Visiting the Forest of Bowland

There are many reasons to visit Lancashire in the northwest of England. There are the seaside towns such as Blackpool with its famous tower and illuminations, and Southport with its quirky pier and The National Museum of Penny Slot Machines. Preston has five museums including the Museum of Lancashire, and Lancaster has a castle that dates back a thousand years. I visited the county to drive the Lancashire Witches Driving Trail from Pendle to Lancaster to see the Forest of Bowland. It’s easy to arrange cheap car hire and you can stop off along the way as and when you like. The route is 45 miles long so allow yourself at least half a day so you don’t need to rush and can enjoy the views.

Pendle Witches Trial

On 20 August 2012 it was the 400th anniversary of this sad trial and execution of ten people at Lancaster Castle. The story goes that a young girl, Alizon Device, was begging from a pedlar in March 1612 and when he wouldn’t give her any pins for free she cursed him. An awful coincidence occurred and he suffered a stroke and collapsed. The girl apologised but witchfinders were called and a group of ‘witches’ were rounded up and taken away. They travelled the route by horse and cart but there are now excellent roads across this stunning rural landscape.

About The Forest of Bowland

This 300 square mile forest is one of only forty AONBs (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) in England. Visiting here is a good reminder that Lancashire is 80% rural. The term ‘forest’ here refers to its prior use as a hunting ground as there are wide open fields now.

The land is actually part of the Duchy of Lancaster which means it’s owned by The Queen. Off the record she has said she would happily retire here if retirement were ever an option for her.

The Driving Route

Start the drive from the Pendle Heritage Centre in Barrowford and then follow the winding road around the Pendle Hill towards Clitheroe in the Ribble Valley. There’s another thousand year old castle here in the town centre which is said to be the smallest Norman castle in England.

Continue on towards Newton and soon after you will come to Dunsop Bridge which, according to the Ordnance Survey, is the official centre of the British Isles. J.R. Tolkien knew the area and may well have taken inspiration from this fact for “Middle Earth” in his Lord of the Rings stories.

From here it’s a straight road through the Trough of Bowland, past Jubilee Tower, to Lancaster where you can visit the castle, see the Shire Hall and enjoy this historic town. You could also carry on to Morecambe Bay for high adrenalin outdoor pursuits such as sailing and parachuting, or park the car and take a walk to see the unique wildlife in the area.

I stayed at the Best Western Mytton Fold Hotel, between Blackburn and Clitheroe, and it was a great base for exploring the Forest of Bowland and more of Lancashire.

Anna Williams is based in the north of England and loves exploring the UK. She has visited many other countries but knows her heart belongs to the British Isles so is on an endless quest to see it all in a lifetime.

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