Lovely Lancashire is the place to head to for truly unspoiled landscapes far, far away from the creeping urban sprawl of the south. Although it’s sometimes overlooked as a travel destination by the neighbouring beauty spots of the Lake District and Yorkshire, the scenery here is truly wonderful and offers lush green undulating countryside punctuated by proud historic cities and framed on one side by a sweeping coastline. From Blackpool’s pier at sunset to the gently rolling hills of the wonderful Ribble Valley, here are the most beautiful places to visit in Lancashire, England…
Lancaster Castle – one of the best castles to visit in Northern England
Definitely one of the best places to explore in Lancashire, this is located on Castle Hill which has been used to protect the city since Roman times. The predecessor of the castle you see today was probably built of timber sometime during the 11th century by Norman lord, Roger de Poitou. Owners of the Castle changed frequently, including Henry II and Richard the Lionheart, although it saw some skirmishes over the years, it was not regarded as a strategic defence until the Scots invaded in 1322 and again in 1389.
They damaged the castle and Henry IV fortified and rebuilt sections to ensure there were no more successful Scottish incursions. Following the Civil War, the castle was “slighted”, which is partially demolished so that it could no longer be used as a military defense. However, like many other British Castles, it had already been used as a prison prior to this and going forward, this became its primary purpose until 2011.
As well as being one of the best castles to visit in England Lancashire has the unenviable reputation of being the most haunted county in England, and, when you consider the history of the Castle, this should come as no surprise. Although the records of ghostly sightings at Lancaster are infrequent, the Court at the castle is reputed to have sentenced more people to death than any other court in the land.
This included 10 witches when King James I was on the throne. Fortunately, we live in more enlightened times now, and in 2012 the 51 mile “Lancashire Witches Walk” was created, commemorating these women, victims of superstition, 400 years after their death.
Today you can visit the castle and hear more of its grim history, but for some relief after that, you can enjoy the expansive views over the city and pay a visit to the Priory next door.
Lancaster Priory – one of England’s best churches
Another fantastic place to visit in Lancashire, The Priory offers a peaceful contrast to the macabre history of the Castle. From the churchyard, you can look across to Morecambe Bay. A place of sanctuary since Saxon times, the church has a beautiful interior, with magnificent 14th century carved oak choirstalls and misericords.
There are many other beautiful objects to be seen such as flagons and a chalice for holding sacramental wine, and reminders of the church’s history, with relics such as some crusaders’ coffins.
Morecambe Bay – a large estuary in northwest England which is one of the best places to visit in Lancashire
Five rivers drain into Morecambe Bay, which, although much of the land has been reclaimed, retains enough estuarine land to provide sanctuary for birds and coastal marine life.
If you are lucky, you can see oystercatchers and curlew inspecting the flats for food. There are still cockle and mussel banks, that have sustained local for centuries. At low tide, much of the sand flats are exposed, and it is possible to cross to some of the small islands, although with caution, as there is quicksands here and the tide comes in very quickly.
Morecambe Bay is famous for its sunsets, which you can watch from various spots along the bay if you stay overnight. Hest Bank, an attractive village on the Bay, overlooks the salt flats and has guided walks across the sand flats. A bit farther north is the village of Heysham, with a history of Viking settlement. There is plenty to see and do in Heysham, including the 8th century St Peter’s Church, the remains of a chapel, and the eerie graves carved into rock overlooking the bay.
Lytham St Annes – a charming and popular seaside town to explore in Lancashire
Just south of Blackpool airport lies the charming and easy-on-the-eye seaside town of Lytham St Annes. It is actually 4 towns rolled up in one; Lytham, Saint Anne’s-on-the-Sea, Ansdell, and Fairhaven. The town is quite different from and a lot quieter than its northern neighbour, although there is plenty to see and do, like strolling along St Anne’s magnificent Victorian Pier.
There are lots of opportunities for the nature watcher; there is the Witchwood Walk, a narrow band of woodlands along the railway line, which contains indigenous English trees and is a good place to spot birds and the occasional wildlife. The river Ribble meets the sea in an estuary which is an Important Bird Area, with thousands of waders such as godwits and sanderlings patrolling the sand flats in the search for food.
It is estimated that more than 100 000 birds overwinter on the estuary. There is a sand dune system that has been proclaimed as a nature reserve, which is home to many species of plants and birds that are typical for the habitat, such as stonechats.
There is also a stately Georgian mansion, Lytham Hall, surrounded by 72 acres of parkland, although there were earlier buildings preceding it, starting with a record in the Domesday Book.
West Pennine Moors – a wild and unspoilt rural haven and one of the most stunning places to visit in Lancashire
Towards the south of Lancashire and crossing over to Greater Manchester (which was formerly part of Lancashire) are the stunning West Pennine Moors which are definitely one of the most beautiful places to visti in Lancashire. Mainly in the vicinity of Chorley and Darwen, there are several distinct moorlands, low hills covered by heath and grass, interspersed with peat bogs, which form complex ecosystems.
It is believed that the Pennine Moors were originally forested, but during Mesolithic times the trees and woodlands disappeared, resulting in the moors. Whether this was due to human activity, climate change or a combination of both is uncertain. What was created by man are the reservoirs in the valleys between the moors, which are vital sources of supply to the adjoining towns and cities.
The moors cover 90 square miles of countryside and offer a variety of walks of different lengths, taking you through countryside and small picturesque villages, with landmarks such as the Jubilee Tower on Darwen Hill, built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.
Rivington – one of the prettiest villages to visit in Lancashire
Situated in the West Pennine Moors, Rivington is a small and pretty Lancashire village that was radically altered when its valleys (and some houses) were flooded to create reservoirs to supply Liverpool with water.
There are wonderful panoramic views of the Pennines from Winter Hill, above the town. There is a tower upon the Rivington Pike, the highest point of Winter Hill which was built in 1733 as a hunting lodge. During the 1960s, Liverpool planned to demolish the Rivington Pike Tower, but thanks to a public outcry, it still stands and has had some restoration work done to it.
After walking to the summit of Winter Hill, you can relax a bit by walking round the village which has several listed buildings, including Rivington Hall. If you visit Rivington Gardens you will see the Pigeon Tower which has been lovingly restored, as has the walkway towards it.
Pendle Hill – an atmospheric and brooding hill to explore in Lancashire
Pendle Hill is a steep and arduous climb, but around 300 000 people climb it every year for the spectacular views of Lancashire to be seen from the summit. In fact, the view was so inspiring for George Fox that he envisioned a new religious sect, the Quakers, while contemplating the view.
The starting point is little Barley village. Of course, Pendle is also notorious as the place from where the Pendle witches hailed.
While there are several towns in the vicinity of the Hill, special mention must be made of Downham, at the foot of the hill. The village falls under the aegis of the current Lord Clitheroe, Ralph Assheton, and he manages it in the style of days gone by. While you might expect that the villagers would resent the fact that nothing happens without his approval, they in fact welcome how well-run the village is, and its pleasant appearance.
Rufford Old Hall – a beautiful Tudor building surrounded by Victorian and Edwardian gardens
For 500 years the Heskeths owned Rufford Old Hall, bequeathing it to the National Trust in 1936. The centre of attraction is the Great Hall, a Tudor masterpiece, decorated with tapestries, armour and a magnificent oak screen.
It is rumoured that a young Will Shakespeare acted under this roof around 1585. Like many of the older buildings in Lancashire, it is reputed to be haunted. The attractive gardens are typical of Victorian and Edwardian landscaping, and some woodland grows in front of the building.
Forest of Bowland – a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The Forest of Bowland is Lancashire, it covers a large part of the county, 800 square kilometres, and includes many places of interest and other natural sites such as the Ribble Valley.
Despite its size, the total population is only 16 000 people living in hamlets and villages. It is a Designated area of Natural Beauty, with a wide range of habitats, but it is the moorlands and fells that are most important (the word “Forest” is used in its original meaning, a piece of land reserved for the Royals’ or a Lord’s use from the Latin “forestis”, meaning outdoors).
It is possible to spend many days exploring the beautiful Forest; there are many listed buildings, walks of every degree of difficulty and the charming villages. There are interesting towns, such as Garstang, and picturesque villages like Dunsop Bridge, from where you can walk through the scenic Trough of Bowland.
Garstang holds a weekly market on Saturdays, which has been held for the last 700 years. It lies alongside the rivers Wyre and Calder, and is part of the Lancaster Canal route.
Ribble Valley – a famous Lancashire beauty spot known for its scenic countryside
Most of the Ribble Valley lies within the Forest of Bowland, to the east of Lancashire. Predominantly rural, it has been declared an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as well as the happiest place to live in Britain. Apart from lovely natural scenery, such as you will find along the banks of the River Ribble, there are historic buildings and convivial places to eat and stay. For an outstanding view over the Valley, why not visit Clitheroe Castle and take in the sights from Castle Hill. The Castle contains a museum that takes you through 350 000 years of history.
Also from a historical perspective you can traverse from Roman times experienced at the Ribchester Roman Museum, which is built on the site of a Roman fort in this charming village, to the tenth century remains of Sawley Cistercian Abbey and its fourteenth-century counterpart, Whalley Abbey.
The oldest mansion in Lancashire, Brownsholme Hall is to be found in Ribble Valley. It is a fine example of an Elizabethan manor. If you visit the village of Hurst Green, do not miss Stonyhurst College, which was an inspiration to the author J.R.R. Tolkien.
Beacon Fell – a beautiful place to explore in Lancashire that is home to woodland, moorland and farmland.
Beacon Fell summit is almost 900 feet above sea level and boasts spectacular views of the Forest of Bowland and Morecambe Bay. The park spans over 271 acres of woodland, moorland, and farmland and has around 250,000 visitors per year.
Wycoller Country Park – one of the prettiest Country Parks in Lancashire which also has ties with the Bronte sisters
Close to the border with Yorkshire is the village of Wycoller, which dates back to Saxon times. It is a very small hamlet, which almost became abandoned, but is now being revived. The cause for its decline was the Industrial Revolution when cotton mills reduced the demand for Wycoller’s sheep-farming and production of woolen textiles.
Most tourists visit Wycoller today to stroll through the 350 acres of Wycoller Country Park, the lands surrounding Wycoller Hall. The Hall is now in ruins, but has an interesting history; the Brontë sisters used to visit frequently, and, based on the descriptions in her book, Charlotte Brontë used Wycoller Hall as the inspiration for Ferndean, Mr Rochester’s second home in Jane Eyre.
No place in Lancashire seems to lack ghosts, and Wycoller is no exception. Not only does it have human spectres, it also has a dog and horses. The Cunliffe men were definitely not good marriage material; two of them were rumoured to have murdered their wives. The first ghost is Simon Cunliffe, who appears galloping up the stairs on a ghostly horse.
He then either killed his wife or she died of fright. Her ghost can also be encountered wandering through the ruined hall. Another Cunliffe married a woman he met in the West Indies and had second thoughts about the marriage travelling home, and threw her overboard. She is known as “Black Bess” and can also be encountered by the brave visitor.
Astley Hall – a beautiful country house in Chorley, Lancashire
This Hall, ancestral home of the Charnocks and later, by marriage, of the Brookes, dates back to Tudor times, with various additions in the 1600s and 1800s. In 1922, Reginald Tatton transferred ownership to the Chorley Corporation, with the intent of using it as a memorial to local servicemen killed during the Great War. It has since been managed as a museum. It has many impressive relics, such as furniture and Flemish tapestries, what it is famous, if not notorious for, is the elaborate and over-the-top Jacobean plasterwork executed during the mid-17th century.
The grounds are impressive and beautiful and have recently been renovated with assistance from the Lottery Fund. There are about 40 hectares of woodlands and gardens, including a sensory garden and a cenotaph to the fallen soldiers.
Blackpool Central Pier at Sunset – a stunning made-made attraction in Lancashire
While Blackpool may not be on the top of your places to visit in Lancashire, add Central Pier to your list. North Pier was Blackpool’s original pier, a place for leisurely strolls and taking in the sea air, built in the 1860s.
So successful was North Pier, that it was quickly decided to build Central Pier in 1864, followed by South Pier 30 years later. Central Pier is usually not a place for relaxation; arcades, bars, and a Ferris wheel provide entertainment, but at sunset, the pier becomes a magnet for photographers. Many photographers wait for the critical moment to photograph the Pier, with the iconic Ferris wheel as part of the composition.
Burscough – a small Lancashire town which is home to a number of interesting attractions
Burscough is a small town near to Ormskirk that has several attractions for visitors. Its origins can be traced back to Viking settlements and it was also an important religious centre, although only the ruins of Burscough Priory remain now. The Priory was founded in 1190 and dissolved by Act of Parliament in 1536. Several tombs in the Priory were moved to Ormskirk Priory Church, as well as 8 of the bells, while the remaining bells can now be found in Croston Church.
Burscough lies in the middle of the Lancashire Plains, which made it a natural site for part of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, the construction of which brought new residents to the town. You can walk or cycle along the towpaths of the canal.
Tarlscough, which is part of Burscough parish, has an important wildlife refuge, the Martin Mere Wetlands. It has pens of exotic fowls from Africa, Australia, Siberia and other biomes, but is an important site for local birds, such as pink-footed geese and whooper swans, but there are many other possibilities for the dedicated twitcher, such as overwintering peregrines.
Williamson Park – a sprawling parkland which is home to enchanting walks
Williamson Park is a favourite place for Lancastrians to relax. Set atop a hill, with 54 acres of woodland to meander through, there are wonderful views across Morecambe Bay and the Lakeland mountains to the west and the Forest of Bowland to the east. At the summit of the park sits the Ashton Memorial, built by the first Lord Ashton in 1909 to commemorate the memory of his wife Jessy.
One of the many attractions of the Park is the Butterfly House. Originally serving as a greenhouse for palms in Edwardian days, it has been converted into a rainforest habitat. Tyhere are beautiful butterflies, such as Blue Morphos, but look out for other interesting species, like tortoises hiding in the shrubbery and Koi in the ponds.