The home of black pudding, this town to the north of Manchester has a lot more going for it than sausage.
Of course, meat-eaters have to sample that black pudding at Bury’s award-winning market as a priority.
But there’s also a rich cultural menu, at the Bury Art Museum and live music venues like the Met, where Joy Division played one of their last concerts.
Bury’s Irwell Valley is coursed by the East Lancashire Railway, with steam trains chugging beside vestiges of 19th-century textile mills and villages born in the Industrial Revolution.
Two-time Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel is one of a few noteworthy Bury natives, and there’s a monument to the “father of modern policing” in a dramatic spot on Holcombe Hill at the edge of the West Pennine Moors.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Bury:
1. Bury Market
Often praised as the best market in the country, Bury Market has a history going back to the reign of King Henry VI in 1444. There’s a Market Hall and Fish & Meat Hall, open every day except Sunday, as well as an outdoor Open Market that trades on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
The market is a regional shopping destination with lots of character and a lively atmosphere, particularly on Saturdays.
You can shop for fruit and vegetables, meat, cheese, confectionery and all sorts of exotic groceries for Bury’s multicultural population.
There’s also clothing, fabrics, accessories, cards and flowers.
Carnivores out for a taste of local tradition have to make a bee-line for the stalls selling black pudding, a Bury signature, or a freshly baked hand-raised savoury pie.
2. Fusilier Museum
Bury was the regimental town of the Lancashire Fusiliers, a line infantry regiment of the British Army active from 1688 to 1968 when it was amalgamated with three other regiments.
Those 300 or so years are remembered at this well-designed museum, which offers deep insights about some world-changing conflicts.
There are interactive exhibits on General James Wolfe and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham (1759), as well as the Napoleonic Wars.
Keen military historians need to keep their eyes peeled for a few unmissable artefacts: There’s a set of books gifted by Napoleon to the 53rd Regiment while in exile on St Helena, a tunic worn by commander Robert Ross who led a raid on Washington in 1814 and seven Victoria Crosses (the highest possible award for valour in the British Armed Forces).
3. East Lancashire Railway
Running on weekends throughout the year, but also many weekdays in school holidays, the East Lancashire Railway is a 12.5-mile steam railway south to north from Heywood to Rawtenstall.
The line goes back to 1846 and passes through Bury, stopping at Bury Bolton Street Station and a halt at Burrs Country Park.
This used to be a mainstay of the industrialised Irwell Valley, and helped spawn towns around textile mills.
The journey will take you through an evocative landscape of lush valleys with quaint villages and the chimney stacks of former mills.
You can take part in themed rides: There’s a Real Ale Trail, a Tea Special or a Flying Scotsman Diner, when you can dress up for a posh four course meal in a carriage pulled by one of the world’s most famous locomotives.
4. Bury Transport Museum
The Grade II-listed Castlecroft Goods Warehouse went up in 1846 for the East Lancashire Railway, and since the 1970s has housed a fabulous collection of vintage vehicles.
The building was restored in 2010 and contains 19th-century steam tractors, buses and trams.
The showpiece is Hilda, a steam roller built in 1921 and in service for an amazing 50 years before being rescued from the scrapheap.
Clever hands-on exhibits show how transport developed in the North West of England in the 19th century, and you can get behind the wheel of a bus in the simulator.
Youngsters can take part in craft workshops during the school holidays and dress up as old-time passengers, drivers and conductors.
5. Peel Monument
Up in the West Pennine Moors outside the town of Ramsbottom is a tower on a majestic vantage point.
The Peel Monument was built in memory of Bury-born statesman Sir Robert Peel, twice the Prime Minster of the UK in the 1830s and 1840s, and best known for police reforms that resonate today.
The Gothic Revival tower is 40 metres tall, atop Holcombe Hill, and was erected in 1852, two years after his death.
Here on the southeastern ridge of the West Pennine Moors there’s a breathtaking view south over Greater Manchester, Cheshire and across to North Wales.
The scenery is even better from the top of the tower, but you can only climb these 148 steps on heritage days.
Complementing this monument there’s a statue of Peel on Bury’s Market Place.
6. Bury Parish Church
An exceptional piece of Victorian neo-Gothic architecture, the town’s Parish Church has stood at the highest point of the town since 1876. There had been a wood and thatch church in this place in Saxon times, while the stone Gothic building from the 16th century had to be pulled down in the 19th century.
What you might find interesting is that the spire is actually a rebuilt section on of the older church, raised in 1842. The remainder was designed by James Crowther, with elaborate mosaic flooring and a hammerbeam and tie-beam roof.
One fitting from the previous building is an 18th-century stone pulpit carved in memory of Roger Kay, founder of Bury Grammar School.
The stained glass windows also warrant some time, designed by prestigious Victorian studios like Hardman and Clayton and Bell.
7. Bury Art Museum
The town’s art museum was established shortly after the children of paper manufacturer Thomas Wrigley donated his collection of more than 200 paintings, prints and ceramics to the town in 1897. The museum opened on Moss Street in 1901 and Wrigley’s donation is still vital.
There are pieces by J. M. W. Turner, John Constable and Edwin Landseer.
Later additions include works by George Clausen, Edward Burra and the British abstract pioneer Victor Pasmore.
Browse the attached Bury Sculpture Centre, as well as any short-term exhibitions . In summer 2018 there was the Hayward Gallery touring exhibition, Shonky, delving into the nature of visual awkwardness.
8. The Met
The Neoclassical Derby Hall on Market Street has been a live music venue since 1979. The Met is a linchpin of the Greater Manchester arts scene and wins awards practically every year, most recently as Small Music Venue of the Year in 2017 (Northern Soul Awards). Joy Division played a curtailed concert here in April 1980, which ended in a riot because troubled frontman Ian Curtis wasn’t present.
There are two up-to-date performance spaces inside, well-regarded in the region for their well-curated folk music programme.
The charity that runs the Met also organises the Head for the Hills Festival, an indie rock and pop festival in the town of Ramsbottom every September.
Check the calendar as there’s also comedy, spoken word, amateur drama productions and storytelling for children.
9. Whitehead Gardens
A small but neat formal park a stone’s throw from the town centre, Whitehead Gardens commemorates Walter Whitehead.
Born in Bury in 1840, Whitehead was one of the leading surgeons of the period, and a few procedures he invented became standard treatments.
He is remembered with a theatrical clock tower, built shortly after his death in 1913. Surrounded by colourful flowerbeds, this Eclectic monument is built from white Portland stone and abounds with decorative carvings, in niches, on corbels and as wolf-like gargoyles on the four corners over the clock faces.
10. Bury Castle
On Castle Square at the south flank of the Parish Church you can find the faint remains of a fortified house, once the seat of the Lords of the Manor of Bury and Pilkington.
What’s left of the house dates to 1470 and was built by Sir Thomas Pilkington.
It didn’t last long, as Henry VII ordered it to be razed after Thomas Pilkington supported the defeated House of York at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. By 1540 Bury Castle was described as a ruin and come the 19th century most of the stone had been reused to build the growing town.
But a site that used to be covered by a car park has been excavated, revealing a section of the inner wall of the moat in a green space that has been open since 2000. You can pick up a leaflet about the castle at the Bury Tourist Information Centre at the Fusilier Museum.
11. Clarence Park
The largest municipal park in Bury, Clarence Park is in Moorside, a mile from the town centre.
Opened in 1888, the park is an annual Green Flag winner for its facilities and level of maintenance.
There are stately lime avenues, playgrounds, neat lawns and a pretty mock Tudor lodge on Walmersley Road.
On the north side is a spacious lido, built for swimmers in the 1960s but now used for model boats and angling.
You can follow a path around the water, and there are benches on the banks where you can take a quick break.
The lido’s abandoned pavilion was turned into an activity centre for the over-50s in the 1990s, while a little walk from the lake is the Green Community Cafe, which opened in a new construction in 2014.
12. Heaton Park
Five miles down the Bury New Road and you’ll reach a massive municipal park in the grounds of Heaton Hall.
The largest park in the North West, Heaton Park incorporates the highest point in the City of Manchester and has enough for a whole family day out.
The Neoclassical country house was reworked by James Wyatt in the 1770s, and though it’s a sight to behold from the outside, is only open for special events.
Out in the parkland, which was fully restored in the 1990s, there’s a handful of Neoclassical follies and lodges designed by James Wyatt or his nephew Lewis.
See the Grand Lodge, a bold triumphal arch, and the Temple rotunda at the highest point of the city, looking over the Heaton Park Golf Centre, which was previously the deer park.
There’s also a variety of golf courses, an animal centre, horse riding stables, a boating lake and the Heaton Park Tramway which we’ll cover next.
13. Heaton Park Tramway
Worthy of its own listing, the Heaton Park Tramway is a kilometre-long heritage line for trips on vintage trams or railcoaches from the first half of the 20th century.
Heaton Park was linked to the Manchester Corporation Tramways network in 1903, but trams had lost out to buses by the 1930s and the line was closed down.
The Heaton Park Tramway is on some of the park’s original line and opened in 1980, running between Middleton Road and the Boating Lake.
Three vehicles serve the line, the finest of which is Manchester Tram number 765, dating to 1914. There are 16 vehicles more under restoration or on show in the depot.
You can visit on Saturdays, as well as Wednesdays during the school holidays.
14. Jumbles Country Park
Strictly part of Bolton, Jumbles Country Park is only ten minutes in the car from the centre of Bury on a good day.
The landscape changes here as you come to the southern fringe of the West Pennine Moors.
Tucked into the Bradshaw Valley, Jumbles Country Park is around a water reservoir and was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1971. There’s a trail next to the water, and paths winding through woodland up the sides of the valley.
Around the Ousel Nest Meadows on the reservoir’s southern bank you may catch sight of roe deer, sparrowhawks or grey herons, while to the north is Turton Tower, a manor house from the 1500s.
Next to the car park there’s also a little information centre and cafe on the southeast bank.
15. Burrs Country Park
A revamped industrial site, Burrs Country Park is on land acquired by Bury Council in 1986. Here before were the Burr and Higher Woodhill cotton mills, and while a lot of the old industrial remnants were removed some intriguing elements have been kept.
The water wheel pit is still in place, as are the Burrs mill chimney, the mill floor and the feeder canal for the Elton Reservoir, and all are marked with information boards.
These fragments are within almost 90 acres of scenic countryside, with diverse habitats like open fields, woodland, ponds and wetlands.
You can make things cultural on the Irwell Sculpture Trail, and the park’s cafe at the visitor centre has just been refurbished.
The park has held onto a Green Flag award since 2005 and you can get here in style via a halt on the East Lancashire Railway.