While London has spawned its fair share of musical talent – think: The Clash, Rolling Stones, Queen, Blur and Amy Winehouse – many people’s favourite British bands come from outside the “Big Smoke”. Make a pilgrimage to these hotbeds of music and you’ll find toe-tapping tours, nostalgia-inducing diversions and seriously rocking venues.

Liverpool

Dozens of chart-bothering bands have emerged from this vibrant port city by the River Mersey – among them the Lightning Seeds, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Echo and the Bunnymen. But they’re all overshadowed by the mighty Beatles, whose fans will be in their element exploring Liverpool. 

Stay at the Hard Days Night Hotel (which is adorned with Fab Four-inspired artwork), check out the memorabilia-jammed Beatles Story exhibition and take the Magical Mystery Tour aboard a psychedelic-looking coach that visits Penny Lane, Strawberry Field and other Liverpudlian places that inspired John, Paul, George and Ringo in their youth. 

Later, hit the Cavern Quarter, a cobbled old warehouse district peppered with watering holes, gift stores and live-music spots with Fab Four song titles and connections. Hum along to tribute acts that look, dress and sound quite like the Beatles in their pomp at the legendary Cavern Club, a replica of the basement club where the real band strutted their stuff. 

On the Mersey waterfront, bag a selfie by the life-size statue of the Fab Four, and pop into the British Music Experience, which celebrates the myriad melodic talents to hail from these isles. Browse iconic instruments and artefacts – including flamboyant costumes worn by the likes of David Bowie and Freddie Mercury – and belt out your favourite tunes in an interactive studio with a vocal booth, guitars, drums, keyboards and synthesisers.

See: visitliverpool.com

Catch a show at The Cavern Club.

Manchester

A 40-minute train ride away, Liverpool’s big northern English rival boasts an equally extraordinary pop-rock heritage. The Bee Gees formed in Manchester – playing their first gig, in 1955, as the Rattlesnakes – while later Mancunian bands to find fame and fortune include The Smiths, Joy Division, New Order, Stone Roses and Oasis. 

Take in their old haunts and hang-outs – and hear hair-raising rock’n’roll anecdotes – on themed bus and walking tours, then embrace the city’s buzzing contemporary music scene. A glut of venues – large, medium and small – scatter the compact city centre and host gigs virtually every night of the week. 

In the arty Northern Quarter, you’ll find vinyl stores, indie fashion shops, music-tinged mosaics and intimate bars with vintage jukeboxes and performance spaces. Night and Day showcases potential stars of the future – and surprise special appearances by big names (Elbow, Kasabian and Johnny Marr, the ex-Smiths guitarist, have all played here). 

In summer, Manchester stages an array of open-air shows. Former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher recently played at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, while the annual Sounds of the City festival sees bands rock to a picturesque backdrop of Victorian canals and railway viaducts near the ruins of Manchester’s ancient Roman fort. This year’s headliners – June 28 to July 8 – include stars from home (The Courteneers and James) and abroad (Crowded House and Pixies).

See: visitmanchester.com

Sheffield

A scenic rail trip from Manchester via the beautiful Peak District National Park brings you to Sheffield, another hub of soul-rousing tunes. It’s the home of Pulp, whose hit “Common People” was a huge anthem of the mid-1990s Britpop era and still gets everyone grooving on dance floors across the country. 

Jarvis Cocker and the gang are no longer together, but you might catch Pulp’d – a Sheffield act that touts itself as the world’s premier Pulp tribute band. For up-and-coming local acts, and themed club nights, make a beeline for The Leadmill, a converted flour mill where Pulp played their first gig in 1980 and where another Sheffield band, Arctic Monkeys, performed at a sell-out concert before the release of their debut album. 

The Killers, Kings of Leon and The White Stripes have also graced the stage at The Leadmill. It’s also worth checking the listings at the O2 Academy and Sheffield City Hall, where a guitar-strumming Johnny Depp recently played alongside Jeff Beck.

See: welcometosheffield.co.uk

Sheffield rock ‘n’ roll.

Birmingham

While this West Midlands metropolis has produced easy-on-the-ear bands such as UB40, Duran Duran and Ocean Colour Scene, it’s renowned mostly as the birthplace of metal. The genre was pioneered in the late 1960s and 1970s by Birmingham bands Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, whose brooding riffs were influenced by the industrial cityscape, with streets and factories thrumming with clattering noises and bashing metal. 

The Home of Metal project curates events and exhibitions in Birmingham and surrounds, weaving together metal music, social history, visual art and fan culture, while city walking tours reveal more about metal’s roots. You’ll find a bridge named after Black Sabbath on Birmingham’s Broad Street. Overlooking a photogenic canal, it’s blessed with a bench etched with the faces of band members Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward. 

There’s an eye-catching Sabbath mural by the coach station in Digbeth, a hipster district with bars, eateries and venues pulsing with live music. Seek out the Custard Factory and The Mill (where an all-female Sabbath tribute act from LA, Black Sabbitch, are due to play in October 2022). 

See: visitbirmingham.com

Glasgow

English cities don’t hold a monopoly on great British music. Wales has birthed pop-rock icons like Manic Street Preachers, Stereophonics and Catatonia, with the nation’s capital, Cardiff, always a good bet for gig-goers. 

In Scotland, meanwhile, Glasgow is, like Liverpool, a proud UNESCO City of Music. You’ll hear about the characters who have shaped its musical landscape on Glasgow Music City Tours. Pit stops include King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, where Oasis were “discovered” and signed by Scottish record producer Alan McGee in 1993. Another storied venue is Barrowland, a neon-signed dance hall and ballroom that has hosted everyone from local legends Simple Minds and Franz Ferdinand to global icons Alice Cooper and Metallica. 

The city’s music scene is still going strong, with emerging talents, such as Lewis Capaldi and Vlure, and established acts, such as Glasvegas, Primal Scream, Texas and Mogwai, regularly thrilling Glaswegian audiences.

See: peoplemakeglasgow.com and visitbritain.com

The beauty of Glasgow.

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