The Coast to Coast Diary: September 15, 2023

In early August 2022 I decided that, as a 50th birthday present to myself, I was going to walk across the whole of England, from the Cumbrian Village of Saint Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire, following the path of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast. I began a journal of the preparation and, hopefully, completion of that trip at around the same time. As it’s getting very long I decided to start posting individual entries, but all entires will still be available in the massive, original post as well. 

September 15, 2023: A full day with no real plans in Manchester. I added the day in so that I can be 100% sure that I’m over jet lag and fully relaxed before I begin my hike. Not that I rested much. I mostly wandered today, covering like 20,000 steps. Which is fine, as I prefer to wander when I travel anyway. As for a summary, let’s just do it via photos:

Gotta do the full English breakfast at least once when you’re over here, and you have to include the black pudding in it or else it doesn’t count. The Koffee Pot’s full English is legit, even if they put ice in their orange juice. As for the full English in general: it’s about 75% more than anyone needs for breakfast, but the British came up with it when they had an empire to run and that takes a lot of energy. The empire is gone now, but they’re still going on inertia.

The Midland Hotel. It was built in 1903 by the Midland Railway to serve passengers who arrived at Manchester Central Station next door. It’s been alleged that Hitler greatly admired the Midland and that he had plans for it to be a major Nazi headquarters if and when Germany conquered England. American intelligence believed at the time that that’s the reason why Nazi bombers mostly spared the area around the hotel. That story, which I’ve seen repeated in multiple places, reminds me of kids in the early 1980s who claimed that the cities they lived in were at the top of the list of Soviet nuke targets because of some auto or chemical plant or something. Which is to say, it smells like bullshit, but it’s a good story anyway.

It is verifiably true, however, that Rolls met Royce in this hotel and that from there they built their auto/airplane engine empire. It’s also true that the Beatles were once refused service at the french restaurant inside because they were not wearing ties. Same reason I didn’t stay there tbh.

The Peterloo Massacre Memorial in front of the Manchester Convention Center, which was once Manchester Central Station. There’s a lot that can be said about the Peterloo Massacre, but the Cliff’s Notes version is that armed authorities basically murdered 18 and injured 700 people who had come to protest Parliamentary representation, which comically favored relatively uninhabited country lands while overlooking city dwellers (sound familiar, Americans?). The massacre is generally accepted as the beginning of a movement of democratic reform which benefitted the working class and, ultimately, led to the rise of the labor movement and the Labour Party.

Fun fact: there’s a sign on the side of Manchester Central noting that European Union funds made the conversion of the old train station into a convention center possible. If Brexit had happened earlier there’d probably be a parking garage here.

This is just the extension to the Manchester Town Hall which, while it’s a cool as hell building, is completely under wraps due to a multi-year renovation so no photos. The extension is pretty impressive in its own right, even if architecture critics of the time called it “dull” and “drab,” which, OK. There was a newlywed couple getting their photos taken in front of the phone boxes but I just missed them as they walked under the arches to the right.

Beetham Tower. Some offices and some apartments. It’s only 47 stories tall, but from 2006 to 2018 it was the tallest building in Manchester and the tallest building in the UK outside of London. There are some boring, taller towers in a cluster just south of here now. I’ve always felt that Beetham looked like a big toothbrush. I read that circa 2005 or so Manchester, as a city, was trying hard to become a UNESCO Heritage Site due to its industrial history but that the construction of this building, looming over so many Grade 1 and Grade 2 listed buildings, sunk the effort. Oh well. At least some rich people have some nice condos up in the bristle part of the toothbrush. Also: due to some quirks of engineering and physics and whatever when it’s windy the building literally hums. Like, you can hear it all over the city. Great job, gents.

The Castlefield Viaduct is a 1,082-foot Victorian era railroad bridge that was decommissioned in 1969. It was basically abandoned and became overgrown with vegetation. Last year the National Trust turned it into an urban park, sort of like New York’s High Line, though it’s not as integrated with the city as the High Line is. Like, you can’t take it through to anywhere. It’s an out-and-back. Half of the length — the second pic of that three-pic sequence — consists of paths through raised garden beds featuring native plants, flowers, and trees with explanatory signs and features. The other half — the third pic, which you can see through glass but can’t access — consists of the still-overgrown bridge bed as entropy has designed it since 1969.

It’s cool, but it’s also apparently just a temporary installation kind of thing as opposed to something that will last in its current form. The city is seeking permanent funding sources and is working up ideas for a longer-term life for the viaduct. It’ll need a lot of funding for that, which the National Trust is apparently not willing or able to do. It has another year in its current form, though, and in the meantime it’s pretty neat.

The viaduct is next where the original Roman settlement here — Mancunium — existed. It was basically a fort where two main Roman roads met, along with a granary and habitations for the families of Roman soldiers and assorted tradespeople. It was undisturbed, though crumbling, until the late 18th century when industrial development cleared it all out. These foundations are reconstructions of what had been there, as is the fort wall in the distance in the center of the photo. I guess early industrialists didn’t have much reverence for history. Which makes them like modern industrialists. It’s still kinda neat to even see the reconstructions. I’m from a country in which stuff that’s 200 years old is considered really fucking old, so I’m pretty easily impressed in this regard.

I had been walking around for a few hours at this point so I popped into the Deansgate Pub. It, like a great many pubs in the UK, is part of a big corporate chain that has bought up smaller breweries and pubs, but I first came here in 2018 and really liked it and in the 21st century you just have to get used to that kind of crap and find joy where you can. It’s pretty obvious that they’ve renovated the place pretty extensively in the five years since I was last here but it still has a classic feel to it and they still have a bunch of great cask ales, so I don’t have any real complaints. I limited myself to one pint considering I’m supposed to walk 200 miles starting Sunday.

Guy: “So, have we run the name of our restaurant by the lawyers?”

Guy 2: “Yep, he said it’s totally cool to call ourselves KFC. We’re good, mate.”

This place is literally 100 feet around the corner from the first place. I’m guessing they had the same lawyer.

I always stop by Sackville Gardens to say hello to Alan Turing. The inscription on the plaque at the base of the sculpture: “Father of Computer Science, Mathematician, Logician, Wartime Codebreaker, Victim of Prejudice.” Hello, Alan. Fuck the haters.

Canal Street in Gay Village. My hotel is right around the corner and I’ve walked through this area a lot over the past couple of days. It’s full of gay men and women, trans men and women, and drag performers. As I’m writing this it’s Friday night at around 11pm. I’m on the fourth floor with the windows open. There’s a refreshing cool breeze coming in and I can hear the music and the the revelers from the bars and cafes. Given how things have been going for LGBTQ+ people in the United States of late it’s wonderful to see and hear people who have not become the targets of hateful and cynical politics to the same as extent here as they have back home.

My evening ended at Bundobust, which is an Indian street food place. Carlo, Anna and I ate here last year and it became an instant favorite. I’ve been looking forward to coming back here for a year. It did not disappoint. Clockwise from left, with descriptions per their menu: Bhel Puri, consisting of a samosa pastry and puffed rice with peas, onion, pomegranate, and tomato in tamarind chutney, Tarka Dhal & Rice, which is lentil curry spiced with cumin, garlic and chili over basmati rice, and Aloo and Dhal Kachori, which is fried potato and sweet potato patties stuffed with a spicy dhal mix served on mint and imli sauces, topped with crispy mung beans. The beer is a black German-style lager. It was all to die for. If someone told me I could only eat one restaurant’s food for the rest of my life this place would be in the conversation.

And with that, my time in Manchester is over. I catch a train on Saturday morning for Saint Bees. I start walking on Sunday.

Craig Calcaterra

Craig is the author of the daily baseball (and other things) newsletter, Cup of Coffee. He writes about other things at He lives in New Albany, Ohio with his wife, two kids, and many cats.