I gotta admit it, Stoke-on-Trent didn’t immediately strike me as a must-visit for a UK staycation. That was until I spotted Erica’s post (#influencer queen) about her weekend in Stoke-on-Trent. It may not have the buzz and shiny-shiny things of Manchester, or the seaside charm of Brighton; but for the seasoned staycationer, it’s a real hidden gem. As the World Capital of Ceramics, its home to plenty of pottery-based attractions – but there’s also plenty of nature and historical things to discover if you delve a little deeper than its reputation.
The city is actually made up of six towns, and it does feel like a ‘work in progress’ in places, as you head between attractions. But if you’re interested in checking out some interesting pockets of British heritage, Stoke-on-Trent could be an interesting, more alternative city trip to the usual big players. We headed up on a Saturday morning, overnighting for a whistlestop weekend adventure – and these were some of the highlights…
For an introduction to Stoke-on-Trent’s pottery scene, we pottered (haa) along to Middleport, the home of Burleigh, who specialise in creating high-quality ceramic goods.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was seeing the Poppies: Weeping Window installation, which features a selection of ceramic poppies that you might recognise from the Tower of London’s Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation, back in 2014. It’s currently running until September 16th, so if you want to check it out, you gotta be quick!
Entry: Heritage areas: £5.50. Factory tour: £9.50.
Opening times: Mon-Sun, 10am-4pm. Factory tours available Mon-Thu only.
Port St, Middleport, Stoke-on-Trent ST6 3PE
Gladstone Pottery Museum
Gladstone Pottery Museum takes an in-depth look into the city’s history in the ceramic industry. Quite honestly, I never knew how much there could be to see on the subject, but it was all presented in a really interesting way. I love me an interactive museum, and Gladstone Pottery Museum gives you the chance to roll up those sleeves and have a bash at your own pottery creations.
The activities were also SUPER cheap. Here in London, you’d probably end up paying £30 for an hour doing some pottery at some artisan wheel-wielder hotspot in Hackney. In Stoke? Three quid. You can take it home (unglazed), and for the pure fun of making a blob of clay into a cool shape while humming Unchained Melody, it’s an absolute steal. You can also make ceramic flowers, and paint some ready-fired pieces from just £1.
Opening times: Tuesdays – Saturdays, 10am-5pm (Apr-Sept), 10am-4pm (Oct-Mar)
Gladstone Pottery Museum, Uttoxeter Road, Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, ST3 1PQ
Afternoon Tea at World of Wedgewood
If you’re going all out for a British weekend away, there’s nowt on the menu that’s much more British than afternoon tea. And the World of Wedgwood one’s pretty sweet. The scones were some of the best I’ve had at an afternoon tea; and the sandwiches are all about the classic British tastes. Think coronation chicken, crab paste and salmon, and you’ll get what I mean. The ginger cake is delicious too! As a fruity tea kinda gal, I chose the Oriental Jewel tea, and finished an entire pot for probably the first time ever.
A World of Wedgwood Afternoon Tea costs £25 per person, or for £49, you can get afternoon tea for two plus entry to the Factory and Museum – which normally costs a tenner each.
World of Wedgewood Pottery Museum & Masterclasses
If you fancy getting a bit more in-depth with your pottery-making, World of Wedgewood’s your spot. The heritage visitor centre features a museum, pottery and decorating studios, tea rooms and shopping opportunities.
The pottery throwing experience at World of Wedgwood is slightly different to the Gladstone activity, as World of Wedgwood will glaze your pot for you once you’ve thrown it. You can either come back and collect it, or they’ll post to you. Actually getting to make some ceramicware was probably a huge highlight of my visit, and it was cool to actually have something to take home from the visit. It’s really fun, although the pros make it look far too easy…
Price: £10 collection, £15 posted to a UK address
Opening times: Mon-Sun, 10am-5pm
Trentham Estate Monkey Forest
A step away from the pottery trail, if you like hanging out with animals, the Trentham Estate Monkey Forest might be your bag. Around 140 Barbary macaque monkeys call this place home, given space to roam amongst the woodland as they would in the wild. As a result, your visit involves walking along paths amongst the monkeys, as they swing from trees and relax on the grass around you.
Barbary macaques are an endangered species, and Trentham Monkey Forest play a large role in the conservation of the species. Their long-term goal is to re-introduce the monkeys into their natural habitat, the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. As part of this, the park creates an environment as close as possible to their natural habitat, with plenty of space away from the paths away from visitors. But chances are, you’ll still see plenty around!
Opening times: 10am – 4pm (later in school holidays), closed Nov-Feb
How to get to Stoke-on-Trent
Trains from London to Stoke-on-Trent run from Euston. A Super Off-Peak Return costs £32 and takes around 2-3 hours. If you want to get there in around an hour and a half, an Off-Peak Return is £71.60.
Where to stay in Stoke-on-Trent