Walk to Darwen Tower from Sunnyhurst Wood

This walk didn’t go exactly as planned. My daughter and I wanted to walk to Darwen Tower and take in Sunnyhurst Wood on the way. The route was plotted the night before on an Ordnance Survey map and things should have gone well. What we didn’t know was that a section of our planned trail was closed due to work on the Earnsdale and Sunnyhurst Hey reservoirs.

It was an adventurous and enjoyable trip and we managed to get to the tower in the end. However, some of the footpaths we ended up taking were temporary. We did the walk in August 2015 and suspect adjustments may be necessary in the future.

Main Entrance to Sunnyhurst Wood on Earnsdale Road in Darwen
Sunnyhurst Wood – Main Entrance – Earnsdale Road

We parked the car on Earnsdale Road (postcode BB3 1JA), outside the main entrance to Sunnyhurst Wood. From here we walked a couple of hundred yards to the Sunnyhurst Wood Visitor Centre where we picked up a few free walking guides and had a quick look at an art exhibition.

Sunnyhurst Wood Visitor Centre
Sunnyhurst Wood Visitor Centre

There was a long journey ahead with no refreshment stops so we popped next door to the Olde England Kiosk and bought ice cream. We overpaid by a pound, but the lad working behind the counter was honest enough to notice our mistake and bring it the money to our table.

After finishing our ice cream, we headed south west along a well-marked path through Sunnyhurst Wood, passing the Paddling Pool and Bandstand.

Paddling Pool - Sunnyhurst Wood, Darwen, Lancashire
Paddling Pool – Sunnyhurst Wood

Walking further along the path we came to the Fish Pond, a wetland habitat. I spotted what I initially thought was giant hogweed. Closer inspection led me to believe it was cow parsley. I’m no botanist though, so steered well clear of it and advised my daughter to do the same.

Woodland Path - Sunnyhurst Wood
Woodland Path – Sunnyhurst Wood

We soon arrived at the far western entrance to Sunnyhurst Wood, near the Earnsdale Reservoir. United Utilities were carrying out maintenance work on the reservoir and the road across the embankment was completely closed.

Earnsdale Reservoir and Darwen Tower
Earnsdale Reservoir and Darwen Tower

We headed west for a couple of hundred yards, passed through a gate in the stone wall on our left, and took the public footpath south towards Ryal Fold.  We soon came to a cattle field and spotted a couple of bulls amongst the herd. They didn’t look aggressive but as I was with my daughter we decided to climb over the barbed wire fence. We followed our intended route from the safety of a sheep field.

Cattle - Ryal Fold, Darwen, Lancashire
Cattle – Ryal Fold

After safely avoiding the bulls we arrived at Ryal Farm. We needed to pass through the farm gate to continue our journey. However, we were a bit wary of the sound of barking dogs coming from the farmyard. It was a public right of way though, so we took an educated guess that they would be kennelled. We were proved correct.

Ryal Farm. Ryal Fold, Darwen, Lancashire
Ryal Farm
Path from Ryal Farm
Path from Ryal Farm

Shortly after leaving the farm, we went through another gate and took a footpath east towards Sunnyhurst Hey Reservoir.

Approaching the reservoir we realised we couldn’t continue on the route we had planned. The footpaths we had intended to use were closed due to work on the reservoir. Apparently it is no longer need for water storage. United Utilities say a small portion will be turned into a wetland area and the rest will be returned to moorland.

Sunnyhurst Hey Reservoir - August 2015
Sunnyhurst Hey Reservoir – August 2015

We winged it, took a few temporary paths, and then followed a track running along the southern edge of the reservoir. We eventually reached the main track leading to Darwen Tower, but took a well-deserved break before tackling it.

Track to Darwen Tower, Darwen, Lancashire
Track to Darwen Tower

The track was steep but my daughter got a burst of energy as she approached tower, running quickly up the spiral staircase to reach the upper viewing platform. It was a fairly dull day but we could still see much of Lancashire and had great views of Darwen and Blackburn.

Darwen Tower
Darwen Tower
View of Blackburn from Darwen Tower, Lancashire
View of Blackburn

The route back from the tower to our car was all downhill and easy. The footpath brought us out at the Sunnyhurst pub. A pint would have been nice but it was getting late. We walked down Sunnyhurst Lane, and back to the car on Earnsdale Road.

Sunnyhurst Pub, Darwen, Lancashire
Sunnyhurst Pub

Bulls, barking dogs, closed footpaths, and steep assents made this walk fairly difficult. For an easy walk up to Darwen Tower try our walk from Bold Venture Park or just park near the Sunnyhurst pub and take the path directly opposite.

Route Map

Map showing location of Walk to Darwen Tower from Sunnyhurst Wood

Walk Information

Difficulty: Hard
Length: 4.2 miles
Time: 3 hours

GPS Route Map - GPX File

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