The Ribble Valley is a mainly rural area in the north east of Lancashire. It is the largest district in Lancashire but has the smallest population. Although almost two thirds of its area has been designated by England’s Countryside Agency as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty it fails to attract the mass hoards that flock to the Lake District.
The only towns of significant size are Clitheroe and Longridge. Villages include Bashall Eaves, Bolton-by-Bowland, Chipping, Downham, Dunsop Bridge, Gisburn, Hurst Green, Mitton, Ribchester, Sawley, Slaidburn, Waddington, West Bradford, Whalley, Whitewell, and Worston.
Clitheroe is dominated by its 800 year old castle. Its grounds are home to the Clitheroe Castle Museum, reopened in 2009 following a multi-million pound makeover, plus a labyrinth, skate park, and children’s play area.
The Grand is Clitheroe’s premier live music and entertainment venue. The building originally opened in 1873 as Clitheroe Public Hall but was converted to the Grand Cinema in 1921. It reopened in 2008 its present guise following a £3 million conversion. Facilities include a 400 person capacity auditorium, a café and bar, recording studio, and conference facilities.
The only dedicated cinema in the Ribble Valley is the single screen Palace in Longridge. Nearby options include the Vue and Odeon in Preston, the Vue in Blackburn, and the Apollo in Burnley.
The Platform Gallery is housed a converted railway building in Clitheroe and features exhibitions of contemporary crafts by local and national artists. A varied programme of craft workshops is also offered. Jewellery, ceramics, textiles, and other handmade items can be purchased from the shop.
Gisburn Forest, part of the Forest of Bowland, is the largest wooded area in Lancashire. It offers a good selection of walks and mountain bike trails.
The Ribble Valley Sculpture Trail begins at Brungerley Park, just outside Clitheroe town centre, and runs alongside the River Ribble to the Cross Hill Nature Reserve. It was established in 1993 and was the first sculpture trail in Lancashire. The trail is now home to more than 20 permanent works by artists such as Thompson Dagnall, Halima Cassell, and Paul Smith.
According to the Ordnance Survey, the village of Dunsop Bridge is at the geographical centre of Great Britain. In 1992 British Telecom recognised this fact by installing its 100,000th telephone box here. A plaque on the phone reads ‘You are calling from the BT payphone that marks the centre of Great Britain’.
Bowland Wild Boar Park lies 3 miles south of Dunsop Bridge and offers a great day out for families. In addition to wild boars, the park is also home to llamas, cows and other animals, plus an adventure playground, cafe, and more.
Hurst Green is best known for its famous public school, Stonyhurst College. JRR Tolkien was a frequent visitor and wrote much of the Lord of the Rings here. Guide tours of the school are offered throughout the summer holidays.
Pubs & Restaurants
The Ribble Valley is home to some of the best country pubs and restaurants in North West England. Highlights include the Assheton Arms in Downham, the Bayley Arms and Shireburn Arms in Hurst Green, the Calf’s Head in Worston, the Inn at Whitewell, the Red Pump Inn at Bashall Eaves, the Spread Eagle Inn at Sawley, the Three Fishes at Mitton, and the Waddington Arms.
The Ribble Valley has a great reputation for its high quality specialist shops. Stores in Clitheroe include Cowman’s Famous Sausage Shop, a traditional butchers shop known for its huge selection of sausages, and D Byrne & Co on King Street, widely regarded as one of the best wine merchants in the country.
Bashall Barn started life as a small farm shop but now boasts a large retail outlet, coffee shop and ice cream parlour, and an award-winning restaurant. The Bowland Brewery is also here and produces award-winning real ales such as Sawley Tempted and Bowland Gold. Customers can watch the brewers at work through the viewing windows at the visitor centre.
Backridge Farm lies one mile southwest of Waddington and houses a number of independent businesses in converted farm buildings. Products on sale include handcrafted candles, pet furniture, handbags, vintage clothing, art, and bespoke furniture. There’s also a restaurant offering locally produced food and drink.
Clitheroe Market is a traditional market offering a wide range of products such as fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, bread, cheese, clothes, curtains, carpets, and electrical goods. It’s situated on New Market Street in the town centre, close to the train station. General market days are Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. An antique/flea market is held on Fridays.