Just 15 minutes by tram from Manchester city centre is what is fast becoming the hottest short break destination in the  UK.

Salford Quays, Manchester’s unique waterfront destination has just about everything for everybody from art, drama, retail therapy, sport, restaurants and bars and even a watersports facility. It’s around an hour to an hour and a half’s drive from Leeds or if you decide to let the train take the strain around one hour twenty minutes journey time.

The Quays has a plethora of hotels but I chose the Copthorne, a short taxi ride from getting off  my train at Manchester Victoria.

The Copthorne is around a 25 minute walk from The Quays main area but it’s a very pleasant walk along a leafy water side path and if you just can’t face the walk back its around £5 in a cab.

Although there are other hotels nearer to the main area The Copthorne has a wonderful outlook and its own outside area where you can sip a cocktail or a cooling beer and you’d never believe you were so near a major city -it’s just so quiet.

After a pot of tea on the cobbled quay outside my hotel I decided to walk down to the main part of Salford Quays and I just couldn’t believe the close proximity of everything.

On the way I discovered the Helly Hansen Water Sports Centre that runs courses and gives tuition in open water swimming, windsurfing, yatching and canoeing. Everyone looked to be having fun but watersports are not for me!

A short walk found right in the hub of the wonder that is Salford Quays. Feeling in need of refreshment I decided to pop into The Lowery for yet another pot of tea.

This unique arts and entertainment complex is at the heart of the Quays.   houses both the famous art gallery and the theatre as well as spacious areas for refreshment and reflection.

The Lowry houses three theatre spaces, which present an exciting programme of national and internationally acclaimed drama, opera, ballet, dance musicals and comedy. Looking at their programme there’s something for everyone from War Horse, Shakespeare, Thrillers, Kids Theatre and musicals from Dusty, Cilla and Dr Doolittle to ballet with Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake plus Opera North’s Tosca and The Merry Widow.

Even if art is not your first love the main gallery at The Lowry needs to be visited. It shows a large collection of artworks by artist L S Lowry whom the building is named after. There is also a changing programme of contemporary art which reflects the venue’s strong performance heritage. If you are around in November there’s a particularly interesting exhibition Lowry and the pre-Raphalites which runs until the end of February.

The Lowry runs some great creative workshops. There’s script writing, acting and a special family weekly creative workshop inspired by the shows and exhibition which everyone will love plus a kids creative area that will provide hours of fun.

Opposite the theatre is the Lowry Outlet that boasts up to 70% off RRP. It’s a spacious cool centre with everything from accessories, childrenswear, confectionary, things for the home plus mens and ladies wear from all your favourite brands.

If you are visiting on the last weekend of the month then you will be there for the Monthly Makers Market on Saturday and Sunday. Here you can buy  a wide range of goods – and they are all hand or home made. The range of food is just amazing and it will certainly have you filling your shopping bag with treats to take home. And if you can’t wait,you can  munch on take-aways to your hearts content.

Perched on the terrace is Lime – the most  popular restaurant and bar that has an endless menu ranging from a brunch/lunch, evening and Sunday menu and there’s even a Sushi menu.

It’s a light and airy place that has lots of seating both indoors and outdoors and may I say very comfortable seating.

I chose from the Sunday menu and I was not disappointed. My server was very friendly and knowledgeable about the menu. For starters I had Avocado and pico de gallo bruschetta. This was a good choice and was a very generous portion. It was very tasty with tomato and red onion garnish adding to its flavour.

For main I had a sirloin steak which was cooked to perfection and exactly as I asked for it to be cooked. The meat was tender and succulent and came with handcut chips which were hot and very fluffy on the inside. I ordered a Rockett and parmesan salad to go with my main course and this was just no ordinary salad it was perfection in a dish!

Knowing I had a long walk back I allowed myself  a  crème brulee. It  was expertly made with the crispy burnt sugar on the top and a creamy mixture inside the dish.

Returning to my hotel  to change for the evening, I took a cab to the Alchemist for pre-theatre cocktails.  The Alchemist MEDIACITY UK is certainly something to behold. It’s a spectacular golden roofed building with golden walls and a stunning terrace that cantilever out over the canal.

When I was told it was like a gigantic golden spacecraft that had landed on the Quays, I laughed – but I must admit it is very unusual.

It’s a light an airy place with floor to ceiling windows. The type of place it’s a must to see and be seen in and always buzzing with a diverse clientele.

Highly recommended is the sharing cocktail Mad Hatters. It’s a real work of art and so entertaining. Brought to the table, by one of the best waiters I’ve come across in a long time, the glass container resembles something that would not look out of place in a laboratory. To infuse the cocktail, which contains fruits, vodka, citrus, St Germain, Cointreau your server works his magic with some of dry ice and a swirling mist results. The result is then put into a glass flask and served in willow pattern tea cups with matching saucers. A  delightful but strong cocktail with a refreshing taste. You can really taste the strawberry, mint and cucumber which contrasts with the passion fruit and grapefruit.

After cocktails where else do you head? The perfect answer just a few yards up to The Lowery to experience on of their shows in the lovely state-of-the-art theatre before returning to the Copthorne for a nightcap under the stars in their spacious bars overlooking the sleepy floodlit Quays.

If you can tear yourself away from the main area of the Quays there’s some surprisingly tranquil places such as Ordsall Hall, a short drive or a 40 minute walk away. The family home of the Radclyffe Family it has a chequered history. There are beautiful gardens to explore and it is supposed to be haunted! For the fullest experience take the Sunday Tour where experienced guides will let you into the hall’s history that spans the centuries.

And do read the programme of events as Ordsall Hall runs a programme of outdoor theatre in its grounds catering for every taste.

For fuller information about any of the places mentioned in this feature visit thequays.org.uk

Liz Coggins is a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers








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