Ask most Brits about northwest England and they’ll probably mention football and rain. Beyond the stereotypes, however, this is one of the most exciting corners of the country, its dynamic urban centres, pretty countryside, iconic seaside resorts and historic towns offering considerable appeal. One of the world’s great industrial cities, Manchester has transformed its cityscape in recent decades to place itself firmly in the vanguard of modern British urban design, and complements its top-class visitor attractions with lively cafés and an exciting music scene. Just thirty miles west, revitalized Liverpool has kept apace of the “northern renaissance”, too, and is a city of great energy and charm.
The southern suburbs of Manchester bump into the steep hills of the Pennine range, and to the southwest the city slides into pastoral Cheshire, a county of rolling green countryside whose dairy farms churn out the famed crumbly white cheese. The county town, Chester, with its complete circuit of town walls and partly Tudor centre, is as alluring as any of the country’s northern towns, capturing the essence of one of England’s wealthiest counties.
The historical county of Lancashire reached industrial prominence in the nineteenth century primarily due to the cotton-mill towns around Manchester and the thriving port of Liverpool. Today, neither city is part of the county, and Lancashire’s oldest town, and major commercial and administrative centre, is Preston, though tourists are perhaps more inclined to linger in the charming towns and villages of the nearby Ribble Valley. Along the coast to the west and north of the major cities stretches a line of resorts – from Southport to Morecambe – which once formed the mainstay of the northern British holiday. Only Blackpool is really worth visiting for its own sake, a rip-roaring resort which has stayed at the top of its game by supplying undemanding entertainment with more panache than its neighbours. For anything more culturally invigorating you’ll have to continue north to the historically important city of Lancaster, with its Tudor castle. Finally, the Crown Dependency of the Isle of Man, just 25 miles off the coast, provides a rugged terrain almost as rewarding as that of the Lake District, but without the seasonal overcrowding.