This post was written as part of my role as an ambassador for the #MyStokeStory campaign, in collaboration with Stoke-on-Trent Cultural Destinations and Visit Stoke. I have received free tickets for some of the attractions mentioned (Trentham Gardens, Trentham Monkey Forest, World of Wedgwood). You can find out more about #MyStokeStory here.
Stoke on Trent is a city in North Staffordshire, England; approximately mid-way between Manchester and Birmingham. The city is historically known as the home of the pottery industry and is affectionately termed “The Potteries” by its residents and those from further afield. It hasn’t always had a great reputation but a lot of work has been done over the past few years focussing on culture, heritage, tourism and leisure, with multi-million pound development and regeneration programmes helping to put Stoke-on-Trent firmly back onto the map.
Things to do in Stoke on Trent
1. Visit A Pottery Factory
Stoke-on-Trent is famous for its production and design of pottery and ceramics so you can’t visit the city without finding out more by visiting one of the pottery factories. Perhaps you’d like to visit World of Wedgwood to find out more about the history of this world-famous company and maybe throw a pot of your own? Or you could head over to Gladstone Pottery Museum, the only complete Victorian pottery factory left in the world, to step inside one of the iconic bottle kilns and experience what conditions were like for the men, women and children who worked there. Emma Bridgewater is one of our favourite places in the city, where you can take a tour of the factory, decorate a piece of your very own Emma Bridgewater pottery, have lunch in the gorgeous cafe or spend some pennies in the gift shop. You can also visit Middleport Pottery (look out for the Peaky Blinders!), Moorcroft, The Dudson Museum, Spode, or LoveClay at Valentine Clays.
2. Have a History Lesson
To find out all about the history of the area a trip to The Potteries Museum is highly recommended. Etruria Industrial Museum should also be on your list for learning more about the city’s industrial past.
Ford Green Hall is 17th century timber-framed farm house where you can see what life would have been like for a 17th Century farmer. Or you can step into the 18th Century at Rode Hall and Gardens, which is also the setting of one of our favourite family friendly festivals, Just So.
3. Get Active
There are plenty of ways to get active in Stoke-on-Trent. You can visit Waterworld, the “UK’s number one indoor tropical aqua park” or you could try out your ski-legs at Stoke Ski Centre. Maybe you’d like to release your inner ninja at Ninja Warrior UK, or if hanging from the trees is more your thing you can have a high-rope adventure at Trentham Treetop Adventures. For indoor climbing check out Awesome Walls, Kilnworx Climbing Centre or Clip ‘n’ Climb (Stone), or if jumping is more your thing, head over to Flip Out Trampoline Park (also in Stone).
4. Get Outside
There are lots of parks in and around Stoke to get some fresh air and blow away the cobwebs! Hanley Park, for example, is a historic Victorian park with various facilities for families, such as an all-weather sports zone; lake and fountains; sensory play area; children’s play zone and public art sculptures. Central Forest Park is a large green space in the heart of the city, home to insects, birds, unusual plants, carboniferous fossils, Stoke Skate Plaza (the largest street style skate park in Europe) and a safari themed adventure play area. Longton Park hosts a lake, play area, football pitch and more and Tunstall Park and Burslem Park are both Grade II listed. Hem Heath Woods Nature Reserve is also definitely worth a visit, as are the beautiful Downs Banks in Barlaston, the wonderful Westport Lake (the area’s largest expanse of water consisting of two lakes, and a nature reserve) and Park Hall Country Park which is one of the city’s most important natural sites.
Additionally, Biddulph Grange Garden, a Grade 1 listed Victorian garden owned by the National Trust,is a really quirky and interesting place to visit; and the nearby Biddulph Grange Country Park has 73 acres of woodlands and meadows with paths to walk along, a large lake and ponds.
5. Ride a Bike
There are lots of safe cycle routes throughout the city and designated cycle trails to follow. If you prefer off-road cycling, there are also plenty of cycling opportunities. For example, The Manifold Track follows the route of the former Leek and Manifold light railway (so is flat and easy!) and Biddulph Valley Way follows the former railway along the Biddulph Valley from Stoke-on-Trent to Congleton.
6. Take a Trip on a Canal
Two of the most important canals of the Industrial Revolution run straight through Stoke-on-Trent. The Trent and Mersey Canal links the River Trent near Derby with the Mersey at Runcorn; and the Cauldon Canal takes you from the city to the picturesque Staffordshire countryside. Both are great to walk or cycle alongside, or maybe you’d like to hire a narrowboat to experience them properly? You could also hire a canoe and paddle along the 20-mile Heritage Canoe Trail.
7. Let Off Some Steam!
To the east of Stoke-on-Trent, is the Churnet Valley Railway, where you can experience historic railway travel at its best, either taking an 11 mile return journey through beautiful Staffordshire countryside or a 9 mile return journey over the Moorlands. There are beautiful stations to stop at along the way, all with visitor facilities.
At the Apedale Valley Light Railway in Newcastle-under-Lyme you can learn about the Industrial Narrow Gauge Railway and ride beside the Apedale Country Park in historic carriages, once used by Welsh quarrymen and by tourists in Snowdonia.
8. Walk With Animals
Who’d have thought that we share Stoke-on-Trent with around 140 Barbary Macaques, roaming freely through ancient woodland? Yes, it’s true! And what’s more, you can walk amongst them and observe them behaving as they would in the wild – no other city in the UK can offer such a fabulous experience! You can find out more about Trentham Monkey Forest here.
Peak Wildlife Park, another place where you can walk amongst animals, isn’t strictly in Stoke-on-Trent but it’s not far away at all and can be found close to Leek in the stunning Staffordshire Peak District. You can read more about Peak Wildlife Park here.
9. Visit Trentham Gardens
A post about Stoke-on-Trent really wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the amazing Trentham Gardens, which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city. There really is something for everyone at Trentham Gardens and it is the perfect place for a family day out in Stoke-on-Trent. We recently visited for their Halloween celebrations and had a fabulous time wandering through the gardens on the Halloween trail, carving pumpkins and making our own nature-inspired broomsticks and magic wands. We also went to the Trentham Firework display which was absolutely fantastic and the best firework display I’ve seen in a long time – I can highly recommend that you book tickets for that next year, it really was superb! Trentham Gardens also host Summer concerts, in front of the beautiful lake, which are a truly fabulous night out. I attended the Totally 90s concert at Trentham this Summer with a group of friends and the 00’s concert with my husband and children, and both were really fun events – we’ll definitely be attending next Summer too!
10. Go to the Theatre
We are lucky to have some fabulous theatres in and near Stoke-on-Trent. The largest and theatre in the area is the Regent Theatre in Hanley which seats over 1,600 and is a top venue for national touring productions such as The Woman in Black, Mamma Mia!, War Horse, Annie, One Man, Two Guvnors Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake and Riverdance – to name but a few! The nearby Victoria Hall has established itself as a popular venue on the touring circuit for artists such as Morrissey, Bryan Adams, Shed Seven and Paul Weller; comedians such as Ben Elton, Jimmy Carr, Jon Richardson and Ed Byrne; and concerts such as The Organ Proms, The Snowman Tour and Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels.
Nearby, in Newcastle under Lyme you will find the New Vic Theatre, Europe’s first purpose-built theatre-in-the-round. The New Vic is known for both it’s own in-house professional productions and its award-winning work within the community and plays a major part in the cultural, economic and social regeneration of the area.
Two other theatres in Stoke-on-Trent worth a mention are the Stoke Repertory Theatre, home to the Stoke Rep Players who produce high quality amateur productions; and the Mitchell Arts Centre whose mission is “to play a huge role in the lives of the community by providing educational and entertainment opportunities where they can showcase their arts and talents.”
Hopefully this post will have inspired you to visit this wonderful city. Or, if you’re from the area, it may have tempted you to explore all the fabulous activities on your doorstep! And don’t forget to use the #MyStokeStory hashtag to share all of your adventures and possibly win a prize – find out more here.
How to Get to Stoke on Trent
Stoke-on-Trent really is in the heart of the country and is therefore very easy to get to! It’s less than an hour’s drive from Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham and easily accessed from Junction 15 or 16 of the M6 and is on the A50 which is directly linked to the M1. Or, if you prefer rail travel, it’s only a 90 minute train journey from London and less than an hour from Manchester or Birmingham.
Hotels in Stoke on Trent
There are plenty of hotels in Stoke-on-Trent. Personally, I would recommend the Premier Inn at Trentham which is part of the Trentham Estate so within 30 seconds walking distance from Trentham Gardens and a very short drive away from Trentham Monkey Forest. It’s also within easy access by car or bus of all the attractions mentioned in this post. For more accomodation ideas, check out Visit Stoke’s website.
Pin for later: