it looks a good place to start. In many of them, there is information both for the locals and for the visitor. In a way, that lets you get under the skin of a place and that's never a bad thing.
Coming back from a day spent walking around Yorkshire's western dales, I spotted this hulk of hill country to the west that looked not unlike Pen-y-Ghent in profile. At the time, I was mystified by the sight but now reckon that I was looking towards the Forest of Bowland. Though it's not so far from either Lancaster or Clitheroe, I have yet to set foot in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It was only the Access Land legislation a decade ago that really opened up the area for walking so there's more to be explored legally than there once was. All that effort looks worthwhile from what I have seen so it stays on my to do list until I get to taking things beyond that stage.
It's best known for the infamous witch trials from centuries ago but there's plenty of Pennine hill country for walkers to explore so it can get beyond its previous reputation more than easily. It has the Forest of Bowland on its doorstep too if that weren't enough.
Along with the Wirral below, all of these areas are bundled together under the "Liverpool City" Region banner. Liverpool itself needs hardly any introduction and Soutport is a more upmarket counterpart to Blackpool further north along the Lancashire coast. Then, St. Helens plays host to the Haydock Park horse-racing course. Lastly Halton is a borough straddling the River Mersey that takes in parts of areas once included in Cheshire and Lancashire with Runcorn coming from the former.
Though now part of Merseyside, this once was part of Cheshire and was the "spout" of the former county's teapot-shaped profile. Apart from the likes of Birkenhead, there's countryside and coastline to explore here with birdwatching being something of an attractive. The website tells more.