Historic towns and villages in the Cheshire Plains on the western border of the Peak District are superb gateway holiday bases into the Peaks. Luxury country house hotels, historic pubs and inns, award winning restaurants and chic designer and local shops are in the area, particularly around Prestbury and Alderley Edge. The East Cheshire towns and villages boast a wide choice of their own attractions as well as direct rail links in to Manchester city centre. The Macclesfield Canal, part of the wider Cheshire Ring Circular Canal Route, passes through Bollington, Poynton and Congleton.
On the canal side at Bollington sit spectacularly restored historic mills like Clarence Mill which is now home to the Bollington Discovery Centre and Cafe Waterside. Stunning historic halls are also a distinctive feature in the area including the National Trust's Little Moreton Hall in Congleton, one of most spectacular Tudor timber-framed halls in Britain. Other East Cheshire Halls and Gardens include Rode Hall and Gardens near Congleton and Adlington Hall near Prestbury.
A rich and highly skilled industrial history in mining, silk, textiles and quarrying in the area is revealed in outstanding museums like the award winning Anson Engine Museum in Poynton located on the site of the former Anson Colliery. Old railway routes such as the Marple Bollington & Macclesfield Railway, now the 11 mile Middlewood Trail open to horse riders, walkers and cyclists, offer stunning walking opportunities.
The Cheshire Plains also contains unique natural features like the iconic Alderley Edge escarpment and the Bosley Cloud fell and Mow Cap isolated hill both near Congleton. A walk to the summit of these ancient natural features surrounded by the flat countryside of the Cheshire Plains affords spectacular views across to the Peaks.
The Macclesfield Canal pushes north of Macclesfield arriving at Bollington, nicknamed 'The Happy Valley', which like Macclesfield has a rich history in silk and cotton textiles. Bollington's 'Happy Valley' nickname originates from Samuel Greg (son of Samuel Greg of Quarry Bank Mill in Styal Cheshire) who was manager of Lowerhouse Mill in Bollington in 1832 and continued his father's social pioneering ideas here in Bollington building numerous amenities such as schools, housing and gardens for mill workers. Lowerhouse Mill today is still a working mill, home to a paper coating business. Spectacular renovated textile mills sit alongside the Macclesfield Canal in the Bollington area. The Adelphi Mill dating from 1868 began as a cotton spinning mill, later moving to fine silk. Beautifully renovated, Adelphi Mill today is a mix of office and workshop space. Beyond Adelphi Mill the Macclesfield Canal then runs past a high embankment and two aqueducts, moving across the valley en-route to another surviving spectacular historic mill in Bollington, Clarence Mill.
The vast Clarence Mill on the canal side at Bollington pre-dates Adelphi Mill and was built in 1830. A former cotton mill, Clarence Mill today is home to the Bollington Discovery Centre where you will find exhibitions on the history of Bollington's once numerous cotton mills and the people that worked in them. An extensive photographic archive is also available to view at the Bollington Discovery Centre which is also home to the popular Cafe Waterside which hosts regular live music and events. The Majestic Mills trail guide around Bollington is available at the Discovery Centre as well as an outstanding selection of local history books and guides. Find out more about the history of Bollington's mighty textile mills and Cafe Waterside on the Bollington Discovery Centre's website.
Overlooking Bollington sits the charming hamlet of Kerridge. Great walking opportunities branch out from Kerridge up to Kerridge hill for spectacular views across the Cheshire Plains. The view from the White Nancy monument on Kerridge Hill is one of Cheshire's most spectacular views. The northern end of Kerridge Hill is the site of the famous White Nancy monument. This unusual beloved local landmark is Grade II listed and was originally built as a summerhouse by the Gaskell family around 1815. Elizabeth Gaskell and family were in residence at nearby Ingersley Hall and owned the hill at that time. Its construction date is revealing as the summerhouse also served as a monument commemorating the Battle of Waterloo.
Bollington has a thriving arts scene and hosts the popular Bollington Festival annually in May. Literary, science, sports and music events all feature in the Bollington Festival which attracts huge crowds. The Bollington Arts Centre, one of the major venues supporting and hosting the Bollington Festival, is a top arts venue for a range of music concerts from Jazz to Classical and choir performances. Theatre musicals, exhibitions and regular comedy cabaret nights can also be seen at the Bollington Arts Centre.
Historic mining village Poynton is a great base from which to access local walking trails like the Middlewood Way. Surrounded by East Cheshire countryside, Poynton, although a town, has a delightful village atmosphere and boasts ample amenities including a leisure centre, shops and restaurants, a railway station, numerous character country pubs and Poynton is a convenient gateway to nearby Lyme Park and the Peak District. The annual August Poynton Show takes place in Poynton Park and a great selection of attractions, including a miniature railway, can be found at the Brookside Garden Centre in Poynton.
The Middlewood Trail, easily accessed from Poynton, is a hotspot for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and nature lovers. The trail runs for 11 miles between Marple and Macclesfield via Poynton and follows the line of the old Marple, Bollington and Macclesfield Railway which opened in 1869 and closed in 1970. This historic railway was largely financed by the mill owners of Bollington who at the time were facing a deep depression. It was hoped the railway, used to transport silk, coal, quarry stone, hats from Stockport and cotton from local mill towns would bring a much needed economic boast to the area. Much of the trail's route runs parallel with the Macclesfield Canal and you will find the Nelson Pit Visitor Centre in Higher Poynton which features displays, leaflets and activities. Recommended horsebox parking is also at Jackson's Brickworks in Higher Poynton. A map and details on things to see and do on the Middlewood Way can be found on the trail's weblink right.
In conjunction with exploring the historic Middlewood railway walking trail, essential visiting is the Anson Engine Museum in Poynton. This award winning specialist museum is located not far from the Nelson Pit Visitor Centre along the Middlewood Way and is situated on the site of one of Poynton's former collieries, Anson Colliery. One of the finest collections of over 200 gas and oil engines is held by the Anson Engine Museum in Poynton including early Crossley gas engines. Poynton local history, particularly the history of coal mining in the area, features strongly at the Anson Engine Museum revealed through old photographs, maps and keepsakes from the Anson Colliery and the Vernon Estate. Facilities on-side include a tearoom, a museum shop and craft centre, free parking, children's fun sheets and quiz and a meeting room with cinema area.
Famed today for its many luxury restaurants, chic bars and fine shops, Alderley Edge is also a real Cheshire centre for local produce. A wide selection of local produce food shops are in this attractive Cheshire Plains town and the Alderley Edge Farmers Market takes place on the second Sunday of every month in Alderley Edge Festival Hall. Acclaimed and award winning bars and restaurants in Alderley Edge, where local celebrities are often to be found, include No.15 Wine Bar, the Alderley Edge Hotel, the Wizard Restaurant and Brisingamens. Fine shoe shops, designer clothing shops, quality jewellers and florists are some of the range of independent shops in Alderley Edge.
Site of Special Scientific Interest and unique geological attraction in Alderley Edge, from which the town derives its name, is the striking sandstone escarpment, the Edge, which pushes upwards from the flat surrounding Cheshire Plains. The Edge is covered with caves, the result of copper mining in this area from as far back as the Bronze Age through the Roman period. Many of the Alderley Edge Caves are owned by the National Trust and caving trips down the mines are available from the Derbyshire Caving Club. The ancient trees and unusual rock shapes on the Alderley Edge as well as its strategic importance for centuries has led to its association with numerous legends involving witchcraft and wizards and even King Arthur and Merlin. The many legends of Alderley Edge are explored on the 'Legends of Alderley Edge' website.
The National Trust offer a guided walks programme around the Alderley Edge from April to September. Walking trails around the Edge pass through ancient oak and beech woodlands and spectacular views can be seen from the heights towards the Peak District. A walking trail (2 miles) also leads from Alderley Edge to the nearby National Trust site Hare Hill, a beautiful woodland and walled garden which features stunning holly, rhododendron and azaleas in season.
Prestbury village just a short distance to the north west of Macclesfield contains a superb selection of timber-framed medieval buildings, acclaimed restaurants, historic fine pubs and luxury country house hotels. Prestbury village centre is a designated conservation area. Historic buildings in Prestbury include the Grade I Listed early medieval church of St Peter's. A Saxon cross sits in St Peter's churchyard and a Norman chapel is nearby. St Peter's was extensively restored by the great English Victorian architect Sir George Gilbert Scott whose work included the Albert Memorial in London. Scott was a lover of English Gothic architecture and the Victorian Gothic Revival and St Peter's Church in Prestbury contains numerous Gothic features. Other notable historic buildings in Prestbury centre include the timber-framed former Jacobean Priest's House.
Within easy reach of Prestbury is the beautiful brown and white Cheshire timber-framed Adlington Hall and The Hunting Lodge. Originally the site of a Saxon hunting lodge, today nothing remains of the original hunting lodge. The Hall is the ancestral home of the famous Legh family. The Great Hall at Adlington was built between 1480 and 1505, with the rest of the timber-framed house dating from 1581. In 1739 Charles Legh added the West Wing with staircase, dining room, drawing room and library in his vision to transform the Tudor house into a spacious Georgian Manor. Further changes were made in 1928. Adlington, much like nearby Lyme Hall, is a wonderful mix of architectural styles with its Cheshire brown and white East Wing and its Georgian South Front with portico and Ionic column supports. Garden features include a beautiful Rose Garden and a maze of English yew.
Today Adlington Hall is a favourite Cheshire venue for weddings, functions and conference events. Pre-booked guided tours of this architecturally stunning Hall and Gardens are also available. Highlights on a tour include the late 17th century Adlington Organ surmounted with the Legh family coat of arms. The organ has survived in its original condition making it particularly special. Ample parking and a tearoom are both onsite.