<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Lancashire Life today click here

What the locals really think of Clitheroe

PUBLISHED: 00:00 07 July 2016

Clitheroe centre and library

Clitheroe centre and library


Mairead Mahon spends a day shopping in this Ribble Valley town and finds romance, music, the arts and gourmet food.

Owner, Giles Shaw, and manager, Scott McTear at Wellgate Fisheries Owner, Giles Shaw, and manager, Scott McTear at Wellgate Fisheries

‘A flask of wine, a book of verse and thou,’ said the poet, listing the ingredients for a perfect day. Well, Clitheroe, a hotspot for gourmets and culture vultures, can provide him with the wine and the book. As for the ‘thou’, as Clitheroe is in the Ribble Valley – the ‘official’ UK Capital of Love in a marketing initiative by the council – maybe it can help with that, too!

It is certainly a pretty place to get wed, overlooked by Pendle Hill and a Norman castle. Bright bunting decorates the streets all summer as there are so many festivals, including jazz, beer and food, that it just isn’t worth taking it down.

One such event is the Food Festival which takes place in August but there are gourmet food shops to be found all year round. Cowman’s Sausages and Byrnes’s Wine Shop have won more awards than you could pack in a picnic hamper. They’re not on their own though, Wellgate Fisheries has picked up a fair few too.

Sadly, these days it’s unusual to find a dedicated fish shop on the great British High Street but this one has been run by the Shaw family for over 50 years. Giles Shaw, the current owner, knows a thing or two about fish and so he should – he’s been selling it since he was eight and in all that time, he’s never been nipped by a lobster! He sources locally where he can and even has his own smokehouse. If you want to know anything about the fish you’re buying, Giles is the man to ask but don’t quiz him about how to land one of the beauties that grace his counter: Giles is a fishmonger who never goes fishing.

Bryony and Holly Boutell at Vanilla Cakes Bryony and Holly Boutell at Vanilla Cakes

Down the road at one of the UK’s few shops solely dedicated to cheese is Cheesie Tchaikovsky owned by Jan Curtis. Just as Giles doesn’t fish, she can’t drink milk but luckily, she can eat cheese and she does: lots of it. The shop is a treasure trove of local and European cheeses. In fact, Jan regularly visits French markets. ‘It’s the only way to make sure that I get the cheese that the French normally keep for themselves and the people of Clitheroe are pretty hot on making sure that they get the best.

‘I’ve not done a survey but I think Clitheroe folk give more dinner parties than anywhere else and they know what they want on that cheeseboard, such as the trendy black truffle,’ says Jan.

She has also been asked to make cheese wedding cakes, several tiers high. However, if you prefer a more traditional cake, then sisters Holly and Bryony Boutell, who own and run Vanilla, might be more up your street. They make bespoke cakes on the premises and for most of the time, sisterly love prevails although neither of them will admit to being the one who once switched on the grill instead of the oven, leading to cake chaos. People travel far and wide to have their wedding cake made here and the girls will literally risk life and limb to deliver them.

‘We were asked to deliver a wedding cake to Cumbria. Unfortunately, it was at the height of the floods and our car was swept away. It was written off but we spent the night in it, guarding the cake and in the morning, we flagged down a tractor and the driver took us and the cake to the wedding,’ laughs Holly.

Owner, Jan Curtis, and assistant, Milly Wardle at Cheesie Tchaikovsky Owner, Jan Curtis, and assistant, Milly Wardle at Cheesie Tchaikovsky

The buzz at the moment is for naked wedding cakes: cakes with no icing. Holly and Bryony though like to decorate these naked creations with flowers and often pop next door to Voila, owned by Janet Lightbown to choose them.

So is Clitheroe the Capital of Romance – who better to ask than a florist? ‘Put it this way, there are several flower shops in the town and I don’t think any of us ever have any flowers left over, so I think it must be,’ says Janet.

Clitheroe has been identified as having one of the most well educated populations in England, so when Jo Harding visited it one Bank Holiday, he was surprised to see that it didn’t have a bookshop. The very next day, he gave up his career as a barrister and opened a second hand book shop.

But put the image of a dusty old books out of your mind – Jo’s shop is a haven of peace with soft music, comfortable chairs and gorgeous books that attract people from all over the UK. He also runs poetry workshops, which are so good that they’re an outpost of the National Poetry Society.

Clitheroe also has a brush with art and is home to three galleries, including the renowned Platform Gallery, beside the railway station. Run by Helen Cresswell, it is one of the UK’s top venues for exhibiting contemporary craft and has a dynamic, ever changing programme. This summer it will host a Clay Collection by top craftsmen and women and already people are going potty about it.

For those who like to participate, Keith Parkinson and Beverley Chapelhow of Ribble Valley Art Studios run classes for individuals and groups such as schools. They are firm believers in art as therapy and as Keith points out, there aren’t many prettier market towns to do it in. The studio is also home to eight artists who work and display their work here.

Clitheroe is a fantastic home to the arts. Many townspeople support them and I sometimes think that we could be the St Ives of the North West but without the scandal, although we do life drawing. I’m not the model though,’ laughs Keith.

There’s music too, in the shape of The Grand, which was created as a state of the arts performance complex. It also has a brilliant recording studio that can easily rival the world’s best. It is run by Simon Stride and Tom Peters, who are used to TV crews pitching up to film this hidden wonder. It’s attracted groups such as Big Country, Velocity Trio and even recently produced an album for Child Action North West.

Culture and food come together in the Callooh! Callay! tea shop. Literary types will recognise the Lewis Carroll allusion and anyway, even, if you didn’t, there are plenty of clues in the Alice in Wonderland décor.

‘No matter what surveys say, tea will never go out of fashion and we have dozens of varieties. As for Mad Hatter’s Tea party, this is Clitheroe you know and tea is a genteel affair here. We’re proud to be in the town and if you want proof, look down – the floor covering is a specially commissioned map of it,’ explains cook Nuala Lamont-Shiels.

Just down the hill is The Emporium, an imposing coffee shop and interior store owned by James Warburton. James has just got permission to develop Holmes Mill and this July the first phase, The Beer Hall, will be complete. Ultimately, it will include restaurants, a hotel, bakery, leisure facilities as well as the famous Bowland Brewery. But for now it is enough to keep Christine Lee busy. She is the lady who not only chooses the stylish items for sale in The Emporium but also provides the interior designs for all of James’ Places.

‘I like to place traditional alongside modern but I will also be mixing in some industrial heritage pieces for Holmes Mill.’

There was trouble at this particular mill, with planning problems delaying its restoration, but an online petition attracted so much support that it is now a reality and will bring a sympathetic new lease of life to the town’s industrial heritage.

Clitheroe is the market town that takes gourmet food, heritage and culture and delivers them all in one stylish package.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Lancashire Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Lancashire Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Lancashire Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About


This remarkable garden can whisk you on a horticulture tour of the world. Linda Viney took a trip

Read more
Mon, 19:39

A fantastic end to 2017 is in store at the annual equestrian event in the centre of Liverpool.

Read more
Mon, 19:38

John Lenehan heads for Gisburn to walk by the Ribble and sample the delights of the Auction Mart Cafe.

Read more

This busy community might sometimes feel like the village that time forgot, but it’s full of people who help themselves. Martin Pilkington reports

Read more
Monday, November 6, 2017

Follow our short guide to a festive trip to Lytham this Christmas.

Read more
Monday, November 6, 2017

Windermere is dependent on tourism, but when the holidaymakers have left there remains a thriving village community

Read more
Monday, November 6, 2017

The 218th Westmorland County Show welcomed HRH The Prince of Wales

Read more
Thursday, November 2, 2017

Is it a helicopter? Is it a plane? It’s neither. Or maybe both. Paul Mackenzie meets a man offering a unique bird’s eye view of the Lake District.

Read more
Lake District

It may only be a small town, but these home grown products are causing a big stir

Read more
Wednesday, October 25, 2017

While conservation work is important globally, The Lancashire Wildlife Trust is stressing the need to think locally too. Alan Wright discusses the important of wildlife close to home.

Read more
Lancashire Wildlife
Monday, October 23, 2017

There are many reasons why the Forest of Bowland is designated Area of Natural Beauty, we’ve picked our favourite spots that we think you will love too.

Read more
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The ‘Rural Oscars’ Are Back

Read more
Monday, October 16, 2017

It may not be the Serengeti but the stunning countryside around Nicky Nook will make a perfect location for eco-holidays. Roger Borrell reports.

Read more
Bowland Scorton
Saturday, October 14, 2017

Volunteers are restoring a lovely Victorian garden just a short stroll from a busy city centre. Linda Viney reports

Read more
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Subscribe or buy a mag today

Lancashire Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Lancashire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Property Search