Adam Cailler visits the former Manchester Docks, enjoys the theatre, dining out and discovers a former stately home a short distance away
A SHORT break to somewhere around 10 minutes drive from your front door is not everyone's idea of a good time.
But after spending 24 hours exploring all that Salford Quays has to offer, I could happily recommend it.
The Quays, known then as the Manchester Docks, was opened in 1894 by Queen Victoria and spanned 120 acres of water and 1,000 acres of land.
At its height, Manchester Docks was the third busiest port in Britain, but after containerisation and the limit placed on vessel size on the Manchester Ship Canal, the docks declined during the 1970s.
But, thanks to The Lowry, Imperial War Museum North and, of course, Media City UK, Salford Quays is well and truly one of Greater Manchester's hot spots.
My wife and I began our trip at the Copthorne Hotel. Like anyone who travels anywhere these days, I checked Trip Advisor for reviews of the hotel beforehand.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that rumours of grotty, outdated rooms were just that.
Our club double room was spacious, modern and, I suspect, newly decorated. The bed was one of the more comfortable we have slept in, and the view of the dock from our window was a welcome sight.
The hotel is actually just a short walk from Manchester United’s Old Trafford home. Parking is free.
The bar was nice, although nothing special, as was the restaurant for breakfast. It was a classic English breakfast buffet, with a chef frying eggs.
Again, another cracking view of the Quays made it that little bit more enjoyable.
There is a Metrolink stop around 100ft from the hotel, but given that the weather was good, we decided to walk to our next destination — the Lowry Outlet Mall.
The Lowry, to those who live in Manchester, is often seen as a bit of a black sheep when you consider the vast array of shops in the city centre or the Trafford Centre just 15 minutes down the road.
But you can pick up some fantastic bargains there, especially as the majority of shops hold permanent sales.
One of the outlet's highlights is the vast array of restaurants.
We visited Lime... during the World Cup.
It describes itself as an independent restaurant and bar with a passion for sourcing local, seasonal produce, creating fresh menus prepared daily on site.
I would also describe it as a sports bar — which was packed to the rafters for the World Cup games that day.
For some reason Lime also has an extensive sushi menu — which my wife enjoyed.
I have to admit that I wasn't too enamoured of my sweet potato and black bean chilli, especially the questionable jalapeno corn bread side dish, which was akin to eating wallpaper paste.
But the sushi was very good, and very extensive. The crème brulee desert was also a winner.
From there we took the short walk to the Lowry Theatre to watch the classic Michael Morpurgo story Warhorse.
TRANSFORMATION: The former Manchester Docks are now the stunning Salford Quays|
Adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford, the story follows the life of horse Joey which goes to France as cavalry in the First World War.
While the story itself is a little dry, the life-size puppet horses are incredible. You tend to forget they are just metal frameworks and begin to accept them as actual animals.
I am not a regular theatre-goer, but I would happily see this show again.
One piece of advice for the theatre management though — if it’s 30 degrees or more outside, please turn the air conditioning on!
We also visited the Lowry Art Gallery, which pays tribute to one of Salford’s most famous sons — artist LS Lowry.
The following day saw the real highlight of the trip — a private tour of Ordasll Hall.
Neither of us had heard of the 800 years-plus old building just a further five minutes walk from the hotel.
As you approach the building, you could be forgiven for thinking you are in the wrong place, as it’s located in the middle of what looks like a council estate.
But look a little further and you’re breath will be taken by the sight of this grand hall.
The history of Ordsall Hall is a little confused, as our guide admitted.
Much of it is hearsay, like the Gunpowder Plot being planned there (it wasn’t, despite what Wikipedia states).
The hall holds monthly family fun days, and we just happened to be there for the latest one which features interactive historical activities for children of all ages.
There is also a small gift shop, and herbs from the garden available to purchase for a suggested donation.
The hall itself is magnificent, with hidden features throughout.
If you look outside from one of the upper floors you can actually see the imprint of the moat that once surrounded it.
‘What was once here but no longer is’ features are often the most fascinating, such as the faded hand-painted images on some of the eaves.
Climbing into the attic was a little unnerving, but renovations have made it 100 per cent safe. A strange fact is that it is always four degrees colder than the rest of the building.
But there are many tales about Ordsall Hall which are not true.
Should you visit, your tour guide may decide to add to that mystery with a few of his own!
And yes, it is haunted. There is more than enough evidence to suggest that.
Ask your guide about the box of heavy metal armour which found its way into the middle of the room when the building was empty and locked... and how the security camera flickered during that five second moment.
It was well worth a visit for anyone who is either a history buff, or just wants to learn more about Manchester.
Or, if you like paranormal entities.
I would suggest, however, making the trip to Salford Quays on a slightly cooler day.
Although, you can always take a dip in the Quays to cool off.