Things To See & Do in the Ribble Valley
As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Ribble Valley is a location infused with bundles of history and scenery like no other. Well-known for its delicious food, famous landmarks and scenic countryside, you certainly won’t be lost for things to do in the area.
The memorable slice of countryside heaven sits comfortably in the centre of the UK, providing a hidden gem for all to enjoy. The valley has a no-nonsense attitude, situated between Pendle Hill and the stunning Forest of Bowland. Riverbanks of grazing wildlife, splicing lush greenery, making memories and northerners to greet you from far and wide – what’s not to love?
If you are looking for adrenaline-building activities, breath-taking locations, scrumptious delights and a whole lot more, then you’ve come to the right place… The Ribble Valley, that is. The area has even been voted (numerous times) as one of the most idyllic places to live.
Local Towns & Villages
Dunsop Bridge is often referred to as the geographic centre of Great Britain itself (although the exact point is at Whitendale Hanging Stones, 4.5 miles north of the village) and as the area where the Lancashire Witches are believed to have been taken to their trial at Lancaster Castle. There's a lifetime of history to uncover in this small village and plenty of jaw-dropping views to witness - just as most of the towns and villages in the Ribble Valley do!
Just four miles west of Clitheroe town centre, Bashall Eaves stands on the banks of the River Hodder. Set amongst beautiful parklands and lush gardens, the award-winning Browsholme Hall is a must-visit. This grade I listed historic house is full of pre-eminent antiques, paintings and museum-quality furniture. Do check for opening times though as it is still a family home.
The biggest town in the Ribble Valley is the bustling town and civil parish of Clitheroe. The town's most notable building is Clitheroe Castle which is an unmissable landmark. It is also argued to be the smallest Norman Keep in the whole of England. When you aren't exploring the smaller quaint villages and their history, you certainly won't fall short of things to do here. There is everything from small independent retail stores to large stores, coffee shops, sports facilities and more. There are numerous festivals which are well-known and popular in the town, bringing tourists from far; these include the Ribble Valley Jazz Festival and the annual Clitheroe Food Festival.
This is another tranquil and charming village, with two village greens. Containing the remnants of a 13th century stone cross and old stocks, this area is bursting with stories of history. The village was recorded as ‘Bodeton’ (meaning bow in the river) in the Domesday book, with the church stone dating back from 1500 and bearing the arms of numerous regal families. Often called ‘The Jewel In The Valley’, the village of Bolton-By-Bowland is not one to miss.
The parish which is popular for period drama filming - Downham has no overhead electricity lines, road markings, aerials or satellite dishes. You may have seen the town featured on numerous BBC shows and even in the 1961 film, Whistle Down the Wind. It may be small, but if you are passing through the picture-perfect haven, be sure to take a photo or two.
Situated in a hollow between two bridges, Chatburn slopes towards the River Ribble, on the outskirts of Clitheroe. Dominated by the stately spire of the Parish church, the village is quaint and tells numerous historical tales. If you are passing through, be sure to visit Hudson's Ice cream to sample their ‘secret recipe.
This Lancashire village has won a number of awards for best-kept village competitions over the years. They also won the village section of the Royal Horticultural Britain in Bloom competition. Known to be at least 1,000 years old, Chipping has thrived over the years, with Chipping Craft Centre holding the honour of being the longest continuous shop in the UK, opened in 1668. With barrels of history to discover, three public houses and much more, Chipping would have a well-deserved place on your must-visit list.
Home to around 11 pubs, several restaurants, a public library, a local football club and much more, Longridge is a town full of community spirit and energy. Longridge Field Day is a long-standing annual event which includes a parade and various attractions through the town, including a pram race! The views are breathtaking; you can even see the Welsh Mountains, the Isle of Man, Ingleborough and The Loud Valley from the top of Longridge Fell. This town is a social centre with an interesting mixture of shops and antique galleries set in glorious surroundings.
The rural area of Gisburn is surrounded by boundless greenery and stunning views, with landmarks such as Gisburne Park and the local church to discover. Gisburn village resident, Jennet Preston was also accused of Witchcraft here in 1612.
Once a bustling village full of shops is now a quaint and quiet family village. The community mainly lives on farming and tourism and is centred around the church. If you are passing through, be sure to stop at the village cafe, Millie’s for a hearty meal and some locally sourced groceries.
This small yet bustling village has plenty to do for everyone. There is a village hall which hosts activities such as football, tennis, bowls and hockey. Close to the village is also a playing field, tennis courts, playground and much more. With tranquil scenery and a tight sense of community, Mellor has become a great spot for relaxing and retirement.
Home to All Hallows, a historical church, an ancient manor house, and a couple of quaint pubs serving classic pub grub, Great Mitton is a great stop off point. It is, in fact, the smallest township in the Forest, but that doesn't affect it’s worthiness as a great place to visit.
With a long history of Bronze Age beginnings and Roman cavalry, Ribchester lies on the banks of the River Ribble and holds much magic. Thought to originally be a Roman fort, the village is waiting for you to explore its history, as well as its mills, public houses, tea rooms and landmarks.
Due to its staggered crossroads being five hundred feet above sea level and the position on Pendle Hill, the village of Sabden is noticeably colder than the surrounding settlements. With a couple of pubs in the area, cafes, sandwich shops, local grocery stores and a large antique centre, it could be worth a wander around.
Food & Drink
Sometimes referred to as the ‘Food Heaven Capital’ of the North, you won't fall short of an array of gastronomic experiences, from Michelin-star dining to plenty of family-friendly restaurants. If you are looking for a hearty pub lunch, there's no better place to be - the area is known for its high-quality, home-grown produce. However, if you fancy dining out like VIP’s on an evening, you could sample 5 star cuisine from some of the most elegant and charming bistros and eateries in the country. There's no questioning that there's something to suit every taste.
The Red Pump Inn
The Red Pump sits at the heart of the village of Bashall Eaves and provides every customer with a steak of their dreams. Their meat is sourced from The Ginger Pig who produce for some of the best restaurants in London and Paris and are in fact the only restaurant who provide this meat outside of London! Their wide variety includes Fillet, Sirloin, Rib-eye, Rump and Argentinean Picanha.
If you are looking for the best steak for miles and a pub with true character, be sure to pay a visit to the Red Pump Inn. Click here to see a sample menu.
“Influenced by our love of provincial cuisine our ethos is seriously good, simple food, uncomplicated while incredibly tasty.”
Clitheroe Road, Bashall Eaves, near Clitheroe, Lancashire, BB7 3DA. www.theredpumpinn.co.uk
The Aspinall Arms
Found right in the heart of the Ribble Valley and sitting pretty on the banks of the river, this pub is a cosy and picturesque one for the whole family. It not only overlooks the medieval All Hallows Church and the 14th century Mitton Hall, but it’s also scattered with landscaped gardens, open fires inside, and relaxing terraced areas.
When it comes to the food, think classic British complemented with flutters of exotic inspiration. Oh, and they use freshly cooked, local ingredients. If you are looking for a classic family pub experience with a view this could be the spot for you. Click here for a sample menu.
Mitton Road, Mitton, Whalley, Lancashire, BB7 9PQ
The Three Fishes
The Three Fishes is the flagship pub, first born to Ribble Valley Inns. Using only the finest local ingredients, their menu presents a mixture of classic pub grub and inspiration from their very own lush green countryside surroundings. Situated in a small hamlet, their grounds are simply stunning – you have the choice between al fresco summer dining or crackling log fires amongst a comfortable and chic interior for winter.
They have a range of regional cask ales and an award-winning wine list which is specially chosen by a leading wine expert. You can also take your own bottle on a Monday – with no corkage charge!
Mitton Road | Mitton, Clitheroe BB7 9PQ, England
As a part of James’ Places collection of Ribble Valley hotels, bars and restaurants, this is everything you could wish for in a bar and eatery. Set in a former textile mill, the beer and food hall is simple yet stylish, reflecting a modern and unique countryside.
If you are looking to indulge, unwind and explore, Holmes Mill is the place to be. The food matches the vibe here – friendly, efficient, unobtrusive yet responsive. Whether its a relaxing lunch for two or a big dinner for the whole family, you won’t find a better ambience. Be sure to check out their various events too for dinner and a show!
Holmes Mill, Greenacre Street, Clitheroe BB7 1EB
The Spread Eagle
On one side of the building is the flowing River Ribble, on the other is the remains of the 12th century Cistercian Sawley Abbey. From the distance, you can also see Pendle Hill casting its shadow. This classic countryside inn has open stonework, fireplaces, oak beamed ceilings, flagstone floors and stunning food to match the brilliant classic interiors.
They only use local suppliers and have some classic regional dishes to offer, but with a twist; including Lancashire Tapas and afternoon teas.
Looking for delightful views, delicious, award-winning food and a relaxing, community atmosphere? Why not give The Spread Eagle a go?
The Spread Eagle, Sawley, Clitheroe, Lancashire, BB7 4NH
Fitzy's Bar & Restaurant
If you are looking for an alternative dining atmosphere from a pub, then Fitzy’s Bar and Restaurant at the Higher Trapp Country House could be perfect. It has a unique charm to it, alongside stunning views, luxury afternoon teas and much more. With a menu of mouth-watering home cooked, locally sourced options and a handful of signature dishes, there is something for everyone.
With a commanding hillside position and a remarkable outdoor terrace, you will truly appreciate the views and the food at Fitzy’s. Afternoon tea with a glass of Prosecco or Champagne starts from just £12.95 per person!
Trapp Ln, Simonstone, Burnley BB12 7QW
The Garden Kitchen
A true gardeners haven, this is the go-to hub for everything from a hearty breakfast to a tasty lunch or a traditional afternoon tea. It certainly has something for everyone, including the younger gardeners. The building has been specifically designed to blend in with the ‘nursery’, with old tools and garden memorabilia hanging everywhere. For a unique and quirky spot, with no-fuss, delicious lunch and breakfast, this is the place. Calling all gardeners!
Holden, Bolton-by-Bowland, Lancashire BB7 4PF
Pendle Hill can be seen from most areas in the Ribble Valley, elevated at 557m. It is included in the detached part of the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Beauty and is bursting at the seams with history. Not only was a Bronze Age burial site discovered at the summit of the hill, but it is also linked with three historical events in the 17th century; the Pendle Witch trials (1612), Richard Towneleys barometer experiment (1661) and the vision of George Fox (1652).
Be sure to indulge in the history and know the various tales as you set off up the hill. The most popular route for ascending the hill begins in the village of Barley. Mind out though, as this route also provides the steepest ascent!
One of the most stunning stately homes in Lancashire – Samlesbury Hall – has a long and interesting history. It’s an absolute haven for history lovers – plus its a great (free) family day out. There are tales of witches, ghosts, royal families and much more, plus guided tours, animals, a playground and a bee & heritage centre! They often also have various themes tours and events on too, which you can check out on their website here.
Their food caters to every taste, supplying home cooked hot meals, breakfasts, waffles from Dotties Wafflery and afternoon tea. Their Instagram gives off a great reflection of their vibe and personality.
Samlesbury Hall Preston New Road, Samlesbury PR5 0UP, England
Clitheroe Castle and Museum
Lying in the heart of Clitheroe standing proud on Castle Hill is an image which has dominated the Clitheroe skyline for over 800 years – Clitheroe Castle. For a day full of history, wonder and stories, the castle is a must-visit. You will be taken on a journey through 350 million years of heritage. It is in fact, England’s smallest and only remaining castle to have kept a royal garrison during the civil war.
There’s plenty of activities for children in the museum, including a competition, dressing up in costumes, explorer backpacks, crafts and even a labyrinth. Enjoy, explore and learn!
Clitheroe Castle Castle Hill, Clitheroe BB7 1BA, England
A beautifully unique, privately owned Elizabethan house in the Parish of Bowland Forest Low; Browsholme Hall and Tithe Barn claims to be the oldest surviving family home in Lancashire. It has been the home to the Parker family since 1507!
Not only are the grounds romantic and picturesque, alongside remarkable antiquarian collections, but there are also numerous events throughout the year ranging from art exhibitions to workshops and guided tours. All visitors are invited to relax and wander the grounds, enjoying the unspoiled countryside.
Clitheroe Rd, Clitheroe BB7 3DE
While this may still be a fully operating and functional school grounds, there’s no questioning it is simply beautiful. As one of the largest buildings in the entire Northwest, this magnificent 16th century manor home is home to a famous co-educational independent boarding and day school; however, you can visit for a tour of the grand building, which includes dormitories, library and chapel. Great place for photography.
Clitheroe BB7 9PZ, England
Cross Hill Quarry Local Nature Reserve
This former quarry in the heart of the Ribble Valley has been reclaimed by wildlife and wildflowers transforming into a spectacular sight. Colonised by orchids and teaming with butterflies, it is certainly a shining example of how nature can reclaim the relics of the past. A great spot for those wanting to see some exciting flowers, plants and wildlife. Bring your camera, your binoculars or your sketch pad – you’ll love it no matter what. A truly idyllic spot.
Access from the West Bradford Road or via Brungerley Park – Clitheroe, Lancashire, BB7 4QF
The Old Station Longridge
Longridge railway stations first line opened in 1840 to carry stone for construction. Today, the former station building and canopy still exist but are used as a heritage centre and community area. Where the tracks once ran through is a war memorial. Be sure to visit here for a whole lot of history and a cracking cup of tea and a slice of cake.
Station Buildings Berry Lane, Longridge PR3 3JP, England
Set against a backdrop of dramatic rolling hills, the Sawley Abbey is the remains of a Cistercian abbey founded in 1148. After its dissolution in 1536, the monks were briefly returned to the abbey during the Pilgrimage of Grace and remained in possession until the insurrections collapse and the execution of their abbot. Not only is this a hot spot for historical tales, but with its lovely surroundings by the river, its grounds make a great spot for a picnic.
Sawley, Clitheroe BB7 4NH
Nearby is also the 14th century Whalley Abbey Gatehouse which belonged to the nearby Cistercian Abbey. It was once the second wealthiest monastery in Lancashire.
The Sands, Whalley, Clitheroe BB7 9TN
Forest of Bowland AONB
Also known as the Bowland Fells, this area of barren gritstone fells, deep valleys and vast moorlands is one in a million. It is a western spur of the Pennines and was once described as the ‘Switzerland of England’. You won’t fall short of things to do in this area and is a main attraction for the area. It has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) since 1964, the designated land holds more than 500 listed buildings and 18 scheduled monuments. – much more than we can describe!
Whether you are looking for wildlife-spotting, walks, cycling, family days out or adventure sports, this is the spot for it. It provides some of the most peaceful and remote walking, cycling and riding in the country. You could even challenge yourself to reach Ward’s Stone – the highest point in the Forest of Bowland at 1,841ft.
Beacon Fell Country Park
Explore 271 acres of woodland, moorland and farmland on this AONB walk. You can witness fantastic views of Morecambe Bay and the Isle of Man. This walk can be as long or short as you want, starting at around 2 miles. It involved miles of woodland trails and a visitor centre. You can extend the walk if you like by heading to nearby Parlick and Fair Snape fell where the footpath will extend to further views over the Forest of Bowland.
Starting point: Bowland Visitor Centre – Beacon Fell Rd, Goosnargh, Preston PR3 2EW
The J.R.R Tolkien Trail
Approximately 5.5 miles, this circular walk starts and finishes at Hurst Green, 5 miles west of Clitheroe which is based around the life of J.R.R Tolkien himself. It takes you around the guest house that him, his wife and his children stayed at, where their son was studying and where he spent much of his time writing. This guide from The Three Fishes will explain much more! Enjoy.
Starting Point: The War Memorial, Hurst Green – Avenue Rd, Hurst Green, Clitheroe BB7 9QB
The Ribble Valley Sculpture Trail
A walk with a twist, the Ribble Valley Sculpture Trail was launched in 1993 and now includes over 20 permanent works of art. The walk takes you through Brungerley Park and Cross Hill Quarry, a local nature reserve. You will pass through a variety of woodland and flower-rich grassland and you may even play witness to the abundance of wildlife, including deer. The River Ribble contributes significantly to the trail also bringing its own wildlife including herons, otters and sandpipers. You can download the trail leaflet here.
Starting Point – Brungerley Park, Waddington Road, Clitheroe, Lancashire
Castle Grounds to Standen Hey
A pleasant 4-mile circular route, this walk takes you on a journey through woodlands, from Clitheroe Castle through Standen Hey Community Woodlands. There are several amenities on the way including shops and cafes and it won’t take up your whole day. Plenty of time for a long lunch stop and a relaxing pitstop by the river. Download the map here.
Starting Point: Eshton Terrace or Mitchell Street Car Park, Clitheroe Castle Grounds – Clitheroe BB7 2JW
Ribble Catchment Conservation Trust, Nature Trail
There are numerous circular river walks which take you through various views, ranging from scenic bridges to estuaries, rural streams and Docklands. Put together by Ribble Life Together, these walks are just one way they hope to improve the Ribble Catchment, increase the use and widen the audience of rivers. Be sure to pick up any rubbish if you see it!
Calder and Brun – Offering a mixture of natural heritage, this walk contrasts between the urban rivers at the heart of the town and provides fantastic views over the Calder Valley to Pendle Hill.
Rivers and Bridges – Passing built remnants of industrial heritage which have been reclaimed by nature, this route of bridges allow you to view the scenery along the river and the dramatic backdrops and impressive structures.
Ribble Estuary – Celebrating the link between the river and the sea, this walk allows you to take in the stunning views of Liggard Brook and the Ribble Estuary.
Riversway Docklands – While it may be a short stroll, this walk offers views across to the Ribble Link and an insight into the rich cultural heritage.
You can download The Ribble Life Together app for more information. Keep an eye open for the 15 new circular walks coming soon.
The Stepping Out Programme
The Stepping Out Programme offers guided walks through the week to suit everyone. After all, not everyone is fond of setting off into the wilderness with just a map. All the walks are free, all you have to do is turn up on the day and enjoy. They are supported by volunteers and first aiders and are organised to help improve health, encourage fitness and support getting out and about. You can see their schedule here.
Greenberfield Picnic Site
Described as the ‘Best Kept Locks in the Country’, this beautiful picnic area at the summit of the Leeds and Liverpool canal is the ideal place for a summer snack. You can stroll along (or even cycle) the canal towpath or take a walk along the many designated walking routes.
If you are looking for a pleasant and easy amble with plenty of history along the way, then this could be the one. You also briefly cross into the Yorkshire border! Check out this article for more information and directions from the Greenberfield lock.
There is also a small car park with a kiosk that sells ice creams and snacks.
Barnoldswick, Lancashire, BB18 5DL
For an extensive list of walks and trails, simply click here.
Gisburn Forest Hub
Consisting of two main mountain bike trails, a red and a blue (as well as an orange if you want to step it up a gear), you are sure to have plenty of fun here. When cycle tracks and straight and narrows aren’t quite enough, the adventure will certainly call here. There are loops graded from moderate to severe, meaning there is something for every rider. For a more relaxed experience, you can also wander up to the viewpoint for panoramic views of the area.
Inch Perfect Trials
If you are looking for an adrenaline-fuelled day then this could be the perfect day out. They run a full range of experience and training days suitable for aged 7 upwards and all ability levels. They will certainly put you through your paces, but when you are all cycled out, why not jump on a trial bike and unleash your thrill seeker?
Bowland By Bike
Salter Fell – Cross O’Greets Circuit – A wonderful way to experience the grand isolation of the high moorlands. While this circuit is demanding and exhilarating, it is certainly worth it. Only suitable for mountain bikers. See link below for brochure including all route details and starting points. The 31 miles should take around 3-4 hours.
Tour of Pendle Hill – With around 20% climbs, this may be a tough ride, but the rewards are plenty. As the second highest point in the Forest of Bowland, it is not quite a mountain, however, still a popular peak to climb (or cycle up). See the link below for a brochure including all route details and starting points. Only 15 miles, but due to the ascension the route will take around 1.5 -2 hours.
Grizedale and Bleasdale – A much more leisurely ride along the western edge of the Forest of Bowland, you will follow quiet country lanes and enjoy the unspoilt countryside surroundings. At around 27 miles, it should take you 1-2 hours dependant on speed.
The Roses Border Ride – A challenge to take on, the roses border ride includes the challenging feat over Keasden Moor and descend through Gisburn Forest. It may be around 35 miles and will take around 4 hours, but you will understand why it’s worthwhile when you see some of the best views in the country.
Ribble Valley Villages Bike Ride – The Ribble Valley has many scenic road routes in between the several villages. If you fancy exploring each one and stopping off at local landmarks, pubs, cafes and much more, then you can do it on a bike. Click here to see the route that should take you around 3 hours (with no stops).
The Palace Cinema, Longridge
As one of the Northwest’s oldest cinemas, The Palace Cinema shows mainstream movies. Independent films and even live entertainment. They have various events throughout the year which are worth checking out.
The Grand at Clitheroe
Live music, theatre, comedy and more – The Grand is a hub of community events and performances not to miss. Its smart contemporary 1870’s-era auditorium holds around 40 people, including a full-size cinema and a cafe. Be sure to check out upcoming events and grab tickets before they sell out.
Ribble Valley Jazz and Blues
Every year in the Ribble Valley, the streets of Clitheroe come alive with the very best jazz music – The Ribble Valley International Jazz Fest. Not only this, but the organisation who run it put monthly live music on in the area so you will never miss out. Be sure to check out the festival which is held around May Bank Holiday time every year, and if you are a live music fan, see the below link to discover music very soon.
As one of the latest additions to Clitheroe, Holmes Mill seems to always have an event on; whether it’s live music, the monthly comedy club or a gin festival, you will be spoilt for choice. Check out their events page to see what’s coming up and what offers they have on.
Great British Food Festival
In Hurst Green, Clitheroe, every year, the Great British Food Festival occurs, which means you can grab some good grub, soak up the sun and indulge in some real ale, wine and plenty of entertainment. With lashings of live music and activities for the children, it’s the perfect recipe for a lovely day out.
Clitheroe Beer Festival
If you are a fan of a drink or two, then this event should be going straight in your diary. With over 70 cask ales to try, a great selection of ciders, perries and bottled beer, live music and local food stalls, visitors are in for a treat. This event is annual and features brewers from near and far – some ales are even brewed just for the event!
Winner of the ‘Best Small Event’ in the 2017 Lancashire Tourism Awards this annual ‘micro’ festival is renowned for its DIY ethos and the friendly atmosphere. It’s a welcoming festival and community, making it perfect for families and first-time festival goer.
For a whole other host of events, simply check out the Ribble Valley Website here, where you can find an entire calendar full of exciting events for your visit.