Is there more to Birmingham than Ozzy?
November 14, 2010 6:14 AM   Subscribe

Where should we go in the general Birmingham, UK area in mid-December for a long weekend?

I am headed to the Birmingham, UK area on a business trip and Mr. chiefthe will be joining me at the end of the business portion of my trip for a long weekend. This will be the weekend before X-mas.

We were thinking of two general options:

1. Rent a car and spend the time in the countryside
2. Take a train from Birmingham to a nearby (within a few hours ride) city and spend the time there

We have already spent time in London, Cardiff and Stratford-upon-Avon and though we liked those places, we would like to see some place new.

After doing some browsing, Snowdonia looks really great, but I know winters can be very raw in the UK, so I wasn't sure if the idea of tramping around on day hikes in that area would be a good one (though we are experienced hikers and have done some New England winter hiking---one page warned of weather quickly changing to 'cold rain' on the mountains in Snowdonia, hardly the blizzard you worry about when hiking in the White Mts).

So, what would be a great place to spend a long weekend? And what should we see there?
posted by chiefthe to Travel & Transportation around Birmingham, AL (13 answers total)
Bristol! Driving through the Cotswolds is also lovely.
posted by bibliophibianj at 6:17 AM on November 14, 2010

Best answer: The Peak District is not much more than a stone's throw (60 miles or so) from Birmingham and has some beautiful walking country. Depending on the weather you can head up onto the peaks themselves or just go for a pleasant ramble along a sheltered valley.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:29 AM on November 14, 2010

Best answer: If you're keen on the outdoors, I would head for the Peak District National Park, whose southern tip is perhaps an hour's drive from Birmingham. Base yourself either in a village like Bakewell, Eyam or Hathersage, or even a city like Sheffield, which is a big city with plenty of culture, but is only about 10 miles from the Peaks. The Peaks are beautiful at that time of year, and the weather is likely to be bracing rather than a practical concern. If you're in the area, you could also spend a day at Chatsworth House.

The most interesting nearby options for city break tourism are probably Oxford and Bath. Oxford is about 90 minutes on the train. Bath is perhaps another 90 minutes. Bath in particular is a very nice weekend break.
posted by caek at 6:32 AM on November 14, 2010

The Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is extremely close by and very little known by the English generally, so you could have a very quiet, picturesque time there with little travel time.
posted by wackybrit at 6:49 AM on November 14, 2010

The Brecon Beacons are a somewhat more sedate alternative to Snowdonia (and a shorter drive). If you go for that and you like books then Hay-on-Wye would make a great base.
posted by caek at 7:00 AM on November 14, 2010

I've always wanted to go to Portmeirion, but I'm a nerd about The Prisoner.

Nice things: It's beautiful, it's near the sea, it's near Snowdonia, and you can run down the beach shouting I AM NOT A NUMBER, I AM A FREE MAN.

Looks like it's less than a three hour drive from Brum.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:19 AM on November 14, 2010

If you only have a long weekend, I wouldn't go so far.

The Worcestershire village of Broadley on the edge of the Cotswold is pretty and has good walks. It's about 20 miles from B'ham. Link.

Stratford is 38 miles, though you have to be interested in Shakespeare to find anything to do.

And there is loads to see in Birmingham itself - the art gallery (extensive Pre-Raph collection), Soho House (fascinating for hist of the industrial revolution), the Jewellery Quarter, the canals ...
posted by paduasoy at 8:12 AM on November 14, 2010

Best answer: Stopping by to echo all the people saying that the Peak District is extremely pretty and very convenient. (Although Birmingham's central location means it's handy for almost anywhere in the country. There's a reason it's the conference capital of the UK.)

If you did decide to stay in town, LiveBrum has event listings for most of the city's major venues.
posted by the latin mouse at 9:00 AM on November 14, 2010

I'd stay in Birmingham for the weekend. Depends what you're interested in but we have excellent:
- art gallery - pre-Raphaelite collection is excellent
- come out to the University and see the Barber Institute art gallery - one each of all the schools of art
- science museum with lots of working mchines from the history of industrial archaeology
- Soho house, home of Matthew Boulton
- Trip up to the Lickey Hills (lovely views across Birmingham)
- Walk round the city looking at our architecture. Yes, we have concrete and office blocks, but some real treats too
- Excellent independent shops inc WeAreBirmingham which is a new collective retail outlet
- You like books? Memail me and I'll arrange a bookcrossing meetup to welcome you
- Lots of great independent coffee shops
- Bournville - the lovely estate houses and the chocolate factory!
- the shopping is pretty good in general - mainstream and more alternative stuff
Side trips
- Coventry - 30 mins from Birmingham on the train. The old and new cathedrals are a must, and there's a great transport museum
- Stratford but I think you've already been
- Hatton - canal with locks and a country theme shopping / activity village

Drop me a memail if you'd like to see if you can meet some of us Brummies to find out all about what it's like to live here - I like that stuff best about a new city!

Have fun!
posted by LyzzyBee at 11:09 AM on November 14, 2010

Best answer: The Peak District as above is lovely if you like walking and beer, but just don't expect to see any "peaks", think more high moors with clefts and valley and the occasional outcrop of ?granite, subtle colours and shapes, and handy grouse-shooting hides when you need the loo (hunt sab humour, sorry)
But although they may be unspectacular I would say that you shouldn't underestimate the conditions, especially if you do go out on the tops - there will be a lot of bogs, peat many feet deep, unexpected fogs and you can just plain die of exposure if you're lost/underequipped.

This isn't actually meant to put you off though! go for a walk and go to the Snake Inn after!
posted by runincircles at 12:11 PM on November 14, 2010

I'm moving there soon, so I'm interested to read answers about Birmingham itself. But here's another suggestion for outside the city: the Malvern Hills, less than an hour away by train. The view from the Worcestershire Beacon, and from the rest of the ridge, is truly splendid on a clear day, one of the best in England. And it's a fairly short walk from the train station: first through the town centre of Great Malvern (small town), then steeply up the hill, but not for very long--no more than a mile or two from the station to the hilltop. Then you can walk along the ridge with 180ยบ views on either side.

Easily combined with a bit of time in Worcester (nice small city), too. Same train-line, about 15 minutes closer to Birmingham.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 12:19 PM on November 14, 2010

Oh, and yes, the Shropshire hills are wonderful and so is the (much busier) Peak District, as everyone has said.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 12:19 PM on November 14, 2010

Response by poster: We ended up in the Peak District, in the village of Chelmorton, which was the perfect get-away. Just the pub/inn in town, nice cozy rooms and a short distance from Chatworth, which was lovely as it was dressed up for X-mas, and some nice walks right from the inn.

Thank you so much for the suggestions!
posted by chiefthe at 1:43 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

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