Anyone familiar with the works of LS Lowry might be tempted to give Salford, a city which inspired many of his pictures, a wide berth.
The celebrated Lancastrian painted the city in bleak, industrial landscapes, with figures streaming into factories and football grounds beneath grey, polluted skies.
But these days Lowry, who died in 1976, would struggle to recognise Salford Quays following years of development.
The former Manchester Docks has been transformed into a beautiful tourist destination. Renamed Salford Quays, it’s home to the Lowry museum, cinema and theatre; the Imperial War Museum North, the Lowry Outlet shopping centre and many restaurants.
My weekend in Salford Quays started with a tranquil 45 minute boat cruise around the Manchester Ship Canal with Manchester Cruises. The guided tour outlines the history of the city and is a perfect way to see how beautiful the area is now.
We were staying at the Old Trafford Lodge at Emirates Old Trafford Cricket Ground, where almost half of the bedrooms have balconies which look directly out over the pitch. This was very exciting for my cricket-mad husband – despite it being the home ground of Yorkshire’s sworn enemies, Lancashire County Cricket Club!
After checking in we had time to grab some bargains in the Lowry outlet, which is home to more than 80 high street shops, offering discounts of up to 70 per cent.
Our evening meal was at the Real China buffet, where we were given a lovely welcome by owner Kevin Lee. There was plenty of choice and every table was occupied, which is definitely a good sign!
The following day’s activities started with a visit to the Lowry museum, which houses dozens of the artist’s paintings and sketches from his student days up until his death.
Currently there is a special Lowry show of work that has never been exhibited, including some of his earliest sketches and paintings completed in the early 1970s.
We also saw a fabulous exhibition of photographs of Top of the Pops stars by the show’s in house snapper Harry Goodwin, including Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and the Supremes.
Next on the agenda was a visit to the Imperial War Museum North.
Even the building is spectacular and its irregular angles and sharp corners hint at the uncomfortable nature of some of the exhibits inside.
Firstly we ascended the 29 metre climb in a lift to the museum’s viewing platform, which gives breathtaking views across the city – and is not for anyone with a fear of heights.
The museum itself gives visitors the chance to learn how war shapes and impacts lives. A hulk of twisted metal from the World Trade Center; a car destroyed by a Baghdad suicide bomber and a wall of photographs of Jewish concentration camp prisoners – you cannot help but be moved by them.
I didn’t know much about Salford before my visit, apart from a tenuous Morrissey link and the fact much of the BBC has moved there. But if city breaks are your thing, don’t letLowry put you off – there’s plenty for you in Salford!