Enjoy a break in the vibrant North West of England with our Explore the UK by Rail offers. Staying in either Manchester or Preston, the Freedom of the North West ticket included with your hotel stay gives you unlimited rail travel anywhere in the region.
The North West is home to some of the country’s most prestigious clubs such as Liverpool, Everton, Manchester United and Manchester City. Your rail ticket allows you to explore the area from Chester, up to Carlisle, across to Leeds and all points in-between. With our handy guide to exploring the North West’s main football heartlands, you’ll find some info on how to get round the biggest grounds and some less well-known ones too as well as tips on where to find some liquid refreshment on your travels! There are 17 football league clubs based in the North West, can you visit them all in 3 days?
Leaving the train at Lime Street it’s a short walk through town to the bus station at Liverpool One. Pick up the 26 bus for the short journey to Liverpool FC’s famous Anfield stadium. If you’re lucky enough to have a match ticket you’ll be treated to the legendary Anfield atmosphere. There’s something very special about hearing The Kop belt out “You’ll Never Walk Alone” prior to kick-off. Alternatively, there are various stadium tours available starting from £17 for adults and including access to the dugout, the dressing rooms and the club’s interactive museum. Now it’s a short walk across Stanley Park to Goodison Park, “the school of science”, home of Everton FC.
The club once unfairly derided as “small” by Rafa Benitez has a fabled history having competed in the top division for a record 114 seasons. Everton have a proud fan base and a reputation for inspiring loyalty in their players. You may want to visit Goodison sooner rather than later though as a new £300 million stadium on Liverpool’s waterfront is currently in the planning stage. Tours of Goodison are £12 for adults and last for over an hour, taking you behind the scenes at the famous old ground. Leaving Goodison it’s a short walk to Bank Hall or Kirkdale station for the train to Moorfields in Liverpool city centre.
Jump off the train at Moorfields for a swifty at The Ship & Mitre on nearby Dale Street. This Art Deco-style establishment always has a great selection of real ales to choose from as well as fridges full of German and Belgian bottled beer. If your travels have left you a bit peckish, The Galley serves handmade burgers and pies as well as traditional Scouse. Pause for reflection at the Hillsborough Memorial on your way back to Lime Street.
Do you know your trequartista from your fantasista? Do you turn your nose up at St. Pauli fans for being too “mainstream”? Head to Marine A.F.C who ply their trade in the Northern Premier League. Their credentials were confirmed when hipster faves Borussia Dortmund trained at their home ground last year before playing Liverpool in the Europa League! Rosset Park is a short walk from Blundellsands & Crosby on the Merseyrail Northern Line.
The other powerhouse football city in the North West is of course, Manchester. The largest metropolitan district in the area is home to two Premier League giants in United and City as well as several other lower league clubs. From central Manchester it’s a short journey by bus, train or Metrolink to Salford Quays for Old Trafford; the famous “Theatre of Dreams”. Manchester United are one of the biggest clubs in world football and have a trophy cabinet to match (including a record 20 league titles) so a trip to Old Trafford is a must for any football fan. An 80 minute stadium tour costs £18 and includes entry to the club museum.
Jump back on the Metrolink and head back through the city centre to Etihad Campus and Manchester City FC. The Etihad Stadium has been City’s home since 2003 when they moved from Maine Road. Since their takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group, Manchester City have become one of the wealthiest football clubs in the world and two Premier League titles and an FA Cup trophy have followed. Stadium tours cost £17 and include access to the dressing room, the tunnel, a sit in Pep Guardiola’s chair in the dugout and also a club lanyard. When you’ve finished, a short tram journey takes you back to central Manchester.
While you’re there, why not pay a visit the National Football Museum located in the Urbis Building near Victoria Station. Here you can explore the history of the game, the greatest clubs and players and even take a penalty in the interactive exhibition space. Best of all, entry to the museum is free!
Stockport County play in the National League North having been relegated from League Two in 2011 after 110 years in the league system. Just 3 stops on the train from Manchester Piccadilly, Edgeley Park has been Stockport’s home since 1902. A short walk back across town takes you to the Robinson’s Brewery which has been producing beer in Stockport since 1838. An informative brewery tour costs £9.95 and of course includes a sample. Speaking of which….
Tucked away underneath Oxford Road station, The Salisbury is an unpretentious pub that probably has the best jukebox in Manchester, packed full of rock classics. They also have a good range of real ales and craft beer and also a pool table.
When the Football League was first formed all the way back in 1888 there were five Lancashire clubs involved in its first season: Blackburn Rovers, Burnley, Bolton Wanderers, Preston North End and Accrington Stanley. Can you get round them all in a single day? With your Freedom of the North West ticket, some comfortable footwear and a bit of determination it should be possible!
Starting from Manchester Piccadilly, a 20 minute journey takes you to Horwich Parkway for Bolton’s Macron Stadium (when did it stop being the Reebok?!) A further 20 minutes takes you to Preston and the historic Deepdale Stadium which first hosted football in 1878. Another short journey towards Blackburn brings you to Mill Hill station and a short walk from there to Ewood Park, home of Blackburn Rovers. Jump back on the train at Mill Hill for the journey to Accrington which should only take about 15 minutes. A short walk takes you to the Crown Ground, home to Accrington Stanley (who are they!) There is a pub outside the ground, also called The Crown, pop in for a quick drink if you’re thirsty! The last leg takes you from Accrington to Burnley Manchester Road and Burnley FC, currently playing in England’s top flight. Congratulations, five more grounds ticked off your list! Now it’s about an hour journey back to Manchester through the scenic Pennine countryside around Todmorden and Hebden Bridge. After all that, a well-deserved drink is in order…
Two minutes from Victoria Station, the Pilcrow Pub is a contemporary bar that serves modern & seasonal beers and locally sourced sandwiches and snacks. If you’re lucky you might be there for one of their famous tap takeovers or DJ sessions.
So that’s a whistle-stop tour of the North West and its football scene. How many grounds have you visited? Can you recommend anywhere else to visit in the North West? Get in touch via the comments section below…..