Oldham is a former textile town in Greater Manchester, 7 miles (10 km) northeast of city centre in the foothills of the Pennines. Historically it was in Lancashire, while the area of Saddleworth just east was in Yorkshire, including the villages of Delph, Diggle, Greenfield and Uppermill. In 1974 the county border was moved east onto the crest of the Pennines, and Saddleworth became part of the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham within Greater Manchester.
The area was little more than sheep farms until well into the 18th century. Oldham became a centre for manufacture of hats, but the early industrial revolution passed it by: the town is perched on a bleak ridge 700 ft (210 m) above sea level, with no rivers to drive waterwheels or canal routes to transport materials. 19th-century steam power made all the difference, fired by coal from the town's own coalfield, and Oldham suddenly became the world's leading cotton-milling town, outstripping Manchester and Bolton. This textile industry crashed in the late 20th century and the town has yet to reinvent itself. The main reason to visit is to explore the villages and valleys leading into the Pennines.
Manchester Airport (MAN IATA) to the south of the city has frequent trains to city centre. Pick a train that continues through Piccadilly to Victoria, where you change for the tram to Oldham as below. You can ride the tram all the way from the airport and change trams at Deansgate, but it's much slower for scant fare saving.
National Express Bus NX381 calls at the airport and Oldham on its route between Chester and Leeds, see below. So does the London Bus NX540 but you can't use it between airport and Oldham.
Oldham is something of a motorists' shortcut to the airport: A663 through Chadderton cuts off an angle between M62 and M60 for transpennine traffic.
Oldham has no mainline train service. It's served by the Metrolink trams (pink and grey lines), which take 30 min from Manchester Victoria via Newton Heath and South Chadderton to 1 Oldham Central and other stops in town. Oldham is in Fare Zone 3 so a single journey from city centre is £3.80; trams run every 5-10 min 06:00-00:00. The pink line continues east to Shaw, Milnrow and Rochdale, all in Zone 4. Westbound, the lines run through Victoria to St Peters Square, Deansgate, Chorlton and East Didsbury. Change in city centre for the other lines to Bury, to Piccadilly station, Etihad stadium and Ashton-under-Lyne, to Wythenshawe and the airport, to Old Trafford, Stretford, Sale and Altrincham, to Imperial War Museum and Trafford Centre (this line opened in March 2020), and to Salford Quays and Eccles.
The only mainline railway station in the area is at Greenfield near the Pennine village of Uppermill. This has hourly trains from Piccadilly via Stalybridge and Mossley (both near Ashton-under-Lyne) and continuing from Greenfield via Marsden to Huddersfield.
You'll probably approach either on M60 which circles Manchester, or on M62 from the Leeds / Bradford area then take the A627(M) spur into town.
A62 leads from central Manchester, 20-45 min depending on the traffic.
Bus NX 540 runs twice a day from Rochdale and Oldham to London Victoria, taking 7 hours. This also picks up in Manchester city centre and the airport but you can't use it for the short ride from Oldham.
Other long distance bus routes involve changing in Manchester city centre at Chorlton Street.
Transport in Greater Manchester is co-ordinated by GMPTE, see their website for fare deals and journey planner. A day ticket is often a good option.
See "Get in" above for tram routes: these may be the quickest method of transport even if you have to go into city centre then out again. It's worth riding one extra stop beyond town centre just to get off at a place called "Oldham Mumps" - a mumper was a beggar.
The main bus routes (all run by First Group) from central Manchester are:
- - Bus 83 / 84 is the quickest, from Piccadilly via Newton Heath and Hollinwood to Oldham in 40 min, 05:00-00:00 every ten min. Bus 84 continues every 30 min to Uppermill and Saddleworth.
- - Bus 76 takes an hour from Piccadilly via Ancoats, Holt Town, Newton Heath, Failsworth, Hollinwood, Limeside and Coppice to Oldham, running every 15-30 min.
You might also use:
- - Bus 184 M-Sa hourly from Oldham via Uppermill, Diggle and Marsden to Huddersfield, 80 min.
- - Bus 409 every 15 min from Rochdale via Thornham and Royton to Oldham, continuing via Hathershaw to Ashton-under-Lyne. Bus 58 also plies between Oldham and Rochdale.
- Gallery Oldham, 35 Greaves St OL1 1AL. M-Sa 10:00-17:00. Art gallery in a former Friends Meeting House, with a few museum exhibits also. The gallery remains open while the town's original museum, library and art space have closed, until completion of a new building in 2021. Free.
- 1 Alexandra Park, half a mile south of town centre, is a pleasant green space with gardens and a boating lake.
- 2 Daisy Nook Country Park (Bus 409 towards Ashton-under-Lyne). Attractive area in the Medlock valley, with the disused Hollinwood Branch Canal running through. There are woodlands, a lake, and open meadows with bridleways and footpaths. There's a cafe and toilets with access for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
- 3 Tandle Hill (Bus 409 towards Rochdale). Upland park with a mixture of beech woods and open grassland with a panorama of the surrounding countryside: the woods were planted early in the 19th century to prevent radicals using the area as a marching and drilling space.
- 4 Saddleworth Museum and Art Gallery, High St, Uppermill OL3 6HS (Bus 184 from Oldham or 350 from Ashton or train to Greenfield), ☏ . Daily 13:00-16:00. Small museum in a former textile mill, gallery features work by contemporary artists and travelling exhibitions. Adult £3, conc £2.
- 5 Huddersfield Narrow Canal. This canal runs for 20 miles, connecting the Ashton Canal in Ashton-under-Lyne with the Huddersfield Canal on the other side of the Pennines, via 74 locks and the 5675 yard (5189 m) Standedge Tunnel. Opened in 1811 (after huge expense, labour, and two disastrous floodings of the village of Marsden), it operated until 1943, fell into disrepair, but was completely re-opened in 2001. It's only seven feet wide, and the tunnel has no towpath: "leggers" had to lie atop the barges and apply feet to walls, for one shilling and sixpence per load. The canal above Oldham climbs out of the Tame valley at Uppermill to Diggle, where it plunges into the tunnel to Marsden in Yorkshire. Bus 180 / 184 runs alongside the route. No, not through the tunnel.
- 6 Hollingworth Lake Country Park is in Littleborough near Rochdale.
- 1 Oldham Coliseum, Fairbottom St OL1 3SW, ☏ . Theatre with a full programme of repertory and an annual pantomime. Local talents Eric Sykes and Dora Bryan learned their trade here, as did many others such as Charlie Chaplin.
- Walk the Pennine Way which follows the crest of the ridge bordering Yorkshire, and there are other walking trails around Saddleworth Moor, Wessenden Moor and Standedge. It's not the most scenic part of the Pennines, being a plateau of impervious millstone grit topped by a peat bog, without the limestone that embellishes the Peak District to the south and the Yorkshire Dales further north. But the trails are well marked, with boardwalks over the boggier sections, and the landscape is haunting and spare. Saddleworth Moor has a dark history: it's where the "moors murderers" Ian Brady and Myra Hindley buried four of their young victims 1963-65. One of the bodies has never been found.
- Watch football ie soccer at 2 Oldham Athletic, Boundary Park OL1 2PA. They play in League Two, the fourth tier of English football. Boundary Park Stadium, capacity 13,500, is half a mile east of the A627(M) / A663 junction.
- Oldham's two main shopping centres, Town Square and The Spindles, are effectively one. They've got the usual big-name retailers. Other stores are along High St and Union St.
- Tommyfield Market, founded 1788, is on Henshaw St OL1 1LJ, within the hall and spilling out across the square. It's held M-Sa 09:00-17:15, and on Sunday (06:15-12:00) there's an outdoor car boot sale.
- Valentino's, 8 Retiro Street OL1 1SA, ☏ . M 11:30-16:00, Tu-Th 11:30-16:00, 17:00-22:00, F to 23:30, Sa 11:30-14:00, 17:30-23:00, Su 16:00-22:00. Family run place, Neapolitan food that seldom disappoints.
- Romano's, 5 Rock Street OL1 3UJ, ☏ . Tu-Sa 17:00-22:30, Su 15:00-22:00. Great Italian food, service and ambiance.
- The Old Bill, 35 Greaves Street OL1 1TJ, ☏ . W-Sa 17:00-22:00, Su 12:00-20:00. Friendly efficient place with police-themed decor, consistently good quality food.
- Westwood East, Westwood House, Eleanor Street OL1 2NN. M-Sa 17:00-23:30, Su 16:00-23:30. Great Indian food in large restaurant on two floors. Not licensed for alcohol so take your own.
- 1 San Rocco (formerly Ancora, and before that Red Barn), 195 Broadway, Chadderton OL9 8RR, ☏ . M-F 12:00-14:30, 17:00-22:00. Large friendly Italian restaurant.
- 2 Fusion Restaurant, Radcliffe Street, Royton OL2 5QR. Tu-Th 16:30-22:00, F Sa 16:30-23:30, Su 13:00-22:00. Thai and Chinese cuisine.
- Simla Inn, 32/34 Middleton Road, Royton OL2 5PA (100 yards south of Fusion), ☏ . M-Th 17:30-23:00, F Sa 17:30-00:30, Su 16:30-23:00. Tandoori place, occasional off nights but generally good food, service and value for money.
- 3 Blue Tiffin, Laurel Trading Estate, Higginshaw Lane, Royton OL2 6LH, ☏ . M-Th 17:00-23:30, F Sa 17:00-00:30, Su 14:00-22:30. Plush Indian place, slick service and nice food.
- Toby Carvery, Burnley Lane, Chadderton OL1 2QS. Daily 07:00-23:00. Traditional British roasts. It's next to Travelodge at the south terminus of A627(M) where this becomes A663 Broadway.
- 4 The Black Ladd, 487 Buckstones Road, Shaw OL1 4ST. Su-F 12:00-22:00, Sa 12:00-23:00. Traditional food in old country pub, great reputation so booking advised.
- Up Steps Inn is a JD Wetherspoons at 17 High St, open Su-Th 08:0-00:00, F Sa 08:00-01:00. The Squire Knott nearby on Yorkshire St is no longer a Wetherspoons.
- Most pubs and clubs are on Yorkshire Street, east side of Oldham town centre.
- Most of the accommodation is near a motorway, convenient for business travellers. 247 Hotel is the closest to Oldham centre on Manchester Street.
- 1 Victoria Hotel Manchester, Hollinwood Ave, Chadderton OL9 8DE (between jcn 21 and 22 of M60), ☏ . Budget hotel near ring road, fair value for what you're paying. B&B double £90.
- Premier Inn is on Broadway, quarter of a mile south of M60 jcn 21, and Travelodge Oldham is just north of that junction.
- Travelodge Oldham Chadderton, Burnley Lane, Chadderton OL1 2QS (Terminus of A627 (M) as it becomes A663 Broadway), ☏ . Decent budget chain hotel, rooms facing main road can suffer from traffic noise. Toby Carvery is next door. B&B double £65.
- Another Premier Inn is on Westwood Leisure Park, 200 yards east of that Travelodge.
- 2 The Diggle Hotel, Station Houses, Diggle OL3 5JZ, ☏ . Check-in: 16:00, check-out: 10:00. Hotel and pub with cosy rooms and great restaurant style food.
- 3 Old Bell Inn, Huddersfield Rd, Delph OL3 5EG, ☏ . Pub with 18 rooms in 18th-century coaching inn. The restaurant serves daily 12:00-20:30; the bar has over 1100 varieties of gin. No dogs. B&B double £100.
Oldham has its fair quota of aggressive drunks; in 2018/19 public disorder crimes were 150% the national average, but the incidence of violent crime was average. Be careful along Yorkshire Street late evening, and you have no reason to venture into the rough estates of Glodwick, Fitton Hill or Sholver.
- You can hardly fail to take in Manchester, just half an hour away.
- Chester is an attractive old city with much of its medieval walls intact.
- Liverpool is a buzzing place with lots to see and do.
- The Bronte Country stretches over the Pennines, centred on Haworth but stretching from Leeds to Burnley.
- Other destinations within a couple of hours travel are Blackpool, the Lake District, the North Wales coast and the Peak District.
|Routes through Oldham|
|Liverpool ← Bolton ←||anticlockwise clockwise||→ Ashton-under-Lyne → Sheffield|
|merges with / ←||S N||→ junction (Leeds) → Rochdale|
|Central Manchester ← Failsworth ←||SW NE||→ Marsden → Huddersfield|