I have lived a hop and a skip away from Salford Quays for over ten years now and still visiting the Quays is a favourite thing to do. Salford Quays is my local walk, it is our first choice for drinks and a restaurant and it is where we always take our visitors. It is a fantastic place to live near, always changing and interesting. When I have been chained to the laptop for a morning, a stroll around the Quays brings me back to life as there is always something new to see. As well as being a great place to live near Salford Quays is also a wonderful place to visit for a day or two. Here’s a local’s guide to what to see and do.
If you are coming from Manchester city centre then the Metrolink tram is the way to travel. The trams run every few minutes from Piccadilly Station to Eccles and Media City. After the Pomona stop make sure you look over the Manchester Ship Canal at the view back to Manchester. I would get off at the Salford Quays stop and walk along Ontario Basin to the Lowry.
If you drive, there is a multi-storey car park for the Lowry Outlet Mall and if, like me, you own a high top campervan that won’t fit in a multi-storey car park, use the parking outside Booths, just off Broadway.
You have plenty of choices for your morning coffee but I would start by sitting in the cafe in The Lowry Theatre [opens at 10.00] while you get your bearings. This is a chance to look around the airy and modern theatre building too. The Lowry has an excellent gift shop that sells Salford and LS Lowry related items and much more.
Lowry, a Salford painter
After coffee, head upstairs to the gallery [open from 11.00 Sunday to Friday and 10.00 on Saturday] to see some of Salford’s collection of paintings by LS Lowry. You will see that Lowry painted more than the matchstick people and mills he is known for, although these are fascinating. As well as the Lowry’s on permanent display the gallery has temporary exhibitions and there is always something worth seeing.
Imperial War Museum North
Cross the Manchester Ship Canal by the Millennium Footbridge, a lifting bridge of white tubular steel with changing LED lighting at night to the Imperial War Museum North. This purpose built museum [open 10.00 – 17.00] is free to visit, although donations are welcome. A mixture of permanent and temporary exhibitions about conflict and its effects, a visit here is always moving and informative.
Time for lunch
Walking by the ITV studios, where the new Coronation Street set is now housed, [tours are available at weekends] cross the curved Media City Bridge into the heart of Media City, where many BBC TV and radio programmes are recorded every day. In the lively plaza look out for stars [we have eaten in the same restaurant as Glenda Jackson and you might see a Coronation Street actor or a favourite DJ] and head for Catena, an independent deli-cafe with a relaxed rustic feel and a great menu. At the very least everyone around you will be wearing a BBC lanyard! If you have the appetite, Catena’s pistachio and lemon cake is scrumptious.
Behind the scenes at the BBC
If you have booked, you can get behind the scenes at the BBC on a Media City tour. The tours vary, depending on what is being filmed or recorded at the time, but this is a marvellous opportunity to get a feel for how the BBC produce their quality programmes, from Blue Peter to the BBC Philharmonic, Woman’s Hour to Five Live Sport. There are also special CBBC tours for children. The tours are lots of fun and everyone enjoys being in the interactive studio where you get to try your hand at being a weather presenter and reading the news.
While you are in Media City take a few minutes to walk the Blue Peter Gold Badge Walk, a path honouring some of the well-known names who have received a Blue Peter Gold Badge. This ends near the actual Blue Peter Garden which is tiny but always makes me smile.
Shopping or history or football
If you are as frugal as I am you might like the bargains in the Lowry Outlet Mall … but you might also hate the idea of shopping. If that’s the case, walk along Ontario Basin, by the Helly Hensen Watersports Centre [and maybe stopping for a beer and watching some water sports at the pub next door]. Cross Trafford Road to Ordsall Park [looking left to see the stripped-classical 1920s Dock Office], skirting around the park to reach Ordsall Hall. This charming building is over 800 years old and has a great hall with a definite wow factor. Only open until 16.00 and closed on Fridays and Saturdays, you might have to rush to fit this stunning building in [or come for the weekend instead of a day!] If it is closed you can still enjoy the attractive timber-framed building from the outside, admire the gardens and appreciate the contrast with the surrounding modern buildings.
If neither of these are your cup of tea, then walk back across the Millennium Bridge, over Wharf Road and up the hill to Manchester United Football Club’s Old Trafford ground. You can visit the shop for the latest strip or book on a Museum and Stadium Tour in the Theatre of Dreams.
The early evening is cocktail hour at Salford Quays. You might be tempted by the remarkable golden Alchemist building that overlooks the Manchester Ship Canal and this certainly has the best view in the house from its terrace. Of course, this terrace is also the retreat of smokers and so isn’t always as pleasant as it could be. Instead I prefer to visit The Lime Bar, a stylish long-standing Salford Quays restaurant-bar that has a classical cocktails list, friendly staff and a vibrant vibe. Stay long enough and you might decide to eat here too and I don’t think you will be disappointed.
If you are lucky you will get the chance to see a Salford sunset. Standing on the Media City Bridge and watching the sun go down over the Ship Canal is a big hit at the end of a packed day of sightseeing.