Knutsford is a picturesque, charming town located on the Cheshire Plain between Chester and Manchester. Its two main streets are lined with olde worlde boutiques and contemporary cafés alike; close by lies the sprawling estate of Tatton Park, complete with a mansion, haunted hall, landscaped gardens and a huge deer park to explore.
Situated in a quiet, cobbled courtyard, just off King Street, lies the Courtyard Coffee House, which is also home to a substantial collection of Penny Farthings. There’s a large selection of cakes and pastries, including a devilishly rich chocolate cake, the American classic pecan pie and, of course, the traditional British cream tea. If you prefer a more contemporary café, head to Cha-Bar (located on Princess Street); there’s a great range of both traditional and modern fare, made with fresh, local ingredients, and an enormous selection of teas. Their hot filled baguettes are delicious; an ideal bite to eat before heading out to explore Tatton Park.
At the end of King Street, lies the entrance to Tatton Park; there’s an entrance fee for cars and other vehicles, but it’s free for pedestrians. Numerous trails snake across the grassy pastures and around the meres, begging to be explored. With around 1000 acres of landscaped parkland to explore, including two meres, woodland and farmland, it’s easy to spend an afternoon wandering around this bubble of tranquillity, just a short walk away from the town centre.
If you venture to the far end of Tatton Mere, you might catch a glimpse of the neoclassical mansion; in summer, it’s often hidden behind the outcrops of trees, but when the leaves fall it’s easier to spot. Further on, you’ll rejoin the main road and loop past the entrance to the mansion, where numerous events are held. Just beyond the mansion lies the Stableyard, brimming with places to eat, drink and shop; check out The Housekeeper’s Store for local delicacies and meat which has been reared on the estate.
Besides exploring the mansion, there are also Edwardian gardens to be discovered and the (supposedly) haunted Tudor Old Hall. There’s also an authentic working farm, Home Farm, which is committed to sustaining rare breed farm animals; if it’s your sort of thing it’s possible to volunteer here. Exploring the deer park on foot is absolutely free; other parts of the estate incur an entry fee.
Before heading home it’s worth paying a visit to Booths, an upmarket supermarket exclusive to the north of England. It’s located a few minutes’ walk from the railway station; there’s a charge for parking. Booths uses local suppliers, and there’s a sizeable selection of fresh meats, fish and cheeses to choose from, alongside seasonal fruits and vegetables and a delicatessen. Their bakery section is stunning: think fresh breads, bagels, biscuits, cakes and tray bakes as far as the eye can see. The treacle tart is an indescribably delicious creation; my only regret was only buying one.