Ah, Lancashire. Is there anything better than a walk through the rolling countryside, followed by lunch at a country pub and plate loaded with fresh-baked Eccles cakes? This ceremonial county is one of our favourite places to walk in North West England and for good reason. As a result, there really is something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a family-friendly stroll through the forest or full-day slog through the hills. Fancy a challenge? Lancashire is laced with some great long-distance trails, further adding to its appeal as one of the best walking destinations in England. The county covers a footprint of more than 3000 square kilometres. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to terrain. There’s lots to choose from so to get you started we’ve put together a collection of some of our favourite Lancashire walks for 2021, with options for every fitness and experience level.
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Lancashire Coastal Way
The ultimate long-distance trail, the Lancashire Coastal Way stretches for 66 miles from Silverdale to Freckleton. Along the way you’ll pass through some pretty impressive scenery, ranging from the rugged limestone hills of the Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to windswept saltmarshes and meadows dotted with sheep and cows. Throw in a handful of charm-soaked seaside resorts and some picturesque river estuaries, however, and the Lancashire Coastal Way really does have it all. Hiking the trail in bite-sized sections is a great way to complete the path without committing to a multi-day hike. If possible, we’d recommend spending a whole day on the trail, with a nice long lunch stop pencilled in to take in the views.
The section through the Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a highlight, taking you through low-lying limestone hills, sun-dappled woodlands and lush saltmarshes. Summiting Warton Crag is worth getting out of breath for, with sweeping views over Morecambe Bay and the Lake District to look forward to. If you’re feeling gung-ho why not walk the Lancashire Coastal Way from end to end? With the full 66 miles under your belt, chances are you’ll tick off every bird there is to see along the way. You’ll see oystercatchers, pink-footed geese, grey plovers, goldeneyes, pintails and bar-tailed godwits. Depending on your pace, walking the Lancashire Coastal Way from end-to-end takes anywhere from five to seven days. We’ve included an Ordnance Survey map to help you, should you decide to take on the behemoth of a route.
Length: 66 miles
Average time to complete: 1 – 7 days
Starting point: Silverdale or Freckleton
Carnforth Canal Walks
Set just off Morecambe Bay, the Carnforth Canal Walks takes you along picturesque waterways and through storybook villages filled with centuries-old churches and limestone cottages. The 4.5-mile walk from Carnforth to the village of Bolton-le-Sands follows the old towpath, then loops back via a series of sleepy country lanes and tree-lined tracks. Along the way you’ll get sweeping views over Morecambe Bay, stretching all the way to the Lake District on a clear day. A serving of cod and mushy peas from the local Bolton-le-Sands chippie is the perfect way to refuel before heading back to Carnforth.
If you’re looking for something a little longer, the walk from Carnforth to The Kellets is a great alternative. Featuring some gentle ascents over a series of limestone hills, the trail takes you to the twin villages of Nether Kellet and Over Kellet. Max elevation is just over 100 metres – high enough to unlock terrific views over the surrounding countryside, coastline and distant mountains. Nether Kellet is a good place to stop for lunch, with the Limeburners Arms serving hearty old-fashioned pub food. If you’d rather continue on to Over Kellet, the Eagles Head has a similar vibe and a sun-drenched beer garden. The Jumbo Jacket Potatoes are incredible value and great for refuelling before heading back to Carnforth.
Length: 4.5 – 5.5 miles
Average time to complete: 2.5 – 3.5 hours
Starting point: Carnforth
Starting and finishing in the village of Hurst Green, the Tolkien Trail takes you on a 5.5-mile adventure through Middle Earth. Sorry, the Ribble Valley. The iconic English writer spent a good chunk of his life in Lancashire, with many chapters from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ penned at Stonyhurst College, one of the main stops on the Tolkien Trail. The terrain is relatively flat and well-surfaced, making the trail great for families with small kids.
The circular trail takes in a good variety of landscapes, ranging from picturesque woodlands and valleys to the ominous presence of Pendle Hill. You’ll pass right by Hacking Hall, where a historic ferry once crossed the Ribble River and supposedly inspired the famous Bucklebury Ferry over the Brandywine. The trail also crosses Cromwell’s Bridge and retraces the footsteps of the legendary English statesman, who led his army over the river in 1648. You’ll finish up at the Shireburn Arms in Hurst Green, which occupies a beautifully restored 17th-century inn. And yes, locals say the name inspired Frodo and Sam’s beloved Shire. Save your appetite for a Lancashire cheese and onion pie followed by a sticky toffee pudding.
Length: 5.5 miles
Average time to complete: 3 hours
Starting point: Hurst Green
Creamy Lancashire Cheese Walk
Who could resist the tantalisingly named Creamy Lancashire Cheese Walk? Certainly not us. Starting in the village of Chipping, the trail winds through the fields to Leagram Organic Dairy, aka the birthplace of Lancashire cheese. Stop by the on-site shop to stock up on your favourite cheeses and check out the vintage cheesemaking memorabilia on display.
Packed with flavour, the smoked garlic bulb cheeses really are something else. You’d also be mad to leave without a couple of Bob’s Knobs, also known as Volcanoes. Aged for two years, these explosive flavour bombs pair perfectly with a glass of red or a strong ale. They’re also great hiking snacks so if you’re planning a longer walk for the next day be sure to stock up.
If you like cheese and birds you’re in luck. This walk passes right through Chipping Moss, an important nesting ground for lapwings, curlew and other native birds. You’ll also pass cross through a handful of fields and meadows, making the Creamy Lancashire Cheese Walk ideal for walkers with an appreciation for rural scenery.
Length: 3.3 miles
Average time to complete: 2 hours
Starting point: Chipping
Stirk House Circular Walk
Set in 22 acres of woodland and landscaped gardens, Stirk House is a seventh heaven for nature lovers. The Stirk House Circular Walk loops around the estate and takes in some of the prettiest vistas, with much of the trail following the famous Ribble Way. While there’s not a huge amount of elevation the trail can get muddy and there are definitely some steep sections so it’s worth reaching for your toughest pair of boots.
Partway through the walk you’ll pass through the village of Bolton-by-Bowland, where the upmarket Coach & Horses Inn serves some seriously good food. If you’re more of a packed lunch kind of walker, there are plenty of scenic picnic spots along the way. After Bolton-by-Bowland, you’ll follow the footpath to Sawley, passing through some beautiful farmland along the way. Feeling a little extravagant? Stirk House moonlights as a boutique B&B and is a real treat after a long, mud-splattered day on the trail. With a dedicated drying room to air out your boots and wet clothing, this is definitely a walker-friendly property. If you do end up staying over somewhere without such a luxury as a drying room, we’ve got you covered with our comprehensive guide on How to Dry Your Hiking Boots.
Length: 11 miles
Average time to complete: 5 – 6 hours
Starting point: Stirk House
Wayside Arts Trail
From J. R. R. Tolkien to Leonora Carrington, Lancashire has inspired countless artists and creatives over the years. The Wayside Arts Trail celebrates the country’s creative roots and features 12 beautiful green oak fingerposts carved by local sculptor Martyn Bednarczuk. Furthermore, you’ll also follow a series of decorative brick way markers carved by Lancashire schoolchildren.
If you’re planning to complete the full 8-mile trail, be sure to wear waterproof shoes with plenty of grip. The trail is quite strenuous and can get pretty muddy, so we’d advise packing waterproofs, warm clothes and a first aid kit. If you tack on the additional 3-mile route at the end your total distance tops 11 miles.
You’ll follow the Burnley Way footpath on the section between Towneley and Crown Point, which takes you through the fascinating Forest of Burnley. As you walk, see if you can differentiate between the ancient trees and the new woodland planted as part of the forest regeneration project. In the spring the forest floor is carpeted in bluebells and white wild garlic. There’s a good chance of spotting native wildlife, including woodpeckers, badger and roe deer. As you gain elevation, watch for foxes, hares and lapwing in the moorlands and vast open fields.
The much easier 3-mile version takes around 1.5 hours to complete and is a great option for families. Whatever route you decide on, the trail starts at Towneley Hall just outside the village. The excellent onsite café is set to reopen soon and is well-placed for a post walk cuppa.
Length: 3 – 11 miles
Average time to complete: 1.5 – 6 hours
Starting point: Towneley Hall
Walking with Witches Trail
This walk immerses you in one of England’s darkest and most notorious tribunals – The Pendle Witch Trials. Witch fever swept England in the 17th century and for a handful of Lancashire women and men, it didn’t end well. On the Walking with Witches Trail you’ll pass by some iconic sites and landmarks associated with the trials. Even if you’re not a history buff, this trail is worth checking out for the scenery alone.
The Western Loop starts at Barley Car Park and takes you to the village green. After using the footbridge to cross the stream the path starts to climb uphill. You’ll then join up with the Pendle Way. Follow the trail to the village of Newchurch in Pendle and continue past St Mary’s Church. Shortly after passing Faugh’s Quarry, the site where accused Lancashire witch Elizabeth Southerns confessed to meeting the devil in 1612, fantastic views over the valley start to open up. You’ll follow a dry stone wall up to the crest of the hill, and you’ll get fantastic views over Pendle Hill in the distance.
Length: 4 miles
Average time to complete: 2.5 hours
Starting point: Barley Village
If you’re anything like us, you’ll find it hard to resist bagging a summit when the opportunity presents itself. The 5-mile walk up Pendle Hill starts in Barley. It then takes you past the Ogden Reservoirs before crossing the moorlands and starting to climb. The trail is rugged at times, and you’ll find some steep terrain every now and then to keep you on your toes. You’ll clock around 380 metres of elevation, meaning Pendle Hill will definitely get your pulse racing. The summit sits at 557 metres above sea level and commands panoramic views over the countryside. On a clear day you can even make out Blackpool Tower in the distance. It’s a great feeling reaching the top of the hill, which is a local landmark and can be seen from across the county.
Want to get up and down as quickly as possible? Starting the walk from the base of the hill near Barley Lane gets you to the summit in less than half an hour at a brisk pace. You’ll also need a decent level of fitness to clock this time, as well as quite a bit of endurance. The trail is relentlessly steep and will definitely take a toll on your knees. Starting early is a good way to beat the crowds. However, if it’s views you’re after consider an afternoon walk as this gives the sun time to burn off any haze.
Length: 4 miles
Average time to complete: 25 minutes – 2.5 hours
Starting point: Barley Village
Looking for more Lancashire Walks for 2021?
With hundreds of routes to discover across the county, this list only scratches the surface of walks in Lancashire for 2021. However, finding your favourites is all part of the fun so don’t be scared to lace up your boots, hit the trails and start exploring. Did we miss one of your go-to trails? Hit us up, we’d love to hear from you!