From the quirky to the traditional, the historic to the contemporary, Clitheroe has it all

PUBLISHED: 00:22 09 July 2013

View over Clitheroe from the Castle

View over Clitheroe from the Castle


You’re sure to find it in this lovely market town, as Sue Riley reports


When passers-by are urged to stroke semi-nude female figures it’s always guaranteed to get attention. Certainly the cheeky mannequins outside one Clitheroe shop has led to national publicity, not only for shop owners Matthew Taylor and Lisa Pickles but for the town itself. The mannequins might be a tad tacky – a complaint about their attire or lack of it led to Lancashire Police visiting the shop – but the Time Train retro store is a haven for those who like quirky, unusual objects.

Thousands of items are crammed into the shop ranging from a St Pancras railway station clock on sale for £2,500 to an ejector seat from a Vulcan bomber and hundreds of small plastic figures from Star Trek, Lone Ranger and Star Wars. ‘A couple of years ago we were going to Thailand and needed some extra spending money, I bought some old toys and we doubled our money,’ Matthew explained. That led to him filling the dining room of their Sawley home with toys and then the whole house.

They opened the shop in October, a complete change of career for Matthew who had been working as a fishery manager at nearby Stocks Reservoir, but he seems to have found a niche in the market. ‘There’s a massive trend from people buying ornaments to buying this sort of thing,’ he said. ‘I like the magic of them never being opened, it’s rare, special. I also like the bizarre things.’

Bizarre isn’t a word you’d ever apply to Clitheroe, it’s one of those places which reveals its charms slowly; you have to ease yourself into the place and slowly soak up its atmosphere. Overlooked by the tiny 12th century Norman Castle, the place has a friendly Visitor Information Centre in the Platform Gallery which has an ongoing range of exhibitions featuring northern artists. Their top recommendation for a day out in the area is to visit the Ribble Valley Sculpture Trail on the outskirts of the town with its myriad paths and artworks leading to Cross Hill nature reserve.

But for anyone with an interest in food – and with me it usually comes back to food – then a wander around the town itself is equally as tempting as it’s at the heart of the popular Ribble Valley Food Trail.

The summer months are a particular attraction as Clitheroe Food Festival is held on August 10th with more than 100 Lancashire producers taking part, with tastings, music and talks including food writer and Clitheronian Matthew Fort. Since its inception two years ago the free event has attracted more than 30,000 people.

‘The festival is about showcasing the best of Lancashire’s producers; inspirational and innovational producers in particular always capture our attention, those different from the norm, but who still use Lancashire core ingredients, or perhaps are primary producers themselves,’ said Festival co-ordinator Julie Whalley.

‘People like Clitheroe because it’s full of small independent shops, a lot of people do not even have a butcher these days,’ Ailsa Baxter said. She works at Cowman’s Famous Sausage Shop and said visitors usually go from their place to Byrne & Co and then to the Exchange Coffee Co – their very own mini food trail.

People travel from miles to get their sausages from Cowman’s which sells more than 60 different varieties and has won a host of top awards over the years. Nowadays the place is run by Cliff Cowburn but there has been a butchers on the site for more than 100 years, started by the aptly named Mr Cowman. The banger of the month in July is pork with sundried tomatoes and mozzarella which was a real success last summer.

Nearby the independent roasters Exchange Coffee Co ensure the smell of coffee is wafted over the town but the one place you can’t smell it is in the labyrinthine tunnels of D Byrne & Co where they stock 4,000 bottles of wines and spirits, making it the biggest wine shop in the UK, according to co-owner Andrew Byrne. ‘We are famous for selling top quality wine at bargain prices,’ said Andrew. It’s certainly won a host of awards including Best Small Independent wine shop in the country. ‘It doesn’t sound very modest but we have probably got the best range of wines in the country and we are the cheapest for it, we can compete with any supermarket,’ he said.

It’s not quite all about food though. The town has a theatre, a monthly Crafty Vintage Fair held at St Mary’s Centre, lots of clubs, organisations and independent shops. One of the nicest roads is Moor Lane with its bespoke furniture maker, wool and crochet shop selling a range of English wools produced over the border in Yorkshire, olde style sweet shops and cafes.

Many stay in the area for its walking opportunities, with some doing the 73-mile Ribble Way which passes through the town. If you like a challenge then the local Mountaineering Club welcomes non-members or if it’s a morning leg stretch you’re after then a walk up nearby Pendle Hill with its associations to the Pendle Witch Trials which had its 400th anniversary last year might fit the bill. If literature is more your thing how about a wander along the Tolkien Trail in nearby Hurst Green which is said to have inspired ‘The Shire’ in The Lord of the Rings. What is definitely known is that JRR Tolkien was a regular visitor to the area when his son was a teacher at Stonyhurst College.

However on a sunny day if you prefer to sit down and simply appreciate the scenery then there are worse places than Brungerley Park on the banks of the River Ribble. Not only is it the start of the sculpture trail but there’s also lots for children to do with the opening of a new Trim Trail earlier this year. The park has been a popular place with locals since it opened in 1876 and for good reason; a historic place but one that is keeping up with the times. A bit like Clitheroe itself.

Where to eat and stay

The Inn at Whitewell is set in the beautiful Forest of Bowland. It’s a peaceful spot offering a hearty menu and fabulously comfortably rooms for a real get-away-from-it-all experience.

The Three Fishes is one of those pubs you never want to leave. Set up by Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft, of Northcote Manor, the pub in Mitton offers local food creatively cooked and at reasonable prices. It has won a range of major awards since it opened nine years ago.

Bashall Barn Food Visitor Centre is just a couple of miles from Clitherhoe and has a busy restaurant and is also home to several small food producers. Definitely worth a look.

Things to do this summer

Clitheroe Castle and Museum has a range of family friendly events throughout the summer including craft sessions inspired by dinosaurs and Vikings or why not take part in Civil War Sunday on July 14. More details at

Local cider makers Dove Syke are holding a Sausage and Cider Festival at their premises in nearby West Bradford on July 20 and 21.

Clitheroe Castle claims it has one of the best skate parks in the UK. If there’s youngster in your family who loves their skateboard then it’s worth trying out.

A range of guided walks on Wednesdays and Saturdays are led by Clitheroe Line and East Lancashire Community Rail partnership. For more details email

To book for tastings and other events at Clitheroe Food Festival on Saturday, August 10 visit

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