Our final day in Manchester and the sun was still shining! After a leisurely breakfast in our cosy suite we gathered together our belongings and checked out of CitySuites, leaving our bags at reception to collect later in the day.
Making the most of our weekend tram pass, it was then back to nearby Exchange Square for a service to Altrincham 8.5 miles (13km) to the south west. The journey taking approximately 25 minutes, passing Old Trafford, the home of the Lancashire County Cricket Club on the way.
Altrincham is the final stop on the line and acts as an interchange tram and railway station for the Mid-Cheshire Line. It’s yet another of Greater Manchester’s affluent leafy suburbs and a foodies paradise as we were soon to find out,
The town was built on a Roman Road connecting Chester with York and is one of England’s original market towns, its charter dating back to 1290. Its once dreary old market building is now one of the best examples of a rejuvenated market hall in the north of England and a great place for Sunday brunch. A collection of local independent food and drink traders serve up appetising meals in this beautifully restored building with tables spilling out onto neighbouring streets and in front of the covered market next door. Since re-opening after the pandemic the interior has been slightly reconfigured with socially distanced tables and app ordering has been introduced.
Decorated outside with shabby chic planters, it’s now a vibrant part of the town centre surrounded by even more inviting cafes and restaurants, we were spoilt for choice. The pedestrianised high street boasts a good sized branch of Marks & Spencer alongside a number of other household names.
After browsing the shops we hopped on a tram to Brooklands taking just 15 minutes. Passing the station cafe, a sign informed us that Brooklands takes its name from Samuel Brook, a cotton manufacturer and banker who established a large housing estate in the area. Our reason for going there was to take a walk along the towpath of the Bridgewater Canal.
The towpath has been upgraded to provide a level cycleway and footpath all the way from Altrincham into the centre of Manchester which is now known as the Bridgewater Way. As the Metrolink tram line runs parallel with the canal it’s possible to take walks of any length depending on how energetic one feels. We enjoy long walks, but as we had plans for later in the day, decided to just walk between Brooklands and Sale, the next station along the line which was very pleasant.
There was lots happening on the canal, with brightly painted narrowboats chugging slowing along and children having fun in rowing boats. The towpath was quite busy too, with numerous walkers and cyclists enjoying the fresh air but there was plenty of room for everyone even in these times of social distancing.
Blue finger posts located at regular intervals indicate directions to Metrolink stops and distance markers and on reaching Sale we couldn’t resist crossing the bridge for a drink on the waterside terrace of the King’s Ransom pub.
Feeling refreshed, we wandered along to the Metrolink station pausing briefly to admire Sale’s elegant town hall on our way.
Our final activity of the weekend took us back through the centre of Manchester to Heaton Park located to the north of the city on the Bury tram line. It was my first visit to this huge historic park and with a tram stop across the road from the entrance gates, it couldn’t have been easier to access.
Being a sunny Sunday afternoon there were many people out enjoying the wide open spaces, the majority carefully adhering to social distancing rules. Near to the boating lake, the adventure playground was proving popular with young children with well behaved dogs waiting patiently in their designated dog parking zone.
We enjoyed a stroll around the large boating lake which covers 12 acres and includes three islands. From open parkland to shady woodland trails there was much to see. So much in fact that we had to leave some of the park’s attractions for another time.
I definitely want to make a return visit when the park’s historic tramway and transport museum are allowed to re-open. Several heritage trams are on display with others running on a track dating back to the original Manchester Tramway which used to run into the park. It seems strange that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting transport museums all over the world but have not yet managed to visit one that’s relatively close to my home.
It was then time to return to the city centre to pick up our luggage before taking the train home from Victoria Station. We’d had a wonderful time re-visiting our favourite spots in the city centre and making good use of our Metrolink travel cards exploring far and wide. Hopefully, this series of posts might inspire some of you to also consider visiting Manchester as the city has so much to offer even when concerts, sporting events and some attractions are still off limits.
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