Home of Hovis and half of Joy Division, Macclesfield is an affluent Cheshire town whose football club and stadium date back to the 1800s.
Macclesfield Town did not gain full league status in 1996-97, 120 years after their formation, two after previously being denied entry due to the low capacity of their venerable ground, the Moss Rose. In between, the stadium was used as a training base by Germany’s winning squad for Euro 96.
After relegation back to the Conference in 2012, The Silkmen won the Fifth Division by ten clear points in 2018, so reviving the Cheshire derby with Crewe Alexandra in League Two in 2018-19.
For well over a century, however, football here meant the Combination League, the Manchester & District League, the Cheshire County League and, as founder members, the Northern Premier League.
Everything changed with the appointment of former Manchester United star Sammy McIlroy whose achievements – those two Conference title wins – were such that they catapulted him to the national job at Northern Ireland.
The club’s highest league attendance records, both home and away, were set during McIlroy’s last season with The Silkmen, 1998-99, when Macclesfield briefly shared second-tier status with another of his former clubs, Manchester City. The Moss Rose capacity of 6,300 has hardly been tested since. Even when winning the National League in 2017-18 and earning a return to The 92 after six years, average home gates failed to break the 2,000 mark.
With Manchester 20 minutes away by train, many locals prefer to head to Old Trafford of a Saturday. Those that opt for Moss Rose, however, do so passionately – the Star Lane End may be an unusual combination of seating and standing but is usually vociferous enough. And with Lancashire and the North Midlands so close, usually a third of the division is comprised of clubs within an hour’s radius of Moss Rose, encouraging visiting support.
Manchester Airport is only 25.5km (16 miles) from Macclesfield. There’s no direct public transport – take the train to Manchester Piccadilly (20min), then change for the 20-25min journey to Macclesfield, overall journey time 45min-1hr including waiting for the connection, single £17. From Birmingham New Street, it’s a direct 1hr journey to Macclesfield (£20 single), from London Euston, it’s 1hr 45min direct or change at Stoke (2hr), cheapest advance single £25.
Macclesfield train station is on the eastern edge of the town centre, a short but steep walk away. As the crow flies, the bus station is close, but it’s all uphill, nearer to the centre.
Arriva services run from the bus station to Moss Rose, calling in at the train station on the way back. A single ticket is £2.90, pay on board. The ground is otherwise a 30min walk south of town.
There is only one hotel within the town centre, and one just outside. Near the train station, the Travelodge Macclesfield Central is set in a classic red-brick building – free parking is offered after 6pm and all day Sunday.
A short walk north of the town centre, the Chadwick House Hotel offers affordable B&B rooms, en-suite and a single with shared facilities.
An alternative option, recently opened right in town, in the same property as a trendy barbers, Sleep Eat Repeat is as comfortable and hospitable as it gets, a godsend in a town so bereft of lodging.
All other choices are a fair drive away – the Premier Inn Macclesfield South West by Danes Moss Nature Preserve is on the same side of town as the stadium, about 2km away by taxi.
The main local brewery, Stockport-based Robinsons, runs 250-plus pubs in the region, including the George & Dragon near Macclesfield station, a credible candidate for the best hostelry in town. Leading off from the cosy main bar, a pool room features a big screen for match action and a framed photo of Macclesfield Town from the radio era. There’s a beer garden, too.
Right opposite the station, the Queens Hotel is a somewhat dowdy pit stop while the Nags Head appeals to the rock fraternity, though intersperses Thin Lizzy tribute nights with ska and mod nights. TV football too. Behind it, The Old Millstone also offers Sky and BT Sports plus superior pub grub, grilled salmon, NY strip steak and any number of pizzas.
Behind that, guarding the entrance to the town centre, the CAMRA-awarded Waters Green Tavern is also known for its steak pie, and screens matches.
There’s more TV football at the Bate Hall on Chestergate while further up at No.65, The Swan With Two Necks is a live venue in a lovely lived-in pub.
Other pubs in the small town centre are clustered on the south side, around Park Green/Mill Street, where you’ll find The White Lion, a favoured haunt for football watching, and the local Wetherspoons, The Society Rooms.
Back towards the George & Dragon, The Jolly Sailor dates back to the 1830s and exudes tradition. Nice beer terrace, too.