TRAVEL: Adventures in the hills and valleys of Lancashire

Johnson Hillock Locks on the Leeds to Liverpool Canal, near Chorley

Johnson Hillock Locks on the Leeds to Liverpool Canal, near Chorley - Credit: Nigel Pickover

Oh to be in England now that August’s here!

Getting out and about again has proved so much fun - and my first trip - to the Red Rose county of Lancashire, yet again revealed how much this country has to offer.

Lancashire itself is memorable, the spellbinding part of it I went to is surely one of Britain’s greatest travel secrets.

The visit was to three of Lancashire’s river valleys which flow west into the Irish Sea.

Then it was a climb into the nearby Trough of Bowland, an area which sits, relatively undiscovered, between the Lakes District and Yorkshire Dales national parks.

The meandering River Hodder flowing out of one of Britain’s best-kept travel secrets, the Trough of Bowland.

The meandering River Hodder flowing out of one of Britain’s best-kept travel secrets, the Trough of Bowland. - Credit: Nigel Pickover


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My wife and I chose budget hotels, a beautiful hire cottage and a stunning hotel and spa, Crow Wood, near Burnley, to complete a wonderful break.

This varied choice of accommodation allowed us to fit in big days out - and a couple of ‘side adventures’ in our week.

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First stop was most unusual … a cemetery!

Driving to the edge of Bolton, we wanted to pay tribute to the much-loved steeplejack Fred Dibnah, unlikely author and TV star, who died in 2004, aged 66.

Fred’s modest, yet appropriate, final resting place is in the beautifully-kept, Victorian, Tongue Cemetery.

Close to Chorley, just further along the M61 from Bolton, we stayed in a budget hotel (£35 for a night) with the extra delight of finding Johnson’s Hillocks nearby.

Here there’s a stunning flight of seven canal locks on the 127-mile Leeds to Liverpool Canal. In total they raise canal craft by more than 65 feet.

It’s part of the longest canal in Britain - and worth hours of your time.

Onward into Lancashire - the aim being to explore the valleys of the Wyre, Lune and Ribble - and one just further north, the Kent.

With the hills of the Yorkshire Dales in the distance, a spectacular view of the mighty River Lune, near Lancaster

With the hills of the Yorkshire Dales in the distance, a spectacular view of the mighty River Lune, near Lancaster - Credit: Nigel Pickover

All are salmon and sea trout rivers, drawing fishermen and women when the rains of autumn arrive and fast flows allow access to higher reaches for fish spawning.

The Wyre Valley Trail led us to discover the tiny ridge road to the east of the M6 between (roughly) Garstang and Lancaster.

Keeper’s Lane and Higher Lane gave stunning views of Morecambe Bay and the Lancashire Coast, including Blackpool and its famous tower.


Another day and another adventure came in the glistening form of the River Lune.

This much-loved river gives pleasure to fisher folk and walkers alike and, in summer, visitors paddle and swim in warm pools as families enjoy picnics nearby.. 

The river rises in Cumbria yet when it flows through Lancashire you can see the hills of the Yorkshire Dales in the distance.

Park at the Crook o’ Lune for an amazing £1 all day and enjoy coffee and a sandwich from the excellent cafe.

The drop to the river and walk along the banks is exhilarating - celebrated in verse by Wordsworth and in paintings by Turner.

As you walk above the deep banks from the big turn, or crook, in the river, oyster catchers and curlews squeal and wheel in front of you.

We visited the dreamy River Kent, at Levens Park, just in to Cumbria, and dropped south to the River Ribble near Preston and Blackburn where Roman settlement Ribchester, Bremetennacum, is another stunning riverside location.

Crow Wood Hotel and Spa, five-star style in 40 acres of countryside near Burnley

Crow Wood Hotel and Spa, five-star style in 40 acres of countryside near Burnley - Credit: Nigel Pickover

After our extensive travels we saved a big treat for last - the Crow Wood Hotel and Spa complex, near Burnley.

This was a real find. Classy rooms, a gourmet, well-run, restaurant in Wilfred’s and a state-of-the art spa to spend a relaxing day.

Crow Wood sits in 40 acres close to Pennine moorland.

Nearby is Pendle Hill at 1,827 feet the dominating feature of the area and one which has spawned a myriad of legends concerning Lancashire witches.

The pleasant market town of Clitheroe, where steam locos and the trains they are heading, pass through each summer week on route to the world-famous Settle to Carlisle line.

Crow Wood was the topping to a delicious Lancashire trip and we’ll surely be back.

Plan your trip 
Nigel Pickover stayed at Crow Wood Hotel & Spa Resort, Burnley. Phone 01282 227722 or visit crowwoodhotel.com

A two-night night break in October currently starts at £420, bed and breakfast with use of the spa on one day.

For information about Lancashire go to visitlancashire.com

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