There seems to be some argument over who takes the title of the ‘UK’s Adventure Capital’, for several areas claim it and the Lake District, is one such. Unsurprising really, with its spectacular landscape of fells and lakes, forests and valleys for open water swimming, boating, hiking and mountain biking. And that’s before you’ve even considered such tasks as climbing the Honister Via Ferrata or crossing the Infiniti Bridge, twice as high as London’s The Shard!
Of course, Cumbria’s Lake District National Park can be equally enjoyed over a picnic and a great view of Wastwater or coffee and cake in Hawkshead but if you’re after somewhere equally spectacular but without the crowds, head across the M6 to the Forest of Bowland, a remote part of Lancashire that’s tucked up against the beautiful Ribble Valley. Both are often overlooked in favour of their near neighbour, and you’ll be sorry you missed them.
Let’s not forget, though, the giants of the Northwest, Liverpool and Manchester, friendly neighbours along the M62, even if sworn enemies on the football pitch. Both cities can offer you fabulous cultural centres, with ‘not to miss’ destinations including Liverpool’s Waterfront, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Manchester’s cultural collection of the Lowry Centre, Salford Quays, Manchester Art Gallery, the John Rylands Library and the arts house, HOME.
Things to do in North West England
1.Head to the tiny town of Grasmere in the Lake District to purchase some world-famous gingerbread. The delicious delicacy is made in a tiny (we mean really tiny) old bakehouse to a very old, traditional recipe. Expect to queue – but it’s worth the wait. Afterwards you could nip up to Dove Cottage, poet William Wordsworth’s first family home, and the neighbouring Wordsworth Museum.
2.Climb the flat-topped Pendle Hill in Lancashire for some fine views across the Forest of Bowland and towards the Yorkshire Dales. If you don’t ‘see the light’ (George Fox established Quakerism while sat on the hilltop), follow the Walking with Witches Trail or head to the Pendle Heritage Centre to find out more about the Pendle Witches.
3.With the epic Mancunian soap now filmed at MediaCityUK in Salford Quays, take a guided Coronation Street Tour behind the scenes of the former site, where you can have your picture taken at the bar of the Rovers Return and pick up on the gossip of the Street.
4.Find out about the Fab Four with a visit to The Beatles Story in Liverpool’s Albert Dock. Then head to The Cavern Club, where it all began, to start a Magical Mystery Tour (yellow bus obligatory) and see all the relevant sights associated with the band. You can even see inside the childhood homes of Lennon and McCartney courtesy of the National Trust.
5.Step offshore to the red-rocked Hilbre Islands Nature Reserve, noted for their bird and Atlantic grey seal colonies. The three islands, off the Wirral Peninsula, can be accessed by causeway at low tide, though care and caution must be taken in order to prevent being cut off by the incoming tide.
When to visit
When’s a good time to visit Cumbria? How about the Holker Chilli Festival in September, a major event in the foodie calendar, and the Westmorland County Show also held in the same month.
If you plan to go to Lancashire, the Blackpool Illuminations, held since 1879, between September and January each year, are an inevitable draw. If that sounds far too ordinary, there’s always World Gravy Wrestling in Bacup, held every August!
Visit Greater Manchester and see Chinatown burst into a riot of colour during February’s Chinese New Year celebrations, while July sees the spectacular RHS Flower Show at Tatton Park. Or head to Merseyside for the Grand National in April, while the International Beatleweek Festival is in August.
Cheap overnight stops in North West England
You’ll be able to spend your ‘holiday’ money on good food and places to visit rather than campsite fees when you use sites in our Practical Motorhome Nightstops Scheme. Take The Hawthorns for example. It’s surrounded by woods and fields with footpaths and cycle routes and is only a mile from Oldham, allowing you to get into Manchester by public transport. Or there’s the Park Club Cleveleys, with beachfront access and trams direct to Blackpool.
While parking might be an issue in some Northwest towns, Lytham St Anne’s has had the good sense to provide overnight parking for motorhomes in four of its car parks: St Anne’s Swimming Pool; St Paul’s Avenue; North Promenade and North Beach Car Park. You can stay for up to 48 hours, for a nominal charge per night. Fleetwood also allows overnight motorhome parking for up to three nights in its Central Car Park at just £5 per night.
If you’re travelling north or south on the M6 around Cumbria, motorhomes may stop overnight in the dedicated parking area at Tebay Services – you’ll wake up to some wonderful views!
Don’t forget to take a look at our annual Top 100 Sites Guide for fabulous campsites, as recommended and voted for by you. North West England always performs very well as a region, with Silverdale Holiday Park the regional winner in 2021.
The M6 (A74M from Scotland) running up and down the west of England makes access to North West England quick and easy. From the east of England, the M62 crosses the Pennines north of Manchester direct to the centre of Liverpool. An alternative route to Greater Manchester and Merseyside is via the M56 and the M53 into The Wirral.
Tolls are applicable on the Mersey Tunnels between Birkenhead, Wallasey and Liverpool, with hefty breakdown charges including an additional surcharge if you’ve broken down due to a fuel shortage or a flat tyre. The Queensway Tunnel (from Birkenhead) has a maximum gross vehicle weight of 3.5 tonnes, 3.9m height, 2.7m width and 12m length. Larger/heavier vehicles/outfits can cross using the Kingsway Tunnel (from Wallasey) where the maximum height is 5m, width is 2.9m and length 12.2m.
Merseyside (and Liverpool) is well connected using the Merseyrail network with free car parks available at many of the 40+ stations. Unfortunately there are height barriers at most of the stations, making them impossible to use by most ‘vans, so finding a campsite within walking distance of one of the stations is imperative. All Merseyrail trains have designated areas for bikes.
To get around Greater Manchester, it’s a good idea to use the Metrolink public transport network. Parking is free at local railway stations and Metrolink tram stops, with specific ‘park and ride’ car parks for users of the public transport network; there are however height restrictions at Whitefield, Radcliffe (both in Bury) and Hollinwood (Oldham) car parks. Look out for the Bee network of cycle hire locations, too.
Getting around the Lake District by public transport – even to more remote spots – is easier than you might think, with bus routes taking in many of the most popular attractions. Many of the buses have on-board cycle racks too. And you can always pick up one of the ‘sightseeing tours’, like the Mountain Goat minibus service. Of course, the other option in this area is by boat, utilising the charmingly old-fashioned Ullswater Steamer, or the equally delightful Steam Yacht Gondola on Coniston. Regular trips run across Lake Windermere too, between Ambleside, Lakeside and Bowness with Windermere Lake Cruises.
Motorhome Access in North West England
If you’re considering the Lake District by ‘van, minor roads in Cumbria can be very narrow with few passing places and lined with stone walls so do check prior to travelling to a campsite about access. In particular avoid using the Kirkstone, Honister, Wrynose and Hardknott Passes. They are particularly narrow and some of the highest, steepest roads in the country. With anything but smaller van conversions, it really is worth thinking about leaving the ‘van on site and taking to bikes, public transport or on foot.
Town parking in the Northwest, much like other areas of the UK, is hit and miss for motorhomes; like Marmite, they are either loved or loathed! Some town council websites actually say that their car parks and streets are not suitable for motorhomes. Other towns provide good information. Blackpool, for example, accepts motorhomes in six car parks (Seasiders Way in particular) although on-street parking for ‘vans is banned. Carlisle allows motorhomes in its Castle (Devonshire Walk) Car Park, parking in a coach/caravan bay. Towns within the Fylde area allow ‘vans in their long stay car parks only, but also provides an overnight facility (see above). Towns in the Pendle and Ribble Valley area generally provide free parking with a parking disc (available from the town council) and the towns of Fleetwood, Poulton and Thornton Cleveleys include seven car parks available to motorhomes. There are also numerous council-owned car parks in Lancaster and Morecombe in which motorhomes may park (but not sleep overnight).
Blackburn and Darwen are definitely out of the question if you’re planning on parking a coachbuilt.
To access Liverpool and Manchester, park and ride options (see above) are the easiest solution.
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Head to Grasmere in the Lake District to purchase some world-famous gingerbread