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Sightseeing Manchester

Nicola Mostyn discovers why open top buses aren’t always the best for Manchester

Published on June 4th 2007.


Sightseeing Manchester

Even though I’ve lived in Manchester most of my life, I still have trouble placing Stretford on a map. I blame my parents, who passed on the sort of genetic deficiency which could see me get lost in a revolving door.

Still, whilst this does make me look completely incompetent 99% of the time, at least it added a certain piquancy to this week’s mission to ride the Manchester Sightseeing Bus: not only would I get to see my city through an outsider’s eyes, but I might finally get my bearings.

The first thing that occurred to me in my new role of tourist-in-my-own-town is that, to paraphrase The Bible a smidge, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is to catch the Sightseeing Bus when it is not pissing it down. Continuing with the biblical theme, three times I tried and three times I failed. In the end I made a dash for it during a break in the clouds and prayed that, if it did decide to hammer it down, they’d at least hand out those plastic ponchos like you get on the Log Flume.

After being assured by the driver that, in the advent of inclement weather, he drops people at The Trafford Centre to get a coffee and wait for the closed-top bus (I’m guessing this happens a lot), I took a seat on the top deck, donned my shades and tried to forget how often I’d smirked at the numpties on the bright red bus, freezing their backsides off whilst admiring the majesty and grandeur of Babylon Pizza.

“…It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is to catch the Sightseeing Bus when it is not pissing it down.”

This hop-on-hop off tour is accompanied by a CD giving a narrative of Manchester’s sights and heritage and very informative it is, too. As we pulled away from St Peter’s Square I learnt that The Midland Hotel was the location for the first meeting between Rolls and Royce. As we passed The Briton’s Protection I was told that recruitment officers used to get men drunk here and enlist them into the army and as we speeded off towards Old Trafford I discovered the little-known snippet that, in fact, most Manchester United fans aren’t actually from Manchester.

Then it was off to The Trafford Centre which must be pleased that the tourist bus chose to extend its route and include them. As the narrator laid the superlatives on thick, I took in the not very scenic views en route to Dumplington. As we approached the gilded building, the information just kept on coming, not all of it welcome: “The Trafford centre is the size of 30 football pitches.” Yes, yes, I’ve tried to get from Debenhams to Top Shop. “It has 20 miles of drainage.” Hmm, fancy that. “They get through 70,000 toilet rolls.” Okay. I get the picture.

After such a build up, no-one needed much persuasion to hop-off and make their own contribution to the toilet roll tally, though I resisted the lure of H&M to enjoy the rest of the ride and to learn about all about Manchester’s impending building developments. Massive alpine ski village? Another huge shopping centre? Whopping racecourse in Salford? Clearly, thousands of tourist world-wide are better informed about Manchester’s urban future than me.

After the excess of the Trafford Centre, it was a relief to head for the Quays and take in the innovative architecture of The Lowry and Imperial War Museum North, before coming back into town via Liverpool Road, where I spectacularly failed to catch the promised squiz of Corrie’s Rover’s Return, though I did notice that it was this, above all other points of interest, which got the passengers’ necks craning. We tourists, we’re a tacky bunch.

By this time a cartoonish black cloud was looming overhead, my goosebumps were housed in individual igloos and I missed the odd word on the CD due to the centrifugal force of the incoming wind. Resisting the urge to disembark on Quay Street, I hung on as we headed to Urbis, via Albert Square, and then off to the City of Manchester Stadium via Ardwick; here, as with much of the city, the amount of building taking place is really quite striking.

As my Dad is a long-suffering Blue, I was delighted at the chance to check out the new City ground and surprised to learn that the ‘B of the Bang’ sculpture is not, as I thought, a paean to the horror of nuclear war, but a reference to the way Linford Christie runs. Makes more sense, now you mention it.

Then it was back to the city centre via Alun Turing Way, where we passed a man who grinned at us, opened his arms wide and shouted “Welcome to Manchester”. I like to think he wasn’t drunk.

As we headed back to our terminus at St Peter’s Sq, lightning flashed, thunder rolled and, as soon as I stepped off the bus, the few drops of rain became an absolute torrent. I wandered home, getting totally drenched and unsure whether to be pleased or annoyed that Manchester had lived up to all those tourist expectations.

Sightseeing Manchester, every 45 minutes, ticket valid for 24 hours, departs from St Peter’s Square. £7. May 26 to Sep 2, daily, 10am-4pm. Sep 8 to Oct 14, Sat and Sun only, 10am to 4pm.

Nicola Mostyn

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5 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

superdog500June 4th 2007.

Great to see the return of Nicola Mostyn to Manchester journalism. Hurrah!

CliveJune 4th 2007.

Every major European city? They don't have one in Burnley.

mrpointerouterJune 4th 2007.

They have those buses with exactly the same design in every UK city

badgeJune 4th 2007.

but why are we using a blackpool sightseeing bus?

jelliesJune 4th 2007.

They have those buses with exactly the same design in every major European city!!

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