Friday, 18 March 2016

Where to get a great view in Manchester (and soak up the sun/rain)

 There ARE places you CAN soak up the sun (or rain) and get a great view in Manchester... and many are free!

Following some inspiring sunny days and a popular picture of bathers in the King Street Townhouse’s rooftop pool, overlooking the Town Hall – it seems that Manchester is the place to be for enjoying some Spring weather! You don’t have to spend any pennies to get a great view and see a new side of the city too. Whether you want a lunchtime walk or even just a bit of something different, there are some great places to relax and catch the sun close to the city centre which may well surprise you:

1)      The National Football Museum  - this glorious glass structure close to Victoria Station is still often known as ‘Urbis’ and fondly referred to as ‘The Ski Jump’; plus it provides a great view which captures the sunlight! Whether you like football or not, admission is free (and there are some marvelous exhibits) plus  you can take the GLASS LIFT (if you dare)  – which provides a great vantage point over Exchange Square, down Deansgate and beyond! The surrounding gardens also offer an area to relax, looking onto the impressive red brick building of Chetham’s School of Music.

2)      Greengate Square – sip coffee in Salford, moments from Manchester! This is public space complete with seating, water features and a tiny, cosy Barista Bar in the style of a log cabin (The really popular Grindsmiths Pod); right on the border between Salford and Manchester. With views towards the Cathedral and Deansgate on one side, over the other you can watch the activity of a whole different city; Salford. Situated just at the corner of Chapel Street and Victoria Bridge Street, it makes a great little nook to escape to for a workday lunch or just a reflective moment. In its time it has been a car park and a bus station, but now it has been beautifully landscaped, with light-up fountains from where you can watch the word pass by.

3)      Parsonage Gardens; a little oasis on its own  - just off Deansgate, close to The House of Fraser (or Kendals, as it is still commonly known) you can find a little green space it is great to escape to. Complete with a little lawn, flower beds and seating, it is surprisingly peaceful as set-back from the main road and surrounded by some impressive architecture. Designated as a conservation area in June 1985, it makes an ideal place for a quiet few minutes in the good weather.

4)      The Clock Tower Tour – get the ultimate eye over Manchester, from INSIDE one of its iconic landmarks, the Town Hall clock tower. This is an adventure allowing you to soak up the sun on a good day, but is interesting rain or shine! Join one of the Blue-badge registered tours and  take to the spiral staircase leading up to the clock which has been a bold  presence in Manchester for 133 years. At a height of 85 metres, you can expect impressive views as you climb the tower – home to the legendary bell Great Abel. This is the hour bell and you not only get the opportunity to see this, but also the mechanism room, ringing room and dial room; a diversity of nooks and crannies usually obscured from the public eye! After delving behind the clock face you will come to the summit which offers panoramic views – particularly good on a sunny day!  Look out over the city, and even across to the Cheshire Plain, The Pennines and beyond!

5)      Imperial War Museum North  - Located in Salford Quays and opened in 2002, this is visually striking building, designed to reflect the disorientation of war – as well as how learning from it can inform our futures. This is what the view from the building reminds me of in particular; an educational experience which shows us the past as well as informing our present. There is the opportunity to stand atop the Air Shard; a large tower which lets you look out over the area and see how it has transformed over time. The angular designs, carefully crafted by architect Daniel Libeskind, add to the experience. Take in views of the urban area – including the Manchester Ship Canal, The Quays and towards the city centre - once devastated by war, now thriving with culture. It is a sobering experience.

6)      Piccadilly Gardens  - this is a classic space to  sit and watch the city go by!  Whether you want to sit at the base of the Queen Victoria statue, make the most of the grassed areas or watch over the fountains; it offers a recreational area surrounded by activity – ideal for people-watching. It also is known to catch some great sun in the afternoons and invites the alluring aromas of the food markets too.  Look up and see some of the city’s stand-out architecture, from a whole number of eras. There’s the City Tower on Piccadilly Plaza – the fourth tallest building in Manchester, and offering some of the highest available office space-  and The Thistle Hotel on the South-Eastern side of the gardens, which was originally three cotton warehouses, key to Manchester’s industrial history.

7)      Station Approach – this is actually mused over by the local band Elbow, in a song of the same name; alluding to the walk up to  Piccadilly station from the Gardens. It may not be the most scenic route, but a great vantage point can be easily reached, close to the station itself. There is a modern-looking pedestrian bridge which crosses over London Road. Stand on here  and enjoy the sun (if the weather is being kind) but also impressive views of the old fire station and the traffic as it enters and leaves the city

8)      Castlefield and conservation areas  -  At the end of Deansgate, past the Hilton hotel, you can reach the historic haven of Castlefield; home to the city’s Roman roots as well as an industrial legacy. Here lies Mamucium – the Roman fort after which the city is named – and a criss-cross combination of canals, bridges, red-brick warehouses and listed railway structures. There are also a number of bars and terraces; emphasizing how scenic the area can be, especially on a sunny day. After all, a lot of these sites are within the Castlefield Conservation Area and Castlefield Quay, recognised for their historic properties. There are also a number of outdoor seating opportunities, including stone terraces close to Liverpool Road, not too far from the Museum of Science and Industry. All are well worth a visit and give a great view!