Clitheroe is an attractive market town in the Ribble Valley in East Lancashire, which claims to be at the geographic heart of England. It lies to the south of the Forest of Bowland and is the ideal staging post for visiting that area, known as 'Lancashire's hidden gem'.
It is well known for its Norman castle, dating back over 800 years and for great food and wine shops.
Prestonbus 25 runs every couple of hours M-Sat from Blackburn via Mellor and Whalley. Bus 280 runs from Preston hourly M-Sat via Whalley to Clitheroe, with alternate services continuing to Gisburn, Barnoldswick and Skipton.
The Pendle Witches
It sounds medieval, but belief in witches, and legal or church persecutions, were uncommon in Britain until the 16th century. Then the belief system grew, witchcraft was made a capital crime, and people started seeing them everywhere. In 1612 eleven people living around Pendle Hill were tried for witchcraft: eight women and two men were found guilty and hanged, one woman was acquitted. Others such as the "Samlesbury Witches" were tried about the same time, an unusual spate of cases.
One factor was widespread recusancy (reverting to Catholicism) and other religious non-conformity in this area, so the authorities were already suspicious of secret conclaves and determined to hunt down unorthodoxy. Another was that the accused seemed to believe in or wished to exaggerate their own supernatural powers. Six of them came from the Demdike and the Chattox families, who were rival folk-healers quick to accuse the other. It had all started when Alizon Device asked a pedlar for metal pins, often used for divination, healing, and hocus-pocus; he refused. As he walked away he fell to the ground. He was able to get back up and hobble on his way, yet within a day or so, Alizon was stating (without being put under pressure) that the Devil had lamed the pedlar at her request. Soon the elderly Demdike and Chattox matriarchs were yarning away in court about their alliances with Old Nick.
There were attempts in 1998 and in 2008 to obtain judicial pardons for the witches, but their convictions stand.
- 1 Clitheroe Castle, Castle St BB7 1BA, ☏ . Mar daily 12:00-16:00, Apr-Oct daily 11:00-18:00, Nov-Feb F-Tu 12:00-16:00. Held by the Royalists in the Civil War, this castle was one of many that the Parliamentarians ordered to be "slighted" ie partly demolished - but it was already so bashed about that they hardly bothered doing so. What's left of it is a small Norman keep with curtain wall balancing on a 35-metre outcrop of limestone coral. It's surrounded by pleasant gardens and a park. Adult £4.40.
- 2 Browsholme Hall, Clitheroe Rd, ☏ . W only May - 9 Oct 2019, plus M 27 May & 26 Aug, 11:30-16:00. Ancestral home of the Parker Family, who have lived here since it was built in 1507. The Tithe Barn is used for events such as weddings. Adult £10.
- 3 Sawley Abbey, Sawley BB7 4NH (off A59 four miles NE of Clitheroe). Daily Apr-Oct 10:00-17:00, Nov-Mar 10:00-16:00. The remains of a Cistercian abbey founded in 1148, set on the banks of the Ribble against the Bowland hills. Free.
- 4 Whalley Abbey, The Sands, Whalley BB7 9SS, ☏ . Garden open daily. A 14th century Cistercian Abbey on the banks of the Calder; it was ruined at the Dissolution and the abbott hanged for his part in the "Pilgrimage of Grace" uprising. The abbey was demolished and its stone recycled into a house, so there are limited remains, which you can see from the garden. The monk's dormitory has become an RC church, English Martyrs, still in use. The rest is now owned by the Anglican Diocese of Blackburn and the house is a spiritual retreat, offering residential programmes. "SuperWhalleyAlbanAbbots, Solas-are-the-focus" is the zingy title of one upcoming event.
- 5 Pendle Hill. This hill is 557 metres (1,827 ft) high, but looks bigger as it looms up in isolation from lower country. (The name Pen means hill as does the "dle" element, so like Breedon Hill in Leicester, its full meaning is "hill hill hill.") It's a detached part of Forest of Bowland AONB. Its claims to fame are i) the Pendle Witches - the Demdike and Chattox families lived hereabouts in the early 17th C; ii) the "Moses" moment for Quakers, where in 1652 George Fox had his vision to propagate his Quaker beliefs, and iii) Richard Towneley's barometer measurements on the hill in 1661 showed the relationship between gas pressure and volume which we call Boyle's Law. The hill is gritstone overlying limestone, so it's sparse moor heath on top. The usual ascent is the steepest, from the lane above Barley village (east) then straight up the scarp. In Aug 2012 some 483 people dressed as witches climbed the hill to mark the 400th anniversary of the witch trials.
- 6 Stonyhurst College. Occasional open days, 2019 programme not yet available. Roman Catholic independent school, established by the Jesuits on the continent in 1593, and relocating to England once it was safe to do so in 1794. Those who were here include Gerald Manley Hopkins, Arthur Conan Doyle and JRR Tolkien - and college and the adjacent moors can be clearly traced in their works. The grand building, mostly 1880s, can be visited on open days.
- Wander through the main streets and experience a typical northern English market town, especially on market days. There has been a market in Clitheroe since Norman times. The market is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with a Flea market on Fridays.
- Platform Gallery. at the railway station - an excellent craft gallery.
- Ribble Valley Sculpture Trail. This includes over 20 interesting sculptures, plus interpretation boards about the area and its wildlife. The trail travels through Brungerley Park and Cross Hill Quarry, combining river and woodland walking with good views and wildlife in the nature reserve managed by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust. Starts less than a mile from Clitheroe town centre, heading north towards Waddington.
Clitheroe is well served by specialist shop, and an award-winning off-licence, D. Byrne & Co, on King Street. It also has an excellent Booths Supermarket - an institution in Lancashire.
A good choice of cafes and restaurants throughout the town.
- 1 Three Fishes, Mitton Rd, Whalley, BB7 9PQ, ☏ . Daily 12:00-23:00. An award-winning pub restaurant serving Real Beer and Real Food.
Plenty of characterful inns and public houses in town.
- White Lion pub at 11 Market Place also has rooms.
- Maxwells cafe and wine bar next to the station is open M-W 09:00-17:00, Th-Sa 09:00-00:00, Su 10:00-10:30.
- The Dog at 1-3 Wellgate (open Th-Su) has music and live sport.
- Swan & Royal Hotel, 26 Castle St, Clitheroe BB7 2BX, ☏ . Comfy central 2-star with bar. B&B double £70.
- Rose & Crown Hotel, 21 Castle St, Clitheroe BB7 2BT, ☏ . Central 2-star with rooms en suite. B&B double £75.
- The Forest of Bowland is a beautiful yet little-visited unknown area of Britain.
- Blackburn and Nelson for their history of the textile era.