The Tolkien Trail is one of the most popular walks in Lancashire. The circular route is 6 miles long. It starts in Hurst Green, a small village in the Ribble Valley.
The walk takes its name from JRR Tolkien. The author stayed in the area while writing The Lord of the Rings.
The walk is fairly flat and not difficult. It can be muddy in places after rain. There are many stiles on the route so its certainly not suitable for those with prams.
The route is fairly straightforward but is not always clearly marked. We strongly recommend downloading the route map/GPX file (link at the end of this page). This can then be uploaded to a walking app such as ViewRanger.
We strongly recommend you watch our 4K video of our walk on the Tolkien Trail. It will provide you with a good understanding of what to expect on the walk and prevent you from getting lost.
Many believe that the area was the inspiration for The Shire in The Lord of the Rings. There are certainly similarities. There’s a Shire Lane in Hurst Green. The Shire’s River Shirebourne could possibly be named after the Shireburns, the family that resided at the Stonyhurst estate.
The walk starts near the Shireburn Arms Hotel. The 17th century inn is located on Whalley Road (postcode BB7 9QJ) in Hurst Green. There’s plenty of free street parking in the area.
From the Shireburn Arms, head for the war memorial and then walk down Warren Fold.
On the left you’ll see some beautifully restored houses.
Go through the kissing gate and into the sheep field.
Cross the sheep field, passing a lone tree, and head towards the far side. Follow the path down the far side, and then pass through the gate into the next field.
Follow the path running alongside the fence. In the distance you can see Pendle Hill. The red brick building is the cricket pavilion of Stonyhurst College.
Stonyhurst College is a co-educational Catholic boarding and day school. It was established in 1794 at the Stonyhurst estate after relocating from Liege (now in Belgium).
Tolkien often stayed at Stonyhurst College when one of his sons was evacuated here during World War II. Tolkien was writing The Lord of the Rings at the time.
Go through the gate at the end of the field. There’s a sign warning that this area is used by Stonyhurst College for clay pigeon shooting. Walkers are supposed to ring the bell to warn any shooters of their presence.
Walk across the field towards the turreted buildings in the distance.
Go through the gate at the end of the field.
The main buildings of Stonyhurst College are on the left. Take a slight detour to see Stonyhurst College if you wish.
To follow the Tolkien Trail turn right and follow the road. The building on the left is Stonyhurst Observatory. This is a functioning observatory and weather station managed by Stonyhurst College. It was built in 1866.
Continue along the road until you reach Hall Barns Farm. Turn left before the entrance to the farm and follow the road running alongside the farm buildings.
Hall Barn Farm is thought to date back to the 16th century. Many of its buildings are listed.
Go through the gate. On the left you’ll see Gardener’s Cottage.
Continue along the tarmac road. On the left are the sports fields of Stonyhurst College.
There’s an excellent view of Pendle Hill on the right.
You’ll soon come to a main road (Knowles Brow) and the hamlet of Woodfields. The houses at Woodfields are owned by Stonyhurst College and used for staff accommodation.
Cross Knowles Brow and take the road between the houses.
There’s a very nice converted barn on the right.
On reaching the woods, leave the road and take the path to the right.
Follow the path through the field. At the end of the field, duck under the barbed wire fence and go into the woods (Over Hacking Wood).
Head down the steep path and cross the stream using the wooden bridge.
Follow the path with the stream on your right.
Turn right over the stone bridge.
Follow the path through the woods.
At the top of the hill you’ll see Hodder Place. This building dates from the late 18th century. Until the 1970s it was a preparatory school for Stonyhurst College. It has now been converted into apartments.
Once out of the woods, follow the track. The River Hodder is on the left, but is obscured by trees.
There’s a weir just before the river heads south.
Continue along the gravel track. Crop fields are on the right. The River Hodder is on the left but still obscured by trees.
River views get better further along the track.
The path eventually reaches Whalley Road (B6243). Take a minute to leave the Tolkien Trail and visit Cromwell’s Bridge.
There is a good view of Cromwell’s Bridge from Lower Hodder Bridge.
Cromwell’s Bridge is an old packhorse bridge. It is named after Oliver Cromwell. The Parliamentarian marched his army over it in 1648 to fight the Royalists at the Battle of Preston.
Cromwell’s Bridge is no longer in use but it is possible to walk over it. Walk down the path at the side of Lower Hodder Bridge.
Lower Hodder Bridge is a three-arched stone bridge. It was built in 1819 to replace Cromwell’s Bridge.
Walk up Whalley Road. This is a busy road and the pavement is narrow in places.
On the left you’ll see a beautiful converted farmhouse (Springwood).
Continue up the road until the junction with Knowles Brow and the bus shelter. Then go through the gate and go across the field.
Go through the gate and follow the path by the side of the hedgerow.
In the next field, go towards the gate to the left of the farm buildings.
Pass through the gate and follow the road down the hill.
You’ll soon reach Winckley Hall Farm. Go through the farm and then turn right.
Continue along the track. The River Hodder joins the River Ribble here. The confluence is obscured by trees.
The track then follows the route of the River Ribble.
There are good views of the river in places.
The River Calder then joins the River Ribble. Hacking Hall is close to confluence. It was built at the beginning of the 17th century.
The Hacking Ferry used to operate here. The ferry service was started in the 17th century by the Shireburns of Stonyhurst to carry tenants to services at a church on the other side of the river.
The ferry grew in popularity and operated throughout the week until the late 1930s. The service ceased completely in 1955.
In the 1980s, one of the ferry boats was discovered in a barn at Winckley Hall Farm. It was refurbished and displayed at Clitheroe Castle Museum.
It is thought that Tolkien used the Hacking Ferry as inspiration for the Bucklebury Ferry in The Lord of the Rings.
The trail continues along the bank of the River Ribble.
Eventually you’ll come to a kissing gate. Go through it and turn left towards the small building. This is New Jumbles Flow Measurement Station. It is used to monitor the river level and warn about potential flooding.
You’ll then pass a great barn conversion (Jumbles Barn).
When the road veers off from the river, leave it and take the path that follows the river.
The path follows the river, but the view is obscured by trees.
The river comes into view. The aqueduct can be seen in the distance.
The aqueduct carries water pipes over the River Ribble.
Go over the stile to the right of the aqueduct.
Go through the metal gate into Raid Deep Wood.
Cross the stream using the wooden bridge.
The path through the woods is steep in places.
Cross the stile.
Follow the path between the trees.
Go right and head towards the farm buildings.
At the end of the field, go through the gate.
You are now in the car park of the Shireburn Arms Hotel in Hurst Green.