Macclesfield, a market town in the Peak District’s West Moors, became the world’s largest producer of finished silk in the 19th century.
In 1832 Macclesfield had 71 silk mills, one of which was preserved as part of the Silk Museum along with the jacquard loom.
Macclesfield has a nice cobblestone town centre on a steep hill.
Climb the 108 steps to the market, home to a Georgian neoclassical town hall and a medieval church filled with Renaissance alabaster monuments.
There’s free Wi-Fi in the town centre, a great monthly market, lots of ideas in the Peak District, watching the Titanic radio telescope at Jodrell Bank or perusing the country estate.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Macclesfield:
1. Silk Museum and Paradise Mill
A perfect introduction to Macclesfield’s industrial heritage, the Silk Museum combines a world-class collection of silk textiles with the well-preserved Paradise Mill (1860), fully preserved in its original 1930s appearance.
The museum investigates the roots of the Macclesfield finished silk trade, showing how it was made on a loom and unabashedly showing working life in a textile mill.
You can even see live silkworms! An archive of nearly 1,000 volumes of pattern books and a display of silk garments will amaze tailors and couture lovers alike.
A few doors later, you’ll visit the Paradise Mill, with 26 restored jacquard looms in operation until 1981.
2. The Peak District
If you want easy access to the west side of the Peak District National Park, there’s no better town than Macclesfield.
The Peak District is the oldest national park in the UK, established in 1951 and offers a variety of landscapes.
The Macclesfield side is the outer moor of the sandstone dark peaks, traversed by the treacherous A537, known as England’s most dangerous road, so be careful.
In less than 10 minutes, you can drive to Shining Tor and hike up to the 560-meter peak, where you can see the Jodrell Bank radio telescope in the distance.
On the same ridge but slightly to the east is Cats Tor at 520m, not a daunting climb as there is a convenient car park 60m below.
3. Jodrell Bank
Macclesfield is in orbit of the Jodrell Bank Observatory, established in 1945 as part of the University of Manchester.
Jodrell Bank’s main telescope is the huge Lovell Telescope, built in 1957 and measuring 76.2 meters in diameter, which remains the third largest steerable radio dish in the world today.
Amateur astronomers have gone a long way to get a taste of this massive structure, which has been inscribed on the World Heritage List along with the rest of the space station.
The Discovery Center opened at Jodrell Bank in 2011 and features the world’s largest planetarium of a clockwork model of the solar system, as well as games and interactive stations related to the solar system and the Milky Way.
At the Space Museum, you’ll learn about the math and science behind radio telescopes, learn about the birth of the universe, and watch inspiring animations and archive footage.
4. Tegg’s Nose Country Park
This park is located on the slopes of the main Tegg’s Nose, an early taste of the Peak District on the east side of Macclesfield.
Once in the parking lot, there is a convenient visitor center with flyers and information boards about human history and wildlife on the mountain.
Tegg’s Nose was mined for millstone grit over hundreds of years, and an old quarry has been preserved and marked.
Strong walkers set their sights on the 380-meter summit, but there are plenty of other activities to choose from in the park, such as hiking, abseiling, horseback riding, biking, and fishing in the reservoir’s southern portion of the park.
The panoramic views of the three ridges of Tegg’s Nose are stunning, and on a clear day it stretches 40 miles west to Liverpool.
5. West Garden
Workers in Macclesfield have come together to raise money for the park next to the city centre.
Opened in 1854, West Park provided an oasis for those who worked 70 hours a week in the factory.
It is now a fully equipped urban space with playgrounds, skate parks and gorgeous ornamental gardens.
Another reason to visit the West Park Museum is that it was conceived in the 19th century by Egyptologist Marianne Brocklehurst, factory owner and Macclesfield’s first MP Daughter of John Brockhurst.
The museum still houses her sarcophagus and carvings, and is the permanent home of Macc Panda, a stuffed panda brought here in 1935 by the later Brocklehurst.
6. 108 steps
From the train station to St Michael’s Church and Market is a winding and scenic staircase that has become a Macclesfield landmark.
The steps have followed this route since the 17th century at the latest, and the cobblestones were resurfaced in 2014 after a campaign by the inhabitants.
The stairs are lined with brick walls and take you past some fine old houses with stunning views of the town if you need a break.
7. St. Michael’s Church
At the top, take a look at the interior of St. Michael’s Church, which directs the market, with views across the town.
Although the church was almost completely rebuilt in the early 20th century, it is highly regarded for its two historic churches.
Here you will encounter what is considered to be the richest collection of alabaster statues in Cheshire, produced for the Legg and Savage families in the 16th and 17th centuries.
There is also a set of commemorative copper pipes in Legh Church, the best of which is for William Legh who died in 1630. The finest monument in the larger Savage church is the tombs of John Savage (d. 1495) and his wife Katherine, with their stunning horizontal portraits of the couple.
8. Hare Hill
While the country house at Hare Hill Hall is privately owned, the gardens are managed by the National Trust.
The star here is the walled garden, a blaze of color in early summer when the rhododendrons and rhododendrons are in bloom.
There are also less common varieties of poppy, iris, lupin, phlox and echinacea.
The trails extend into woodland and in summer you can rest by the lake in the park and have a picnic in a very stately setting.
A walking route also culminates in the Alderley Edge, a red sandstone cliff, also owned by the National Trust, that rises over 200 metres and offers stunning views.
9. Arlington Hall
Adlington Hall is a huge mix of styles, built in the late 15th century and then remodeled in the 18th century.
So while the north and east facades have romantic black and white timber frames, the south and west wings are brickwork with stately Palladian porticoes.
Adlington is rented for weddings, but on Sundays between April and October, the house and gardens are open to visitors.
The medieval town hall is indispensable for its soaring hammer beam roof.
Look up at the safe made up of 60 compartments, each clad in the coat of a Cheshire nobleman.
The grand organ here was probably the most important instrument in 17th century England.
The dining room, chapel, Chinese room, bard gallery and bedroom 10 are equally beautiful.
In the garden you can walk the labyrinth and enjoy the fragrance of the rose garden in midsummer.
10. Nancy Paik
Park in Burlington, 3 miles north of Macclesfield, and hike up Kerridge Hill to admire this peculiar building.
White Nancy, 280 meters above sea level, is an ordnance mark erected by surveyors in 1815.
The monument is built of sandstone rubble, whitewashed and topped with a spire.
From time to time, white walls are used as canvases for paintings: after his death in 2018, they were adorned with the face of The Fall singer Mark E. Smith, preceded by a bee, and in solidarity with Manchester’s 2017 bombing. Another purpose of the walk was to survey the Cheshire Plain, with views as far as the Shropshire Mountains in the south and the North Wales Mountains in the west.
11. Riverside Park
Downstream of the Bolling River, Riverside Park is located north of downtown and merges with West Park.
Despite being surrounded by small towns, Riverside Park feels remote, with two large woodlands, as well as a community orchard, butterfly meadow, and wildflower meadow.
The last area is grazed by docile longhorn cattle to help deter invasive grass species.
You can spend an hour or so strolling along these trails, but Riverside Park is also the start of the Bollin Valley Way, a 25-mile trail that runs right next to the river and ends at the Manchester Ship Canal in Partington.
12. Capesthorne Hall
The façade of this exciting Jacobean Revival country house is attributed to Victorian architect Edward Blore, who also worked at Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace.
The facade he remodeled is from the 1830s, although the house dates back more than a century.
Capesthorne Hall is now primarily a wedding venue, but does receive visitors on Sundays and Mondays in the spring and summer.
Anyone who loves English country houses should take the opportunity to look around.
The Sculpture Gallery features works by Canova and Nollekens, and its ornate paneled ceilings are a common feature of the Salon, Drawing Room, Library, Study and State Dining Room.
In the latter you can admire the work of another important sculptor of the time, Joseph Wilton.
The scenic grounds are also worth your attention, with 18th-century maples, an ornate private church and a lake crossed by a bridge built in 1843.
13. St Peter’s Church, Prestbury
This 13th-century church about a mile north of Macclesfield is the fourth church on the site.
But unusually, the third church is still here, among medieval yew trees.
The cemetery contains a Norman-Romanesque church dating from the 12th century, with doors and windows in the form of semicircular arches with weathered but visible tympanic reliefs and rhombuses.
The main church is mostly in the early 13th century English Gothic style, with a vertical tower from the 15th century.
In the nave, look for the painting above the column, from 1719, and the Jacobean pulpit of the early 17th century.
Also lovely are the 14th-century piscina in the south aisle and the 15th-century ledger stone of Reginald Legh, who worked on the church tower and portico.
14. Flame Farm
Blaze Farm is a completely free-to-enter working farm in a stunning location in the Peak District.
Children will be able to meet goats, sheep, donkeys and chickens, as well as seasonal activities such as lambing in spring and shearing in summer.
The farm is extensive with nature trails that take you into woodland and meadows.
Admission is free, as Blaze Farm relies on revenue from its award-winning Hilly Billy ice cream, which is made on-site with Peak District milk.
Treat yourself with a few scoops in summer, or indulge in homemade cakes in the tea room.
15. Syrup Market
On the last Sunday of every month, Macclesfield Market, Old Butter Market and St Michael’s Church Cemetery offer more than 160 stalls for the syrup market.
Starting in 2010, it took over from the defunct weekly market, which mainly sells antiques, vintage clothing and crafts, but also has plenty of food and drink stalls.
Often, you’ll find merchants selling knitted yarn, vintage vanity boxes and photo frames, as well as local cheeses, jams, artisan pies and mason jars of freshly squeezed apple juice.
For lunch, there is no shortage of tempting street food stalls serving fresh soups, curries and authentic paella.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Macclesfield, England
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