23 August 2023

3 Inexpensive Days Out in Manchester

Wednesday, August 23, 2023 0 Comments

I previously gave you a few ideas on free things to do in Manchester in the summer holidays

Now, if you don't mind parting with a few quid, but maybe want to spread your summer budget over a few different activities rather than blowing it on an expensive outing all at once, here are a few options for you.

  • Go plane spotting at the Runway Visitor Park

This one is technically free to enter, but there's a car park charge: £5 for up to 2 hours, £10 for up to 4 hours, or £12 for the whole day. 

Adjacent to Manchester Airport's busy runway, the park is a perfect spot for plane enthusiasts big and small. Their Facebook page is frequently updated with information on special events and flight times that might be of special interest, like the Emirates' Airbus A380.

In addition to the perfect view of the runway, the park also offers a playground, café, and gift shop. 

If you're interested in more than just watching planes land and take off, you can also book one of the paid tours, like the Flight Academy for the kids or a Concorde Tour.

For more information visit https://www.runwayvisitorpark.co.uk/

  • Let the kids burn some energy at Play FactorE

We all know to expect rainy days over the holidays, and a couple of hours at a soft play centre is always a great idea for one of those. Claiming to be the UK's largest indoor family entertainment arena, it has something for all ages. There's a separate toddler area for the under-5s, and the main frame is full of activities for all the older ones - swings, slides, tunnels... Even a small football pitch. Those brave enough can enjoy the big red slide - even the grown-ups if you have enough stamina to climb through the maze! 

Those aged 5-16 can also enjoy the ValoJump, the cool interactive trampoline that makes you a part of a video game as you jump.

Other activities include Laser Tag, a VR experience, an arcade, and a zip wire - charged extra. 

For the adults not taking part in the play there's a large seating area and a rather reasonably priced café.

Why do I include it as "inexpensive", you might ask? It's because it's pretty much constantly available on Groupon at about half the regular price, and even if you go to Play FactorE's own website, the first pop-up you get is the Groupon deal, where for instance a family of 2+2 can go in for just £28.

For more information visit https://www.playfactore.com/

  • Visit the Museum of Transport

Located just 1.25 miles north of the Manchester city centre, and based in one of Greater Manchester's oldest bus garages, the Museum of Transport highlights the city's transport heritage as part of the industrial revolution. It was here that the UK's first bus service started in 1824, and in 1830 they had the world's first passenger-carrying railway! 

Admission costs only £6 adult and kids under 16 go free (must be accompanied by an adult). On certain days (listed on the website) you can jump on the free Heritage Bus on a circular route with stops near the Northern Quarter.

For more information visit https://motgm.uk/

18 July 2023

Days Out Near Manchester - Mam Tor

Tuesday, July 18, 2023 0 Comments
If you see a map of Poland, we have the sea in the north and a few mountain ranges in the south of the country - our southern border is actually naturally formed by the Carpathia Mountains.

I'm from the South, from a rather hilly area - my hometown was built on seven hills. Most places close enough for a day trip are in the mountains - Tatra Mountains, Pieniny, Beskidy, Bieszczady, you can take your pick. Naturally, this was the sort of trip we'd take when I was younger. Family trips, school trips, and some outings we went to through Dad's work, usually involved hiking. 

After I moved to the UK, hiking definitely fell off my list for a while. I spent a weekend in Zakopane during the summer visit back home once, and then a few years later I took my now husband there on his first visit to Poland. Then along came baby number one, then the second one - we did visit the mountains when in Poland, but we were only ever able to have a walk through the valleys and any actual hiking was out of the question. I decided, however, that once I was confident that they can handle it, we'd be visiting the mountains again on our holidays.

Fast forward to now, we live in Manchester. So close to the Peak District, that on a drive towards Stockport or Ashton, we can actually see the hills - and I'm telling you, when we get to fly to Poland, the landing on the way back, low over the hills, is truly special.

It was actually back in 2020 when we first decided it was a good idea to start trying some easy hiking routes - Eid was coming up, we couldn't meet up with anyone due to lockdown restrictions, and not wanting to just spend the day at home, we spent some time researching child-friendly hiking routes in Peak District. And that's how we ended up first going up the Mam Tor.

Mam Tor, which translates to "Mother Hill", is a 517m (1,696ft) peak overlooking Castleton in Derbyshire. Located just under 30 miles from Manchester, it's a great place for a day out and a perfect spot for beginner hikers. It's a relatively easy climb, particularly if you begin the approach at the Mam Nick car park - the path is paved all the way to the summit, with steps on the steeper parts of the hill. This makes it easy even for the youngest hikers - our daughter was just under 3 years old on our first visit there, and was able to walk most of the way on her own. 

[Photo from our first 2020 hike with the toddler]

You can enjoy climbing Mam Tor as a part of a circular walk, with a few routes that can stretch for up to 8 miles. However, if you're a beginner who wants to start small, or walking with smaller children, you can easily keep it short and just climb up, have a picnic on the top, and get back down. 

In this case, start at Mam Nick car park. From there it's only about 550 metres (approx. 0.3 miles) to the trig point. At the back of the car park, you'll find the footpath, which will be the first part of your walk to the summit.

For the most part, the footpath runs parallel to a road - once you reach the end of the path, you'll meet the bend in said road. This is the point where some other paths meet, and you'll need to enter through the wooden gate for the actual approach to the summit. From there you just need to follow the steps and then a bit of straight paved path to reach the top.

It's not an overly challenging walk, you'll see plenty of children and walkers of varying abilities along the way. Once you reach the top, you'll find the trig point (might wait a while for a photo opportunity on a busy day), and there are some breathtaking views. And you're likely to meet a few sheep on the way too!

Things worth noting:

  • If you plan on starting from the Mam Nick car park, arrive early. This National Trust-operated car park only has about 80 spaces, and fills up quickly on weekends and during school holidays. National Trust members park for free, but non-members will be charged £4.50 for up to 4 hours, and £6 for more than 4 hours (prices correct at the time of writing), and you can only pay by phone. If, when you get there, the car park is full, there are some spaces available along the main road, with entry gates onto paths that will get you to the summit. Be mindful of how you park though, it's easy to get caught out by double yellow lines (we narrowly avoided that after noticing that the whole line of cars on a part of the road had the fines stuck on!).
  • There are no facilities. You'll find a coffee van and a few picnic benches at the Mam Nick car park, but no toilets - the nearest public toilets are in Castleton, a short drive away. 

01 July 2023


Saturday, July 01, 2023 0 Comments


Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

Hi! Welcome, or welcome back if you've been on this site before.

If you have been here before, you'll notice a big change - everything's gone.

Truth be told, I fell out of love with this blog. When I first started, I thought I had a clear vision for it, I knew what topics I wanted to cover, and who I wanted my audience to be... 

I first started as "Halal Mama" in 2013, wanting to combine being a new Muslim and a new mother. I had a few posts about motherhood, a fair few recipes, and some posts about halal food in general, as I was adjusting to all that myself and wanted to share my findings with other new Muslims who might be looking into it. I was lucky enough to partner with a variety of brands over the years too and write product reviews for them.

But we all evolve, and it's only natural that we do. It's been 10 years since I started this blog - some posts have become outdated, some didn't feel as well-researched as they did when I first wrote them, and some just weren't... "me". I also decided to move away from the "Halal Mama" persona, feeling that I'd outgrown it. Yes, I'm a mum, but I don't want it to be the main thing about me anymore - I've now spent a few years of feeling I'm "just a mum" and I need more, I need to be just ME again. So I changed all my social media handles and blog title, only keeping the domain for now because I'm not technical enough and need to figure out how to handle it.

My last blog post prior to this one was just over a year ago, and I actually had to consider whether I even wanted to keep it. As I was going through the old posts, I thought to myself "God, am I bloody boring or what?" I started thinking that I don't have anything interesting or relevant to write about, like who am I even? But as I decided to give it one more chance (oh, this wasn't my first blogging hiatus!), I sat down to write a list of topics to cover and realised I might have more to say than I thought.

So here I am, starting fresh after 10 years. Whether you stumbled across this as a new reader, or have previously connected with me - thanks for reading! More posts coming soon, but in the meantime you can read more about me HERE or use one of the social media buttons to connect (I'm mostly on Instagram)

06 May 2022

5 Halal restaurants in Manchester to visit this summer

Friday, May 06, 2022 0 Comments

This post has been written in collaboration with SquareMeal, which helps you find and book a table at your favourite restaurants.

With another Ramadan behind us, it's good to be back to a more normal eating routine. Don't get me wrong, of course, the spiritual benefits of Ramadan are huge, but it's physically taxing. For some reason this year felt tougher than usual, even though the fasting times weren't that bad (particularly in the beginning), and the kids were off school for their Easter break for the majority of it as they got a whopping 19 days off.

Anyway, we're now looking forward to family meals at regular times, meeting up for BBQs, and of course, eating out! Ramadan tends to be a really busy period for visiting halal places because everyone who wants to eat out does it at the same, specific time in the evening, but now we can plan the outings during the day again, so it should be easier to plan something.

After having kids off school for so long, we're also looking forward to having some adult-only outings! My husband and I are already planning some child-free lunches for when we're both free and the kids are at school, so I complied a list of 5 halal places in Manchester that I think would be worth visiting.

1. Tampopo

With four locations across Manchester (Albert Square, Corn Exchange, and two in the Trafford Centre), Tampopo serves the flavours of East Asia. You can choose from a selection of exciting street food, or signature dishes from Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. While they're not fully halal, their website offers a separate halal menu where the dishes are either vegetarian or cooked with certified halal chicken. However, some of the dishes are cooked in the oven that is also used for pork, and some contain mirin (Japanese rice wine) - these are clearly marked for you to make an informed decision. There are still plenty of dishes on the menu that are fully halal though, like my favourite Pad Thai.

2. Zouk Tea Bar & Grill

As they describe themselves, "Zouk is a true melting pot of the very best in modern and traditional cookery". Founded by two brothers who wanted to share their love of authentic recipes with a modern twist, this contemporary restaurant truly has something for everyone. It combines the best of Lahore's fun street food with all the traditional dishes of Indian sub-continent. Whether it's a karahi, biryani, or even lobster Thermidor that you're after, this is the place to go. They even do the Sunday Roast! All the meat is halal, but bear in mind that alcohol is served.

3. Jasmine

Based in the suburb of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Jasmine is a casual Lebanese restaurant. With reasonably priced food and relaxed atmosphere, it seems to be a firm favourite among the locals. They offer a selection on small sharing plates, as well as larger mains. You'll find anything that you'd expect from a Middle Eastern restaurant: from hummus and baba ghanoush, to koftas, moussaka or lamb chops. They also have fresh bread on the menu, which is honestly always my favourite part of eating in a Middle Eastern place! They are also one of the restaurants that accept SquareMeal gift vouchers, so if you try them and like it enough to share the love with family or friends, Jasmine is one of the places that will let you buy a meal for them.

4. Dishoom

Paying homage to old Irani cafes of Bombay, Dishoom is another Indian restaurant that needs visiting. The all-day menu includes all the favourites, like their charred lamb chops, intensely flavoured daal or the family recipe of chicken tikka. You can also pop in for an afternoon cup of chai, and they serve their signature tipples to those who do drink alcohol. They even have a special dish just for Manchester, their exclusive Nalli nihari biryani - tender lamb shank layered with rice, under a pastry blanket. Sounds like a biryani lover's dream!

5. Evelyn's Cafe Bar

This one has been on my list for a long time, just never really got round to it! Evelyn's Cafe Bar in the Northern Quarter seems to be THE halal brunch place in Manchester, serving a variety of options: from bircher muesli, to shakshuka, and even steak and egg. It definitely sounds like a perfect place to have a lazy start to the day. Or, if you're an earlier breakfast person, they offer lunch dishes like fish & chips or a cheeseburger, and then the dinner menu from 5pm. 

So, these are my top five restaurants that I've had my eye on for a while, and hoping to finally try this summer! They all seem quite popular and have loads of good reviews, but as always I would love to hear anyone's opinion about them, or recommendations for other halal places around Manchester that you think are a must!