Manchester: Chilled Northern escapes

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Manchester may have a reputation as a party powerhouse, but you can still take some downtime and relax. Discover the best places to get pampered in the city and where to escape for a chilled-out break in the English countryside.

Book yourself some quiet time

To shut out the world, why not escape to one of Manchester’s magnificent libraries? Step back in time to 1653 and visit the oldest library in the English-speaking world, Chetham’s Library. If you’re after something more grandiose, then prepare to be wowed by the John Rylands Library, which features beautiful neo-Gothic interiors throughout.

Near both libraries, you can amble alongside the network of Manchester’s tree-lined canals. The Bridgewater Canal is 41 miles long and runs as far as the coast, so catch a boat ride, kick back and take in the fresh air.

Park life

The raw beauty of northern England’s countryside has inspired some of history’s most famous artists and writers, such as Emily Bronte and William Wordsworth. Manchester is flanked by three of England’s most picturesque national parks. The Peak District to the east, Yorkshire Dales to the north and the Lake District to the northwest – and the best thing is that they’re all easily accessible in less than two hours.

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Get the endorphins going with a hike in the fresh air: the classic way to explore the Lake District is on foot, where you’ll find a fantastic supply of well-trodden paths. If you’re looking for a gentle stroll or a high-octane scramble, there are lots of options, and picking the best spot in the region is tough. Scarfell Pike is the highest point in England and, if you make it to the 3,209ft summit, you’ll be rewarded with sprawling vistas of Wastwater Lake. For something more sedate, take a three-mile stroll around Tarn Hows, past bubbling waterfalls. You’ll also find local authority guided walks for beginners and those wanting to learn more about this national park.

To cover more ground, you can hire bikes and see the region on two wheels. Grizedale Forest, west of Windermere, and Whinlatter in the northwest of the Lake District, are great locations for off-road mountain biking and packed with crisscross paths.

The Lake District, as its name suggests, also contains an abundance of beautiful spots for wild swimming. If you’re brave enough to face the brisk temperatures, take a dip into the crystal-clear Wastwater Lake at Overbeck Bridge.

Wellness in the wilderness

If hiking across the English fells isn’t your idea of a relaxing retreat, choose one of the many stylish spa hotels in the Lake District. Book yourself in for a programme of nutritious food, personal workouts and luxury spa treatments that will calm your mind, body and soul. If you fancy stretching out and enjoying some peace and quiet, yoga can help you de-stress and unwind, so look out for local classes and one-off workshops dotted around Windermere.

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There are plenty of spas back in Manchester too. Having the pros work on your muscles for an hour should also help ease out the tension after a long flight. For indulgence with a difference, hop into a flotation pod at one of the city’s specialist health lounges. The feeling of weightlessness in these futuristic capsules will send you into a meditative state, improving concentration and decreasing your levels of stress hormones in no time.

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