Walks around the Ribble Valley are exquisite. After the River Ribble makes its way down from its source high in the Yorkshire Dales, it grows into modern Lancashire’s mightiest river. It passes between the great uplands of the Forest of Bowland and Pendle Hill, flowing through pretty villages and attractive market towns on its way towards the Irish Sea. This is the Ribble Valley, a rural region of scenic splendour that’s almost tailormade for hikers.
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Rambling along the River Ribble
Nestled on the banks of the Ribble, the prosperous market town of Clitheroe is the ideal base for adventures in the region. There are many beautiful walks along the valley, following the Ribble to historic sights like Cromwell’s Bridge, where Oliver Cromwell marched his troops across the River Hodder in 1648, and the Roman cavalry fort of Bremetannacum by the lovely village of Ribchester.
During your walks around the Ribble Valley, you can channel your inner hobbit, elf or wizard. JRR Tolkien spent many months enjoying the area’s natural beauty when working on his legendary fantasy epic, the ‘Lord of the Rings’. On your hikes here you can visit places that inspired scenes from the epic tale, such as the Bucklebury Ferry crossing, which is said to be based on a ferry that used to cross near the confluence of the Ribble and Calder.
Into the Forest of Bowland
Most of the Ribble Valley District is covered by a large part of the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Not a tree-covered landscape by any stretch of the imagination, the Forest of Bowland was named due to its use as a royal hunting ground.
This starkly beautiful upland region is home to some of the best hiking routes around the Ribble Valley and is characterised by heather moorland, blanket bog, deep valleys and gritstone fells. Although not as abundant and varied as it once was due to grouse shooting and associated land management practices, there is still fascinating wildlife to spot, such as the unusual plant species supported by the blanket bog.
The Trough of Bowland, a high pass that cleaves through the fells, is a gorgeous place to explore, with dramatic valley scenery and many tumbling brooks. There are plenty of windswept fell tops to explore too, but don’t forget your hiking boots and waterproofs; the trails can be extremely boggy and rainfall is a common occurrence.
Bewitching views from Pendle Hill
The Forest of Bowland AONB includes the Forest of Pendle, another conspicuously treeless upland that rises in isolation to the southeast of the Ribble. Here you find perhaps the most famous hikes around the Ribble Valley, those that seek out the summit of Pendle Hill, which sweeps up majestically from the dales below.
Pendle Hill has many supernatural connections: its summit is a Bronze Age burial site and, more famously, it is associated with the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612, when ten unfortunate souls were found guilty of witchcraft and executed. Its grisly history aside, there are myriad hiking routes to the summit plateau, which rewards with a huge panorama.
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