Last weekend I returned to Leeds, where I went to university, for a weekend city break. I have always loved the coach (trains feel so clinical to me, I can’t relax), so I travelled there with National Express.
The journey was just over four hours, but it was over very quickly with a nap and a little TV to pass the time. National Express coaches have plugs to keep your phone or laptop charged, and it even has its own entertainment app VUER, that provides free Wi-Fi to watch movies, TV shows, news and sport as well as having a games selection.
If, like me, you’re trying to reduce your carbon footprint by avoiding flights but find trains a little too expensive, getting the coach makes the whole of the UK accessible and National Express coaches meet the latest standards for engine emissions. Here are three northern cities to add to your UK staycation/bucketlist…
1. Things to do in Leeds
This one has to be at the top of the list because I lived there for three years, so it holds a special place in my heart. It is a small city which makes it easy to explore on foot and you can tick off most activities in just one weekend.
Go shopping in the Corn Exchange, where you’ll find indie boutiques and vintage shops as well as quirky food. It is in an incredible round Victorian building which is a sight in itself. Similarly, head to The Arcades. The shopping is high end but whether you’re into that or not it is a beautiful old building.
At night head down Call Lane and visit a few bars, I recommend Call Lane Social, Smokestack, Neon Cactus and Oporto. You’re less likely to find students here (if that is a concern).
2. Things to do in Manchester
Spend your day in the Northern Quarter visiting galleries, or shopping in the gigantic Trafford Centre. Then head a little bit out of town to Curry Mile; famous throughout the UK, it is the largest concentration of Asian restaurants in the UK including Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi.
Then head back into town (trust me, the curry diversion will be worth it) and go and see some live music. Manchester is world famous for homegrown bands including Oasis, The Smiths, Chemical Brothers and Take That — and the music scene is still thriving. I hear that YES is the newest music venue in town. If you fancy staying up all night, plan your visit around Warehouse Project which takes places in a huge empty depot.
3. Things to do in Liverpool
If you’re a fan of the band then it goes without saying you have to visit the immersive walk-through journey at The Beatles Story. Otherwise, spend your day at Tate Liverpool and go for a ride down along the water on the hop-on-hop-off Mersey Ferry. On Bold Street you’ll find lots of independent shops to explore and over on Wood Street you’ll find FACT, an indie gallery and cinema.
Spend the night at The Cavern Club which opened in the 50s and has seen many famous acts perform over the years from The Beatles to Rolling Stones and the Kinks. It closed in the early 1980s but reopened later that decade thanks to investment from Liverpool FC player Tommy Smith.