Set within the Forest of Bowland, Beacon Fell Country Park provides an idyllic getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Beacon Fell lies at the park’s heart and rises 873 feet above sea level. From this vantage point, unforgettable sights abound. On a clear day, you can see the Isle of Man. Apart from the spectacular scenery, the park is also home to abundant wildlife, including roe deer, stoats, and weasels.
With its miles of public footpaths and trails, the park is a wonderful place to hike, bike, or simply meander through nature.
Beacon Fell has a long and storied history going back over a thousand years. Its lofty height made it an ideal spot for placing warning beacons lit to signal approaching threats from invading forces.
In 1588, a beacon on the fell was part of a chain that warned England of the approaching Spanish Armada. In the nineteenth century, beacons on the fell warned of potential French incursions during the Napoleonic Wars. More recently, beacon chains on Beacon Fell have been lit to celebrate coronations, jubilees, and other historic occasions.
For much of its history, Beacon Fell was moorland and farmland. In 1909, the area was purchased by Fulwood Urban District Council as a water supply source. The council planted conifer trees across the hill to help with drainage and water collection. Water from the fell fed the Barnsfold Reservoirs that supplied the Fulwood area of Preston.
From the early 1960s, the fell was no longer needed for water supply, and the woodland began languishing. Lancashire County Council purchased the area in 1969. They built roads, added parking areas, and constructed the visitor centre. It opened as a country park in 1970 and now attracts several hundred thousand visitors yearly.
At 873 feet above sea level, the summit of Beacon Fell is lower than many other hills in the Forest of Bowland. However, its isolated position offers breathtaking 360-degree views across Lancashire and North West England.
To the west, sights include the Fylde and the iconic Blackpool Tower. Looking north and northeast, visitors can marvel at the rolling hills of the Forest of Bowland, such as Fair Snape Fell and Parlick. The eastern view includes Chipping, Pendle Hill, and Longridge. The southern vista encompasses Preston. Morecambe Bay, the distant Welsh hills, the Lake District hills, and the Isle of Man add to the visual spectacle on clear days.
The panoramic views make the modest climb to the top of the hill well worth the effort. On the way up, glimpses of the summit tease you through the trees. Once at the top, the landscape unfolds in all directions, giving you a new appreciation for the natural beauty of Lancashire.
Walks – Exploring the Park’s Trails – Woodland Trail
Several marked trails begin at the visitor centre. Maps of the park are available, and there’s usually a ranger on hand to provide advice.
All of the walks are manageable, and all can be completed in less than an hour. On our last visit, we decided to walk the Woodland Trail. The walk took us along the southern and eastern edges of the park and then up to the summit. Other trails are the Fellside Trail and the Summit Trail. Mountain bikers and horse riders can use the Fellside Trail.
Facilities and Features
The Bowland Visitor Centre, in addition to providing information and guidance, also houses a cosy cafe serving refreshments. Ample indoor and outdoor seating allows visitors to take a break and soak in the park’s serene ambience.
The public toilets, adjacent to the centre, have been immaculately clean whenever we have visited.
There are several sculptures throughout the park. Some lie on the trails and are easy to spot. Others are in the woods and require some poking around to find. Sculptures include Orme Sight, Black Tiger, and Walking Snake, all by local artist Thompson Dagnall.
Beacon Fell Tarn, at the park’s eastern end, was originally constructed as a water source for firefighting. It is now an important habitat for dragonflies and damselflies. They can be spotted in the summer months.
At the time of writing (July 2023), the park has no playground. There are a couple of rope bridges in the woods to the east of the visitor centre, near the Walking Snake sculpture.
Details of upcoming events, park news, and the latest cafe opening times are published on the park’s official Facebook page.
Beacon Fell is a dog-friendly park, so feel free to bring along your canine companions. However, visitors are requested that dogs be kept under close control and away from wildlife. Please remember to clean up after your dog and dispose of waste responsibly.
Location and Getting There
Beacon Fell Country Park lies at the southwestern corner of the Forest of Bowland, approximately 8 miles north of Preston.
The park is well-signposted from nearby places such as Broughton, Chipping and Longridge. The drive through the beautiful countryside is an experience in itself. Owners of satellite navigation systems can use the postcode PR3 2NL to find it.
Beacon Fell Road is a narrow, one-way road around the park’s perimeter. There are several car parks around Beacon Fell. Most are on the southern edge of the park and are free. There’s a modest charge at the main car park near the visitor centre and cafe.
Some car parks also offer picnic areas (e.g. Quarry Car Park, Carwags Car Park, and Sheepfold Car Park).
Barbeques are not permitted in the park due to the fire risk. There is a barbeque area at the Carwags Picnic Area. This picnic site is on Carwags Lane, just east of the park.
Unfortunately, getting to the park using public transportation is not feasible. There are no train stations nearby. Additionally, no bus services go directly to Beacon Fell Country Park or stop within walking distance. Visitors relying on public transport can go to Preston Train Station or Preston Bus Station and then take a taxi for the last stretch of the journey.
Other Attractions around Preston and the Forest of Bowland
In addition to exploring Beacon Fell Country Park, visitors may want to check out other nearby attractions that showcase the beauty and heritage of the region.
Many of these attractions can be reached via public transport, making them accessible without a car.
Avenham Park and Miller Park lie side by side in Preston city centre. Located on the bank of the River Ribble and easily accessible by public transport, they offer beautiful landscapes, historical structures, and an array of amenities, including a cafe.
Cuerden Valley Park is a beautiful nature reserve near Bamber Bridge, with 650 acres of woodland, parkland, and agricultural fields. It offers hiking trails, picnic spots, and a cafe for refreshments.
The British Commercial Vehicle Museum in Leyland is a treat for motor enthusiasts. The museum showcases a comprehensive collection of vintage commercial vehicles, from buses and fire engines to early horse-drawn vehicles.
Worden Park in Leyland features expansive green spaces, woodland, and formal gardens. Attractions include a craft centre, a hedge maze, and a miniature railway, making it an excellent spot for family fun.
Brockholes is a unique nature reserve on the site of a former quarry. It’s home to an impressive array of wildlife and features a floating visitor village with a restaurant, shops, and a conference centre. The reserve offers numerous walking trails and bird-watching opportunities.
Samlesbury Hall is a historic manor house dating back to 1325. Its period furnishings and beautifully preserved architecture offer a glimpse into the past.
In the heart of the Forest of Bowland, Bowland Wild Boar Park is home to various animals, including wild boar, deer, and meerkats. It offers tractor rides, a cafe, and riverside walks.
Pendle Hill is famous for its historical association with witch trials and offers breathtaking views over Lancashire. A hike to the top is a must for outdoor enthusiasts. Our walk to the top of Pendle Hill starts at Barley Picnic Site in Barley. Barley is also home to the Pendle Sculpture Trail.
The Tolkien Trail explores the Ribble Valley landscape, which inspired J.R.R. Tolkien while writing The Lord of the Rings. The circular route starts and finishes at Hurst Green and passes by various notable sites, including Stonyhurst College.