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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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