Rochdale is a town in Greater Manchester in the North West of England, 12 miles north of Manchester city centre. In 2011 it had a population of 107,926, with a similar number in the nearby small towns of Middleton, Milnrow, Wardle, Littleborough and Heywood that with it comprise Rochdale Metropolitan Borough.
Rochdale grew up from the 18th century as a textile town and transport hub: the Rochdale canal, completed in 1807, was the surest way to transport goods across the Pennines, a huge improvement on pack horses struggling over rough tracks. The textile trade collapsed in the 20th century and Rochdale, historically part of Lancashire, became part of Greater Manchester during the 1974 reorganisation. Rochdale is best known as the birthplace of the Co-operative Movement in 1844, of the singer Gracie Fields (1898-1979) and (infamously it must now be said) of the politician Sir Cyril Smith (1928-2010). The poet Byron's title was Lord Byron of Rochdale but he had no link to the town.
Manchester Airport (MAN IATA) has frequent trains to central Manchester. Pick a train that continues beyond Piccadilly to Victoria, where you change for the train or tram to Rochdale as below. You can ride the tram all the way from the airport and change trams at Deansgate, but that's much slower for scant fare saving.
1 Rochdale railway station, half a mile south of town centre, has trains from Manchester Victoria every 5-10 min, taking 15-20 min. These trains are part of longer mainline routes:
- - from Blackburn via Accrington, Burnley, Todmorden, Littleborough, Rochdale, Victoria, Salford and Atherton to Wigan.
- - from Leeds via Bradford, Halifax, Hebden Bridge, Todmorden and Rochdale to Victoria; also from Leeds to Wigan, and to Warrington and Chester.
- - from Clitheroe via Whalley, Blackburn, Darwen, Bolton, Salford and Victoria to Rochdale.
Metrolink trams (pink line) take 30 min from Manchester Victoria via Newton Heath, South Chadderton, Oldham, Shaw and Milnrow to Rochdale railway station and the 2 Interchange. Rochdale is in Fare Zone 4 so a single journey from city centre is £4.60; trams run every 15 min 06:00-00:00. (The grey line only runs as far as Oldham.) Westbound, the line runs 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 Imperial War Museum and Trafford Centre (this line opened in March 2020), to Old Trafford, Stretford, Sale and Altrincham, and to Salford Quays and Eccles.
National Express Bus NX 540 runs twice a day from London Victoria to Rochdale Interchange, taking 7 hours. This bus also calls at the airport, Manchester city centre and Oldham but you can't use it for the short ride from there to Rochdale.
Local buses run to the Interchange every ten min on route 17 from Manchester Shudehill via Middleton and Castleton, taking 70 min. They also run here from:
- - Ashton-under-Lyne (Bus 409 every 15 min) via Waterloo, Hathershaw, Oldham, Royton, Balderstone and Stoneyfield.
- - Bolton (Bus 471 every 10 min) via Breightmet, Bradley Fold, Seddon's Farm Estate, Bury and Heywood.
- - Halifax (Bus X58 every 70 min) via Sowerby Bridge, Ripponden and Littleborough.
- - Todmorden (Bus 589 hourly) via Walsden, Littleborough, Dearnsley and Haworth Cross. Change in Todmorden for Burnley.
The usual approach is along A627(M), the motorway spur from M62. To the south this leads into Oldham, where you can use A663 through Chadderton to short-cut to M60.
Most sights are walking distance. Buses connect the Pennine valleys: those above plus the 456 and 458 between Rochdale and Littleborough.
- 1 Rochdale Pioneers Museum, 31 Toad Lane OL12 0NU. W-Sa 10:30-16:00. Rochdale is the birthplace of the co-operative movement. This is the building where it all started, with modern annex, but it's all a bit cramped. This short cobbled section of Toad Lane is off Hunter's Lane just south of ring road A58. Satnav users should ignore the postcode, which takes you to Lidl on the main section of Toad Lane north of the ring road. Free.
- 2 Rochdale Town Hall, Esplanade OL16 1LB. Full tour first M of each month 14:15, short tour every W 14:15. Attractive Victorian Gothic revival building opened in 1871. The original spire burnt down in 1883 but was replaced by the present clock tower, which has a restaurant. (Veterans breakfast club every Th.) The full (two-hour) guided tour takes in the Great Hall, Mayor's Parlour, Magistrates' Retiring Room, and a tootle on the organ. The short tour (one hour) includes the Exchange, Great Hall and Council Chambers. Opposite the Town Hall is the Cenotaph, designed by Lutyens and unveiled in 1922. Full tour £7.50, short £4.50.
- 3 Fireground (next to Rochdale Railway Station (Rail & Metrolink)). Th-Sa 10AM-4PM. Fire-fighting museum in former fire station. Interesting collection of fire engines & other smaller objects. Adult: £7, Concessions & children (4-15) £5, U4 free..
- 4 St Chad's, Sparrow Hill OL16 1QT (on hill just south of Town Hall). Th 12:00-13:00, Su 10:30-12:00. Dating to 14th-16th C though reworked in Victorian times, this is the Anglican parish church of Rochdale.
- 5 Ellenroad Engine House, Elizabethan Way, Milnrow OL16 4LE (by jcn 21 of M62). First Su Feb-Dec 11:00-16:00. Twin steam engines, Victoria and Alexandra, turned a great drum which powered the belts driving a cotton mill. The mill has been demolished but the engines still function.
- 6 Hollingworth Lake is 3 miles northeast of town, near Smithybridge. It's got walks, water activities, and a couple of lakeside pubs. It was built in 1800 as a feeder reservoir for the Rochdale Canal, using high embankments on three sides as the site was not a natural hollow. In the 1840s when the railway arrived it became a tourist resort, dubbed the Weighver's Seaport, with hotels, pubs, pleasure steamers, more pubs, and scandalous dancing. Captain Webb trained in the lake waters before making the first cross-Channel swim in 1875. Both tourism and canal traffic declined in the 20th century but the lake remains in use as a reservoir for the canal.
- Smithy Bridge, Littleborough and Summit are three small villages along the valley, with public transport and access to the canal towpath. After Summit the canal descends towards Todmorden. Alongside, the Leeds-Manchester railway plunges into the 7 Summit Tunnel. When opened in 1841, it was the world's longest railway tunnel, at 2885 yards (2638 m). In Dec 1984 a trainload of petrol derailed in the tunnel and caused a fire that raged for days and vitrified the walls, but no lives were lost.
- Watch football at Rochdale AFC, who were relegated in 2021 and now play soccer in League Two, the game's fourth tier. Their home ground is Spotland Stadium (sponsored as "Crown Oil Arena"), capacity 10,000, a mile northwest of town centre on the edge of Denehurst Park.
- Watch Rugby League ie 13-a-side rugby at Rochdale Hornets, who share Spotland Stadium. Hornets play in RFL League One, the third tier of English Rugby League.
- 1 TeamKarting, Ensor Mill, Queensway OL11 2NU, ☏ , email@example.com. M-F 11:00-22:00, Sa 09:00, Su 09:00-23:00. 500 m indoor tarmac go-karting track, speeds up to 40 mph / 70 kph. Choice of Arrive & Drive for beginners (20-40 min), Team Endurance (max laps in 1-2 hours), and Grand Prix with qualifiers, heats and final race. Children can drive from age 8. From £27.
- Walk the Rochdale Canal which runs for 32 miles from Manchester via Rochdale and over the hills to Sowerby Bridge in the Calder valley. This is a broad canal, handling vessels up to 14 ft (4.3 m) width, and during the early 19th C it was the main cargo route between Lancashire and Yorkshire. It closed in 1952 but was fully re-opened in 2002, with a firm towpath. There are no long tunnels, hence it could be wider and handle more traffic than the narrow canal further south above Oldham, but it had to climb higher to surmount the Pennines, with more locks and demand for water. A6033 runs alongside from Littleborough to Todmorden, then A646 down past Sowerby Bridge, so there are multiple access points.
- Walk the Pennine Way, which follows the crest of the ridge bordering Yorkshire. From the south the route approaches over Saddleworth and Wessenden Head Moors, then follows 2 Blackstone Edge. with road access from A627 next to jcn 22 of M62, and from A58 above Littleborough. West is the scarp rising steeply from Rochdale, east is a lonely "dip" or plateau expanse of heath and bog.
Rochdale Exchange is the main shopping centre, on Newgate. There's a Lidl the other side of the main road on Toad Lane.
- The Regal Moon is a JD Wetherspoon on The Butts in town centre. Other central pubs include Yates on Fleece St, Flying Horse on Packer St, Medicine Tap on The Esplanade, The Baum on Toad Lane, and Cask & Feather and The Eagle both on Oldham Rd.
- Lots of country pubs: a few in Littleborough open daily and close to the canal towpath and railway station are Falcon Inn, Red Lion and The Wheatsheaf.
- 1 Nutters Restaurant, Edenfield Rd, Norden OL12 7TT (off A680 five miles NW of town), ☏ . Tu-Sa 12:00-17:00, 18:30-21:00, Su 12:00-16:00, 18:30-20:00. Country restaurant, excellent food, try the taster menu.
- In Littleborough, The Waterside is a stylish Mediterranean restaurant, open W-Sa 17:00-22:30 and for lunch Sa Su.
- 1 Moss Lodge, Kings Rd OL16 5HW (just off A664 Kingsway), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Cosy well-run hotel in 19th C mill owner's mansion, great service. Double room £85, breakfast £10 pp.
- 2 Royal Toby Hotel, Manchester Rd OL11 3HF (one mile west of centre), ☏ . Decent mid-range hotel with restaurant. Lodge annex with 3 double rooms is intended for small groups. B&B double £80. we
- 3 Mercure Manchester Norton Grange Hotel, Manchester Rd, Castleton, OL11 2XZ (Take A627(M) exit for Castleton), ☏ . Good mid-range hotel in its own gardens with spa, part of Accor chain. You need a car as Castleton is more like edge of Manchester than in Rochdale: Satnav users beware, this is not the Castleton in the Peak District. B&B double £105.
- Premier Inn Rochdale is at jcn 21 of M62.
- 4 Moorcock Inn, Halifax Road, Littleborough OL15 0LD, ☏ . 7 room hotel with bar and restaurant. It's a mile uphill from Littleborough village, the A58 is a busy road but there's a footpath. You might use it as a stopover on the Pennine Way, as the White House pub further up on the Way doesn't have rooms. B&B double £80.
As of June 2021, Rochdale has 4G from O2 and Vodafone, and 5G from EE and Three.
- Hebden Bridge is a picturesque village a short drive across the moors from Rochdale.
- Nearby Haworth is the centre of Bronte Country: the Brontë sisters launched their writing careers from the parsonage there. Sights associated with them stretch across the north of England, the closest to Rochdale being Gawthorpe Hall in Padiham near Burnley.
|Routes through Rochdale|
|Manchester ←||SW NE||→ Huddersfield → Leeds|
|Oldham ← junction (SW) ←||S N||→ ENDS AT SANDBROOK PARK|
|Bolton ← Bury ←||W NE||→ Halifax|