Why I love overlooked Greater Manchester town with its amazing food, views, history and culture

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There’s some ambitious plans to transform the area too.

There are some big changes afoot in Oldham. The Greater Manchester town has received some serious investment over the last few years to revitalise the town centre, including a complete overhaul of both the Spindles shopping centre and Tommyfield market, as well as the creation of a new park, thousands of new homes and the development of the cultural quarter. 

Here at ManchesterWorld, we endeavour to champion the sometimes overlooked areas of Greater Manchester, and Oldham is no exception. So while we wait to see what comes of the ambitious plans for the town centre, here are some of our favourite things about the borough. 

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Oldham Council has said residents can have a say on future plans for the districtOldham Council has said residents can have a say on future plans for the district
Oldham Council has said residents can have a say on future plans for the district | Oldham Council

Food and Drink

Oldham is not really known as a foodie hub, but there are some popular restaurants, takeaways and pubs that are putting the area on the map. Oldham is home to the Fox and Pine, which only opened in the wake of the pandemic and is now the best pub in Greater Manchester, according to the Campaign for Real Ale. Over in Lydgate, Saddleworth, you will also find the White Hart pub, which is featured in the prestigious Michelin Guide for its food menu. 

Saddleworth is also home to another couple of notable spots that have people travelling from all over the region. You may have spotted Grandpa Greene’s ice cream in the city centre, like at Salvi’s Deansgate Square, but their original parlour is located in Diggle and now they also have a bistro in the King George V Park in Uppermill. We also regularly take trips up to the Albion farm shop in Delph, which has some fantastic local produce, as well as a café and the Turkey Shed barn bar that hosts pop up food traders. There are some incredible views of the Moors from here as well. 

The Old School BBQ Bus in HollinwoodThe Old School BBQ Bus in Hollinwood
The Old School BBQ Bus in Hollinwood | ManchesterWorld

Another personal favourite food spot in Oldham is the Old School BBQ Bus in Hollinwood, where you will find the hands-down best barbecue food in Greater Manchester. The restaurant is a real yellow American school bus that has a marquee area attached to it. We would recommend going with friends and going all in on one of their sharing platters. Another spot that has caught our attention is the Detroit-style pizza joint Corner MCR in Failsworth. 

Green spaces and nature

If you’re looking for an afternoon hike with excellent views then you are sure to find a route to suit you in Saddleworth and Oldham. A popular spot to head towards is the Pots and Pans war memorial above Uppermill and Greenfield, or the Trinnacle rock formation, which is also near Greenfield – and technically part of the Peak District, as is Dovestone Reservoir, another popular walking spot. There is another new walking route in Oldham, which is part of the GM Ringway Project that covers the whole region. The Oldham leg of the route will take you from Greenfield to Newhey in Rochdale. 

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There are some great nature parks in other parts of Oldham, too, including Tandle Hill in Royton and Daisy Nook on the border with Tameside. You can also find some great walking routes along the Rochdale canal, which will take you through Failsworth all the way up to Sowerby Bridge if you’re feeling really adventurous. There is also the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, which connects Ashton-under-Lyne and Huddersfield via Saddleworth. Alternatively, if you just want a quiet wander somewhere nearer the town centre, the historic Alexandra Park has lots of things to do for the whole family, including a boating lake, play area, gardens, cafe, bowling green and more. 

Pots and Pans memorial, Oldham. Credit: Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty ImagesPots and Pans memorial, Oldham. Credit: Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images
Pots and Pans memorial, Oldham. Credit: Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images | AFP via Getty Images

History and Culture

Last year, Oldham lost one of its most-loved cultural institutions, the Coliseum theatre. And while it is very much missed today – I have plenty of childhood memories watching pantos there – the outpouring of support and calls to save it are testament to the creative legacy of Oldham. 

There are plans to create a new theatre in the town’s “cultural quarter,” where you will also find the Oldham Library and Gallery Oldham, which hosts not only exhibitions, but also music events, children’s events and other events celebrating the boroughs diversity and multiculturalism. Elsewhere, there’s Oldham’s largest event space, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, which hosts everything from top comedians to tribute acts. 

Whit Friday band contests in Delph, SaddleworthWhit Friday band contests in Delph, Saddleworth
Whit Friday band contests in Delph, Saddleworth | Getty Images

It’s also worth keeping an eye on some of the public events that take place in Oldham, such as the annual Illuminate festival, which takes place each winter. My favourite event of the year, however, has to be the Whit Friday brass band contests, which attracts some of the best brass bands from all over the world as well as local favourites. 

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There is also so much history in Oldham, it’s hard to avoid. You only have to look at some of the architecture in the town centre to relive the town’s former glory as a prominent mill town. SAVE Britain’s Heritage included several Oldham buildings in their latest report on the heritage buildings at risk in Greater Manchester and they are well worth admiring if you’re wandering through the town centre. There’s information on the town’s history in exhibition’s at the Gallery, or you can check out the Saddleworth museum, which offers guests a snapshot into Victorian life in the area. 

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