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Manchester: chilled northern escapes

Manchester may have a reputation as a party powerhouse, but you can still grab some downtime and relax. Discover where to find peace and quiet in the city, or escape for a chilled-out break in the surrounding English countryside.


Book yourself some quiet time

To shut out the world, why not escape to one of Manchester’s magnificent libraries? Step back in time to 1653 and visit Chetham’s Library, the oldest in the English speaking world. If you’re after something more grandiose, then prepare to be wowed by the John Rylands Library, which features beautiful neo-Gothic interiors throughout.

Near both libraries, you can amble alongside the network of Manchester’s tree-lined canals. The Bridgewater Canal is 41 miles long and runs as far as the coast, so catch a boat ride, kick back and take in the fresh air.


Park life

The raw beauty of northern England’s countryside has inspired some of history’s most famous artists and writers, such as Emily Bronte and William Wordsworth. Manchester is flanked by three of England’s most picturesque national parks; the Peak District to the east, Yorkshire Dales to the north and the Lake District to the northwest – best of all, they’re easily accessible in under two hours.

Get the endorphins going with a hike in the fresh air: the classic way to explore the Lake District is on foot, via a fantastic network of well-trodden paths. There are numerous options, whether you’re looking for a gentle stroll or a high-octane scramble, and picking the best spot in the region is tough. Scafell Pike is the highest point in England and, if you make it to the 3,209 ft summit, you’ll be rewarded with sprawling views of Wastwater. For something more sedate, take a three-mile stroll around Tarn Hows, past bubbling waterfalls. You’ll also find guided walks for beginners, along with other events and activities.

To cover more ground, hire bikes and see the region on two wheels. Criss-crossed with cycle paths, Grizedale Forest, west of Windermere, and the mountain forest of Whinlatter are both great locations for off-road mountain biking.

The Lake District, as its name suggests, also contains an abundance of wild swimming spots. If you’re brave enough to face the brisk temperatures, take a dip into the clear waters of Wastwater at Overbeck Bridge.


Wellness in the wilderness

If hiking across the English fells isn’t your idea of a relaxing retreat, choose one of the many stylish spa hotels in the Lake District. Book yourself in for a programme of nutritious food, personal workouts and luxury spa treatments to calm your mind, body and soul. If you fancy de-stressing with a yoga class, look out for local classes and one-off workshops dotted around Windermere.