Ultimate Guide To The Tolkien Trail 🧙‍♂️ (Lord Of The Rings Walk, Lancashire)
Ultimate Guide To The Tolkien Trail 🧙‍♂️ (Lord Of The Rings Walk, Lancashire)

Ultimate Guide To The Tolkien Trail 🧙‍♂️ (Lord Of The Rings Walk, Lancashire)

Rambling through the very same countryside that captured J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagination, it’s easy to see why the Tolkien Trail continues to attract Lord of the Rings fanatics from all across the globe.

Starting at the Shireburn Arms in the small village of Hurst Green, this 12-kilometre circular route feels like something pulled straight out of Middle-Earth.

Having you venture through rolling pastures, scattered woodlands, picturesque riverside views and various historic sights – all before finishing back at the village for some well-deserved pub grub – this ramble is undoubtedly one of Lancashire’s very best.

Countryside views along the Tolkien Trail in Lancashire
Tolkien loved the Lancashire countryside

Who was J.R.R Tolkien?

Widely regarded as one of the greatest English authors, J.R.R. Tolkien (January 1892 – September 1973) is most celebrated for his fictional works of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

A big lover of nature, Tolkien spent much of his spare time in the surrounding countryside of the Ribble Valley during his stays at the distinguished boarding school, Stonyhurst College.

It’s been said Tolkien penned some of his most dark and dramatic chapters for Lord of the Rings here during the midst of the Second World War, notably Gandalf’s fall into Moria in 1941 and then Frodo & Sam’s long journey to Moria in 1944.

Tolkien’s Inspiration

The charming landscape of Hurst Green bears an uncanny resemblance to Tolkien’s fictional village of Hobbiton, and certain names from the books were undoubtedly influenced by local spots, namely Shire Lane and the River Shirebourn.

Comparison of Cromwell Bridge to the Shire Bridge seen in Lord of the Rings
Cromwell’s Bridge and the bridge at the Shire

Sites such as Cromwell’s Bridge and Lower Hodder Bridge will look very familiar to Middle-Earth fans, and the historic grounds of Stonyhurst College and the surrounding woodlands only further add to the magical charm of the valley.

In the distant landscape you’ll also be able to spot the large and imposing Pendle Hill, notorious for its dark history of sorcery and witchcraft. Perhaps Tolkien’s inspiration for the Misty Mountain?

Tolkien Trail Walking Route

Route Difficulty: Easy/Medium

Distance: 12 km (7.45 miles)

Route Elevation: 114m

Route Time: 2-3 hrs

Start Point: The Shireburn Arms, Hurst Green, Whalley, Clitheroe BB7 9QJ

Weather: Hurst Green – BBC Weather

Step-By-Step Guide

Starting at Shireburn Arms, walk past the war memorial and take the right turning up Warren Fold.

Hurst Green War Memorial, Tolkien Trail Start Point

Follow the road, over the fence and then through the gate on your left.

The first gate you pass through at the start of the Tolkien Trail

Sticking to the left, walk round the open field and through the kissing gate where you’ll see a signpost for Stonyhurst Clay Target Centre.

Clay Target Centre Stonyhurst signpost

Once through the gate, stick to the left and follow the field all the way to the end, coming out at the back of Stonyhurst College.

The back entrance of Stonyhurst College
Come out of the field and you’ll see the back of Stonyhurst College.

Immediately after coming through the field, take the path to your right, following it to the end and then taking the left turning. Follow this trail all the way until you come to Knowles Brow road.

Knowles Brow, Hurst Green

Cross the country road and keep straight. Follow this path to the end and into the field ahead. At the end of the field you’ll see a gate into the woodlands.

Walking past Knowles Brow into the woodlands
Walk through the field and into the woodlands.

Woodland walk along the Tolkien Trail

Follow the woodland path down the steps and you’ll soon come across a bridge to your right.

Old River Bridge in Hurst Green

Turn right, walk over the bridge and follow the path straight until you reach another gate.

Lancashire Way Stile in Hurst Green

Head through the gate, and follow the path that runs beside the river.

Optional tip – We always like to take a short picnic break by the tranquil flowing river here

A lovely picnic spot by the river near Cromwell Bridge

Follow the path to the end until you arrive at Lower Hodder and Cromwell’s Bridge.

Cromwell Bridge in Hurst Green

Turn right and walk up the B6243 road until you’ll soon reach a sign post for the theatre. Just past this sign make a left and follow the footpath through the open fields.

Walking through fields in Hurst Green

Follow the trail to the other end of the field, heading through the gate and then turning left down the hill.

Stile along the Tolkien Trail

Keep following the path which will take you through a farm and onto a trail running parallel with the River Ribble.

A funny pig statue outside Winkley Piggeries
Look out for the Winkley Piggeries

Keep beside the River Ribble, passing through several gate and stiles.

Walking along the footpath beside the River Ribble

Walking under a bridge along the River Ribble

At the end of the river path you’ll come across a small bridge.

A narrow wooden bridge along the Tolkien Trail

Cross the bridge and through the woodland which leads onto an open moorland. Traverse the gentle incline to the top of the field where you’ll finish the trail, returning back at Shireburn Arms.

Open moorlands behind the Shireburn Arms in Hurst Green

Tolkien Trail FAQs

Where do you park for the Tolkien Trail?

There are a few parking spots just outside of the Shireburn Arms and the surrounding area, but most people seem to park on Avenue Road which leads all the way up to Stonyhurst College.

Parking warnings placed all the way up Avenue Road in Hurst Green
Parking warnings placed all the way up Avenue Road

A word of warning however, last time we came here, we were informed by a local that cars had been getting fined for parking on Avenue Road.

Erring on the side of caution, we instead decided to park on the ABC Memorial Green carpark.

ABC Memorial Car Park, Hurst Green
The parking donation box

The parking is cheap (a recommended donation of just £2) and well worth the money since it gives you the peace of mind that you won’t be coming back to a ticket plastered on your car window!

Carpark Address: ABC Memorial Hall, Avenue Rd, Hurst Green, Clitheroe BB7 9QB

How long is the Tolkien Trail?

Depending on how fast you walk and whether you stop for any breaks, the ramble should take around 2-3 hours.

A "Not all those who wander are lost" sign post to mark the end of the Tolkien Trail
“Not all those who wander are lost” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Is the Tolkien Trail a difficult walk?

While the walk does take 2-3 hours to complete, it’s relatively flat throughout and doesn’t really have any challenging segments and so should be doable for most walking abilities.

I’d give it an easy/medium difficulty rating – the walk may be longer than what some people are used to, but the flatness of the route makes it not too challenging.

Is the Tolkien Trail muddy?

It really depends on the time of year that you come. There are a lot of moorland and field segments to the ramble, so if you’re coming on a wetter day you’d be best be prepared to get a bit mucky!

A sunny day on the grounds of Stonyhurst College

Is the Tolkien Trail signposted?

There may be the odd signpost scattered along the walk, but for large segments there are no signs to be seen.

When we first tried the walk, it took us a while to even find the official starting point due to the lack of signs!

If it’s your first time doing this trail, it’s best to have some kind of map or follow the step-by-step guide above.

Why is it called the Tolkien Trail?

A trail taking you through the very same Lancashire countryside that inspired Tolkien when writing one of the greatest works of fiction in The Lord Of The Rings; it’s only fitting that this walk should be named in ode to him! 

Tolkien Trail – Points of interest

Stonyhurst college

Stonyhurst College Entrance

Along the trail you’ll pass Stonyhurst College – the renowned boarding school where Tolkien spent several years writing The Lord of the Rings books in the midst of the Second World War.

Classified as a Grade I listed building (a building of exceptional interest), the school’s creation dates all the way back to the 16th century – although some of the buildings here date back even further to the 1200s!

Tolkien’s name appears in the school’s visitors book many times, and it’s said that he even taught a few classes here. Tolkien’s son, Michael, also taught Classics here during the late 1960s to early 70s.

Open fields behind Stonyhurst College

Stonyhurst College grounds

You’ll get some decent glimpses of the school when on the Tolkien Trail, but if you’ve time, we’d also definitely recommend heading into the grounds of Stonyhurst College after the walk.

The historic grounds are stunning and you’ll get amazing views of the main entrance of building. To get here, simply just walk to the top of Avenue Road and you can’t miss it.

With yearly tuition fees here costing upwards of £30,000, safe to say this is the closest the vast majority of us will get to the school!

Statue of Our Lady on the grounds of Stonyhurst College
Statue of Our Lady on the grounds of Stonyhurst

Cromwell’s Bridge

Cromwell Bridge in Hurst Green

Cromwell’s Bridge – also known as Devil’s Bridge – dates back to the 16th century and derives its name from the renowned English general, Oliver Cromwell.

Leading over 8,000 men – along with horses and heavy artillery – Cromwell had to navigate his whole army over this 2-metre wide bridge in 1648 on his way to defeat the Royalists in the Battle of Preston during the English Civil War.

Walking along the narrow Cromwell Brdige
Cromwell’s Bridge is particularly narrow.

The narrowness of the bridge really hits home when you stand on it for yourself. You can barely fit two people on it side-by-side.

Hard to imagine the logistical nightmare Cromwell faced when bringing his whole army across!

While Lower Hodder Bridge is used as the main crossing point today, Cromwell’s bridge is still accessible and its definitely worth checking out on your way round the Tolkien Trail.

Looking at Lower Hodder Bridge
The Lower Hodder Bridge, built 1819

Shireburn Arms Hotel and Restaurant

Shireburn Arms in Hurst Green

Residing in the heart of Hurst Green, The Shireburn Arms conveniently marks both the start and finish point for the Tolkien Trail.

A 17th Century inn that’s retained many of its traditional architectural features, it’s the go-to spot for some locally sourced pub grub after finishing your Lord of the Rings inspired-ramble.

Pie and an ale from Shireburn Arms in Hurst Green
Some well deserved food and ale after our trek!

Surrounded by the rolling pastures of the Ribble Valley which bear an uncanny resemblance to the hobbit village of Hobbiton, it’s clear to see just how much influence this land really had on J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing.

Shireburn Arms Beer Garden
Fantastic outside seating area

More resources

For more walking inspiration in the local area, be sure to head on over to the Lancashire section of our blog – there’s certainly no shortage of trails to get stuck into!

Happy walking 🚶🚶