Salford Quays. Photo Credit Len Grant

Pictured: Salford Quays. Photo Credit Len Grant.

Sarah Holt spent a weekend in Salford Quays to see what it could offer groups.

It was Abraham Lincoln who once said you can’t please all of the people all of the time. But then the 16th president of the United States had never been to Salford Quays.

This snug section of Greater Manchester is a selection box of a destination. Its eggs are well and truly in a variety of baskets.

Itineraries here can feature everything from art exhibitions, white water rafting, museum visits, and shopping sprees to river cruises and visits to period properties. Only a truly awkward group member would struggle to find something in the area.

My visit to the Quays began at The Lowry. The architecture of this building is a geometry lesson brought to life. It’s all trapeziums, cylinders and rhombi. Best known for being a theatre, The Lowry also hosts a number of changing art exhibitions every year, in addition to housing a permanent collection of LS Lowry paintings and drawings – the largest display of its kind in the world.

During my visit, an exhibition called Perpetual Movement was on. Free to see, the show displayed the work of four international artists whose pieces explored the convergences between contemporary visual art and dance (and the Rambert dance company in particular).

Installations linked movement with concepts of memory, time travel, space and science. For me, the philosophy behind each piece popped like a cork.

The next temporary exhibition at The Lowry will open on 1st April and feature the work of London-based artist Paddy Hartley, whose artworks revolve around themes of remembrance, asking if, rather than being obsessed by memorialization, we should instead advocate a natural passing of memory and an acceptance that forgetting can be as healing as remembering.

The Lowry Outlet

Next on my own Quays itinerary was a meander around the Lowry Outlet mall. The shops stack over two floors here. Brands include M&S, Gap and Next and prices are up to 70 per cent off.

On the last weekend of every month a Makers Market animates the mall’s piazza area. Stalls feature local produce, art, design, vintage items and crafts, made by artisans from the north west.

My itinerary for day two of my trip to the Quays had a trip to The Imperial War Museum North penned into it.  

This place is a soapbox for the ways in which war throughout the centuries has affected people’s lives. Even its architecture is a metaphor for a world shattered by war.

The exhibition Fashion on a Ration is currently showing at the museum, looking at the ways in which fashion survived and even flourished under the strict rules of rationing.

Elsewhere, the museum puts various elements of global conflict under its microscope. Visitors can learn about the role of women in war, the science of conflict, and the personal stories of those involved. 

Bite to eat

On the evening of day one, I ate at Lime, just across the amphitheatre of pedestrianised space from The Lowry.

Lime has a high shine industrial look, with copper cladding on the walls, wooden floors and tables, and a bracket of leather booth-style seating at the far side.

Portions are not for the feint hearted. I ordered the Mexican platter to share with another member of my party as a starter. We could have shared it as a main.

Of course, quantity is not delivered to the detriment of quality at Lime. On the said platter, the nachos were topped with smoky Applewood cheese, the jalapenos were beefy, and the chilli was chunky.

Elsewhere in our order, we had bangle-sized onion rings with just the right amount of bite, springy mussels in a bath of creamy sauce, and steak with just the right amount of blush. Finishing touches came in the form of finger bowls.

Hotel Football

Forty winks

Opened less than a year and a half ago, Hotel Football rubs shoulders with Old Trafford stadium. There’s barely 100 metres between the two.

You don’t have to be a Manchester United supporter to appreciate a stay at this place. For me, it was less of The Devils and more of the detail that impressed. 

The creative team behind the hotel has clearly put a lot of time and effort into bringing the football theme to life.

The shampoo and bathroom toiletries come in boxes labelled ‘Away Kit’ and the product packaging inside has been designed to look like sports drink bottles.

The in-room hotel information booklet is packed with kooky puns. The list of key hotel contacts is printed under the title Team Sheet, while check out time is referred to as The Final Whistle.

Even the in-room pencils are a training vest yellow. 

Hotel designers also seem to have been inspired by the beauty element of The Beautiful Game. Sixty pieces of specially commissioned art work hangs on the walls of rooms throughout the hotel.

The pieces were created by undergraduate students on the Art and Design course at the University of Salford. Their brief was to respond to the question ‘What does football mean to you?’.

Gimmicks aside, this hotel is user-friendly, too. Check-out time is midday. There are full length mirrors in the rooms, and the showers – which come complete with rainheads – are big enough to fit a five-aside team in.

If you book an Executive Room you also get a complimentary mini-bar that’s stocked with retro sweets and drinks like Wham bars and fizzy Vimto.

On the ground floor of Hotel Football, there’s Café Football. Despite its name, this is more than a sports bar. Yes, the love affair with England’s national game continues here through the arty wall murals and in the titles of dishes on the menu – Starting Eleven Platter anyone? – but the food goes beyond typical match day fayre.

Take breakfast for example. Coffee (which you can choose to have in either a red or blue mug) is served at your table in a cafetiere and there are dishes like eggs benedict on the menu.

Add to the itinerary

Ordsall Hall: This Grade 1 listed manor house was first recorded in 1177. Since then it’s been home to Medieval gentry, Tudor nobility, Catholics loyal to the crown, butchers, farmers, an earl, an artist, priests, scout troops, mill workers, cows and several ghosts. Group tours are available.

City Centre Cruises: This family-run company has operated passenger boats in Manchester for over 25 years and its two vessels; LS Lowry and Emmeline Pankhurst are named after famous local people who were born, lived and worked in Manchester and Salford. Boats cruise year-round for groups.

Old Trafford Tour: Go behind the scenes at Old Trafford. Guided tours last about 80 minutes and take in everything from the dressing rooms to the players’ tunnel.

For more itinerary itienrary inspiration in Salford Quays visit