Replete with historical sites, ancient churches, industrial mills and collieries, modern shopping centres, beautiful country parks and lakes, exotic woodlands and situated on the river Douglas, Wigan, a town in Greater Manchester, is one of the best destinations to visit in England. The town and its extensions form the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan which gained immense economic importance during the Industrial Revolution and much earlier was established as one of the four Boroughs in Lancashire in the Middle Ages by a Royal Charter issued by King Henry III of England. Presently Wigan is a home to not only the famous historical remnants and natural attractions but also stadiums, shopping malls and amusement parks which makes it an ideal location for a weekend visit or a short vacation. While there are many locations to do sightseeing in Wigan, here’s a list of the best things that one can do in Wigan.
Pay a visit to Wigan Pier
Wigan Pier, the historic canal wharf situated on the Leeds and Liverpool canal, is a reflection of the architecture of the Industrial Period. Made famous by George Orwell’s book The Road to Wigan Pier, published in 1937, documenting the living conditions of people in Wigan before the First World War, Wigan Pier has not only a historic but also a literary value. Though the original wooden pier was destroyed in 1929, a duplicate model of the historical pier has been reconstructed in the same place. The restoration of warehouses at Wigan Pier paved the way for the opening of museums and musical halls. It has bays where earlier boats entered for loading or unloading of contents brought in wagons from nearby rails and tramways.
Witness Wigan’s industrial history in the Trencherfield Mill
Wigan is famous also for its age-old mills and mines. The Trencherfield Mill, connected to the Wigan Pier through waterways, is one of the oldest cotton spinning mills in England, built in 1907. This four-storeyed building having a basement and a chimney is believed to be one of the largest working mills in England possessing a mammoth of 2,500 horsepower to run all its machineries. After the restoration of the mill, it has been given over to multiple uses. A part of it has been made a museum which displays industrial architecture and machinery and the other sections harbour bars, restaurants and living apartments. The hundred year old Trencherfield Mill Steam Engine is worth seeing especially when steaming as it enables one to visualise how it worked historically. However, you can only witness this magic if you visit it on a “steaming Sunday” as the steam engine doesn’t work every Sunday.
Visit the Leeds & Liverpool Canal
This is also a historical site. The longest single canal in England running for about 127 miles offers its visitors opportunities like boating, walking and cycling. It links the Wigan Pier with the Trencherfield Mill, the Haigh Woodland Park and DW Stadium. If you are a nature lover, you may also choose to go for a long walk along the canal. The canal has walks each starting from Wigan Pier and leading to different destinations like Arley Hall, Leigh Bridge and Appley Bridge. To have the best experience you shouldn’t miss taking a boat ride down the canal.
Enjoy yourself in DW Stadium
Established in 1999 the renowned DW Stadium has been a venue of international rugby matches in Britain. It has hosted the World Club challenge four times and several international series of matches between Britain versus Australia and Britain versus New Zealand. The two well-known sport teams of Wigan, namely the Wigan Warriors and Wigan Athletics, often play matches in this stadium. If you are of the impression that you can only go to the stadium to watch a match, you are absolutely wrong. This stadium also has dance floors, bars and restaurants where you can chill.
Admire the majestic Church of St Wilfrid
Having a designation of Grade I listed building and holding a record of being in the National Heritage List for England, this old Anglican Parish Church is located Standish near Wigan. Portraying a blend of Gothic and Renaissance architecture the church is believed to have been rebuilt between 1582 and 1584 and was founded even earlier. The church has an octagonal spire, arches and nave of Tuscan columns, and a churchyard divided into two sections, one of which contains the graveyard of four WWI soldiers and the other nine WWII soldiers.
Spend a whole day at Haigh Woodland Park
Manifesting a perfect blend of natural and man-made beauty, this park is one of its kind in Britain, showcasing gorgeous wildlife, beautiful scenario and view of Wigan. This park has a lot in its store for the adventure lovers. Aerial Adventure comes in the form of high ropes and climbs. If you want to take a tour of the entire park, you can do it without tiring yourself. You can safely take a Segway ride around the estate. Also, don’t miss out on the opportunity to take a circuit winding ride on the Haig Hall Miniature Railway but make sure to turn up only on weekends or holidays. Although it’s not totally free, it charges a meagre amount as ticket fees. A lot of fun activities and events for children are also held. The main attraction of the park is the Haigh Hall, a historic country house of the early 19th century that was a manor house made of timber built in the 12th century until it was rebuilt for the earl, James Lindsay. An Italianate tower supporting a pyramided roof, sash windows above Tuscan-column porch, series of tall casement windows, cast-iron balcony and staircase, all these add to its majestic beauty and splendour.
Discover the beauty of Worthington Lakes
The astonishing beauty of Worthington Lakes also deserves a special mention. Spread across an area of 50 acres and located near Wigan, comprising three reservoirs and dams surrounded by Woodland, this picturesque location has become a much-preferred picnic spot. One can surely while away one’s time by gazing in admiration at its mesmerizing scenario and immerse in its peaceful ambience.
Embrace the wonders of nature in Borsdane Wood
Situated in the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan, Borsdane Wood is a semi-natural woodland which was a dense wood cover before the 17th century and gained the designation of Local Natural Reserve in 1986. Stretching over 85 acres the wood has covers of native tree species like oak, ash, birch, cherry, hazel, hawthorn, and many others blackthorn as well as plenty of green spaces. It also shelters a wide variety of wildlife. The Borsdane brook flows through the wood in Wigan adding to its splendour and beauty. Its exotic views are worth exploring.
Explore Wigan’s history and culture at Museum of Wigan Life
This public museum in Wigan is a heritage site. Designed by Alfred Waterhouse, who was also the designer of London Natural History Museum, this building was once the first public library of the town. Built in the fashion of Tudor Revival Architecture this library was opened in 1878 and it is here George Orwell engaged in intense researching for writing his book, The Road to Wigan Pier. Due to the relocation of the library elsewhere, the old library was transformed into a History Shop exhibiting local history collections in the exhibitory area and registers of Parish Churches in the research/study area. In 2010 this shop was closed down and the building was reopened as the Museum of Wigan Life. Renovations were done to make the museum better equipped to house reflections of the life and culture of the Wigan town. The Public Library Committee Room still exists but is modified and the museum displays collections belonging to the period of Industrial Revolution, coal mining and cotton milling as well as relics of the First World War and earlier eras.
Experience karting in the Three Sisters Circuit
If you are an adventure enthusiast, you have to experience all that this famous race circuit has to offer. Its track length has a range from 400 to 1600 metres. It has separate karting arrangements for adults and juniors. It offers Arrive ‘n’ Drive facilities for both adults and kids. If you want to attend the Adult Karting Sessions you must book and pay in advance. On Track Days you can get an opportunity to drive high-performance supercars such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche. It also hosts bike riding events, Multi-Activity and Bespoke Events, Fundraising Karting Events, AIM Laser Combat and various team Endurance Events. And the best thing is you do not have to be an experienced driver to do all this. They render adequate guidance to familiarise the first time drivers with karts. Other facilities such as Children’s Parties; in packages, Bambino Karting Lessons, and Under 17 Driving School are available for children.
Wander around in Mesnes Park
This Victorian Park dating from 1878 lying close to the Wigan town centre is a beautiful park consisting of fine grass lawns, flower beds, and long pathways. Covering an area of 30 acres the park comprises an entrance lodge, a pavilion, statues, fountains, pools and a café. The octagonal Pavilion made up of cast iron and terracotta lining along with a two-floored seating form the central attraction of the park. The sandstone steps leading to the Pavilion also lead to the Boer War Memorial which is dedicated to the soldiers of the Boer War. Towards the right of the main path, there lies a bronze statue of Sir Francis Sharpe Powell, the former local politician and benefactor of the park. And it’s strange but true that there is a popular belief that if one touches the foot of the statue, it brings a streak of good luck. The entrance lodge is rented for weddings and parties. Besides these, this park also has an exquisite bandstand, The Coalbrookdale fountain and a beautiful duck pond. The majestic entrance gateway has a label of 1878 and the well-renowned café at the centre of the park deserves a special mention for its luscious deserts, snacks, drinks and shakes.
Attend events hosted by The Old Courts
The Old Courts is a not-profit multidisciplinary art centre which organizes events related to theatre, music, comedy, dance and touring. The former Victorian courthouse now houses the Grand Vault with an accommodating capacity of more than 200 spectators, courtrooms for ceremonies, seated theatre and cinema hall, art studios and rehearsal halls, galleries and suites used for exhibitions and the well-known Bailiff Bar. The Grand Vault is a large live music performance venue. Its primary purpose of making arts more accessible to the residents and visitors of Wigan has almost made it the cultural hub of the town. Located near Wigan Bus Station and Wigan Train Station, this is one of the favourites of visitors especially because every week it brings a new set of activities including poetry workshops, live performances of bands, recitations, story-telling, musical gigs and other cultural exchanges in the form of talks and lectures.
Admire the Fairy Glen
Fairy Glen is a small beautiful countryside located near Wigan. It is a natural wildlife site consisting of a brook running amidst covers of different old species of trees. Although a few man-made bridges over the brook and benches beside the paths are there, there isn’t any car parking area or toilets. Summer is the best time to visit this site. Waterfalls and debris surrounding the brook and covers of oaks, birches and alders present breathtakingly splendid views.
Go shopping in and around Wigan Arcade
Abundant in scenic beauty and heritage sites, Wigan also has many shopping centres ranging from designer shops to shops local handicraft items. Grand Arcade is the largest mall in the town where you can spend an entire day. The famous George Formby Statue lies here. Apart from Grand Arcade there are several options available in Wigan for shopping. If you want to go for street shopping you explore all those independent shops in the historic streets of Jaxons Court, Makinsons Arcade and Hallgate which offer variety of materials such as handmade jewelleries pieces, decorative items made by metal smiths and local craftsmen, customised clothing as well as Regarded antique pieces. Do not forget to try various street food items out there. The Galleries Shopping Centre is another complex where you can get everything you want. Antiques and Oddities is a famous specialised shop possessing various collections of products that are a reflection of Wigan’s history and culture.
Embark on a journey of the past at Astley Green Colliery Museum
This museum is the only remnant of coal mining engine house exhibiting collections of colliery locomotives and artefacts, a giant steam engine possessing a capacity of 3300 horsepower, the historical headgear and a tunnel. This engine house was operative till 1970, thereafter becoming a museum housing the largest collection of colliery locomotives. Regarded as a Grade II scheduled monument, this is certainly one of the most significant historical sites in Wigan and a popular shooting location.
This isn’t the end! If you want to explore more, there are many more places in the town that you can visit. Though the list is never ending as Wigan is full of wonderful sites, it’s incomplete without mentioning the Wigan Little Theatre, Empire Cinema Wigan, Velocity Trampoline Park, AMF Bowling and Wigan Flashes Local Nature Reserve.