Summer holiday family days out in East Cheshire

St John's Knutsford

St John's Church in the must-go town of Knutsford - Credit: Jenny Schippers

Girl About Cheshire Jenny Schippers goes in search of cost-effective outings to keep the children happy

East Cheshire is a spectacular place to discover at any time of the year but particularly during the summer break.
There are some of the county's most interesting places to explore, from Poynton to Audlem, Macclesfield to Congleton, and East Cheshire is packed with inexpensive ways to entertain the children.

1. Dig into Poynton’s coal mining past  
The thriving village of Poynton situated a stone’s throw from the Cheshire Peak District National Park, is shaped by its mining heritage and is to be an exciting place to take a step back in time with children of all ages. Stop at the Nelson Pit Visitor Centre, to learn more about Poynton’s coal mining history, before enjoying a drink and snack at Bailey’s Trading Post overlooking Poynton Marina. From here take any one of the eight suggested circular walks along the Macclesfield Canal or traffic-free Middlewood Way, the latter being fully accessible and perfect for bikes and scooters.

Finish your day in and around Poynton with a ride on the much-loved Brookside Miniature Railway, located at Brookside Garden Centre a short drive from the village centre.  

2. Follow the Silk Trail all the way to Macclesfield  
A bustling market town steeped in history, Macclesfield is famous for its Silk Industry with visitors able to learn more about this by visiting The Silk Museum open Thursdays and Sundays, tickets available to pre-book; alongside playing host to the Summer of Art, a programme of creative workshops for all ages.

A few miles outside the centre, Macclesfield Forest together with Trentabank and Ridgegate Reservoirs offer a network of picturesque walks with the opportunity to spot Red Deer and water birds, including the largest heronry in the UK. After all that activity, ensure a stop at Blaze Farm in Wildboarclough, for their award-winning ice cream, homemade cakes, and access to the family-friendly nature trails that zig zag the farm. 

Family fun at Lakemore Farm Park, near Sandbach

Lakemore Farm Park, near Sandbach - Credit: Jenny Schippers

3. Enjoy  town and country in Sandbach  

Sandbach always deserves a visit with its pretty cobbled market square and Saxon Crosses, surrounded by independent shops and cafes including the delightful, Café of the Square. Close to Sandbach, there are plenty of choices when it comes to keeping the little ones entertained, both Wheelock Hall Farm and Lakemore Farm Park offer visitors the chance to get up close to an array of friendly farm animals, as well as enjoying play equipment and a safe space to roam.

Accessible walks locally include Brereton Heath Nature Reserve, allowing for a stop at The Little Cow Shed for their incredible self-serve milkshake en route and the Salt Line between Sandbach and Alsager, both suitable with prams and scooters. 

lavender field with child

Lavender blue at Swettenham - Credit: Jenny Schippers

4. Leap through the lavender in Swettenham  

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This hidden hamlet deep in the East Cheshire countryside is a real must for nature lovers; enjoy a pub lunch in the spectacular lavender meadow at the Swettenham Arms, a true sensory overload, before taking a few steps across the pub car park to the Lovell Quinta Arboretum.

For a small voluntary charge of £2.50, visitors can stroll among the 28 acres of woodland, created in the mid-1950s by Sir Bernard Lovell, famous for his work at the nearby Jodrell Bank and his namesake telescope.

The Arboretum is glorious in all seasons, however, the summer months bring an explosion of colour with two recommended walks with which to enjoy the gardens to their full potential. Jodrell Bank looms in the distance and visitors can now access the UNESCO World Heritage site’s indoor and outdoor interactive exhibits, now they are back open, from Wednesdays to Sundays. 

5. Take a stroll around Nantwich  


History, shopping and lots of family activities in and around the lovely town of Nantwich - Credit: Jenny Schippers

Towards the south of the county, there is so much to see and do in Nantwich, from enjoying an outdoor swim in the Brine Pool, a visit to Nantwich Museum to learn more about the history of the town including The Great Fire of 1583 that destroyed much of it, together with enjoying great shopping and waterside walks.

The architecture of the Nantwich is almost unique in the county, second only to Chester for its collection of half-timbered buildings, and time could be spent just wandering the lanes and alleys in the town.

Be sure to pick up a cupcake at Cheshire Cupcakes before walking the Nantwich Riverside Loop, a manageable 2-mile circular incorporating Nantwich Lake and River Weaver. Just out of town, the unique Hack Green Nuclear Bunker is a throwback to the Cold War and features a labyrinth of underground rooms and tunnels, the perfect place for history lovers to explore. 

Knutsford's Penny Farthing Museum

Knutsford's Penny Farthing Museum - Credit: Jenny Schippers

6. Step in the shoes of King Canute in Knutsford 

Often associated with flashy cars and fine-dining restaurants, Knutsford is actually one of the best family days out in East Cheshire. Away from its famous, and often busy neighbour: Tatton Park, there are plenty of quieter discoveries to be made in this affluent East Cheshire village.

The Moor, located just off King’s Street offers visitors the chance to enjoy a peaceful mere-side picnic spot, an excellent playground for both younger and older children, and exceptional coffee from the Tatton Perk orange van when it visits every Sunday.

The Penny Farthing Museum, the only one of its kind in the world, housed within The Courtyard Coffee Shop is the opportunity to get close to these magnificent pieces of engineering while savouring a slice of their homemade cake. Just outside Knutsford, the Lambing Shed Farm Shop is a must; pick up some locally grown produce, enjoy lunch in the outdoor children’s play area or a walk through the adjacent way-marked woodland.  

7. Check out Congleton  

Congleton has a plethora of attractions within its vicinity including the Victorian-designed Congleton Park and the wonderfully wonky Little Moreton Hall. This small National Trust property recently reopened to the public and is an iconic sight with its quirky, uneven appearance offering a unique spot to enjoy a picnic.

Close by Astbury Mere Country Park is a 40-acre public park suitable for the whole family to enjoy; with miles of accessible waterside and woodland walks, the chance to hire water sports equipment, and the opportunity to enjoy the popular ice cream from GGs Coffee Hub.

A two-minute drive from Astbury Mere brings you to Glebe Farm, a hidden gem of an attraction; offering visitors a coffee and farm shop, together with a children’s play area, tractor rides (weekends and school holidays), and farm animals, all free to access. 

8. Bob along the canal in Bollington 

Often considered one of the prettiest towns in East Cheshire, Bollington once produced some of the finest cotton in the world and Clarence Mill still stands as a living museum to this once thriving industry. Nowadays visitors can enjoy a bite to eat at the Café Waterside, overlooking the River Bollin, before embarking on any one of the family-friendly walking routes starting at the Bollington Discovery Centre, situated within the Mill.

For more experienced walkers, White Nancy, sitting proudly at the top of Kerridge Hill, provides a challenge; with steep sections in part to complete the 3.5-mile circular trail from Bollington to this now Grade II listed building, rewarding those that do with 360-degree views across the whole of Cheshire and into the Peak District.  

9. Explore the wild woodland of Wilmslow  

Stepping off the luxury high street and away from the designer boutiques, Wilmslow is bursting with ideas for an inexpensive day out and the first stop has to be The Carrs Park –71 acres of stunning woodland adjacent to the River Bollin. Often considered one of the best family days out in East Cheshire, the  play area, multi-use sports courts, formal gardens, and parkland is a great way to spend time with the kids.

Visitors can also enjoy the waterside walking trails that link The Carrs Park to Styal Country Park and into shadows of the imposing Quarry Bank Mill. This popular National Trust property is busy year-round, but it is possible to avoid the crowds by sticking to the surrounding woodland north and south of the mill estate; continuing through Chapel Woods to the delightful Styal Village, once home to the local mill workers where you can reward yourself with lunch at The Ship at Styal.  

10. Search out the magic in Alderley Edge  

The Golden Triangle town of Alderley Edge offers families so much choice when looking for a cost-effective day out in East Cheshire.

The Famous Wizard Trail at Alderley Edge is a popular choice with free parking for National Trust members and the chance to sample a slice of cake at the Wizard Tearooms pre or post-walk. Offering spectacular views from the sandstone escarpment across much of the Cheshire countryside, this short one-mile circular route, complete with a sprinkling of magic along the way, is suitable even for younger children, although not accessible with a pram.

For those looking for more of a challenge, join the permissive footpath open 10.30 am -5 pm daily, taking in the historic landscape that surrounds Hare Hill, another fantastic hidden National Trust property worth a visit.  

For more, check out Visit Chester & Cheshire  and the Cheshire East Ranger Service

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