3 ISSUES FOR JUST £3 Subscribe to Lancashire Life today click here

Ten reasons to visit Blackburn

PUBLISHED: 00:01 19 August 2013 | UPDATED: 23:18 23 October 2015

Blackburn Market and The Mall

Blackburn Market and The Mall

Archant

This famous Lancashire town has reinvented itself as a destination for shopping, eating and even the great outdoors. Martin Pilkington reports

Modern art in the town centreModern art in the town centre

Those who don’t know Blackburn may think in terms of dark satanic mills, but aerospace engineering long ago surpassed textiles here, and major redevelopment has changed much of the centre too. Many positive legacies of King Cotton’s reign remain, however, providing a fine contrast for more contemporary elements, nowhere moreso than in the first of our 10 reasons to visit Cotton Town:

Looking toward Blackburn Cathedral from  Darwen StreetLooking toward Blackburn Cathedral from Darwen Street

1. The Cathedral of St Mary’s the Virgin with St Paul is set in a little green oasis at the heart of the town, but it is the interior that has to be seen. Built in 1826 and much extended since, the building’s solid traditional architecture contrasts beautifully with the large-scale artworks by 20th-century sculptors Josefina de Vasconcellos and John Hayward, his corona over the altar particularly striking.

2. The shopping: this includes a Mall where teenagers can hang out to their hearts’ content, with loads of big-name fashion-stores like Bank, a two-storey Primark, New Look, H&M, and Next. Loraine Jones, General Manager of The Mall is understandably enthusiastic about what the recent £66 million investment there has meant: ‘Blackburn has changed; the perception was that it was old, rundown, but now people are coming here to shop from Preston and the Ribble Valley.’

There are independent stores of note too, most notably one of the gems of the north west music scene, Reidy’s music shop (sited by Blackburn College University Centre, students being the natural prey of the guitar store). This family business began in 1922, but the vast new premises complete with a £750,000 display of guitars are a far cry from the original. As MD Paul Nuttall says: ‘We call this a destination shop.’

3. What the marketing types want us to call Blackburn’s ‘Gateway to Asia’ district (around Barbara Castle Way and Whalley New Road) has begun to rival the more famous Curry Mile in Manchester, the food ranging from cheap-and-cheerful takeaways to classier restaurants like Mai’da.

4. For a more eclectic eating experience head to the indoor market. You’ll find curry here too, but you can treat the heat with sarsaparilla and milk shakes or tuck in to older Lancastrian fayre like black pudding, parched peas, tripe with vinegar, and steak pies (now that’s a menu). Or go continental with pasta dishes, pannini and posh coffees.

5. Walk off your lunch in one of the town’s green-spaces that include the 480 acres of Witton Country Park, an amenity secured thanks to a donation by local businessman RE Hart. The 19th century stables of the long-gone stately home here are now used as visitor centre. Stretch your legs with a stroll or test your stamina on the six-mile Beamers’ Trail hike. Off-road tramper-scooters are available for hire so less able visitors are not excluded from the fun.

Corporation Park, which opened in 1857, is on a smaller scale, but merits a visit for its late-Victorian conservatory and the 21st century Colourfields, part-artwork part viewpoint beneath which the townscape spreads.

6. Mr Hart, whose generosity helped secure Witton Park for the town, had a hand in enriching another of its glories, Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery. The philanthropist donated his collection of illustrated manuscripts, rare coins, and early printed books to the museum, but it’s best-known for its dazzling display of Russian Orthodox icons - it has 61 of these religious images, 31 from two collections bought with national funding, another 27 arriving in a less saintly manner, seized from smugglers by HM Customs. The building – appropriately enough on Museum Street, also houses a renowned collection of Japanese woodcut prints.

7. There’s plenty of art outdoors here too - public art is a key component in Blackburn’s regeneration strategy. Don’t miss Transitions on the pedestrianised Church Street, or (especially when it’s dark) Simon Watkinson’s magical light-sculpture The Braid at Suddell Cross.

8. The Leeds Liverpool Canal. The waterway and the towpath alongside it give different perspectives of the town and its surroundings, from industrial landscapes to quiet countryside. The section between Whitebirk and Rishton is particularly scenic.

9. The bound to rise again Blackburn Rovers Football Club, where last season a manager of the month award was due to anyone lasting that long. Ewood Park, the club’s home since 1890, is a fine stadium of Premier League standard where in 1995 that competition’s domination by London and Manchester clubs was interrupted by this proud East Lancs institution.

10. There’s free on-road parking on Saturdays!

0 comments

More from Out & About

Yesterday, 00:00

The first ever National GetOutside Day takes place on Sunday 30 September with the aim of getting 1 million people active outdoors across the UK.

Read more

Meet some of the devilishly successful people who make this glorious Ribble Valley town tick.

Read more
Clitheroe
Friday, September 14, 2018

The site was designated Lancashire’s first ever ‘Local Nature Reserve’ in 1968 and is also designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Read more
Lytham
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A striking sculpture attracts John Lenehan to this circular walk through some oustanding scenery.

Read more
Friday, September 7, 2018

This varied selection of walks are all within ten miles of the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Natural Beauty.

Read more
Arnside Silverdale
Monday, September 10, 2018

Making a television programme about the Lakes has re-affirmed Paul Rose’s deep affection for the area

Read more
Lake District
Friday, September 7, 2018

A succesful application could see the restoration of the Japanese Gardens and the creation of a water sports centre.

Read more

Is it a village? Is it a town? Who cares when the locals take such a pride in making this such a lovely place to visit

Read more
Thursday, August 30, 2018

A new survey method could unlock the secrets of the bog bush cricket in Lancashire following their discovery on Little Woolden Moss, Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Ellie Sherlock joins the search.

Read more
Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Heritage venues across the region – many of them not normally open to the public – will welcome visitors this month

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

It’s officially England’s favourite flower and if you want to see some beautiful examples, follow Linda Viney to Mawdesley

Read more
Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A circular walk which skirts the Lune estuary and takes in the Lancaster Canal and the railway line.

Read more

Behind the ancient sandstone facade of Browsholme Hall is a remarkable ethos of 21st century sustainability and care for the environment.

Read more
Bowland
Thursday, August 16, 2018

Keswick really is a gem of a town – just ask anyone from jeweller Brian Fulton to mountaineering legend Sir Chris Bonington

Read more
Keswick

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Subscribe or buy a mag today

Local Business Directory

Property Search