Every person I’ve met whilst I’ve been travelling abroad has a sort of stereotype in their heads of what the UK is like. Most of their stereotypes sound like something out of a Jane Austen novel, of polite gentlemen and ladies in dresses skipping over rolling hills and sparkling streams to Buckingham Palace, where we will all drink tea with the Queen. (Fun fact: when I was studying abroad in the USA I managed to convince at least 10 people that I am related to Will and Kate…)
Sadly, these stereotypes of life in the UK are mainly incorrect. I’ve never met the Queen, and I’ve never actually drank a cup of tea in my life *shock horror*. Mercifully however, the image people have of Britain being a country of beautiful landscape is true. As an island nation, you are never more than 75 miles away from the sea, and really, the UK is just one large island of hills, moors, and woods, with a few large cities scattered about in-between.
Us Brits love getting out and about whenever we can, whether it’s for a day at the beach, or a long weekend camping. Manchester is perfectly situated for all you outdoor types – to the north is the Lake District, to the east is the Yorkshire Dales and Peak District. To the south is Cheshire, and to the west is Wales, and Snowdonia National Park. We are also close to the beaches of the west coast, with Southport and Lytham St Annes being popular resorts for a day trip. There’s no better place to eat traditional fish and chips than on the sea front…
I had a request from Seb – one of our exchange students coming from New Zealand – for some of my recommendations of some of the best walks and hikes around. It’s been so hard for me to not write about every walk I’ve ever been on! I’ve tried to make sure the walks I’ve included below are easily accessible by public transport, but if you don’t want to brave the British wilderness alone, why not join the university’s Hiking Club. They organise a wide variety of walks each weekend, from residentials in Scotland, to day trips to the Peaks. Everyone is really friendly, and the trips are really affordable to do! Keep an eye out on their website for an upcoming timetable for the 16/17 academic year, and join their Facebook group
Don’t forget to be prepared, especially if you are walking by yourself. Check the weather conditions before you set off – ideally, you should only go hiking on clear, dry days. Ensure you are well equipped with warm clothing, an Ordinance Survey map, food, water, a first aid kit, a torch and a fully charged mobile phone. If you get into difficulty, phone 999, and ask for the POLICE, and then MOUNTAIN RESCUE. Mountain Rescue is an organisation of highly trained volunteers who will rescue walkers who have gotten into difficulty on Britain’s mountains and hills. Their website offers some really useful information on what to do in an emergency: https://www.mountain.rescue.org.uk/mountain-advice/in-case-of-accident
One of my favourite, more ‘basic’ walks is on Doctor’s Gate, from Glossop, a town about 30 minutes away from Manchester by train (and is also the town where I live!) Doctor’s Gate is a road /pathway which was first used by the Romans thousands of years ago, and takes in some of the best views of the Peak District. It’s also pretty cool knowing that you’re retracing the steps of the people who lived in this area thousands of years ago! Unfortunately it doesn’t lead anywhere special, it just takes you to the middle of a very busy road called The Snake Pass, which links Manchester to Sheffield, so you have to turn around and retrace your steps to get back home. Nonetheless, it’s a really nice walk which I love to do.
Get the train from Manchester Piccadilly to Hadfield, and get off at Glossop. Turn right outside of the train station and go down to the crossroads, and turn left so you’re on High Street East. Follow this road for about 10 minutes, until you get to a road on the left called Manor Park Road (after the roundabout). Walk down this road, until you cross the river, and turn right onto Shepley Street. Follow Shepley Street right down – you’ll go past a factory on your left, and end up at a turning circle in the road at the end. There will be a path straight ahead of you, which you need to follow for about 1km until you reach a stile straight ahead of you, which will be signposted as Doctors Gate. From here, it’s fairly straightforward to follow the well-trodden path, which generally follows the river on your right until you cross over it on a bridge, before descending up a hill.
You can also do this walk, but with the addition of visiting Bleaklow Moor, first, before coming down a section of Doctors Gate on your return. Details of which can be found here: http://www.trekkingbritain.com/bleaklowfromoldglossop.htm#peakdistrictwalks
Monsal Trail is a series of old, disused railway tunnels and bridges which span across the middle of the Peak District for 8.5 miles. It is a really flat, well lit and well paved so it is suitable for everyone of all abilities. I enjoy cycling the trail, and you can rent bikes out at various points on the trail.
To get there, take a train from Manchester Piccadiilly to Buxton, and then take a bus from the train station to Millers Dale. The owners of Monsal Trail have made a really useful guideexplaining just how to get there, using public transport!
If you would like to cycle the trail, get the bus to Topley Pike for Wyedale, where you can rent bikes out.
Kinder Scout is the tallest mountain the Peak District, and as such is often busy on warm clear days. Most people walk up it from the town of Edale, (which is served by train from Manchester) but when my friends and I go hiking we take a quieter route from the little village of Hayfield. You can get a bus to Hayfield from the previously mentioned town of Glossop, or there is also a bus from Stockport.
From the centre of the village, it’s a bit of a walk up Kinder Road, until you reach a car park on your left. Keep going past the car park, until you reach Kinder Reservoir on your right. At the first gate you can continue on foot but at the second set of gates you should branch left up a steep path by the side of a wall. This path is well trodden and easy to follow, and will lead you to Kinder Scout, but not before going down Kinder Downfall.
Such a historic part of the British Isles, walking Hadrian’s Wall is something on many British walker’s bucket lists. It’s 135km long, which means that you probably won’t be able to do it all in one weekend, but it’s easy and just as enjoyable to walk a section of it, and soak up the history behind this 1,500 year old wall.
The Wall runs from Carlisle, in the west, to Newcastle in the East, and both are easily accessible by train from Manchester. The towns dotted alongside the Wall are well connected to these two towns by bus, and you can plan your trip and download bus times here: http://hadrianswallcountry.co.uk/travel/bus
WALES – SNOWDONIA
I’ve been fortunate enough to spend lots of time in Snowdonia National Park over the past few years. It is really one of the most beautiful parts of the UK – the air feels so clean and there’s an almost magical feel about the place (probably due to all the tales of Welsh folklore which take place in the forests and lakes of Snowdonia). One of my favourite places is the village of Bwets-y-coed . Snowdonia quite an isolated part of the world, and it can be pretty difficult to get around using public transport, as it requires careful planning as buses and trains are infrequent. This can make it difficult to go it alone. If you can find a friend who drives, it’s well worth going though! North Wales is only a 2 hour drive from Manchester, and there are so many walks to choose from, from easy strolls to tough hikes for pro hikers, a full list of which can be found on the official website.
There are so many other walks around which you can do, but part of the fun is researching them yourself, and finding out what sorts of walks you enjoy the most. As well as the University hiking club, you can also join the local walking group for 20-30 year olds; MAD . They organise a wide range of walks, so that everyone of all abilities can get involved! Membership is £31 per year.