When the opportunity to spend a weekend in Cheshire came up it was a no-brainer, even though I grew up there and regularly visit the area.
The Best Western Pinewood Hotel in Wilmslow proved to be the perfect base for my partner and I to spend a great couple of days visiting two of the county’s top leisure attractions, Tatton Park in Knutsford and Quarry Bank Mill in Styal.
With a Saturday night trip to the Palace Theatre in Manchester for the final night of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, there was barely time to pause for breath.
The hotel was a comfortable and relaxing base, with 58 bedrooms, a recently refurbished reception area, lounge/bar restaurant and event rooms, with al fresco dining terraces and an attractive walled garden which our room looked out on.
General manager John Scott has ambitious plans for the hotel which was recently bought by the team behind the award-winning Best Western Castle Green Hotel in Kendal in the Lake District, which he had managed. These include planned upgrades of the furniture, which had seen better days. What could not be faulted, however, was the hotel’s warm and welcoming atmosphere and the superb food, overseen by executive chef Stephen Jarvis.
After a lovely Friday night meal and breakfast our first port of call was Tatton Park, a place I have been going to since I was in short trousers and of which I never tire (my parents still live five minutes from the Dog Wood entrance into the 2,000 acre estate where I spent many a happy hour as a kid).
As well as the picturesque large lake, known as Tatton Mere, there is something for all the family, from the deer which roam the estate, to a rare breed farm, 250-year-old gardens and the mansion.
For hundreds of years the latter was the family home of the Egerton family before being bequeathed to the National Trust on the death of Maurice, 4th Baron Egerton of Tatton in 1958.
A tour around the Old Hall is essential and the gardens are stunning. Try a cream tea in the courtyard and look around the shops stocking tasty local produce.
Our visit coincided with Tatton’s Biennial of Contemporary Art, which runs until the end of September and is called ‘Flights of Fancy’. The combination of film, video, sculpture, installation and performance by 20 artists explores the human urge to fly. I particularly liked the one resembling a giant Brillo pad high in a tree called Dead Cat. Emanating from it were various noises, including a 1942 BBC recording of nightingales which inadvertently picked up the sound of Allied bombers on their way to Mannheim in Germany.
After a quick early buffet in the hotel we headed off to to see one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most successful productions. It has to be said that the upper reaches of the Palace Theatre are not recommended for anyone with vertigo issues and the seats are not the most comfortable for those with long legs but these things couldn’t spoil a magnificent production.
The next day we were off to Quarry Bank Mill in Styal for a fascinating few hours touring an 18th century working cotton mill, complete with demonstrations by costumed staff.
Apart from a tour of the factory there was the chance to walk up the hill to the former Apprentice House where children lived and worked all those years.
We had hoped to visit Salford Quays to take in the Lowry Centre and the Imperial War Museum, but ran out of time. There are so many other things to see in the area, including the Jodrell Bank Observatory and a tour of Concorde, which now resides at Manchester Airport. Other attractions include Lyme Park at Disley (another childhood haunt), Dunham Massey, near Altrincham, or , for shopaholics, the Trafford Centre, Manchester city centre, or Chester.
The Best Western Pinewood is the perfect base for taking in all of these sights.