by Polly Checkland
Manchester’s connectedness to the wider countryside is one of the city’s best assets. Numerous walks with stunning views are reachable by a direct train ride from the city centre; better still, these routes are easily paired with some of the region’s best pubs. Picture this: a morning walking through woodland and perfumed heather before arriving, properly hungry, at a traditional boozer. Open fires in the winter, beer gardens in summer, and an impressive menu year-round – it’s the ideal formula for a restorative weekend, which is why we’ve put together this guide to country walks plus some of Greater Manchester’s top pubs.
Marsden Moor and The Riverhead Brewery Tap
The village of Marsden in the South Pennines is a half hour train from the city centre, and the starting point for walks skirting the beautiful Butterley Reservoir, the flat tops of the moors or up Deer Hill. The National Trust has maps for a selection of great routes, also outlining time, distance and difficulty; whichever you choose, we recommend ending up at The Riverhead Brewery Tap back in Marsden, where pints and traditional food are served next to the River Colne.
Tegg’s Nose, Macclesfield Forest and RedWillow
Combine a climb up Tegg’s Nose and a ramble around Macclesfield Forest with a pint at RedWillow, before catching a 21 minute train from Macclesfield station if you’re heading back to the city centre.
Chinley Churn and The Old Hall Inn Chinley
Among the various routes that radiate out from Chinley, only a 34 minute train from Manchester Piccadilly, is a loop that scales Chinley Churn for views across to Kinder Scout and the Peak District (on clear days) before returning to the village. Award-winning local ale house The Old Hall Inn is your reward, where an excellent menu is served in a quintessential country pub; sister inn The Paper Mill, which dishes out enviable pizzas, is opposite.
Quarry Bank + The Ship, Styal
National Trust property Quarry Bank is brilliant for short walks – particularly when proper local pub The Ship is only a 13 minute walk away. Both are reachable from Manchester by trains to Styal station.
New Mills and The Shrub Club
New Mills in the High Peak is a rightfully popular starting point for walkers: serviced by two train lines (New Mills Central and Newtown) the village stands above a rocky gorge known as The Torrs. A steep descent leads to the Torrs Riverside Park, a peaceful path that links the Sett Valley Trail with the Goyt Way and Midshires Way via the dramatic arch of the Millennium Walkway. Reachable from here is the Torr Vale Mill, where cocktail bar with unbeatable views The Shrub Club is located.
Dunham Massey and the Swan with Two Nicks
It’s a classic combination: explore Dunham Massey’s deer park before climbing over the Little Bollington stile and following a path through fields to The Swan with Two Nicks. The exposed beams and log fires in this rustic country pub have featured in TV programmes including Cold Feet and Coronation Street, while the comforting menu has long sated tired walkers.
The Parkers Arms, Clitheroe loop
Etherow Country Park and Libby’s Bread and Wine
Our next pick is less of a pub, more of a restaurant – but pairing a walk around the wooded paths of Etherow Country Park with a meal at riverside spot Libby’s Bread and Wine is hard to beat. Catch the train to and from Marple station, and make your way through Brabyns Park for an off-road route to the nature reserve and lake.
The Pack Horse and Kinder Reservoir
Another National Trust route, this walk begins at Bowden, with Hayfield and its much-lauded pub The Pack Horse part way around a loop that circles Kinder Reservoir. Alternatively, make Hayfield your start and end point if you’d rather not contemplate hiking with a full stomach.
Sowerby Bridge to The Moorcock Inn
For a short and to the point route to The Moorcock Inn, dubbed ‘head-spinningly good’ by Jay Rayner in the Guardian, follow Google maps for 40 minutes from Sowerby Bridge station, up steep inclines with admittedly stunning views. The food and wine are so good here, you might want to catch a taxi back...
Hebden Bridge to Heptonstall and the Fox & Goose
A circular hike from Hebden Bridge (around half an hour by train from Manchester) up to hillside village and Sylvia Plath’s burial place Heptonstall should, by all rights, end at much-loved community pub the Fox & Goose. Pick a route on the stone paths through Eaves Wood, and enjoy a pint, vegan pasty and game of darts on your return.
Ramsbottom circular and the Eagle and Child
Finally, follow this circular walk from Ramsbottom for spectacular views from Peel Tower, a monument to Robert Peel, before putting your feet up at award-winning pub the Eagle and Child.