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Things to see and do at Castlefield Viaduct

A view of a large brick and steel bridge spanning over green grassy areas and roads with glass skyscrapers behind and blue skies above.
The 330-metre long Castlefield Viaduct in Manchester | © Annapurna Mellor/National Trust Images

Ready to explore Manchester’s first ‘sky park’? Castlefield Viaduct is open as part of a pilot project, offering an opportunity to explore the viaduct’s history and experience an urban park in the sky. Find out more about how to visit, what you can see and do, and how to have your say about the future of this historic structure here.

What to expect on your visit

Castlefield Viaduct is open as part of a pilot project, offering you the opportunity to explore the viaduct and share ideas about the future of this historic structure.

As part of your visit, you’ll discover more about the viaduct’s heritage, as well as exploring an ‘urban garden’ in the sky. Half of the deck has been planted with trees, flowers and shrubs, creating a green space for visitors to unwind in, and learn more about the city’s long relationship with plants and trees.

Book a guided visit

Guided visits to Castlefield Viaduct give you the chance to learn more about the viaduct from one of our brilliant visitor experience assistants. You'll join with other guests for a 20 minute walk and talk that'll put the history of this structure in the context of Manchester's history and let you explore it's hopeful future as an urban green space. These free guided visits last around 20-30 minutes with plenty of time to look around the gardens yourselves. There are four guided visits every Monday (except Bank Holidays), Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 10.30am, 11am, 11.30am and 12 midday. They must be booked in advance and tickets are available at the link at the bottom of this page.

Visit at your own pace

If you don't want to take a guided visit or can't find a time that suits, you can also visit without booking and take in this unique place at your own pace. The viaduct is open for walk-up, non-ticketed visits from 12.30pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and all day from 10.30am Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday plus Bank Holidays. Last entry every day is 4.30pm. Please bear in mind that we have a maximum capacity on the viaduct so there may be a wait if we are busy.

Explore a garden in the sky

Creating an accessible green space in the heart of the city is a key part of the viaduct project, and one of our aims is to develop an interesting and nature-filled retreat all year round.

The selection of plants in the viaduct garden has been inspired by the existing vegetation which has claimed this industrial structure, and we’re also trying out new planting techniques, working with limited growing depths and untested growing conditions. The planting will take a little while to establish, so it may take a few seasons before the garden is fully developed.

Garden areas to explore

A view over to Salford showing blocks of flats over planters full of flowers
The view from the Welcome Area | © ©National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

The Welcome Area

The Welcome Area offers an introduction to the type of plants you’ll discover as you explore the viaduct, containing some garden versions of more familiar native species, such as spurges, elder and broom.

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Seasonal highlights in the garden

The viaduct garden has been designed to provide a long season of interest, and the gardening team change the planting on a regular basis to make sure there’s plenty to see throughout the year.

During the summer months, the focus falls on densely planted ferns, grasses and herbaceous perennials. During autumn and winter species like Sorbus and Guelder rose will come to the fore, adding splashes of colour through foliage and berries.

Meet our partner plots

We’ve teamed up with four local partner organisations, who have each created their own unique garden areas on the viaduct. Meet our current partners here:

Sow The City

Working with Hubbub, this is a sensory nature garden complete with a pond – a first for the industrial viaduct. Drawing its inspiration from the latest research in environmental psychology which indicates that the closer an individual’s relationship is with nature, the more likely they are to care for wildlife and the wider environment, the ‘In Our Nature Garden’ garden aims to encourage a connection between people and nature and features wildlife habitats and bee-friendly planting.

City of Trees

City of Trees is a green recovery movement focused on bringing together individuals and organisations to plant trees and restore woodlands for the people and wildlife of Greater Manchester. Their plot highlights ‘Trees that shaped the industrial revolution’, containing trees, shrubs and flowers that were crucial to the development of industry, as well as those that will play a role in the response to climate change.

Castlefield Forum

Castlefield Forum work to protect and promote the Castlefield Conservation Area – preserving and sharing knowledge about the area’s geography, history and culture, and encouraging urban regeneration. Their plot explores the essence of Castlefield within the context of a modern sculptural pocket garden.

Hulme Community Garden Centre Hulme

Hulme Community Garden Centre have created an urban forest garden to inspire viaduct visitors to create ‘layered’ planting which optimises precious growing areas, benefitting personal wellbeing and the local environment. The canopy consists of dwarf family fruit trees; a shrub layer of blackcurrant and cranberry; kiwi, hop, and nasturtium climbers; an understorey of edible herbaceous perennials such as rhubarb, globe artichoke and strawberry, plus a selection of self-seeding biennials and annuals.

These edible landscapes stack multiple species within the same space, with each plant taking what it needs from its level in the system to thrive. Once established, these low maintenance gardens produce food, medicines and other beneficial yields, as well as providing an ideal haven for wildlife.

A view down the viaduct showing large planters full of plants
Planting on the viaduct | © Annapurna Mellor/National Trust Images

Many of the species you’ll see in the garden have connections to the local area such as cotton grass, Manchester’s county flower, which grows on local moorland and hints at the city’s industrial cotton mill heritage.

The planters separating the partner plots are underplanted with winter flowering hellebores and native ferns, some of which are included in Manchester Museum’s herbarium collections. Elsewhere you’ll find oak trees underplanted with the Red Rose of Lancaster, reflecting the partnership between the National Trust and the people of Manchester.

Visit the ideas and events space

As part of your visit to the viaduct, you’ll discover a covered ‘ideas and events’ space where you’ll have the opportunity to share feedback and ideas to help us shape the future of the viaduct. This is still an experimental phase for us, so we’re keen to hear your thoughts as we continue to design, create and test new experiences.

This space is also used for a range of events, talks and creative sessions – including ‘takeovers’ by our project partners. From apple juice pressing and foraged cocktail making to storytelling events and discussions about nature, there’s lots to learn about at Castlefield Viaduct. Keep an eye on the ‘What’s On’ page for details of upcoming events.

A view through the arch of a bridge over the canal, with canal boats and their reflections in the water, and Castlefield Viaduct visible in the background with other city features.

Book your visit

Please note you need to book tickets to Castlefield Viaduct. You can book for today up until 8am. Every Thursday time slots will be available for the next 14 days.

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