Salford Quays, Greater Manchester’s waterfront destination is situated just a 15 minute tram ride away from the centre of Manchester, our destination today. An adult return from Piccadilly costs £3 see Metrolink for details and passengers need to take the Eccles line for MediaCityUK. If you are planning on travelling by car there is a large car park at the Lowry Outlet. We visited on a Saturday and our visit coincided with the local derby between Manchester United and Manchester City which was taking place at 12.30 pm a stone’s throw from here. Our tram was crowded with football fans all dressed in the bright red United shirts.
Unfortunately, just as our tram was nearing MediaCityUK it began to rain. Some people are of the opinion that it always rains in Manchester – that’s why cotton mills flourished in Manchester during the nineteenth century as cotton is less likely to snap in damp conditions. Having grown up in this part of the country but also lived elsewhere I don’t believe it rains more in Manchester but it feels like it at the moment!
Umbrellas up, we started our walk around MediaCityUK, a gleaming digital destination on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal. It’s home to BBC North and ITV including the ever popular soap opera, Coronation Street whose fictional home Weatherfield is based on Salford.
Strolling around the various buildings we spotted studios for the children’s television programme Blue Peter and a signpost to the Blue Peter garden, and just as we arrived at the garden the rain showers ceased and some blue sky became visible through the clouds.
Next, we headed over to The Lowry, home to two theatres and an art gallery featuring the works of the local artist L.S. Lowry, famous for his paintings of urban landscapes with human figures.
The gallery, located on the upper floor contains the largest public collection of the artist’s work and admission is free. Walking round, we admired his paintings, mostly of the local industrial districts of Pendlebury and Salford with his trademark ‘matchstick men’ figures. Photography in the gallery is not permitted so I have included a photograph from the gift shop which hopefully might give an indication of his style of painting to those unfamiliar with his work – a style of which I’m very fond.
Feeling hungry, we wandered across the square to the Lowry Outlet which contains a variety of stores, restaurants and cafes. The mall is quite small but does contain Marks & Spencer and Clarks Shoe outlets.
Returning outdoors we crossed the bridge to visit IWM North, part of the Imperial War Museum housed in a distinctive steel building. This iconic building represents a globe torn apart by conflict. It was designed by Daniel Libeskind and admission to this museum is also free. Touring the galleries is a moving experience as the powerful stories depict how war shapes lives, from reading a soldier’s last letter home to viewing a twisted piece of metal from New York City’s World Trade Centre – so sad but so real.
Rather than return on the tram from MediaCityUK, we walked along the tree lined canal promenade to the tram stop at Salford Quays. Across the water we could see Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United Football Club since 1910. It is often referred to as the ‘theatre of dreams’ and was given this nickname by the famous former player Sir Bobby Charlton. By this time the football match was nearing its conclusion but we could clearly hear the ooh’s and aah’s of the spectators from within the stadium. If you are a fan of Manchester United, a stadium tour and visit to the club museum may be of interest.
In recent years many apartment blocks have been built around the district and it is envisaged the area will grow further with the planned construction of more commercial and residential developments.
An Open Sea swimming tournament was taking place along this stretch of water so we stopped to watch the swimmers for a few minutes bobbing along at a fast rate in the hopefully not too cold water. There was more activity at the Salford Quays end where some members of the army were racing two dragon boats – the teams must have been extremely fit and strong as they were paddling at a phenomenal speed along the canal.
We took a tram to the city centre and spent some time looking round the shops before returning to our car. We had left it in the central Piccadilly Gardens car park which offers an ‘early bird’ bargain price of £4.50 for up to 12 hours parking if the ticket is obtained before 9.00 am. We actually arrived at 8.56 am which could be viewed as either perfect timing or cutting it fine but at least we found a parking place on such a busy day in the city centre.
MediaCityUK and Salford Quays have plenty of attractions for a full day out and combined with those in Manchester city centre, (you can view my previous Manchester post here for suggestions on what to do there) a pleasant weekend city break can be taken in this vibrant part of north west England. Don’t be put off by the weather, whatever it’s like you’ll always receive a warm Mancunian welcome!