When high earners in Liverpool and Manchester look for country homes, they often look south to Cheshire.
So there’s a strange diversity in the county, as earthy industrial towns are just a few miles from upscale countryside with posh restaurants and boutiques.
To the west, almost bordering Wales, is Chester, a beautiful and extraordinary heritage city that dates back to the Romans.
To the east is the wilderness of the Peak District, one of England’s most prized wildernesses and a hiker’s paradise.
In the countryside in between are Tudor halls and Georgian mansions, almost always open to the public.
Let’s explore the best of Cheshire’s attractions:
The county seat of Cheshire is as beautiful as it is charming, with enough heritage to last more than a weekend away.
To get an idea of the layout of Chester’s Roman castle, you can walk along the walls, which, although they have been strengthened over time, are almost in the same form as they were 2,000 years ago.
Inside the city walls are medieval streets, with black and white timber-framed buildings winding their way over five-story cobblestones.
You have to call at the cathedral to see the fantastic medieval covered walks of Chester Street.
Even now, we hardly know all the interesting things about this remarkable city.
One of the last towns before the Peak District, Congleton is a smart market town with many useful bars and restaurants.
Walkers can use the town as a starting point for excursions to the national park, while close by you can stroll along the River Dane and Biedolf Valley Road, which used to be a railway line that transported coal to Stoke Pottery.
But Congleton really shines for Little Morton Manor, a large half-timbered estate surrounded by a moat and staring out into formal gardens.
Constructed in stages in the 1500s, this awe-inspiring building is rich in original fittings such as leaded windows, interior murals and an Elizabethan fireplace that will give students of Tudor history goosebumps.
As you walk around Northwich, keep in mind that much of what you see is the legacy of salt mining that took place under the town from Roman times all the way through the 20th century.
Throughout its history, this has made Northwich quite a fortune, but the downside (literally) is that it sinks, diverts rivers, and occasionally destroys building foundations.
The award-winning Lion Salt Works provides the ultimate insider look at Cheshire’s salt industry, while Weaver Hall is a Victorian workhouse, a type of forced labour camp where people end up if they can’t support themselves.
Even more elegant is Arley Hall, a 19th-century building restored to the style of Tudor and Stuart palaces from centuries ago.
Those upscale towns we mentioned in the introduction are clustered in an area known as the Golden Triangle, which has some of the most expensive streets in the Northwest.
Knutsford is such a place, full of trendy boutiques, delis, bars and expensive restaurants.
The town’s 18th-century townhouses and timber-framed buildings complement the high-end vibe.
There are also a few days around Knutsford, such as the Austin-style Georgian estate Tabley House.
If you’re with the whole tribe, try the Gauntlet Birds of Prey, which has plenty of birds of prey, from owls to falcons, and holds flight demonstrations that little kids won’t soon forget.
A disaster in the market town of Nantwich in 1583 was a blessing to us.
Much of the town was destroyed in a devastating fire, and Queen Elizabeth I helped fund the reconstruction.
This gives us a collection of well-designed Tudor buildings that were all built around the same time.
Head to Main Street and Hospital Row to find some of the best.
The Crown Hotel on Main Street is outstanding with its cantilevered top floor with continuous windows.
There’s also exciting modern history around Nantwich in the secret nuclear bunker at Hackgreen, an underground Cold War relic with many disturbing details, such as a medical room equipped to treat radiation burns.
If your Sandbach trip needs a first port of call, look no further than Market Square.
This location couldn’t be more adorable. The square is paved with irregular cobblestones and surrounded by historic buildings in the shape of rustic old-fashioned bars with wooden frames.
But the most striking feature of the square is a pair of stone Saxon crosses.
These date back to the 800’s and it’s exciting to see intricate carvings still so vivid.
These feature the classic Saxon staggered pattern and vine scrolls, and if you study the pillars carefully, you’ll find dragons, beasts and even religious images.
A narrow boat tour is a very leisurely way to explore the Cheshire countryside, and one of the best places to start your voyage is Midwich.
The town has been served by canals since it requested that the Trent and Mersey Canal be diverted here to transport local chlorine and salt ash.
The waterway is connected to the Shropshire Union Canal via the Waddell Canal, the shortest in the country at just 30 metres in length.
If you’re visiting in June, you’ll catch the Middlewich Folk Boat Festival, when hundreds of boats are moored in the town and the waterside bar has a busy schedule of shows.
One of the best things about Cheshire’s former industrial towns is the way a top-notch museum commemorates their ancient industry.
The largest industry in Macclesfield was silk weaving, and the place was still known as the “Silk City” long after the industry disappeared in the 20th century.
The Silk Museum within the majestic Paradise Mill will delight industrial historians and those who love vintage fashion and textiles.
Macclesfield is now a wealthy town with many independent shops to browse, all blended with 19th century architecture as the city was the only industry to escape bombing in World War II one of the centers.
You can also swap shopping streets for wilderness, as the Peak District is just a mile from town.
Once a coal mining town in the hilly countryside, Poynton is located on the lower slopes of the Pennines, within a green belt that protects the surrounding countryside.
You won’t struggle to escape the scenery as Middlewood Road passes Poynton on an old rail line from Marple to Macclesfield.
Your entry to the trail is the Nelson Pit Visitor Centre above the former coal mine.
The fantastic Anson Engine Museum has more mining and general industrial history, also belonging to an old mine.
Here you can see one of the largest range of stationary engines in Europe, with all types of pumps, turbines and generators.
The town of Crewe was key to the success of the Industrial Revolution in the North West, as it was the birthplace of locomotives and railroads.
Founded in 1840, the Crewe Railway Company employed a small army of 20,000 men in its heyday to build and service the machines that linked the supply chain.
Even today Crewe is described as a railroad town, and the local football team Crewe Alexandra is the “Railroad Man”. Head to the Crewe Heritage Centre, which was built on top of the town’s old locomotive factory and has many old diesel and electric locomotives to visit.
One of Cheshire’s prettiest villages has a high street with nothing but brick Victorian and Georgian houses, lined with wrought iron gas lamps adding some extra old-fashioned charm.
You have a selection of bakeries and boutiques to peruse, and there are four bars in town for lunch or a pint.
A few minutes south is Beeston Castle, built in the 13th century on a sandstone cliff 100 metres above the Cheshire Plain.
As so often happens, the castle was partially destroyed at the end of the Civil War to prevent it from being reused in the future, but the ruins are very evocative and the vistas are nothing short of majestic.
Another hip town in the Golden Triangle, Wilmslow first caught the attention of wealthy merchants and industrialists in the North West during the Victorian era when railroads provided fast links to Manchester and Liverpool.
Many footballers live here, including the legendary former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.
Servicing these wealthy residents are high-end boutiques and restaurants, and if you’re wondering how luxurious Wilmslow is, there’s a branch of Hoopers, a department store that has only four locations nationwide, including the ultra-luxury Harrogate and Tunbridge Wells.
To get you back on your feet, Quarry Bank Mill in Styal is one of the most intact old mills in the area and the best place to investigate the textile history of the North West.
Almost equidistant from Manchester and Liverpool, Warrington is a ‘new town’, so a lot of what you see now didn’t exist before the post-war period.
But before that, it was a market town and had heavy industry in the 19th century, when textile and tool factories were part of the townscape.
Today, people travel to the city centre from surrounding towns and villages to shop.
The leafy and historic suburb of Stockton Heath exudes a unique charm and, happily, it also doesn’t have the usual British chains, but rather independent shops and restaurants.
See the golden gates of Warrington Town Hall, hang out in the Warrington Museum’s treasure chest and take the kids to the petting zoo at beautiful Walton Manor and Garden Estate.
14. Alderley Edge
This wealthy village is just a short drive from Manchester, but England’s second city will feel isolated.
Like other settlements in the area, Alderley Edge is great for Manchesterites, as is the kind of shops and restaurants frequented by high earners.
However, one of the best things about the village is completely free: Alderley Edge takes its name from the wide sandstone ridge above the village.
The highest point peaks at over 200 meters and is protected by the National Trust.
At Stormy Point, you’ll find stunning views of the Pennines and Peak District to the east.
The small village of Daresbury, not far from Warrington, would be a very satisfying place to spend time, even if it wasn’t the birthplace of author Lewis Carroll.
In fact, All Saints has a great visitor centre that will give you an idea of Carroll’s early years in Daresbury and possible inspiration for Alice and her adventures in Wonderland.
When the author was born in 1832, Lewis Carroll’s father was actually her minister. Before or after a quick pint at the lovely Ring ‘O Bells bar, take a moment to admire the village and its old halls.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Cheshire, England
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