9 BEST Forest Of Bowland Walks To Try In 2024 🌲
9 BEST Forest Of Bowland Walks To Try In 2024 🌲

9 BEST Forest Of Bowland Walks To Try In 2024 🌲

As a Lancashire bloke who loves the outdoors, I feel so blessed to have the Forest of Bowland right on my doorstep.

Also known as Bowland Fells, the region is home to a beautiful assortment of impressive crags, dramatic valleys, ancient woodlands, sparkly reservoirs, rolling pastures and charming pint-sized villages dotted all throughout its glorious landscape.

Walking to Pendle Hill, Forest of Bowland

Fun fact – First time visitors are often surprised to see that much of the Forest of Bowland isn’t actually a forest! This is because the name is a nod to the area’s history as an old royal hunting park.

Classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) since 1964, the forestry runs mostly through Lancashire but also dips its toes into the picturesque countryside of North Yorkshire.

Undoubtedly one of the best areas in the north west for country walking, ramblers are spoilt for choice when it comes to trail selection. I’ve been visiting the area ever since I was child and there’s still loads for me to discover!

Lower Hodder Bridge, 1819,Tolkien Trail

Likewise, being a lesser known walking spot in comparison to nearby national parks such as the Lakes, Yorkshire Dales and Peak District – the land is largely unspoilt and never overwhelmed by droves of crowds. Perfect for those looking for some tranquility.

With so many walking routes on offer, you may have landed here wondering which are the very best.

In all honesty, you can’t really go wrong with whichever trek you opt for since they’re generally all fantastic hikes.

Nevertheless, I can still certainly recommend some of my personal favourites which are guaranteed to give you a cracking day out!

Let’s get to it 👇👇

Forest of Bowland Walks

Pendle Hill From Barley

Starting Point: Barley Picnic Site Car Park, Barley, BB12 9JX
Distance: 8 km (5 miles)

Pendle Hill View From Above

Arguably providing the best countryside views in the whole county, Pendle Hill’s summit continues to attract thousands of ramblers from far and wide each and every year.

Infamous for the gruesome Pendle witch trials of 1612, this historic climb starts in Barley and can be completed by most in under 3 hours at a reasonable pace.

Fun fact – a hotspot for supernatural fanatics, hit TV series ‘Most Haunted’ even came to film a spooky episode back in 2004.

Standing at an imposing 1827 ft, the brief but steep ascent is sure to prove a challenge – although the vantage points you’re rewarded to from the summit are absolutely marvellous.

Trust me, the juice is worth the squeeze!

Overlooking Lancashire and into the Yorkshire Dales, on a clear day you may even be able to pinpoint Blackpool Tower.

The footpath is well signposted and easy to follow throughout – look out for the sign posts of the witch on her broomstick.

The Pendle Inn, Barley
The Pendle Inn, Barley – A great place for some grub after your hike

For a comprehensive step-by-step guide on this walk, be sure to check out our Pendle Hill Walk Guide.

Gisburn Forest Waterfall Walk

Starting Point: Stocks Reservoir Car Park, School Ln, Clitheroe BB7 4TS
Distance: 5.8 km (3.6 miles)

Gisburn Forest Waterfall, Forest of Bowland

One of the lesser-known Forest of Bowland walks, most visitors are completely unaware of this secret waterfall burrowed in the heart of Gisburn forest.

Shrouded by thicket and hiding at the bottom of a steep valley, tracking down the waterfall can prove tricky and the scramble down should only be attempted by those who feel confident enough to do so safely.

Nevertheless, while the waterfall is a magnificent sight to behold, the relaxing 5.8-kilometre route around Gisburn Forest is a thoroughly enjoyable trek regardless of whether you visit the waterfall or not.

Gisburn Forest, Waterfall Walk

For those who’d like to explore further, there are plenty of off-shoot trails in the woodlands to venture on. Plus, there’s always the option to head around the neighbouring Stocks Reservoir (more on that below)

For a detailed guide on how to find this hidden gem, feel free to scroll through our Gisburn Forest Waterfall post here.

Stocks Reservoir Circular

Starting Point: Stocks Reservoir Car Park, School Ln, Clitheroe BB7 4TS
Distance: 10.8 km (6.7 miles)

Stocks Reservoir Walk, Winter, Snow

First opened by Prince George on 5th July 1932, Stocks is a unique spot since it’s the only reservoir in the whole of United Utilities’ Bowland Estate.

The full circuit of the embankment comes in at around 7 miles and treats visitors to fantastic vistas of the glistening waters and surrounding wild forestry throughout.

While relatively flat and easy to follow, the reservoir is admittedly a hefty one! Expect the full circular ramble to take around 3 hours – maybe even longer if you’re tempted into the quaint little café for a cuppa ☕

With all the intertwining trails of Gisburn Forest situated near the reservoir, there’s also plenty of opportunity to easily extend your ramble for the particularly adventurous types.

For the full lowdown, be sure to check out our Stocks Reservoir Walking Guide!

Aitken Wood and Pendle Sculpture Trail

Starting Point: Barley Picnic Site Car Park, Barley, BB12 9JX
Distance: 4.5 km (2.7 miles)

Pendle Sculpture Trail, Aitken Wood
Aitken Wood is full of surprises

For those who don’t fancy the steep climb up Pendle Hill or are simply looking for something a little different, the Pendle Sculpture Trail is great fun for all ages and abilities.

Winding through Aitken Wood, this scenic 5 km route includes a variety of interesting and quirky sculptures inspired by the Pendle Witches and rich history of the local area.

Packed full of eye-catching sights and a fantastic way to learn more about the area’s riveting past, Pendle sculpture artist Ngaire Jackson describes Pendle as having ‘a magical quality about the whole area.’

After visiting for yourself, you’d be hard pressed to disagree.

The Tolkien Trail

Starting Point: The Shireburn Arms, Hurst Green, Whalley, Clitheroe BB7 9QJ
Distance: 12 km (7.45 miles)

Cromwell Bridge, Tolkien Trail, Lord of the Rings Comparison
Discover the fairy-tale landscape which captured Tolkien’s imagination when writing his epic ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy

Guiding you along the very same countryside which heavily inspired J.R.R. Tolkien– this trail is an absolute dream for any Lord of the Rings fan!

One of England’s most celebrated authors, it’s actually said Tolkien penned some of his most dramatic scenes during his time residing in the idyllic village of Hurst Green during the midst of the Second World War.

Leading you over rolling pastures, through enchanted woodlands, beside twinkling riversides and also discovering various historic sights along the way, this charming ramble truly is one of Lancashire’s quintessential walks regardless of whether you’re a Middle Earth fan or not.

Plus, the 10-kilometre loop conveniently finishes at the beer garden of Shireburn Arms – the perfect spot for a well-deserved post-walk pint (or two!)

For help on navigating your way around the route, you can follow our step-by-step Tolkien Trail picture guide here.

"Not all those who wander are lost" Tolkien Trail Sign, Hurst Green
“Not all those who wander are lost” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Longridge Fell

Starting Point: Hurst Green, Whalley, Clitheroe BB7 9QJ
Distance: 8 km (5 miles)

The most southerly fell in England, Longridge Fell stands at a striking 1,148 feet and looms over the surrounding forest landscape.

Similar to the Tolkien Trail, the Longridge Fell hike is best started from Hurst Green and comes it at around 5 miles in length.

The views from its summit are absolutely gorgeous whatever the season. However, it must be noted that the way-marking isn’t the clearest because the trail isn’t actually a Public Right of Way but a concessionary footpath. We’d definitely recommend some proper hiking footwear for this one!

Top tip – When in Hurst Green, why not explore the grounds of Stonyhurst College? A distinguished boarding school, Stonyhurst College is a grade I listed building with some of the structure dating as far back as the 1200s. The garden grounds are magical; it really does feel like something pulled straight out of Harry Potter.

Stonyhurst College, Tolkien Trail
The historic Stonyhurst College

Nicky Nook Circular

Starting Point: Scorton, Preston, PR3 1BA
Distance: 5.5 km (3.4 miles)

Standing at 700 ft on the very western edge of the Forest of Bowland, Nicky Nook provides gorgeous countryside views without being quite as strenuous as Pendle Hill.

Particularly popular amongst families, the relaxing stroll is only 3 miles and from the summit you can see the coast, Ward’s Stone (the Forest of Bowland’s highest fell) and even the Lake District on a clear day.

Towering over the nearby village of Scorton near Garstang, the popular route back down also descends towards Grizedale Reservoir which is a beautiful sight to see in its own right.

Downham, Worsaw Hill, and Chatburn

Starting Point: Downham, Clitheroe, BB7 4BP
Distance: 8.4 km (5.2 miles)


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Visiting Downham is like stepping into a time capsule.

Unspoilt by the tides of change, the village has maintained its old-fashioned charm through the years and is well celebrated as one of the prettiest villages in Lancashire.

A popular spot for ramblers, The Walking Englishman has devised a great 5-mile circular route on his blog from Downham which also incorporates Worsaw Hill, Chatburn, Fairy Bridge and Downham Bridge.

Top tip – famous for its local ice-cream, don’t forget to treat yourself to a scoop or two after finishing your trek!

Pendle Hill from Barley - Burnley Walks
Pendle Hill looms over Downham in the distance

Ward’s Stone Walk

Starting Point: Quernmore, Lancaster, LA2 9EH
Distance: 13.6 km (8.5 miles)

Last but certainly not least, Ward’s Stone officially holds the title of tallest fell in the Forest of Bowland and stands at a towering 1841 feet above sea level.

Ever so slightly taller than Pendle Hill, Ward’s Stone is only 50 metres shy of being classed as a mountain!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the 8.5-mile hike can prove a tough one. However, the glorious vantage points from the summit certainly help distract you from the lactic acid build up in your legs!

Home to two trig points almost a kilometre apart, on a clear day you’re treated to absolutely breath-taking vistas of the Forest of Bowland and surrounding fell land – keep your eyes peeled and you may even be able to spot Ingleborough!

Forest of Bowland Walks – Map

More Lancashire walks

For those interested in more walks in the local area, why not scan through some of our favourite walks around Lancashire?

Happy walking 🚶🚶