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Days Out in Lancashire
Whether you are staying in the county on holiday or live here, there are lots of options if you want to spend a day out in Lancashire. Some of the options, such as visiting Clitheroe Castle are cheap or even free, others, such as the guided ride along the Mary Townley trail, are quite expensive, but worth saving up for or having as your extra special treat whilst you're on holiday.
Ride the Mary Townley Loop
Cost – free if you have your own bicycle or horse or want to walk.
Bicycles can be hired from RideOn in Rawtenstall , which can cost up to £50 per day. You must take a valid credit/debit card and proof of identity such as driving licence.
Peers Clough Pack Horses offers accompanied day rides in the area and holidays where you can ride the whole of the loop with them. Their horses are mostly locally bred fell ponies, which were traditionally used as pack horses throughout northern England. An hour ride costs £22.00, a day ride £75.00.
When – throughout the year, but it can be quite boggy in places in winter and spring.
Where – the South Pennines between Burnley and Rochdale.
The Mary Townley Loop is part of a national long distance bridleway being developed for horse riders, cyclists and walkers. Much of the loop is off road and hilly. The full loop is 47 miles long so whilst it is possible for very fit horses and fit mountain cyclists to complete it in a day, it is more realistic to select a stretch of it to cover in one day.
One of my favourite sections of the route is between Hurstwood and Widdop Reservoir. There is ample parking for horse boxes as well as cars in the car park at the end of the road through the village.
The track here tends to be pretty good even in winter if you go and comeback by the same route. Or you can do a short circuit heading from Hurstwood past Hurstwood reservoir on the Mary Townley loop. Turn right at the top of the track towards Widdop reservoir then take the bridle path which forks off the loop to the right down to Cant Clough Reservoir and back down to Hurstwood. This can easily be done in under two hours on foot or by horseback. Parts of this shorter route can be boggy after heavy rain.
Clitheroe is a small market town to the North of Pendle Hill. It is a good base for a holiday if you want to visit Lancashire and the Yorkshire Dales because Settle, on the edge of the dales, can be reached by car in ½ an hour. Due to the random nature of train routes the quickest train journey between the two takes 3 hours. Even if you are not Bradley Wiggins, you could cycle there faster!
There is plenty to do in Clitheroe itself as well.
Cost – free to walk around the grounds onto the ramparts and into the keep.
Museum – £4.10 for an adult. Accompanying children go in free.
You can buy a pass at the museum for £12 which allows you unlimited access to 13 of Lancashire’s museums for 12 months.
When – throughout the year, but between March and November the Castle Museum is closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Clitheroe Castle is a Norman castle built in 1186 by the de lacy family to protect a local trade route. Although it was described as very ruinous in 1602 it was refortified during the civil war and Prince Rupert stayed in it during June 1644. Other running repairs have been made throughout its history.
Some of the things to see in the castle grounds are a war memorial, traditional bandstand, rose garden, museum, café, and a series of date plaques with raised pictures of the history of Clitheroe and explanations in braille.
There is also a bowling green (for lawn bowls), children's playground and skate park and whilst I’m no skate boarder, it is the biggest and most varied skate park that I know of locally and could well be the best in the county.
Clitheroe Car Boot Sale
Cost - £2.00/person if you're there first thing and spending money. £1.00 after midday.
When – Sundays throughout the year. General public admission from 8am-4pm
Where – The cattle market off Lincoln Way
If you enjoy wandering around looking for second hand goods and unexpected treasures, Clitheroe Car Boot sale is one of the largest and longest running in the county. As well as the usual run of locals selling items from tidying up their houses, there also antiques and collectibles stalls. A lot of the stalls are under cover and even the outdoor areas are hard standing, so it's a good visit even in the rain.
If there is a group of you, adults or children, it can be fun to set a challenge, such as who can find the best, funniest, ugliest, biggest, weirdest (you select the adjective) item for one pound or less.
Crinoids and Wild Flowers
Cost – free
When – all year for the crinoids, spring and summer for wild flowers.
Where – Salthill Nature Reserve off Lincoln Way.
There is a site of national geological importance in Clitheroe thanks to a limestone outcrop in which millions of fossils, mostly of crinoids, can be seen. Crinoids are also known as sea lilies.
The crinoids can be seen at the nature reserve in Lincoln Way industrial estate. When you arrive you will initially be underwhelmed. It doesn’t look very promising having a nature reserve amidst an industrial estate! However, take the path which leads from the parking area. There is a barrier round the main exposed outcrop to prevent people attempting to climb it, but follow the path along and you come to a section where you can go right up to the rock face and have a really good look at the fossils within it.
Once you’ve admired the crinoids, in spring and summer it is always worth taking a look at the wild flowers. The best area is across the road opposite the parking area.
Follow the path around and you will see harebells, ladies bedstraw, knapweed, melilot and weld, then you come to an area which is the best wildflower meadow I’ve seen in Lancashire. Some of the flowers in the meadow are betony, meadowsweet, scabious and meadow vetchling. As you might expect the wild flowers draw in insects such as bumblebees, honey bees, butterflies and day flying moths.
In June you may be lucky and find bee orchids in flower.
Cost – Adults £11.45 Children £5.45
When – throughout the year, but late autumn and winter are particularly good for overwintering migrant wildfowl.
Where – Martin Mere Wetland Centre, Burscough
If you have even the slightest interest in birds this is a place you’ll want to visit if you come to Lancashire. It is renowned for the amazing spectacle of the wild swan feeds in winter, but during the rest of the year there is plenty to see as well. It is very easy to spend a day there. And like me, you might find that once you’ve been once, you’re hooked and want to go again and again.
Part of the site is devoted to captive breeding programmes for wildfowl from around the world such as the Hawaiian goose (ne-ne), Chilean flamingo and the falcated duck which I feel should be awarded a prize for ‘best bottom’! There are also beavers and otters.
Much of the rest of the site is given over to 500 acres of a variety of wetland habitats which are managed to encourage biodiversity and welcome in native bird species such as marsh harriers, kingfishers and reed buntings and migrants including the whooper swans, avocets and redshank. There is a nature trail around the site with 10 hides which afford excellent and often very close up views of the wildlife.
There are other activities such as an adventure playground for children, a pond zone for pond dipping and canoe and boat tours so that you can enjoy the wildlife from water level.
There is a café on site which is jolly welcome, especially on a cold winter’s day after you’ve been glued to the action happening outside one of the hides for several hours.
Which Would You Choose?
If you could pick only one day out in Lancashire, which would it be?
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Cost – If you order online before midnight the day before your visit: £25 for over 12s. £20 for under 12s. More expensive at the gate on the day. If you don’t want to go on the rides you can buy a £5.00 pass to the site.
When – Open daily between June and October. Closed December and January. Open some days the other months – but check online first.
Where – The sea front near the South Pier, Blackpool.
Students at the college where I work all assure me that they have really enjoyed their visits to Blackpool Pleasure beach. It is the place to go in Lancashire if you enjoy rides such as roller coasters. For example their ‘Avalanche’ ride is the UK’s only bobsled roller coaster and ‘Grand National’ is a classic roller coaster from 1935 where two trains race against each other on parallel tracks. Height restrictions tend to apply on the big rides, but there are also less dramatic ‘family’ rides such as ‘River caves’ and dodgems.
I hate to sound like a wimp, but I’m not a thrill seeker, so I haven’t experienced any of these. You’ll just have to take the word of hundreds of students who say that “Blackpool Pleasure Beach has some great rides!”
Where to Go for Days out in Lancashire
Good starting point for the Mary Townley Loop
Clitheroe - for the castle, car boot and crinoids
For wild birds and the waterfowl collection
For the zoo, pleasure beach and tower.