the ‘dull’ cities you should visit this summer

halifax england underrated urban getaways - Getty

halifax england underrated urban getaways – Getty

When you start planning your vacation, the West Midlands is probably not a region that comes to mind right away. But can that change?

According to new research by Airbnb, Stoke-on-Trent is the most popular “quirky” destination among UK users, beating the likes of Scarborough, Cardiff and Paignton for the prize.

The website claims they are impressed with the city’s “selection of barn conversions”, and with four-bed country estates costing just £130 a night in mid-summer, they will make people think twice about paying inflated rates for small B&B rooms on stolen honeypots like South Devon and Pembrokeshire.

But perhaps British tourists are waking up to the fact that Stoke is actually a fascinating city that offers open-minded visitors everything from factory tours, beautiful gardens, arts and crafts workshops, plenty of pottery history and a 60-acre forest where Barbary Monkeys roam freely. There are four local museums, one of which displays part of the Staffordshire Hoard, the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon treasures ever found. Vacation with kids? Alton Towers and Jodrell Bank are on the road. Cannock Chase, Shropshire Hills AONB and Peak District are also just a short walk away.

trentham gardens encourage trent - Getty

trentham gardens encourage trent – Getty

Your friends will likely find your vacation choice eccentric. You can assure them that you are polycentric. Stoke is a town evoked in 1910 from six small towns. Confusingly, local author Arnold Bennett – a literary superstar in the early 1920sº century – referred to it as the “Five Cities” because it sounded more euphonious. Why go to an obvious city when you can see half a dozen originals?

When you start taking the road less travelled, the UK is full of options for a long weekend. Hundreds of cities are bypassed and forgotten each summer, as thoughtless hordes thrash, line, and bustle at the same beachfront resorts, villages, and festival-filled urban centers. Here are five of our off-the-radar favorites…

Five more underdogs for a brilliant weekend


The 253-foot Wainhouse Tower soars above the access roads to Halifax. Dyeing magnate John Edward Wainhouse had it built in part to show his arrogant neighbor Sir Henry Booth that the nobility, ensconced in their country estates, should look to the achievements of factory owners. Some call it the ‘Tower of Spite’ or ‘the tallest madness in the world’, but it’s a fitting symbol of a city that played such an important role in the Industrial Revolution.

Upon arrival there is the even more impressive Grade I Listed Parlor Hall, opened in 1779 to provide hand weavers with an august setting in which to sell their wares. As beautiful as any palace on the Grand Canal is, it would be a bustling super-tourism spot if it were in London; here, you can have the wide plaza all to yourself.

halifax moors - Getty

halifax moors – Getty

The Calderdale Industrial Museum provides the backdrop to the region’s rich history of labour, steam power, transportation and textiles, while Eureka! The National Children’s Museum is the best option for families on rainy days. Just a mile away by car is Shibden Hall with its beautiful gardens. Surrounding it are the misty marshes and lush valleys of the West Riding, with the Pennine Way nearby at the Hebden Bridge.


The most underrated city (sorry city!) in England? It could very well be, for Preston, even if it doesn’t look immediately appealing, it could boast several seminal debuts. It is widely regarded as the birthplace of temperance movement, thanks to local man Joseph Livesey, who committed himself to abstaining after a whiskey too much in the 1830s. To toast his memory, walk to the Plau in Friargate – the former Plow Inn, originally associated with the craze. from gin, later to teetotalers, and now a Grade II listed beauty bar serving great food, beers, spirits – and fizzy pop.

St Walburge’s Church is a short walk from the centre, but you’ll have no trouble finding it as it’s topped by an imposing spire – the tallest of any parish church in England. On weekends, there are guided tours of the heritage site, taking in the neo-Gothic exterior, hammer-beamed roof and ornate stained glass windows. Some tours include a climb to the pinnacle.

Preston Bus Station - Getty

Preston Bus Station – Getty

Preston North End was a founding member of the Football League, winning the inaugural championship and FA Cup; Game day at Deepdale is a great family day out, and the stadium boasts a memorial to Dick’s pioneering team, Kerr Ladies FC, much in the news following the Lionesses’ Euro Cup triumph. It’s a short drive to the bird-filled Brockholes nature reserve, Guild Wheel biking trail and Blackpool beach. Or hop on the bus – and see Britain’s most impressive modernist bus station on the way.

Milton Keynes

The once legendary Cidade Nova is now old enough to be taken seriously as a heritage site. To understand what the future looked like for the architects and urban planners of the 60s and 70s, take a walk through Milton Keynes’ Mies van der Rohe-influenced MK shopping mall, the Central Library and former bus station – all listed buildings – plus the MK art gallery, with bucolic detours along the way to the Grand Union Canal and Campbell Park, dotted with public works of art and one of the best contemporary parks in Europe.

milton keynes - Getty

milton keynes – Getty

MK became famous for its grid system and roundabouts, but one of the characteristics of the Cidade Nova project, which had its roots in the old “Garden Cities”, was to encourage residents to get around on foot; amenities are so well connected here that the Ramblers selected the city for their 2019 Best Walkable Neighborhoods award. If you’re on vacation with kids, choose from an action-packed afternoon at Xscape (where there’s indoor skydiving, , skiing, trampolines and a gaming cafe) or the geeky areas of Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing.

Merthyr Tydfil

Merthyr once fueled the Welsh economy. Coal mining and steel mills have marked and shaped the landscape and the people. Richard Trevithick’s first steam locomotive was built here. The Glamorganshire Canal and then the Taff Vale and Heads of the Valleys railways connected the city – the largest and fastest growing in Victorian-era Wales – with the city and docks of Cardiff. To get a sense of all this drama and upheaval, take one of the themed, self-guided downtown trails at

Pontsticill Reservoir, Merthyr Tydfil, - Getty

Pontsticill Reservoir, Merthyr Tydfil, – Getty

The Big Pit National Coal Museum – which offers underground tours – is just 26 km away. To see the bronze that all this dirt can generate, spend a noble day at Cyfarthfa Castle, commissioned by Ironmaster William Crawshay in 1824. City. Take the Brecon Mountain Railway from Pant, two miles north of Merthyr, to Torpantau – there to dive into the Brecon Beacons National Park.


The best view in Liverpool? From Birkenhead, of course, where you can take in the Three Graces, two towering cathedrals and the Victorian harbor panorama, without bumping into any statues of the Fab Four or Beatlemaniacs taking selfies – before turning your back on the clichés to explore a wider side. Mersey original. The East Wirral Coastal Trail is a wonderful outing for fans of maritime history. Nearby are Birkenhead Priory – the oldest building on Merseyside – and the Georgian architecture of Hamilton Square, second only to Trafalgar Square for the number of Grade I listed buildings on one site.

An autumnal scene with the old boathouse at Birkenhead Park - Getty

An autumnal scene with the old boathouse at Birkenhead Park – Getty

Birkenhead Park, opened in 1847, was the first park to be established from the public purse. It was designed by Joseph Paxton, better known for Chatsworth House, and its expanse of native and exotic trees, ponds, rock gardens, trails and bridges and “probably the oldest cricket pavilion in the world” was a blueprint for the future. city ​​parks. American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who visited in 1850, was inspired by Birkenhead when designing Central Park in New York. The Lady Lever Art Gallery and the Port Sunlight model village are on your doorstep.

Would you take a weekend break at one of these more offbeat options? Please let us know in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.