Local travel blogger A Single Step talks about his hometown, its radical past and an exciting future. 

Rochdale, based alongside the Pennines, is a small town with a radical past. Comprising of some of the most beautiful countryside in the region, a strong food and drink scene, and an evolving calendar of world-class events, the Rochdale of today is aiming to be at the forefront of town-centre regeneration. With a big history and an exciting future, it certainly has plenty to offer for both locals and visitors alike.

A Radical History

Rochdale, as with much of the North, was an incredibly strong industrial town built on Manchester’s famed cotton industry. During the 19th Century, Rochdale became one of the most important cotton towns, and one of the world’s most productive regions in the industry. Evidence of this can still be found at Ellenroad Engine House in the village of Newhey, which boasts the world’s largest surviving spinning-mill steam engines. On the first Sunday of every month, visitors can still see the engines in steam. Despite the region’s reliance on cotton, Rochdale and Manchester played a huge part in the American Civil War by refusing to manufacture any American slave-picked cotton. In the ‘cotton famine’ that followed, local relief funding was used to construct a section of Rooley Moor Road in Rochdale, now known locally as Cotton Famine Road. 

In 1844, the Rochdale Pioneers opened their very first store on Toad Lane in Rochdale, selling basics such as butter, flour, and sugar at fair prices. The 'Rochdale Principles' that they implemented remain the basis of how cooperatives now work across the world. The very store on Toad Lane is still open to the public as the Rochdale Pioneers Museum, showcasing the history of the cooperative's success. 

Image credit: Rochdale Borough Council

Also in the town centre, the Grade-I listed Gothic-style Rochdale Town Hall is regarded as one of the finest buildings of it type across the whole of the UK. Completed in 1871, the stunning building now houses Rochdale Borough Council, as well as hosting guided tours, an exciting calendar of events, and the Clock Tower Dining Room. What's more, between March and August you can also watch a live webcam of the Peregrine Falcons that have been nesting on the clock tower since 2008!

Image credit: Rochdale Borough Council

Breathtaking Beauty

Not only does Rochdale have an innovative and radical history, it is also a town of outstanding natural beauty. The 118-acre Hollingworth Lake Country Park, set amongst the backdrop of Blackstone Edge, is one of the town’s most popular attractions. Boasting an abundance of walks, trails, and picnic spots, as well as activities such as windsurfing, sailing, mountain biking and climbing, a trip to Hollingworth Lake is a perfect family day out. 

Healey Dell Nature Reserve is another local favourite, found in the North of the borough. Again an important site of the industrial revolution, the park’s heritage assets have transformed it into a visitor attraction, with the railway and viaduct now acting as a nature trail with spectacular views, as well as the river which meanders through the woodland. Visitors can explore the history of the park at the Healey Dell Heritage Centre, whilst also enjoying English cream teas in the Victorian-themed tearoom. 

For those that enjoy getting their walking boots on for an amble in the countryside, Rochdale has plenty of opportunities, including the dramatic Blackstone Edge, a challenging walk into the Pennines; the Pennine Bridleway, a National Trail encompassing over 200 miles of historic routes; and Tandle Hill Country Park, a local favourite for dog walks, picnics, and woodland trails. 

An Evolving Town Centre

In recent years, the evolution of Rochdale Town Centre has been evident of effective regeneration and a commitment to improving the region. The introduction of the Metrolink services has helped to seamlessly connect the town centre and local villages to neighbouring towns and Manchester City Centre. After a century of being hidden, Rochdale Council has also uncovered the River Roch which ran underneath the town centre, as part of a £250million regeneration scheme. The scheme has highlighted one of the region’s best heritage assets, reduced the risk of flooding in the centre, and re-naturalised the river which will encourage new wildlife into the area. 

On top of this, construction is well-underway on Rochdale Riverside, a new £150million retail and leisure development in the town centre. The scheme has already signed up big names including M&S, Next, H&M, and a 6-screen Reel cinema, which the council hopes will help to spark an increase in visitors to the centre and improve the economic output of the area. Large-scale leisure events have also helped to draw locals and visitors alike to the town centre. The free Rochdale Feel Good Festival has attracted some big names in the music industry, including Razorlight, The Fratellis, Feeder, and Scouting for Girls, who have all played alongside a family, food, and drink offering. The 2019 festival is due to be headlined by The Coral, and will take place on 10 August 2019. The annual half-marathon, 10k, and fun run has also recently become a staple of Rochdale’s calendar. Taking in the town centre and neighbouring villages such as Milnrow and Littleborough, the 2019 races will take place Sunday 6 October. Finally, Number One Riverside will in 2020 be the home of Dippy, the Natural History Museum’s famous Diplodocus that is touring the UK. 


Ellenroad Engine House
Ellenroad Engine House

Built in 1892 on the banks of the River Beal, the Ellenroad cotton mill produced fine cotton yarn using mule spinning.

Rochdale Pioneers Museum
A classic advert for Co-op Tea.

The Rochdale Pioneers Museum is widely regarded as the home of the worldwide Co-operative movement.

Rochdale Town Hall
Historic Site
Rochdale Town Hall.

Explore the newly restored town hall from Spring 2024 with lots to see and do, from tours to family fun events and activities.

Hollingworth Lake Country Park
Country / Royal Park
A mother and child feeding ducks at Hollingworth Lake.

In Victorian times Hollingworth Lake was known as the "The Weighvers' Seaport".

Healey Dell Nature Reserve & Tea Rooms
Nature Reserve
Aqueduct in a wooded clearing.

Healey Dell is a beauty spot and wildlife sanctuary rich in industrial archaeology, 2 miles from Rochdale town centre on the way to Whitworth and Bacup.

Pennine Bridleway
Walking Route
Signpost and gate on the Pennine Bridleway.

The Pennine Bridleway is the country's first National Trail for horse riders, mountain bikers, and walkers, and it passes through the rugged Pennine hills near Littleborough.

Tandle Hill Country Park
Countryside attraction
Tandle Hill Country Park

Tandle Hill is a mixture of magnificent beech woodland and open grassland with a wide panorama of the surrounding countryside. There are several walks around the park and links to Crompton Moor. Adventure play area and cafe in the Visitor Centre.

Dippy on Tour
Dippy on Tour

The Natural History Museum's​ famous dinosaur, Dippy the Diplodocus is leaving the museum for the first time to go a on a tour of the UK, and will visit Rochdale in 2020.



  1. Eilleen
    I just love your site. I was born at Syke nd lived in Rochdale until I was 11.
    I have lived in Australia now for over 50 years, and I visit often and always, just always visit Rochdale. Some of my ancestor's lived on Toad Lane.
    I'm looking forward this trip to seeing the River Roch in the middle of town.
    Can't wait.

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