Day 3. Exploring Clitheroe and the Ribble Valley

Our stay at the gorgeous Gibbon Bridge Hotel in Chipping had been lovely and after packing up the car we didn’t hurry off but instead relaxed awhile on its sun drenched terrace.  Overlooking the beautiful landscaped gardens and rolling hills beyond, the setting is idyllic and the perfect place to unwind.

Views from the terrace of the Gibbon Bridge Hotel, Chipping
Beautiful garden views from the hotel’s terrace

Although we could have lazed there all morning more of the region was waiting to be explored so we said our goodbyes and headed off to Clitheroe, a prosperous market town at the heart of the Ribble Valley.  It was only a 20 minute drive from the hotel and we soon found a parking place close to the centre.

Clitheroe town centre
Clitheroe town centre

We strolled up the high street heading towards the castle which is lined with an abundance of small locally run shops and cafes such as Cowman’s Famous Sausage Shop which has been trading for over 120 years.  The Cowburn family took over from the Cowman’s in the late 1950’s and were one of the first butchers in the country to reinvent quality British sausages.

Cowmans Famous Sausage Shop, Clitheroe
Cowmans Famous Sausage Shop

Just a short distance further and we’d arrived at the castle gates.  Entrance to the castle museum is £4.70 and free for accompanying children, whilst admission to the castle and grounds is free.  Clitheroe Castle sits on top of a limestone outcrop from where it has dominated the skyline for over 800 years.

Clitheroe Castle
Clitheroe Castle

We decided to visit the accompanying museum first to learn about the castle.  It’s located in an 18th century house built for the Steward of Clitheroe Castle.  The museum charts the geological history of the area from the formation of the landscapes to how we see it today.  A large exhibition focuses on the history of the castle with exhibits detailing its role as a medieval stronghold.  Other galleries cover local industries, folklore and legends.

Clitheroe Castle Museum
Clitheroe Castle Museum

One of these legends relates to a large hole in the wall above the Keep and one theory is that Oliver Cromwell fired a cannon at the castle from Pendle Hill resulting in this large crater.

Clitheroe Castle and its viewing terrace
Clitheroe Castle and its viewing terrace

Having learnt something about the castle, we then walked a short distance up the steep path to view its ruined Norman Keep.  After exploring inside we climbed up some steps onto the surrounding wall from where we enjoyed panoramic views of the Forest of Bowland and Pendle Hill, making the uphill climb worthwhile.

View from Clitheroe Castle
Breathtaking views across the Ribble Valley from the castle ramparts

From the castle ramparts we could see that a market was taking place so we headed in that direction next to take a look.  An outdoor market takes place each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and wandering around the stalls we found everything from fresh produce to artisan bakers and a cute little cafe serving drinks and snacks from a converted horse box.

Clitheroe Market entrance
Clitheroe Market

Our stroll around town then took us to Holmes Mill, a renovated former textiles mill dating back to 1823.  If you’ve not come across it before, you need to plan a visit as the site has been tastefully transformed into a food hall, bistro, hotel, beer hall and more recently an Everyman cinema has been added.

Holmes MIll, Clitheroe
Holmes Mill, Clitheroe

The Bowland Food Hall is a wonderful showcase of the best of Lancashire with a vast array of food and drink from local producers.  This temple of food has turned Cllitheroe into a foodie hotspot with its tempting offerings and bistro.

Bowland Beer Hall, Holmes Mill, Clitheroe
Bowland Beer Hall, Holmes Mill, Clitheroe

Next door, the stunning Bowland Beer Hall features exposed brickwork and boasts the longest pub bar in the north of England at 105ft long, serving their own brewed Bowland beers plus a large selection of guest ales.  I’d go as far as to say that this is industrial chic at its finest with its cosy seating in the Engine Room alongside Elizabeth, the original engine that powered the weaving sheds.

Interior of Bowland Beer Hall, Clitheroe
Seating around the old steam engine in the Bowland Beer Hall

The sun was shining so we grabbed one of the few remaining outdoor tables and tucked into a Lancashire cheese pie served with sides of chips, mushy peas and sticking true to local tradition, gravy.

Lancashire Cheese Pie with chips, mushy peas and gravy, Holmes Mill
My Lancashire Cheese Pie serviced with chips, mushy peas and gravy

The pie, made from local cheese and cooked with caramelised onions tasted delicious and surprisingly the chips covered in a rich gravy were really good despite not being how I would usually eat them.

The Calf's Head, Worston, Clitheroe
The Calf’s Head, Worston, Clitheroe

After our hearty lunch we were in need of a walk so we hopped back in the car and drove to the Calf’s Head in the nearby village of Worston.  Launched a couple of years ago ‘Walks with Taste‘ comprise a selection of some of the best pub walks in the Ribble Valley.

Walks with Taste Guide in the Ribble Valley
Starting our Walks with Taste walk

Routes vary in length from a leisurely three mile walk to a more challenging hike.  Leaflets can be picked up from each participating venue and can also be downloaded from the Visit Ribble Valley website.

Walk with Taste from the Calf's Head, Worston
Setting off on our Walk with Taste

The detailed route was easy to follow with stunning views of Pendle Hill visible most of the way.  Our walk was graded easy, taking us through gently undulating fields, over stiles and across a narrow wooden bridge.

Stunning views of Pendle Hill from Worston, Clitheroe
Stunning views of Pendle Hill on our Walk with Taste

We returned through a wooded glade where we discovered an old ring set in stone beside the path where in bygone days a bull would have been tethered.  Back at the pub we relaxed in its large, sunny beer garden with drinks and a light snack thinking what a great idea these walks centred around pubs are.

Climbing over stiles in the foothills of Pendle Hill
Our walk took us over several stiles

I can’t wait to return to the Ribble Valley to experience some more of the Walks with Taste as combining a walk with eating out in a country inn is one of my favourite ways to spend a weekend.

The Gatehouse at Whalley Abbey
The Gatehouse at Whalley Abbey

There was to be one more treat in store before bidding our farewells to the beautiful Ribble Valley as we just had time to fit in a visit to the neighbouring town of Whalley.  This charming small town lies on the banks of the River Calder and is noted for its 14th century Cistercian Abbey.

The ruins of Whalley Abbey
The ruins of Whalley Abbey

The abbey lies just a few minutes walk from the high street yet it couldn’t be more tranquil with its riverside setting.  There’s no charge to walk among the abbey ruins which contain useful information boards explaining the buildings and providing historical context.

The ruins of Whalley Abbey
Walking around the ruined abbey

The abbey ruins are approached through a gatehouse which leads into beautifully maintained gardens looking at their best with herbaceous borders ablaze with colour.  From the abbey we then followed a path along the riverbank a short distance before retracing our steps and taking a brief look around the town.

Upscale shops and wine bars in the charming town of Whalley
Upscale shops and wine bars in the charming town of Whalley

Finally back in the car and heading home, we hadn’t gone far before we managed to stop at the side of the road to take a photo of the magnificent Whalley Viaduct.  This 605m long bridge contains 49 arches and was a feat of engineering for its time when it was completed in 1850 being both the tallest and longest viaduct in Lancashire.  The bridge is still in regular use today carrying trains between Clitheroe and Manchester.

Whalley Viaduct
Whalley Viaduct

This brought our wonderful weekend in the Ribble Valley to a close but what an amazing time we’d had with such varied activities ranging from e-biking in the Forest of Bowland  to learning how Lancashire Cheese is made.  I hope this series of posts has helped to put this beautiful part of Lancashire on the map and you might be inspired to visit yourselves as I’m certain you will fall in love with the Ribble Valley too.

During our stay were guests of Visit Ribble Valley and the Gibbon Bridge Hotel and as always all views and opinions are entirely my own.


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Exploring Clitheroe, Lancashire



67 thoughts on “Day 3. Exploring Clitheroe and the Ribble Valley

  1. Thank you for introducing me to the Ribble Valley, Marion. This, I am sad to say, is another part of the country that I am not familiar with and it looks so appealing! I adore walking and if I can enjoy some delicious food and drink along the way, what’s not to love?!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was pleased to see they retained the old steam engine from times past in the now established beer hall. I’m always happy to see history retained and merged into modern constructions. I think I’d give that cheese pie a try. Looks interesting.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. That Lancashire cheese pie looks ultra rich, especially with those fries and gravy; I can imagine that you were super full afterwards! The Whalley Abbey has such a tranquil, isolated atmosphere, although it’s hard to believe that it’s just a few minute’s walk from the town center. It’s been great going on this journey vicariously with you through the Ribble Valley, and I can’t wait to see where your next adventure takes you!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I might have eaten myself stupid on this day out and been too sleepy for the pub walk, especially chips with gravy on, as that does something to my metabolism 🙂 I’m proud of you for fitting so much into this delightful day and taking us along also. So glorious!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I love the idea of Walks with Taste – ending an ambling countryside afternoon in a cosy inn with a cold beer and a bite feels so right that I cannot believe there aren’t more initiatives like this. Your beautiful photo of the abbey is rivalled only by the image of pie and chips covered in dense gravy. You can see how nostalgic I am getting about English food. It’s been too long. Thanks for sharing, Marion.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Another beautiful area of the Ribble Valley! The whole valley just seems so peaceful and inviting, I wish I was there right now instead of at work. I love that they kept the old steam engine as part of the building so visitors can get a sense of the history of the building. And your picture of the ruined abbey is stunning.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. What a weekend excursion Marion. The pie and chips look delicious. As to gravy on chips, our countrymen in Quebec developed poutine which has not only gravy, but squeaky cheese curds on top of the chips. I am with you on the pubs located near walking paths, although likely better to stop there at the end of the walk rather than the beginning. Ha Ha. Thanks for sharing your trip. Allan

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We like to stop at a pub after a walk as it a good reward to look forward to especially on cold days. I remember you mentioning poutine before but I didn’t know what it was. Definitely something for me to try when I eventually make it back to Canada. Thanks so much for your ever welcome thoughts. Marion.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. So many wonderful photos, Marion, especially the one with the Whalley Viaduct. I am glad to see you had lovely weather for exploring Clitheroe town. The views from the Norman Keep of Clitheroe Castle are staggering, and so are all the beautifully decorated pubs that I presume are oozing with unique character inside, too. Thanks for sharing and taking me along 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 4 people

  9. You definitely had a lovely view of the garden in your hotel – I can understand why you would want to sit there all day. But if you did, we would have missed the beautiful views from the castle and your walk with equally amazing views!
    Beautiful photos of the ruins of Whalley Abbey and the Viaduct … I enjoyed reading your posts about the Ribble Valley, thank you Marion!

    Liked by 3 people

        1. I’m surprised that prices have sky rocketed so much for domestic travel Alison unless everywhere is full. Here in the U.K. seaside resorts and country cottages have been in demand but there have been amazing bargains to be had in cities and larger towns that rely so much on overseas visitors. We’re still thinking/hoping of coming your way next year too as it’s been so long! Let’s hope. Marion


  10. My husband is a Lancashire lad from Blackburn so we know this part of the world very well. Love the Ribble Valley. We even got married at St Wilfrid’s an old Norman church in Ribchester over 20 years ago. Love the Pennines and all those beautiful walks. Some days the view from my Aussie home reminds me of those hills in Lancashire. Enjoy your new found freedoms. Not sure when we can get back to visit!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and interest on this series of posts about the Ribble Valley. It really is a lovely part of the country and I do so hope it won’t be too much longer before you are free to return to the U.K. and also for us to revisit Australia. Marion


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