What to see and do in Knutsford
PUBLISHED: 09:56 10 February 2020 | UPDATED: 09:56 10 February 2020
Proudly known as the ‘gastro-capital’ of Cheshire’s Golden Triangle, Knutsford is a foodie’s paradise – but as any local will tell you, it’s not just the restaurants that make this town so special
Think Knutsford, and images of luxurious properties with suitably hefty price tags to match may well spring to mind. And you wouldn't be wrong, since house prices here often soar high enough to rival some of the most sought-after streets in London. It's hardly surprising that so many people want to live here, though, what with the town's thriving restaurant scene, independent shops and decadent hotels, all just a stone's throw from the city lights of Manchester.
However, there's another, slightly more undiscovered, side to this glamorous Cheshire town: the timber-framed buildings that line the high street are a reminder of the area's rich and intriguing history, which long predates the designer boutiques and bars. King Canute, who lived between 995 and 1035, is believed to have forded the River Lily here in 1016, giving the town its name. Fast forward 800 years, and the renowned 19th century novelist Elizabeth Gaskell would call Knutsford home; her novel Cranford is based on the town, and she is buried in the graveyeard of the Unitarian Chapel, where she was once a member of the congregation and a teacher at the Sunday School. If you're keen to dip further into Knutsford's history books, a visit to the Heritage Centre wouldn't go amiss - here you'll find a number of fascinating artefacts, including a 40ft long tapestry that was created to mark the Millennium, as well as the May Queen's dress and crown from 1887. The town's beloved Royal May Day Parade continues to take place in May to this day, attracting thousands of visitors from around the region.
Many people will pay a visit to Knutsford purely to sample its fantastic shopping scene: you'll find some of usual chain stores, but best are a number of independent gems that really need to be on your radar. Pulse of Perfumery is the place to go to find your favourite scent, Arthur Lee Interiors will provide you with endless interior design inspiration (we could move in there tomorrow) Oliver Wild stocks fashionable, and reasonably priced, menswear and King Street is filled with independent fashion retail gems. Don't miss the Artisan Market, on the first Sunday of the month, but if you can't make it, fear not - Knutsford Market Hall is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and you're sure to find some treasures here. The town's retail community regularly gathers together for family friendly events too, such as the Easter Bunny Hop on Easter Saturday and the Pumpkin Path on Halloween.
After all the shopping, you'll no doubt be in need of somewhere to refuel, and this is another area where Knutsford shines, with enough restaurants and bars to satisfy all tastes - after all, it isn't known as the 'gastro-capital' for nothing. As well as Piccolino, Brasserie Blanc and Gusto, there are plenty of one-offs and smaller chain outlets here too. For tapas done well, head to Evuna where you'll find all the traditional dishes beautifully presented, alongside a unique wine list - there are sister restaurants in the Northern Quarter, Deansgate and Altrincham. The Lost and Found is another popular option, and it boasts a stunning location within the Old Town Hall. April's Kitchen is a winner if you're after a good breakfast, with everything from warm porridge oats through to a full English on offer, including plenty of vegan friendly alternatives. At the Cheese Yard you'll find (you guessed it) the finest cheese, whilst The Real Fruit Creamery serves up the ice cream of dreams.
So great is Knutsford's foodie scene that Sandra Curties, the town centre manager, has created 'Taste Knutsford', a tour which takes visitors around the best dining hotspots in the area. 'Just before I joined the town council, I went on a food tour of New York and I thought we could introduce one here, albeit on a smaller scale,' she reflects. The walking tours typically take place between 11am and 2pm, and they'll take you to approximately ten of the town's best eateries to sample what they have to offer - so make sure you come armed with a hearty appetite! 'The tours are for up to 15 people, and we do bespoke tours too with options like special family tours, hen nights and birthday parties,' Sandra explains. She has lived in Knutsford for over twenty years, so it's safe to say she's a bit of a local expert, but her favourite part of the town is its community feel. 'I think Knutsford is quite different from some of the other towns in the Golden Triangle, because it's a little bit more self-contained. I love the friendliness here, and we do loads of community events, that draw families from the town and well beyond.'
If you want a breath of fresh Cheshire countryside area, you're in the right place too - venture just a few steps from the town centre and you'll find the Heath, a hugely popular spot for dog walkers, and Tatton Park is of course just on the town's outskirts. Here you'll find a spectacular 18th century mansion nestled within 2,000 acres of parkland, complete with landscaped gardens, an adventure playground and a working farm. It hosts a huge number of events throughout the year, with the RHS Flower Show Tatton Park in the summer being perhaps the best known; this month it will also open its doors for The Wedding Show from 1-2 February, as well as for the Scarecrow Festival from 8-23 February, to coincide with half term.
Although the very best of the Cheshire countryside is on your doorstop, easy motorway access and good public transport links make Knutsford a fantastic base if you're visiting Manchester as well as the surrounding rural villages. Fortunately, you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to places to stay the night, with a number of luxurious hotels to take your pick from. Cottons Hotel and Spa will be hard to top, with beautifully appointed rooms, a stylish cocktail bar and restaurant and excellent spa facilities.
And trust us, after stepping foot inside this charming town, you won't want to leave…