So much more than pots to make you go potty for the Potteries
Stoke-on-Trent may not seem like an obvious destination for a weekend away.
However, the West Midlands city, known affectionately as the Potteries, has more to offer visitors than you may think.
Built and shaped by centuries of pottery production, Stoke-on-Trent has been given the impressive-sounding title of World Capital of Ceramics.
Those interested in learning more about the area’s rich history have a few options to choose from including visits to Emma Bridgewater, Moorcroft and Middleport Pottery.
The World of Wedgwood in Barlaston ticks all the boxes when it comes to a visitor attraction celebrating ceramics.
There is a detailed museum charting Josiah Wedgwood’s rise to international popularity and his lasting legacy.
The display cases show off examples of designs and pieces from a period of history spanning more than 250 years and tell the story of an influential family, which also included Charles Darwin, as well as a long line of talented businessmen and potters.
The museum includes a trail for children and some hands-on displays to keep little minds engaged and interested.
During the week, there is also the opportunity to take a tour of the factory itself and see how the brand’s popular designs are brought to life ready for the shop floor.
For those wanting a more hands-on experience, the World of Wedgwood offers a range of activities which allow you and your family to muck in and have a go at creating your own line of pottery classics.
Visitors can try their hand at throwing a pot on the potter’s wheel in the Master Craft Studio – with an expert on hand to make sure you end up with something worth firing in the kiln
Meanwhile, in the Decorating Studio, you can choose to create your own intricate design to be transferred onto a piece of Wedgwood pottery of your choosing. Or younger visitors might prefer to pick a ready-fired ceramic item and give it their own unique makeover with a range of colourful paints.
If you really want to immerse yourself in the Josiah Wedgwood story, you can even stay on the site of his historic family home.
Etruria Hall was built between 1768 and 1771 and is now home to The Moat House, a four-star Best Western Plus hotel, near to Stoke-on-Trent’s city centre.
Although the bedrooms are found in the modern part of the hotel, Etruria Hall itself remains as a conference facility so you can literally walk in the footsteps of the Wedgwood family.
The hotel is just the other side of the canal from the location of the Etruria Works where Wedgwood was created for 180 years until the business moved to Barlaston at the start of the Second World War.
If you want a break from pottery, the Trentham estate has plenty to offer visitors to Stoke-on-Trent.
The complex includes a large garden centre, lots of shops and a good selection of cafes and restaurants but the jewel in the estate’s crown is Trentham Gardens.
The visitor attraction includes the landscaped Italian Gardens, a mile-long lake designed by Capability Brown which is now home to a fairy trail and a floral labyrinth.
Designed for visitors of all ages, there’s a lot more to the gardens than attractive blooms.
Younger visitors will enjoy letting off some steam in the playgrounds, which include a pirate ship and some giant sandpits and there is a barefoot walk for those brave enough to shed their shoes and feel the squelch of mud between their toes.
If you tire of getting about by foot, you can also take a boat ride on the electrically-powered Miss Elizabeth or catch the Trentham Fern, a miniature train running on a light gauge railway.
Trentham is also home to Monkey Forest, the only place in the UK where you can walk around among 140 free-roaming Barbary macaques.
Although the macaques are technically apes rather than monkeys (they have no tails), don’t let that spoil your fun.
The knowledgeable staff are on hand to talk to you about the two family groups who live in the forest and there are regular feeding times to watch.
The monkeys themselves are well used to visitors, although you are warned not to approach or touch them and to leave your picnics outside their very large woodland enclosure.
The Barbary macaque itself is an endangered species due to loss of habitat and the pet trade so the attraction has an important role in conservation and education as well as keeping families entertained.
Once you are all monkeyed out, there are two play areas to keep the kids amused and the Banana Café where you can stop and refuel.