Been a while since you’ve visited Stoke-on-Trent? Here’s 10 reasons to love the Potteries
Mention Stoke-on-Trent and there are probably a few things that will spring to mind. Pottery, of course – Stoke is known as the Potteries after all – singer Robbie Williams, football, oatcakes, restaurants, bars, universities and business opportunities to name a few.
Or it might just be the good old-fashioned Stokie welcome and the preferred term of endearment, “duck”! Whatever your first thought is, it’s clear the city has plenty to offer residents and visitors alike.
Here’s LIVING’s top ten reasons to visit.
Stoke is of course famous for its pottery industry. From famous founders such as Josiah Wedgwood and artists such as Clarice Cliff, the industry grew thanks to the wealth of clay and the creation of the Trent and Mersey Canal.
Visitors can learn all about its history at the many museums and companies, including the Wedgwood factory, which remains a working factory in nearby Barlaston, and also has a free museum and opportunities for taking part in art and craft workshops and tours.
There are lots of other places to discover too. Gladstone Pottery Museum and the Moorcroft Heritage Visitor Centre also help to tell the story. The Emma Bridgewater factory, which sits alongside the Caldon Canal in the heart of The Potteries, and Middleport Pottery in Burslem, also offer opportunities to learn more and buy genuine Staffordshire pottery. And the Loveclay Ceramics Centre in Fenton is a new visitor experience that promotes the importance of clay to the ceramics industry and Stoke-on-Trent.
It’s not just pottery however, the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery houses part of the Staffordshire Hoard collection, the largest haul of Anglo-Saxon gold unearthed in Lichfield, as well as other displays of fine and decorative arts, costume, local history, archaeology and natural history – and, of course, Staffordshire ceramics.
2. A cultural turn
Stoke might not have won its bid to be UK City of Culture 2021, but that hasn’t dulled its enthusiasm. In fact, just being involved in the bidding process created a lot of opportunities for the city.
Stoke-on-Trent’s successful Cultural Destinations bid, however, showed its determination to succeed. Cultural Destinations, developed by the Arts Council and Visit England, is designed to enable arts and culture organisations to work with organisations such as Visit Stoke. A successful bid which secured £270,000 with match funding of £30,000 from the city council has led to the creation of a new consortium of tourism and cultural organisations who are helping to grow the visitor economy and strengthen the city’s year-round cultural offer.
3. Food and drink
Hanley’s cultural quarter is the place to go. The area is home to a host of businesses, including trendy bars, unique fashion outlets and art galleries, and has fast become a hive of activity and creativity.
The area’s major draw is the choice of eateries, offering foodies a wide range of options, such as Rawr Café Bar and Kitchen which aims to offer the best in vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, and Gelarto di Gabor for dessert-lovers who can’t wait to tuck into tiramisu, sundaes and waffles.
There are endless choices of pubs to choose from and bars serving up everything from a pint of real ale to a fancy cocktail. The Exchange in Hanley, housed in the city’s former telephone exchange, serves an impressive range, from a peanut butter martini, to a spiced apple strudel.
4. Attractive attractions
With lots of places to go there’s no real opportunity for boredom in Stoke.
There’s Waterworld, the country’s number one tropical indoor water park, and the unique Trentham Monkey Forest, where visitors walk around as monkeys roam free.
The Trentham Estate, too, offers an opportunity to soak up some history in the Italian gardens, take a barefoot walk through mud and pine cones and let the kids run free on the play area.
Rode Hall is an 18th century house, which has guided tours and glorious gardens to explore, while Stoke Ski Centre at Festival Park, offers some dry-slope skiing experiences, with skiing, snowboarding and tubing available.
And there are also the sculpture and ceramics trails to follow around the city.
Stoke-on-Trent is home to Championship team Stoke City, attracting huge crowds to its matches at the Britannia Stadium. League two football is also on offer at Port Vale.
The city has lots of leisure centres and sports fields for people wanting to take part in sport, such as Fenton Manor Sports Complex, which regularly hosts national boxing, gymnastics and table tennis events.
The Northwood Stadium is the home of Stoke Athletics Club and has a national standard running track and 750-seat stadium, as well as a sports hall and squash courts.
Stoke-on-Trent Gymnastics Centre is producing top gymnasts, while there are plenty of golf courses for people to practice their swings.
A shopaholic will be in heaven in Stoke-on-Trent because, not only are there high street options, there are also more independent and unique shopping experiences to be had.
Ceramic factory shops can be found all over, selling fine china dinner services, figurines, table and cookware, tiles, jugs and even jewellery.
The Shopping Village at Trentham is well worth a visit for its setting alone. Sitting at the entrance to the Trentham Estate it boasts timber lodges housing lots of independent shops selling everything from clothes to cosmetics, cafes and restaurants set in a lovely friendly village atmosphere.
High Street favourites are on offer at intu Potteries and bargain-hunters could pay a visit to nearby Freeport Talke, where high street outlets offer huge discounts.
The Regent Theatre is the city’s top theatre venue and plays host to many of the touring shows, direct from the West End. Musicals, plays, opera and dance are all on offer, as well as children’s favourites.
Stoke Repertory Theatre, meanwhile, acts as a venue for local dance, drama and music companies, and the Mitchell Arts Centre offers a programme of community arts events.
For music, the Victoria Hall, built in 1888 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, is the place to go to see big names in both music and comedy in particular, as well as other events.
There are casinos and bingo halls if you fancy a flutter and cinemas, such as the mainstream Cineworld and the Stoke Film Theatre, the city’s independent cinema.
All sorts of nightclubs can be found in the city, including the Sugarmill, offering live music.
Stoke-on-Trent might be an urban city but you only have to go a short distance to get off the beaten track.
Longton Park with its lake, play area and fishing is an oasis of calm, while Tunstall Park is grade II listed.
Central Forest Park is right next to the city centre and houses the Stoke Skate Place, Europe’s largest skate park, and Hanley Park is a stones’ throw from the city centre too.
Apedale Community Country Park is a haven for spotting wildlife, while Biddulph Grange Country Park offers woodland, a lake, ponds and flower meadows.
The city always has something going on, from artisan markets to collectors fairs, exhibitions and festivals of all types.
In June the Etruria Canals Festival kicks off, while the Potters’ Arf Marathon also runs during the same month.
The Just So arts, music and comedy festival for families is held in August, while the Stoke Beer and Cider Festival is in November.
If there’s one top reason for visiting Stoke-on-Trent it has to be the traditional Staffordshire oatcake. It’s a speciality in the city and something residents are rightly proud of. However you prefer them, whether it’s with bacon and cheese or something entirely different, there are plenty of shops selling these delicious delicacies. Enjoy!
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