8 places across Lancashire to visit after lockdown

PUBLISHED: 00:00 02 July 2020

View across Avenham Park to the Pavilion, Preston by Kirsty Thompson

View across Avenham Park to the Pavilion, Preston by Kirsty Thompson

Archant

From the highs of the Ribble Valley to the flats of West Lancashire, the county has so much to explore now the lockdown restrictions are easing.

Blackburn Cathedral viewed from Cathedral Square and Gardens by Kirsty ThompsonBlackburn Cathedral viewed from Cathedral Square and Gardens by Kirsty Thompson

Blackburn

Blackburn’s town centre has been transformed in recent years to become a lively and popular shopping destination with no shortage of places to eat and things to see and do. And while many of those shops, restaurants and attractions remain closed, there’s still plenty to keep you busy on a day-trip.

The area around the cathedral has been at the heart of the recent changes in the town and now features pedestrianised squares and gardens.

And for more rural walks, head for the 32-mile Witton Weavers Way which will open your eyes to area’s history and heritage as well as an abundance of wildlife.

Looking towards Chipping and the Bowland fells by Richard MartinLooking towards Chipping and the Bowland fells by Richard Martin

Chipping

Not many places can claim to be as ideally suited to social distancing as Chipping. The village has that isolated feel and even on a busy day, you won’t have to venture far to enjoy peace and solitude.

The village nestles in the Bleasdale Fells on the fringes of the beautiful Forest of Bowland, and this is perfect walking country, with a range of routes to suit all ages and abilities. Many of the walks pass tranquil pasture land and go through landscapes that have remained largely unaltered for centuries – a re-assuring thing in times of such dramatic change.

St Bartholemew’s Church stands in the centre of the village, at a junction of three narrow winding roads which each give way to the expansive rolling hills.

A quiet Corner of Downham by Karol GajewskiA quiet Corner of Downham by Karol Gajewski

Downham

Say ‘Downham’ to anyone who’s ever been there and it’s almost guaranteed they’ll use the word ‘unspoilt’ in their response.

It fully justifies the term thanks to the decision to keep it free from electric cables and television aerials and other obvious signs of technology. The Assheton family has held sway in this area for centuries and Downham Hall is still their family seat and the pub (sadly one of the casualties of the lockdown) in the village is named after them.

Take a stroll around the village’s undulating lanes, taking in the attractive stone houses, well tended gardens, colourful window boxes, fine church and exquisite beck, or take a longer walk to Pendle Hill.

River Wyre near Garstang by Kirsty ThompsonRiver Wyre near Garstang by Kirsty Thompson

Garstang

Garstang is the hub for a huge range of walking routes that stretch across through the surrounding woodland in the Forest of Bowland and along the Lancaster Canal towpath. There are walks to suit all abilities and you can explore Garstang’s history and shops as you walk down High Street where many of the remains of Greenhalgh Castle were re-used in building in the town.

The castle, which was built in 1490 by the First Earl of Derby, was one of the last Royalist strongholds to stand against Parliamentary troops and was partially demolished by Oliver Cromwell in 1645.

We suggest a peaceful walk beside the canal, which crosses the river Wyre at Garstang or, for a longer trek, head out on the Wyre Way. Garstang is about half way on the trail which starts in the Trough of Bowland and follows the river to its estuary at Fleetwood, passing through the Millennium Green.

Morecambe Bay from Lancaster by Rob McewenMorecambe Bay from Lancaster by Rob Mcewen

Lancaster

Lancaster is an ideal destination for a day-trip whether you want to be an urban explorer or find tranquillity in green open spaces. Before lockdown, the compact city centre was a paradise for shoppers, history buffs and fans of top quality food and drink. The boutiques, big name stores and vast range of other shops are re-opening with new social-distancing rules in place and many of the city’s restaurants and cafes are starting to come back with take-away services.

The short-term future for universities is still unclear and that should make the streets of Lancaster somewhat quieter until students start to return, possibly in September. Until then, take advantage of the extra room to linger a while and soak up the city’s history which the Romans and the slave trade had roles in shaping. Take a wander by the river Lune, or along the Lancaster Canal, or head uphill to drink in views across the city and beyond. The Grade One listed castle was a working prison until not long ago and features a 12th century keep, 14th century witches’ tower and a 15th century gatehouse. Tours are fascinating – did you know this was where pilates was invented? – so look out for them re-starting.

From the grounds of the castle you’ll be able to spot the other high spot in any visit to Lancaster, the Williamson Memorial.The gleaming white building – Lancashire’s own Taj Mahal – is one of the jewels of the stately Williamson Park. It was commissioned by Lord Ashton (born James Williamson) as a tribute to his late wife, although he had re-married by the time building work was finished and rumour has it he changed his mind dedicated it to himself. From the park you’ll enjoy glorious views across Morecambe Bay to the Lakeland hills, or east to the Pennines.

Bowland Fells from Spire Hill by John LenehanBowland Fells from Spire Hill by John Lenehan

Longridge

Longridge stands as near as dammit at the centre of Lancashire and it has a special place in the hearts of many people. Some love it for the shopping – it wouldn’t be too much of a challenge for the 8,000 or residents to rely on what they could buy from the superb independent shops along Berry Lane and the quartet of supermarkets. And while many shops are starting to re-open, it may take a little longer for restaurants and bars to find their place in the ‘new normal’. When they do though, those who visit Longridge for its food and drink will be delighted, and those who haven’t yet eaten out here are in for a treat. Others are fans of the town simply for its outstanding natural beauty, and there is so so much of that to enjoy.

If you want to stay in the town, the Longridge Heritage Trail takes in some of the most important and interesting sites, including two churchyards which offer stunning views and an ideal opportunity for some quiet reflection. From the 16th century St Lawrence’s Church there are glorious views across the Ribble Valley and the reservoirs to the south of the town. And from St Paul’s Church, which was built in the late 19th century, you can enjoy expansive views across the town and away to Longridge Fell and the Forest of Bowland.

And if you fancy heading a little further afield for arguably the best views in the county, head to the trig point on Spire Hill, the summit of Longridge Fell. The broad vista spread out below is wonderful, from Beacon Fell on the left, then the rest of the fells, Parlick, Wolf, Saddle, Burnslack, Fair Oak, Totridge and the Trough of Bowland in the distance.

Feeding the ducks in Coronation Park, Ormskirk by John CocksFeeding the ducks in Coronation Park, Ormskirk by John Cocks

Ormskirk

This pretty market town is surrounded by some of the most fertile farmland in the country and those fields are criss-crossed by a web of footpaths which offer tranquillity and great views in equal measure, as well plenty of opportunities to spot birds and other wildlife.

Back in the Ormskirk town centre, explore the wide pedestrianised streets which meet at the clock tower. These streets are lined with shops and cafes which until the lockdown were thronging with shoppers, especially at the market on Thursdays and Saturdays.

There are plenty of pleasant green spaces to enjoy as well, particularly Coronation park and the parkland around the church of St Peter and St Paul which is one of only three in the country to have a tower and a spire.

Miller Park and the River Ribble, Preston by Kirsty ThompsonMiller Park and the River Ribble, Preston by Kirsty Thompson

Preston

There’s lots to explore around Lancashire’s newest city and that should mean social distancing isn’t a problem. There are glorious parks close to the city centre and the surrounding countryside is dotted with pretty villages and beauty spots that are just waiting to be explored.

Start your trip in Avenham and Miller Parks beside the Ribble. They are criss-crossed by wide paths and it’s just a short walk from there to the Edwardian splendour of Winckley Square and the city centre.

Changes in recent years mean many streets are pedestrianised or have wider pavements. If it’s looking busy in that direction, stay by the river and follow the Ribble Way, or investigate a stretch of the Guild Wheel, a 21 mile circuit of the city which opened in 2012, the year of the most recent Preston Guild.

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