Lying within the Forest of Bowland, Gisburn Forest is the largest forest in Lancashire. Although still very much a working forest, it offers plenty of leisure opportunities for visitors.
The forest offers the best mountain biking in Lancashire. Bottoms Beck is a 6 mile long blue-graded trail suitable for beginners and young riders while ‘The 8’ is a difficult 11 mile red-graded route with two distinct loops. Highlights on ‘The 8’ include Home Baked, so named because it was built by volunteers, and Hully Gully, a rollercoaster type section with massive berms. Optional black-graded sections on ‘The 8’ are clearly marked.
The official starting point for both trails is the Forestry Commission’s Cocklet Hill Car Park although many riders prefer to start at the Dog & Partridge in Tosside (postcode BD23 4SQ). The pub offers a good selection of real ales, home-cooked food, accommodation, wireless internet access, free car parking, and bike washing facilities.
Three waymarked walks offer a great way to explore the forest. All start at the Stocks Reservoir Car Park at the bottom of School Lane. The White Trail offers a gentle 1¼ mile long walk with fine views of Stocks Reservoir while the Blue Trail is a 2 mile walk through mixed woodland. The Red Trail is 3¼ miles long and combines the best parts of the two shorter trails. To navigate any trail, simply follow the white, blue, or red markers.
Stocks Reservoir lies immediately south west of the forest and also offers plenty of leisure activities. It was opened by Prince George in 1932 and holds around 2½ billion gallons of water when full. An 8-mile circular waymarked walk around the reservoir starts and ends at the Stocks Reservoir Car Park.
The reservoir is a haven for wildfowl and waders, best viewed from the bird hide close to the car park. It is also well stocked with trout and Stocks Fly Fishery offer fishing tickets and boat hire and also a café for both fishermen and walkers.
The nearest villages to Gisburn Forest are Slaidburn and Tosside. To reach the forest from Slaidburn, take the B6478 (signposted for Settle and Gisburn Forest). After driving for 3 miles turn left at the junction onto the unmarked road (there’s a brown tourist sign marked ‘Gisburn Forest’ here and also a telephone box and post box). The Cocklet Hill Car Park is ½ mile down the road. The Stocks Reservoir Car Park is 1½ miles further on.