CHRISTMAS OFFER 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

Having 10,000 students on the doorstep is helping this West Lancashire town centre to thrive

Read more

In 1972, a hoard of ancient silver coins was discovered in Prestwich. These days, they’re hoping to strike gold with an unbeatable mix of community, creativity and independent shops but for one craftsperson, silver is still the way to go.

Read more
Friday, October 12, 2018

Pendle Hill is one of the most iconic landmarks in Lancashire and you can enjoy the beautiful countryside, spectacular views and fascinating from a number of starting points in the Ribble Valley.

Read more
Pendle Hill Ribble Valley Walks
Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Our walks expert John Lenehan plots a scenic course that also provides a little Lancashire history.

Read more

Steps are being taken to bridge the divides that have grown between communities and made Blackburn one of the most segregated towns in the country.

Read more
Blackburn
Monday, October 8, 2018

With the countryside turning stunning shades of red and gold, this is probably the best time to pull on your boots and go for a heavenly hike.

Read more
Lake District Walks Autumn

There is always something surprising in this old Lancashire village which attracts visitors from across the world

Read more
Cartmel
Thursday, October 4, 2018

Many youngsters their age are content to play with their toys, but a Bowness brother and sister are happiest in their walking boots.

Read more
Thursday, September 27, 2018

Britain’s biggest independent flower show attracts huge crowds and the admiration of BBC celebrities

Read more
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

When it was announced The Willow Garden Project in Fleetwood was to be the recipient of BBC North West Garden created for The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Tatton Flower Show, there were cheers all round.

Read more
Friday, September 21, 2018

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

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