Explore the beautiful north of England with sandy beaches and quaint cobbled streets


SO you know all about the appeal of the Peak District and the urban hubs of Newcastle and Liverpool.

But the north of England (which, in our book, starts at Crewe train station) has an almost bewildering number of beauty spots, plus charm and no small amount of places serving great food and drink. Here, Rob Crossan picks eight favourites for your first north-facing post-lockdown day trip.

With tidy cobbled squares, narrow lanes of cottages and with a ­brooding, forlorn castle right ­opposite the train station, Penrith’s position in the north of the Lake ­District means it doesn’t get the crowds of easier-to-reach Kendal and Keswick – but it’s all the better for it.

In the centre of town J&J Graham (jjgraham.co.uk) has been serving up deli goods since 1793, specialising in Cumbrian cheeses with fantastic names like Nanny McBrie from the local Appleby Creamery.

The walking routes here are much quieter than around Windermere too.

Try the Gowbarrow Trail, which tapers above Ullswater, a six-mile trek past gushing waterfalls, sturdy Herdwick sheep and 400-year-old oak trees covered in lichen.

See discoverpenrith.co.uk.

The hub of the Forest of Bowland area of Lancs (there’s actually no forest here), Clitheroe was beloved by LS Lowry, who created many paintings of the winding, Victorian streets.

There are few towns with more ­independent shops – check which are open before you travel but, at the time of writing, the incredible D Byrne (dbyrne-finewines.co.uk) was open.

It has a warren of rooms filled with hard-to-find wines and the house whisky, Hankey Bannister, made by Royal appointment and delivered to British embassies across the world.

See visitlancashire.com.

The gateway to the Yorkshire Dales is a charmer in its own right.

Take a stroll through Skipton Woods right in the centre of town.

Formerly home to boar and deer, there’s now modern art sculptures as well as an ancient, functioning mill ­hidden amid the wych elm trees.

Skipton Castle is right next door – a sturdy survivor complete with ­dungeon and drum tower.

From here it’s a one-minute walk to the legendary Stanforth Butchers (stanforthbutchers.co.uk), home of award-winning hot, home-made pork pies at the bargain price of just £1.30.

See yorkshire.com.

Familiar to many as the location for Channel 4’s Hollyoaks, this border city on the cusp of North Wales has a history that goes back to Roman times.

The vast amphitheatre, the biggest Roman-era stadium in the UK, was once used for gladiatorial bouts.

The city walls are even more impressive – look out for the small tower where Charles I watched his troops get routed by the Roundheads in 1645.

You can no longer shoot a Welshman with a longbow after midnight from the walls.

The law dates back to 1403 and is definitely no longer valid!

See visitcheshire.com.

Centuries of history are crammed into York’s narrow streets.

The highlight is, of course, the mighty York Minster (yorkminster.org), designed at the start of its construction in 1220 to be the greatest ­cathedral on Earth.

The surrounding streets take in Saxon, Viking, Tudor and Georgian architecture but if there’s a ­certain sweet aroma distracting you from all this ­history it’s because York does seriously good ­chocolate, with a huge selection of superior ­chocolatiers to check out.

And there’s none finer than York Cocoa House (yorkcocoahouse.co.uk), where you’ll devour quite possibly the finest home-made chocolate truffles you’ve ever tasted.

See visityork.org.

When the tide goes out in Southport, it really goes out. You’ll be hard-pushed to find a bigger sandy beach in the whole of the UK.

The pier is one of the longest, too, at a whopping 1,108 metres – only Southend’s stretches further.

It offers cinematic vistas out across the Irish Sea, although you might not see the water at all when the tide is fully out.

The regal-looking Lord Street, with its Italian-gothic buildings and orb-shaped street lights was, believe it or not, the inspiration for the boulevards of Paris.

A young Napoleon III spent some time in Southport and, on his return, modelled the French capital on this two-mile stretch.

See visitsouthport.com.

Seaside towns don’t come much more prim and proper than this tiny North Yorkshire getaway.

The formal gardens and white-washed front ­terrace of Victorian and Edwardian houses over- looking the sea are perfect for a bracing stroll.

See discoveryorkshirecoast.com.

Just five miles up the coast is RSPB Bempton ­Seabird Centre.

It’s one of the best spots in the ­country to set up your binoculars on the cliff-edge where you can spot puffins, kittiwakes, fulmars and gannets.

See rspb.org.uk.

Ed Sheeran’s early childhood home town has all the harmony of the ginger superstar’s hits.

Hardcastle Crags is known as the back garden of the town. It makes for wonderful walking through 400 acres of streams and beech trees.

There is also a restored Victorian cotton mill which was once used to make corduroy – hence Hebden’s former nickname Trouser Town.

The streets have a real bohemian vibe with organic bakeries and bistros galore.

Be sure to pop into the cute-as-a-button Square One coffee shop in St. George’s Square.

Its immense sausage butties, smoothies and home-made cakes are all available to take away.

See visitcalderdale.com.


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