The North West of England provides the perfect balance of incredible English countryside, and buzzing city lifestyle. A fairly compact region, but with so much to do, you can easily squeeze in a day or two up town, before taking time out in the lush landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales or Lake District.
If the weather takes a turn for the worst, each of the northwestern cities has a great number of shopping malls, museums and entertainment venues, or you can simply take cover in a local public house and brush shoulders with the regulars!
Whether it’s action and adventure you want, or a chance to slow down, the North West of England can help you out...
1. The Lake District
The mountains, valleys and lakes of the Lake District National Park make up some of the most spectacular scenery in the whole of England. They also provide a never-ending list of outdoor activities that everyone in the family can enjoy.
Hiking, kayaking, horse riding, mountain biking, zip lining, or just picnicking under the sun…whatever your little adventurers are in the mood for, you’re sure to find it here. For the full experience, pitch a tent on the banks of Lake Windermere or book into a cozy waterfront B&B.
2. The Yorkshire Dales
Just south of the Lake District lies The Yorkshire Dales, another gold-standard national park — it’s easy to see why the North West of England is so popular with outdoorsy families!
If you’re holidaying with a 5-12 year old, make sure to check out ‘Wild Wednesdays’, which take place throughout the summer at Aysgarth Falls, Malham, Grassington, Kirkby Lonsdale, Hawes and Tebay Service Station! Free for families to enjoy, the Yorkshire Dales National Park board plans fun and educational activities, like bug hunting, stream dipping and nature-inspired arts and crafts.
3. Chatsworth House
Chatsworth House is one of the finest historical houses and estates in the North of England. For any Jane Austen fans out there, it was the inspiration for Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice.
Kids will love spotting red deer in the grounds, but they can also hold animals and see a milking demonstration at the estate’s working farm before letting off some steam in the woodland playground.
4. Chester Zoo
Committed to preventing extinction, Chester Zoo is one of the finest zoological experiences in the UK — and now famous for being on Channel 4’s ‘The Secret Life of the Zoo’!
30 minutes from Liverpool, and around an hour from Manchester, Chester Zoo is the perfect day out for wildlife lovers, even on a drizzly day. Hold each other tight in the bat enclosure, and feel the earth tremble when the lions roar; a day at Chester Zoo will be a treasured memory for everyone.
1. Ride the tallest rollercoaster in the UK
Are you brave enough to ride The Big One in Blackpool? Whether you’re a family of dedicated adrenaline junkies, or prefer something a little less hair-raising, there’s plenty of fun to be found at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
And once you’ve had your fill of the theme park, you can enjoy donkey rides on the sand or journey down the coast to Lytham-St-Anne’s where you’ll find golden dunes and excellent fish and chips!
2. Walk the Roman walls in Chester
Chester’s Roman past makes it a really exciting North West of England destination. From the ruins of an amphitheatre to grand Roman pillars, there’s plenty to discover in this picturesque city.
Topping the list, however, are the city walls. Follow in the steps of a Roman soldier and enjoy amazing views of life below, as you stroll along the top.
3. Tour the great northwestern cities
Sure, London’s got the Thames and the West End, but the northwestern cities of Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool are quickly becoming every bit as dynamic and metropolitan as the capital.
Each with their own personality and style, there’s no clear ‘winner’ — they all bring something to the table. Shop til you drop at Trinity Leeds, lose yourself in Manchester’s artsy Northern Quarter, spend a day at Albert Dock in Liverpool (and visit the Tate or The Beatles Story), then grab some much-needed R&R in Sheffield (the real ale capital of the world!).
Never more than 2 hour apart by car, you really can tick off all four cities in a week.
4. Meet your Beatrix Potter favourites
Beatrix Potter was a Lake District resident, and there are plenty of places you can go to discover her life and the stories she created. Of course, The World of Beatrix Potter is a particular highlight — here you can wander magical recreations of her books, sit down for a storytelling session and see the cabbages in the garden that Peter Rabbit was so fond of.
(Watch out for Mr McGregor, though!)
5. Take a dip at Formby Beach
If the bright lights of Blackpool don’t float your boat, head down the shoreline to Formby, a beautiful, sandy stretch of coast, surrounded by National Trust woodland.
One for budding scientists, archeologists and conservationists alike, visitors can go in search of prehistoric fossils and footprints in the tidal mud layers, and catch a glimpse of the rare red squirrel! Equally gorgeous on a sunny or cloudy day, Formby Beach is a must-do when in the Merseyside area.
Much like the rest of the North, North West England is best enjoyed during the spring and summer months, when the temperatures are mild and rainfall is at a minimum.
But, depending on your itinerary, there should be nothing stopping you from visiting in the off-season, too. Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool all come alive over Christmas, with winter markets and festive celebrations.
One word: layers.
While the temperatures rarely reach over 25°C, you’ll very quickly work up some heat if you’re hiking and adventuring around the national parks. For trips to the countryside, a good pair of walking boots and a raincoat are a must, too.
The northwestern cities are all very well connected by bus and train, so you can easily hop between them without a car. But if you’re heading off the beaten track — or even spending a day at Chester Zoo — your own set of wheels will make life much, much easier.
(Don’t forget to charge your phone for SatNav directions, though. The roads around The Lakes are notoriously difficult for newcomers.)
Family friendly campsites