The Best of Preston
Walking round Preston city centre and it’s plain to see that this city has lots about it. There’s a mixture of old and new, national chains, independent stores, restaurants and bars, making it the perfect place to shop, eat and drink, writes Tracy Hargreaves. Photography: Roger Moore
Every time I visit there’s something different, whether it’s a new bar, new shops or even a new hotel. Preston is built on a rich history and is famous for its Guild celebrations, which happen every 20 years. Not only that, it plays host to a diverse range of events throughout the year from Preston Pride, to street theatre, food festivals and live music, there’s always something to experience.
In addition to its lively activities programme, Preston has some stunning architecture, with most of the buildings having some fascinating history behind them. Several have been transformed into new eateries or hotels, such as the Winckley Square Hotel, a boutique hotel boasting 14 beautifully decorated apartments. The square is also home to many businesses and interspersed with bars such as the pie and ale house, The Otters Pocket and the new Lonely People cocktail bar.
Just a stone’s throw away from Preston’s main high street, is Winckley Square Gardens, which make an ideal peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the centre. The park is surrounded by splendid period architecture and completes the scene as one of the finest examples of a Georgian square in the north of England. You’ll also find the Sir Robert Peel statue welcoming you into one of the park’s five entrances.
The city has also earned a reputation as one of Lancashire’s top shopping destinations. With two main shopping areas, St George’s Centre and Fishergate featuring main high street chains, independent retailers, as well as coffee shops. Down the quaint side streets of the high street, you will find an array of independent boutiques, jewellers, carpet shops, opticians and salons. Take a wander down one in particular, and you will find yourself at the beautiful Avenham Park. With its mixture of high street fashion and unique boutiques, this is where Preston separates itself from other major shopping destinations.
Explore the new indoor market. Keeping in line with Preston’s history, it has a grand Victorian canopy, but a modern feel and is full of traders selling a wide choice of fresh, local and quality produce, as well as cafes, non-food stalls and food to takeaway.
The impressive Harris Museum is the backdrop to the Flag Market, where a lot of activities take place throughout the year. The museum is a must to visit, not only for its architecture but for the different exhibitions it puts on throughout the year, many about the history of Preston and featuring local people.
Preston is easily accessible with a regional train station, opposite Fishergate shopping centre, or via the main bus station in the centre. Preston bus station is quite controversial in its design. Built back in the 1960s, some class it as an eyesore on the city, whereas others such as English Heritage see it as one of the most important buildings of its period.
Preston is also famous for a few other things. It was home to the very first KFC in the UK and opened in May 1965. The bus station when it opened in 1969 was the largest in Europe. It was home to Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2 in Star Wars, lightweight boxer Paul Burke, Sir Tom Finney, the former England and Preston North End football player, cricketer Andrew Flintoff, ex footballer and commentator Mark Lawrenson and Nick Park, the Oscar-winning animator and creator of Wallace and Gromit. The Preston by-pass, opened 5th December 1958, became the first stretch of motorway in the UK and is now part of the M6 with a short section now forming part of the M55 and finally St Walburge’s church, designed by Joseph Hansom of Hansom Cab fame and which has, at 94 metres, is the tallest spire in England on a church that is not a cathedral.
So, whatever your trip to Preston, be it work, shopping, visiting or socially, you won’t be disappointed.