Cross the River Irwell and it’s hello Salford, another city that is both a part of Manchester and distinctly separate; the Brooklyn to its bustling Manhattan. Gritty urban realism has been this city’s stock in trade since L.S. Lowry painted his very first matchstick man. But this Dirty Old Town is on the whole looking distinctly less dirty these days, thanks to the BBC’s arrival at Media City and some robust regeneration schemes.
Newly-brushed-up Chapel Street is at the centre of a £650m regeneration project that will see new housing, shops and cafes set up shop there, and a revamp of woefully under-used Salford Central rail station is also on the cards. Regardless, what remains in Salford is a creative community busy making and innovating. During Central Manchester’s development boom, Salford’s low rents and vacant mills were an attractive refuge for artists, and now it’s home to artist studios such as Hot Bed Press, Cow Lane Studios and Islington Mill.
The Council-run Salford Museum and Art Gallery is a friendly city museum with special appeal to families, and the nearby Working Class Movement Library provides a fascinating look at the past. Ordsall Hall, the city’s beautifully restored (and supposedly haunted) Tudor mansion, has a busy programme of events and activities all year round.
Fancy stopping off for a drink or a bite to eat? The King’s Arms on Bloom Street is a Salford institution celebrated for its continental beers and bohemian atmosphere. Closer to Manchester,The Lowry Hotel is among the best fine dining destinations in either city. And for cocktails we’d recommend mounting an expedition to Corridor Bar. Hidden down an unremarkable alley off Chapel Street, it’s a place for serious mixology.
The Quays is Manchester’s waterfront. Opened in 1894 by none other than Queen Victoria, the Salford Docks were central to the city’s Industrial Revolution success; The Manchester Ship Canal meant ocean-going ships could bring their goods direct into Manchester. The docks began to decline in the post-war years; they were bought in 1984 by Salford City Council and became one of the largest urban regeneration projects in the UK. In 2011, the BBC moved into new, purpose-built studios at MediaCityUK (itself the largest such media hub in Europe); ITV, the University of Salford’s media programmes and a host of production companies followed. Now it’s a hyperfuturistic place, with people zooming around on Segways and architecture worthy of a science fiction movie.
With its own Metrolink stop, it’s easy to get to The Quays from the city centre and it’s well worth the trip. With two theatres, galleries and a studio space, The Lowry has plenty to offer. Across the water sits arguably Manchester’s most compelling building, IWMNorth. Eating and drinking options have improved dramatically since the BBC arrived: The Dockside bar and fine dining restaurant Damson stand out among the usual chain fare centred around the Lowry Outlet Mall.