With the bank holiday fast approaching we wanted to round up a few recent trips we have taken in and around Birmingham that may be of interest if you are in the area, or planning a trip here.
If you plan to stay centre here are a couple of things to do…..
1. Back to Backs
Turns out even some locals don’t what this is but TripAdvisor rates it highly on the to-do list and so do we. The Back to Backs are houses that were built to deal with a housing crisis back in the 1800’s. The example you visit is 5 minute walk from the train station. From the outside you will a traditional sweet shop and what looks like an oldish building. It is here that you start the tour.
Initially the building was one large house but as demand for houses grew the houses was converted into a back to back, simply put the house was split down the middle horizontally. So the front part of the house overlooking the road was 1 room wide and three stories high, with a stair case leading from floor to floor. On the backside was a separate house. This one overlooked a courtyard with toilets and washing amenities. The layout was exactly the same, 1 room wide and three stories high.
It turns out that one shop keeper, who moved in when the houses were abandoned and refused to move when demolition orders came in, saved the entire set up. Had he moved out the area would now be flats. However by luck a history researcher visited the area and discovered the set up, when the shop owner left the national trust took ownership and set to work restoring it to it’s former glory.
Go for the history, go for the stories, go for the work out – seriously climbing three flights of very steep steps is not easy!
2. Canal House
Once you have worked up an appetite head over to the Mailbox (10 minutes in the other direction of the station). If you can make it past all the other eateries (including Bistro Pierre – which is worth a visit itself) you are heading down to the canal boats and over the bridge to the recently opened Canal House.
With a great location overlooking the canal boats moored in the area this place is worth a visit for food or a drink. The seating options range from bench sets on the canal side, to pub seating indoors, to restaurant seating upstairs in the dining room. The entire place is finished to a high standard and the decor transports you.
In tribute to James Brindley – a famous canal engineer and 18th century icon- sections are designed as rooms so it’s like stepping into his residence. And the chandeliers alone are worth seeing!
Go for the relaxed atmosphere, go to experience somewhere different, go for the eclectic and interesting cocktail menu and don’t leave until you’ve tried the cookie dough – seriously so good! We didn’t get to try any other menu items but i’m sure we’ll be back!
3. Miss Macaroon
If you prefer a sweet treat to keep you going them Miss Macaroon is worse a visit. As the name suggests the speciality here is macaroons – delicious macaroons in a wide variety of flavours including peach and green tea, champagne (a personal fav), passion fruit and mango (also a fav), blueberry and white chocolate – okay so you get the idea. Amazing and unique flavours alongside more traditional ones.
If macaroons alone are not enough then you could always get a glass of prosecco -and even better, know that you are helping young people learn a trade (the story is here).
Sometimes the best thing to do in Birmingham is escape to the countryside. I know that’s not the first thing you think of when you think of the urban sprawling city but seriously you should. I mean the Cotswold’s are a short drive away or if you just want to stretch your legs and admire some stunning scenery then take to the hills, less that 10 miles from the centre.
4. Clent Hills:
10 miles south west of the centre this national trust area is by Stourbridge, Halesowen and the quaint village of Clent. All have a selection of pubs and if you drive the right way you may come across a gorgeous French pub called the French Hen– complete with French road signs!
Clent Hills offer a great variety of walks. You can park in the national trust car park for a small fee or risk the road parking if you come at a quieter time. You have two ways into the area, first is through a steep incline called the horses mane. From the moment you step in you walk a through tree covered pathway straight out of a fairy tale. It’s not until you reach the top that you are greeted with the panoramic view.
The other option is a gentle incline, slightly longer, but the destination is the same. The national trust has laid a gravel path making this a better option in the rain.
However you get to the top of the hill you will know when you have arrived – there are 4 stones to greet you. The topography map allows you to figure out where you are in relation to Wales, The Cotswold’s, Birmingham (although you spot that by the buildings) and the Malvern’s. You will also spot castle ruins deep in the woodland, a manor house, an outdoor play zone, horse riding tracks and if you go at the right time of year carpets of blue bells.
There is also a history to discover as this area has been a popular place to visit for the past 200 years.
And if that wasn’t enough it’s dog friendly too. Bisbee loved it! The cafe even has dog bowls for the thirsty pups. Further details can be found here.
We discovered Waseley Hills earlier this year and have been back numerous times since. Voted the number 1 park for dog walks this place is well worth a visit. Roughly 10 miles from the centre of Birmingham the park differs from Clent Hills by providing marked, easy to follow walks. Covering 150 acres you may come across grazing cattle as well as the stunning views. Bisbee some how walked straight past a cow without seeing it and the cow didn’t react!
Parking is a reasonable £1.70 for day and there are toilets and a cafe by the car park and playground.
We love the rabbit walk, taking around 2 hours – although we stop for a picnic while taking in the view. The walk takes you through fields, down through a woodland area that is beautiful when bluebells are out, back up a hill and across more fields before turning back towards the car park. The sense of space and freedom is wonderful.
For other suggestions including Cadbury’s World, the Birmingham Library and the Bull Ring