Hit the North: A guide to student day trips
Time to get up off your arse and out of the flat: there's a whole world out there, even for you students
At uni you’ll spend many a drunken evening hatching grand plans for the future, slurring at each other that, yes, a big walk in the countryside is exactly what you want to do! In fact, why not tomorrow? At 8am? Yes. Blow out the hangover cobwebs with a huge country walk. What a good idea.
But while you eventually realise the early start may have been a little ambitious, some of the ideas don’t have to be as far-fetched as they seem in your hungover haze... Let’s just be realistic about when’s best to seize the day, shall we?
You’d be surprised how many Mancunians don’t take advantage of having the stunning Peak District national park right on their doorstep – so make sure you find time to at least once in a while for a stretch of the ol' legs, safe in the knowledge that you can reward yourself with a pint or two in a traditional Derbyshire boozer afterwards. Pack your sarnies and hop on the Sheffield train (usually every hour, then every other hour later in the day) at Manchester Piccadilly and get off around an hour later at Edale – it’ll cost you about a tenner each way – and head for the Kinder Scout route.
Heaton Park may be the setting for your debauched end-of-year antics at Parklife, yes, but for the rest of the year it's also one of the most beautiful parks in the Northwest (who knew!?) – and the region's biggest, no less. Open daily from 8am to dusk, one of its greatest features is a 12-acre boating lake, where you can hire a four-person boat for just a few quid each, though there's also an animal centre, walking routes and endless picnic potential to enjoy.
It’ll definitely take you far too long to realise that everywhere on Manchester’s tram network really isn’t that far away, so along with Heaton Park don't forget that there are days out to be had at The Lowry and Imperial War Museum in Salford Quays, top brunching in Altrincham at Alty Market, museums and galleries in Bury and countless cafes, pubs and suburban charm along the East Didsbury route, which takes in Chorlton and the Didsburys.
Whatever you do, make the most of Liverpool's close proximity to the seaside. About an hour away on the train is the popular resort of Southport, with its own beach and amusement park, with others dotted along the coast including the dramatic sand dunes and pinewoods of Formby (get off at Freshfield station) and, closer still, Crosby, which is home to the iconic Another Place statues by Antony Gormley and is a 10-minute walk from Blundellsands and Crosby station.
Alternatively, you can head south along the coast to North Wales, where seaside town Rhyl is just an hour away – though if we're honest, you're probably better staying on the train for another hour and holding out for Conwy, a world heritage site with an imposing 13th-century castle and picturesque harbour.
The historic Roman walled city of Chester is just 45 minutes from Liverpool by train, and is a picturesque blend of medieval and Victorian buildings and quaint, two-storey lanes of shops known as The Rows. It now also boasts its very own multi-arts centre, Storyhouse, where you can go and see a play, curl up with a book in the library or watch a film in its boutique, intimate 100-seat cinema space. In the summer you can also embrace the balmy evenings with cinema screenings and open-air theatre in Grosvenor Park. Either that, or you just be true to your inner big kid and make a beeline for Chester Zoo, which is accessible from Chester train station via the X8 bus.
By far the best thing about Leeds is that it's surrounded by beautiful Yorkshire landscape – not least that of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which is set in the rolling hills of the 18th-century Bretton Estate. The unique open air gallery has, for the last four decades, become a centre for international, national and regional modern and contemporary sculpture, with permanent pieces and regularly-changing exhibitions working together to explore the relationship between art and nature. In short: it's nice, you'll like it.
After week upon week of partying, early morning lectures and disputes about the washing up, there will come a day when you find yourself hankering after something a little quainter and quieter. That’s when you should capitalise on the 20-minute train ride to York, where a twee world of narrow cobbled streets, olde worlde pubs and tea shops await you. Take a stroll along The Shambles, check out Jorvik Viking museum and, if it’s a special occasion, hold back a little cash for afternoon tea at local institution Betty’s (add champagne if you’re feeling especially fancy).
Similarly, you’ll find equally twee cobbled vibes in the market town of Hebden Bridge, a small town that’s celebrated for its bursting creativity. You can either mooch around the streets, coffee shops and pubs, or go for an amble in the nearby countryside. Stick around for the evening for a gig at Hebden Bridge’s much-loved Trades Club, too, a socialist members' club and music venue that over the coming months will play host to Maurice Fulton, Acid Mothers Temple, Matthew E. White, Yak, Jane Weaver and more.
And don't forget about the market town of Huddersfield, which is worth venturing to for a trip to Magic Rock Brewing's HQ alone. The brewery is a 10-minute walk from Huddersfield train station, and has its very own tap room that is open every Tuesday through to Sunday. With 10 taps and five cask lines, you'll also find food trucks parked up in the yard every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with a whole host of other regular events including festivals and parties.
And, of course, don't forget that the three cities also aren't badly connected: Manchester and Liverpool are around 45 minutes apart on the train, with tickets sometimes as cheap as a few quid if you book in advance, while there's just under two hours between Leeds and Manchester – though tickets are usually no less than £20 for a return.