The historic center of Lancashire is the city of Lancaster, England shaped by the Lune River and the Lancaster Canal. The city was a central hub for imported goods during the Industrial Revolution. It is easy to reach from all over England as it is just a few hours from London and Edinburgh on the West Coast Railway Line.
Also, it’s just a few hours’ drive from Manchester and Leeds. It is surrounded by nature in all directions and close to several national parks as well as the Forest of Bowland AONB nature preserve. These are 6 noteworthy hikes close to the city of Lancaster.
The Tolkien Trail
A trail that follows the footsteps of J.R.R. Tolkien is located 45 minutes from Lancaster, England. It is especially known to have inspired the author as he spent considerable time in the area while working on The Lord of the Rings. People have found connections with the landscape near Stonyhurst College where Tolkien stayed. It is also surrounded by the Ribble Valley. Tolkien was renowned for his love for nature and wooded landscapes. Several names found in The Lord of the Rings novels are similar to those found in this area. Some of these are Shire Lane and River Shirebourn, similar to the family name who built Stonyhurst.
The trail starts and finishes at Shirebourn Arms in Hurst Green, which offers budget accommodation for people to stay the night. It is a 6.7-mile loop primarily used for hiking, walking, and trail running. It’s rated for every skill level. The entire trail is picturesque with lush landscapes and scenic views. It is easy to follow on mainly flat terrain except in two or three areas. Also, it is dog-friendly with many options for picnic spots.
The easiest way to reach the trail is by bus from either Lancaster or Clitheroe. Sturdy hiking shoes are recommended as it gets muddy close to the river. When finished with the trail, you can grab a pint at the local English pub next to the trailhead.
Ribble Valley Walk
Ribble Valley Walk is a circuit that’s known for taking John Lenon through the countryside. It also takes him to some of the finest watering holes. The trail begins in the village of Pendleton which is tucked away at the bottom of Pendle Hill. The town itself has a vast history with old wives’ tales and stories of witchcraft. Additional ancient villages can be found in this town with cheap taverns and English restaurants. Pendleton is a quaint village with a stream running through the main street. The Swan with Two Necks is one of the highest regarded pubs with a coaching inn for backpackers to stay.
The hike itself to and from there is 10 miles. It’s relatively easy as it stays at the same level the majority of the way. The route follows the base of Pendle Hill, which extends all the way to the town of Downham, crossing several open green fields. Along the path, you’ll reach a farm at the bottom of Warsaw Hill where the film Whistle Down the Wind was filmed from the early 1960s.
An ancient lane can be found close to the film location, which runs from Pendleton Hall to Little Mearley Hall with lines of hawthorns and parallel ditches. Little Mearley Hall has a history dating back to the end of the 16th century, with most of its original structure intact. It is surrounded by other historic buildings from the post-medieval era.
River Lune Millennium Park & Riverside Loop
From the banks of the Lune in Bull Beck to Salt Ayre in Lancaster, England is the River Lune Millennium Park and Riverside loop. It stretches nearly 10 miles with a linked footpath and cycleway decorated with inspirational artwork and information points. The Millennium Bridge is a cable suspension bridge serving as a pathway between Lancaster and Caton.
The River Lune is acclaimed for its salmon and trout fishing. The river is wide and not fast flowing, making for a relaxing and peaceful walk along its side. It tells a story of how the people of Lancaster, England used waterways to make a living using their profits for investing in real community wealth like health and educational institutions.
In the first part of the walk, you’ll come across the village of Whittington, which offers a spectacular church and quaint historic streets. The walk eventually crosses the Devil’s Bridge, leading you by the village of Kirkby Lonsdale. Kirkby Lonsdale is known to be a very ancient settlement as the Romans Saxons, Normans, and Danes carved an impression.
This town was included in the Domesday Book of 1086, which was a manuscript of the Great Survey. Many hostels are found in Kirkby Lonsdale along with several pubs. For this reason, it’s the best place to stay at if you want to stretch the walk over a few days.
Ingleton Waterfalls Trail
A scenic walk through trees offering views of real Yorkshire is the well-known Ingleton Waterfalls Trail. It begins and ends in the village of Ingleton of the English county of North Yorkshire. The walk follows a well-designed footpath that runs along the edge of two rivers. There are many steps and benches along the way.
The trail continues to offer views of the 60-foot falls flowing into the Rival River. Eventually leading into the Baxenghyl Gorge. The walk is absolutely beautiful and strenuous in parts, so it’s recommended to have decent walking shoes. As it is situated on private land, there is an entrance fee of about $7 and parking is included. A United Kingdom Government agency called English Nature designated the trail as a Site of Specific Scientific Interest, given its diversity of plants and animals.
Pendle Sculpture Trail
About an hour drive southeast from Lancaster, England, through the Forest of Bowland AONB, is the Pendle Sculpture Trail. This is a truly unique trail that offers ten ceramic plaques; each providing its own unique symbols representing each of the native Pendle people. These people had been hung nearly 400 years ago in the largest witchcraft trial, known as the Pendle Witches.
Stunning artwork from Philippe Handford can be found, along with the plaques including tumbling tree arches and life-size sculptures of bats and spiders. These sculptures include a figure of Witchfinder General, which was a popular British horror movie made in the late 1960s on witchcraft. The plaques, artwork, and sculptures blend together nicely in the Aitken Wood setting with a stunning backdrop of Pendle Hill.
The trailhead is a mile from the Barley Car Park, which costs less than $2 to park. At the entrance, you’ll find a small family-owned café and beautiful views of Pendle Hill. The start of the trail takes you uphill for a stretch until you reach the dense forest of Aitken Wood. Using a trail booklet will help you locate the witches’ plaques as they can be hard to find. On many days, you’ll encounter dense fog, which adds to the mysterious nature of the trail.
Malham Tarn Upland Farm Walk
An area of ancient limestone pastures and upland hill farms is found in the beautiful town of Malham. Malham is about an hour drive east of Lancaster, England. The Malham Tarn Upland Farm Walk is one of the many great hikes found in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It features England’s highest lime-rich lake. It is also home to a unique community of rare plants and animals especially birds.
The walk also offers views of pleasant moorland uplands with lower-rich hay meadows and rousing vistas. The trail begins with a view of the Scare Ferns, which is a magnificent ledge shaped by glaciers during the ice age. You will eventually pass the historic Tarn and Orchid houses with a unique community of rare plants.
You’ll then pass the bird hide. It’s a great area to view several rare birds like the grebe, tufted duck, goosander, wigeon, and the hen harrier. The hike is nearly 7 miles in total and rated as easy with very little elevation gain. It is highly recommended to bring binoculars given all of the rare species of birds you encounter.