I used to live in Manchester and back then sister city Salford was, shall we say, a little rough around the edges.
That’s all changed in the past couple of decades, with a huge amount of redevelopment centred on Salford Quays. Situated at the end of Manchester Ship Canal, this was Manchester Docks, and after the closure of the yards in the early Eighties it became one of the UK’s first and largest urban regeneration projects. Today the area is unrecognisable, with acres of modern housing – both ground level and high-rise – looking on to a network of internal waterways. Salford council did such a good job of cleaning up the waters that coarse fish thrive and swimming is possible in the summer. Our base for a weekend sortie was the four-star Copthorne Hotel Manchester which, despite the name, is perched right in the centre of Salford Quays, with fantastic waterfront views.
Wining and dining
The in-house Clippers Brasserie serves pretty much what you’d expect in a mid-range hotel – carvery favourites a go-go, nicely prepared using locally sourced ingredients. Wander further afield and you can try the restaurants in the Quays area, where the offering tends towards tried and tested – Pizza Express, Café Rouge, Lime and Nandos are all at the Lowry Outlet shopping centre, while there’s a Chiquito and Frankie & Benny’s just round the corner from the hotel. And if you’re of a sporty bent, there’s Café Football, with soccer-themed dishes to work off during your next game.
More a base than a destination, the Manchester Copthorne Hotel doesn’t have swimming pool, gym or spa. It does have airy rooms with free wi-fi and those gorgeous views. Best of all, it has great staff, from receptionist Cristina, who had a spare brolly when the clouds appeared, to waitress Raj, who told us all about the heron perched on a buoy outside, eyeing our food – and no wonder, as the brekkie was one of the best we’ve had in a UK hotel. How often do you have a cheery chef out front, to ensure the food is hot and appealing?
Worth getting out of bed for
Media City, a collection of TV production facilities taking in the likes of BBC Breakfast, Blue Peter, The Jeremy Kyle Show and Coronation Street, is a modernist dream with gleaming towers soaring to the skies and somehow looking just perfect in the landscape. Tours of the BBC are available, but book in advance to avoid disappointment. If you can’t get on one, you can still pop into reception and have your picture taken on a BBC Breakfast sofa which, it turns out, is rather comfy. There are café facilities, such as Penelope’s, in the ITV studios, and the Hawaiian-style Shack outside, or nibble a sandwich in the Blue Peter Garden, by the statue of legendary mongrel Petra. Just over the bridge there’s the striking Imperial War Museum North, where displays of weapons, clothing and artefacts aim to disorientate – we weren’t convinced by the periodic blackouts, but a spy-themed tour was fascinating. The nearby Lowry Centre has the Lyric Theatre as well a gallery filled with matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs, while the Lowry Outlet opposite has big name shops with up to 70 per cent off, a Vue cinema and the aforementioned eating options. If you just fancy a stroll in the fresh air, the waterside paths are pretty darn delightful – or you could tour the area by the Metrolink tram, an integrated system the likes of which we Edinburgh residents can only dream. And of course, Manchester city centre is just a short ride away.
Budget or boutique?
With plenty of deals, this is a budget break with first-class comfort.
Our club room came with bathrobes, complimentary drinks and a bar snack.
Welcoming, comfortable and extremely convenient for a unique tourism offering, the Copthorne Hotel Manchester is worth a punt.
• From £59 per night room only; special offers available online which may include breakfast. Copthorne Hotel Manchester, Clippers Quay Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3SN (0161 873 7321). Flybe flies to Manchester from Edinburgh up to three times a day, with one-way fares from £29.99 including all taxes and charges. Available for booking at www.flybe.com