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Among the rows of red brick and slick city skyscrapers that paint the Manchester skyline, there are some idyllic spots if you’re looking for a retreat into nature. All within driving distance of the North West city, we’ve gathered the best rural retreats for you to escape to when you hire a car in Manchester.
Head north out of Manchester and terraced houses will soon peter out, giving way to views overlooking the Pennines that are easily reachable by rental car. Deep in the heart of the Medlock Valley is Daisy Nook, comprising 40 hectares of unspoilt woodland near Oldham. A haven for local wildlife, this is a great spot for birdwatching; you’re sure to see woodpeckers, owls and foxes roaming around.
This country park sanctuary has well-marked footpaths for a gentle walk that’s perfect for the family and ramblers alike. If you’re looking for a day’s fishing, then there is a gorgeous lake and tickets available to cast your hook across Crime Lake, Bardsley Canal and Sammy’s Basin. All this and more - just 20 minutes' drive outside of Manchester.
Perhaps the biggest and best of public parks in Manchester, Heaton Park is a truly historic area and only 18 minutes’ drive away from the city centre. Elevated above the rest of the city, it has views for miles. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely country walk or something more action-packed, there are play areas, cafes to grab a coffee, a petting zoo, bowling greens, a boating lake for punting across the water, and even the chance to get in the saddle and ride a horse for yourself. Hop in your hire car and head here for the day.
This is the ultimate city-centre escape; drive 20 minutes south in your car rental, and you’ll reach instant garden bliss. It’s hard to believe that this luscious botanical garden is tucked away in the Mancunian suburb of Didsbury. Eventually, you’ll end up on the Mersey towpath, if you get to the bottom. Around every corner is a secluded place to sit, surrounded by unusual shrubs and winding walkways. The rockery is particularly beautiful for watching the world go by; it’s an easy place to while away the hours. If you’re looking for somewhere to play a spot of tennis, this has got to be one of the most scenic spots in Manchester. There’s a cafe that’s open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 12-5pm, and free wifi - if you don’t fancy being entirely cut off.
This dramatic sandstone ridge is one of the best places to admire the view across the gorgeous counties that surround Manchester. Just 15 miles’ drive from Manchester city centre, you can venture to Alderley Edge to take in the views over Cheshire Plain. You’ll also be able to spot the giant Lovell Telescope, and the rolling hills of this stunning region. To reach it, you can park the car and climb up a steep and thickly wooded area to come out to one of the most breathtaking views outside of the city.
Forming part of a picturesque estate that was built by a wealthy Manchester textile magnate in 1875, the gardens were also created in equal splendour to match the Victorian property. Once impeccably landscaped, it is now a haven of wildflowers and interesting flora as locals encourage biodiversity. Once home to greenhouses of vines, orchids and peaches, there is now a large open meadow with a whole range of native plant species. It’s no wonder this park has been awarded the prestigious Green Flag award on multiple occasions. Denzell Gardens are open to the public at all times, and you can easily park and enjoy a rural day trip just 30 to 40 minutes' drive outside Manchester city centre.
Straddling the Staffordshire-Cheshire border, this castle ruin is surrounded by a gorgeous patchwork of green countryside. Rising 355m above sea level, you’ll need a rent-a-car to climb the steep slope up to the top of the castle - but it’s certainly worth it. The folly is visible for miles, and on a good day, you’ll be able to see as far as the Welsh Mountains and the lights of Liverpool. It offers a 360-degree view of the Staffordshire Moorlands, and of the expansive Cheshire Plain. It takes around 45 minutes to drive from Manchester to the most southerly point of Cheshire, so is a fantastic option for a road trip in your car rental.
Forming part of the iconic Peak District National Park and the undulating landscape of Saddleworth Moor, Dove Stone Reservoir is a fantastic day out to escape the city on the edge of Oldham. It takes around 50 minutes to get there from Manchester city centre, but once you’re in the countryside you can take in the scenery and enjoy driving on picturesque country roads.
Whether you’re looking for a scenic stroll along one of the footpaths or somewhere to go a bit off the beaten track, it is a wild area ready to be explored. Chances are that you’ll spot some mountain hares and peregrine falcons. There are two pay and display car parks, and we recommend walking from here to the Greenfield and Yeoman Hey reservoirs to experience the crags of Saddleworth Moor for yourself.
At around 20 minutes’ drive or 4.5 miles from the centre, Longford Park is easy an easy place to drive to for some downtime away from the hustle and bustle of the city. This is the largest park in the widely encompassing area of Trafford, and it’s hard to believe that just down the road is Manchester United’s football stadium.
If you’re looking for the perfect Saturday morning running route, we recommend parking outside one of the entrances in either Chorlton or Stretford, and joining the local Parkrun on a Saturday morning. There’s also a cafe located at the heart of Longford Park, which serves fresh cakes, coffee and sandwiches.