Travel tales

The changing face of Salford Quays

Salford Quays, Manchester

You can visit some places over and over again without ever actually ‘seeing’ them, and Manchester is one of those for me. Both my brother and best friend live up there, and I’ve been up to see them plenty of times. But trips to Manchester normally involve a lot of catching up and a few glasses of wine, but a distinct lack of sightseeing. So on my latest trip  I thought I’d actually try and explore Manchester itself, starting in one of the places I’ve been to the most – Salford Quays. My brother has lived in and around Salford Quays for the last ten years, so on each visit I’ve got a snapshot of how it’s changed.

Manchester Dock, 1900s

Manchester Dock No 9, now known as Salford Quays (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Salford Quays started off as part of the Manchester Docks, one of the biggest ports in the UK, sending and receiving cargo from across the world. But by the mid-1980s, shipping had moved on and the docks were abandoned and becoming derelict. The local council took over the land as one of the UK’s first big urban regeneration projects, turning an industrial wasteland into apartments and offices.

The Lowry Centre in Salford Quays, Manchester

The same view today, overlooking the Lowry Centre from Imperial War Museum North

When my brother first moved there, the area was on the up. The property boom meant it was a hub of construction, with a new block of flats springing up each time I visited. The waterfront was tidied up, the new Lowry arts centre and shopping mall were opened, and it seemed the area was thriving. But fast forward a few years and everything had ground to a halt. The recession meant money dried up and development stopped, leaving construction sites abandoned and flats and office blocks left unsold.

Imperial War Museum North, Salford Quays, Manchester

Bridge across the Quays and the Imperial War Museum North

It’d been a few years since then, and even more since I’d actually been to look around the Quays. And there have been some big changes due to the new MediaCityUK development. Over 200 acres of land around Salford Quays are being developed into a huge media village. Construction started in 2007 and the first tenants moved in last year. The BBC is the biggest and has already moved its sports and children’s programmes in, plus there are studios being built for their ITV rivals Granada and a satellite channel.

View across Salford Quays, Manchester

The view across Salford Quays from my hotel room

Walking around the Quays today you can definitely feel more of a buzz. Even at the weekend when a lot of the offices are empty, there were people around – heading for the museum or theatre, shoppers and even some brave rowers at the watersports centre despite the freezing temperatures. It’s not just locals too – as you walk around you hear snatches of different languages and Salford Quays in starting to appear in the guidebooks, pulling in visitors to the Lowry Centre and the Imperial War Museum North.

The Imperial War Museum North in Salford Quays, Manchester

The Imperial War Museum North

The military history of Salford Quays was part of the reason the site was chosen for the museum. Factories here produced Lancaster Bombers and other RAF aircraft in WWII, and the area suffered for it with heavy bombing. The building was designed by architect Daniel Libeskind and is supposed to look like three shards representing a globe shattered by war. Or so they say… Inside there are exhibits from conflicts back from WWI to the present day, with huge projected shows that take over the whole space.

Projected show at the Imperial War Museum North, Salford Quays, Manchester

Projected show in the Imperial War Museum North’s main gallery

The tallest of the shards is the Air Shard, where there’s a viewing gallery. It’s probably not a good place to go if you’re scared of heights, with a clunky lift and mesh floor that means you can see all 100 metres down to the ground below you. But the views are worth it. You can see all over the Quays and beyond across Manchester, and even get a sneak peek at the new Coronation Street next door. But that’s today’s view, with the pace of change here at the moment it’ll all be different by tomorrow.

Exhibits in the Imperial War Museum North, Salford Quays, Manchester

Exhibits in the Imperial War Museum North

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The changing face of Salford Quays, Manchester – On the Luce travel blog

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  • Reply
    The Travelbunny
    February 8, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Lots to see in Salford Quays by the looks for things. Like the idea of BlaBlaCar too…

  • Reply
    coyotero2112
    February 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Some of these cities which relied on commerce, resources or production of goods that are no longer necessary have plans to get out of the downhill slide. I lived in Cleveland…they didn’t have a clue. I visited Pittsburgh…they have cleaned up from coal and steel and turned themselves into an city of art galleries and artist’s communities. Manchester seems to be more like Pittsburgh, from the photos you have here. Good for them.
    Later….

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      February 9, 2013 at 7:06 pm

      It’s always a challenge what to do with industrial cities once the industry has gone. They seem to have done a good job here and I’ve seen a few other cities where it’s worked well. Depends on getting the investment and having planners with the imagination I suppose though.

  • Reply
    aBitofCulture
    February 8, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    I had a tour of MediaCity when it was being built and the views over the Manchester shipping canal to Old Trafford are great. Crazy how some of the BBC staff refused to move there.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      February 9, 2013 at 7:07 pm

      They do tours now it’s open too but I didn’t know about them til we were leaving, would love to have a look around next time I’m up there.

  • Reply
    restlessjo
    February 8, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    It seems to be a thriving city, Lucy, and one that I don’t know at all. Surely have to put that right one day. Never heard of Happy Cars but what a good idea.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      February 9, 2013 at 7:08 pm

      Welcome back! It’s worth a visit if you’re ever in Manchester, the museum especially was really interesting and very well done.

    • Reply
      BlaBlaCar UK (@BlaBlaCarUK)
      February 11, 2013 at 4:52 pm

      Hi @johanna_Bradley The network of empty seats in cars is far greater than any transport network in any European country. We connect drivers with people looking for a ride. Our cars are happy because they are full. The driver and passengers are happy because everybody gets to travel at an unbeatable price! We love that you think it’s a great idea. Thankyou! 😀

  • Reply
    BlaBlaCar UK (@BlaBlaCarUK)
    February 11, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Thanks for exploring the UK with @BlaBlaCarUK. And thanks for being part of our #HappyCars challenge. http://bit.ly/11jGFJM

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      February 13, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      You’re welcome, it was a great excuse to see a bit more of Manchester!

  • Reply
    holidayaddict
    February 14, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    Love this post! I live in Manchester and work in Salford – much has changed here for the better and there’s great stuff for visitors. I love the Imperial War Museum North – think it’s brilliant. Also, next time you are in Manchester, maybe try the People’s History Museum. I really enjoyed it and it’s in a good spot to check out the Spinningfields area of the city.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      February 19, 2013 at 7:02 pm

      How funny! My brother works in Spinningfields so we walked around there last time I was in Manchester, didn’t know about the museum though so that’s one to check out on my next trip.

  • Reply
    Rachael
    February 15, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Cool post, again. I was last in Manchester in 2005. Time to go back methinks.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      February 19, 2013 at 7:07 pm

      You’ll probably notice a few differences if you do!

  • Reply
    akif2013
    February 25, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    It has been changed alot!.. since my last visit back in 90s..

  • Reply
    music video live
    February 26, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    Complimenti sei stato nominato per il “Very Inspiring Blogger Award 2013″ , guarda in cosa consiste :
    http://musicvideolive.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/very-inspiring-blogger-award-2013/

  • Reply
    jpilkington09
    March 26, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    Just moved to Salford Quays and am fascinated by how much it’s changed from its former industrial heritage. One of my favourite things to do at the weekend is to walk to Castlefield along the Shipping Canal and Bridgewater Castle – would definitely recommend on a sunny day.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      April 1, 2013 at 10:19 pm

      I’ve not been walking along the canals yet so one to do next time, thanks for the tip!

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