Sunday, 16 February 2014

Manchester Center/Waterside Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 5.4 km (3.4 miles), terrain: flat (100 meters gain)

Pictures courtesy of the creative folks at Flickr Creative Commons. Thanks! 

Manchester running routes:
City center route
Salford Quays route

Rochdale Canal route
Worsley route
For more running routes, see Route List.  

Manchester City Centre definitely sends visitors a mixed message. Around the city centre, you'll see quite a few abandoned Victorian-Era factories, with their blackened brick facades and broken windows. But many neighborhoods are also making a spectacular comeback, with gleaming new buildings shoulder to shoulder with re-purposed factories along newly opened riverside walkways. There is some major rejuvenation going on in this proud industrial area, home to the industrial revolution.

This route explores some of this fascinating mix, heading through the heart of the city and along some restored canals and riverfront along the western edge of the town center.
Fountain gargoyle in Albert Square, photo by Phil King
The route starts in Albert Square, in front of the Manchester Town Hall, which stands there looking like a role-model town hall: a classical facade in hewn tan stones and a big bell tower, with statues and monuments out front, and a fountain with weird gargoyles spitting out water. Each December they have a German-style Christmas market on the square, with Bavarian food and craft articles, as I discovered one year.

Stand there at the Gothic-steepled memorial to Prince Albert and turn south to run past the front of the town hall and down Mount Street. You'll immediately go by the round, domed public library, then come out onto the front plaza of the Manchester CCC, the Central Convention Complex. It was once the central train station, but now hosts conferences and concerts.

Now head around the left side of the CCC, still running south on Lower Mosley Street. Run for a couple of blocks, until you see the train overpass ahead at the City Road Inn, where you turn right to run west on Whitworth Street, with its canal-side clubs along your right side.

You'll soon pass the Deansgate Station on the left, and the jaw-dropping, huge new skyscraper with the Hilton Hotel off to the right. You'll then come to the big cross-street, Deansgate.

Continue straight, running under the red-and-white bridge along Castle Street. Just after going under the bridge, you come into the nicely restored Castlefield canal-side neighborhood.
Narrowboat and bridge in Castlefield, photo by Quite Adept
After going under the bridge, immediately turn left to go up onto the little terrace with the big, red cog-wheel,and then take the stairs down to the lower terrace by the ring-canal below, at the 1-km mark. Now cross the iron footbridge spanning the canal (raised-up with steps) and turn right to run along the water, past the narrow-boats. These unique boats were developed to travel the narrow, industrial-revolution era canals, in the early 1800s.

The Castlefield district has a great combination of restored old warehouses and new waterside housing and offices. You'll soon cross a Dutch-style draw-bridge and then continue along the walkway to the right, towards the modernistic, white footbridge ahead.

Run under the footbridge to stay along the Bridgewater Canal-side, as it curves to the left.
Along the Bridgewater Canal, photo by brandenburg
Now run southwest along the towpath of the Bridgewater Canal, where you can continue for another 400 meters, with its mix of older and brand-new buildings. After you go up and over a lock to a side-canal on the left, the towpath will soon end, where you turn around and run back to the modern, white footbridge back at the ring-canal again.

This time, when you get to the bridge, cross it. You'll go right through the beautiful beer garden of the Bohemia bar and grill. Maybe take a look to your right side at the old boat lock there, too, with its fascinating, almost 200-year-old technology.
The boat lock sluice, photo by Admanchester
Now turn north and run under the arches below the two railroad bridges. Stay to the left and then go under a third railroad bridge, coming to the Castlefield boat basin, with more narrowboats and its tent-roofed outdoor concert venue along the right side.

Leave the canal basin by continuing up the steps to Liverpool Street ahead, where you turn left, leaving Castlefield. Liverpool Street is lined with classical facades from Manchester's industrial boom-town days.

NOTE: Right where you enter Liverpool Street is the great (if you like mechanical stuff, like me) Museum of Science and Industry, with its cars, airplanes, huge motors, etc., all made right around Manchester!

In 100 meters, Liverpool Street ends at Water Street. Turn right there and go under the next two old iron railway bridges and then turn left onto the first street thereafter, Princes Bridge, at the 3-km mark. This bridge crosses the River Irwell, which separates Manchester with Salford on the other side. We'll now run northeast in Salford along the riverside.

So, at the far side of the bridge, follow the bicycle signs that point to the right and follow the towpath.

When you pass the next bridge over the Irwell, you'll enter a neighborhood with a lot of new office buildings, shops and riverside restaurants, Spinningfields. A very cool spot, with the Marc Addy pub right along the water! The area is changing fast, with each new development phase opening up more waterside trails.
Along the Irwell, the Marc Addy pub, photo by innpictime
You'll pass by another white, modernistic footbridge, Trinity Bridge, and then come to another car bridge, at Blackfriars Street, after the 4-km mark. The trail ends here, so turn right to cross the bridge and then turn left after the big car-park and hotel, onto Deansgate.

You are heading straight toward the old Gothic cathedral, two blocks ahead. Run past the cathedral, then turn right to continue along the green churchyard.
Manchester cathedral, photo by Bittenk1
At the square behind the cathedral, turn right to continue along its back side, running south.

You now come out onto Exchange Square, a surprising mixture of medieval, Victorian and modernistic architecture. The square was rebuilt after the IRA bombed it in 1996, and the contrasts are refreshing. Look at the tudor-era pubs to the right, on the small courtyard of Shambles Square.
Exchange Square, with Shambles on the left, photo by Pete Grubb
Now cross the square, past Selfridges department store towards the giant Next store in the Arndale Shopping Center, then turn right to run south along Cross Street.

In 500 meters, you'll be back at Albert Square and the town hall.

NOTE: Or you could take the parallel pedestrian street, Exchange Street, right from Shambles Square to St. Anne's church before turning left to get onto Cross Street. It's a bit quieter and nicer.

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