The Forest of Bowland is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covering 312 sq mi (810 km2) in the north of Lancashire and part of North Yorkshire, north-west of Clitheroe and south-west of Settle. Its main villages are Chipping, Slaidburn and Dunsop Bridge.
Use OS Explorer Map 41 or Landranger Maps 98 & 103 to guide you round the area.
The Forest of Bowland is a nationally protected landscape and internationally important for its heather moorland, blanket bog and rare birds. The 'forest' refers to its ancient status as a hunting park rather than a wooded terrain.
Bowland today is remarkably unchanged since the late medieval period. Across the area there are many fine examples of the stone buildings that were built to replace timber houses between the 16th and 18th centuries, with their characteristic stone mullions, lintels and datestones. There are also sites that survive as isolated reminders of the medieval heritage of the Forest of Bowland, for example the Cistercian monastery at Sawley.
Bowland is upland country which forms part of the Pennines, and shares many of the characteristics of other upland areas like the Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales. The area is dominated by a central upland core of deeply incised gritstone fells with summits above 450 m and vast tracts of heather-covered peat moorland.
The fells’ fringe of foothills is dissected by steep-sided valleys which open out into the rich green lowlands of the Ribble, Hodder, Wyre and Lune Valleys. Well-wooded and dotted with picturesque stone farms and villages, these lower slopes, criss-crossed by drystone walls, contrast with and complement the dramatic open sweep of the gritstone heights. On its south-eastern edge lies Pendle Hill.
Flora and fauna
The heather moorlands of the fells are exceptionally important as a habitat for upland birds and have been designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the European Birds Directive in recognition of this.
The Bowland Hen Harrier Project is centred on the Bowland Visitor Centre, Beacon Fell. Continuous footage of a Hen Harrier nest in the Bowland Fells can be viewed seven days a week at the Visitor Centre on Beacon Fell Country Park near Preston.
You need a car, or bike at a pinch. The County Council loftily declare their commitment to use of public transport in the Forest of Bowland, but don't provide any, eg the "Bowland Explorer" has been axed.
In 2004 parts of Bowland became open to walkers for the first time as a change in the law gave general right of access to the public to ‘Access Land’ for the purposes of open-air recreation on foot. The Forest of Bowland now offers great walking through some of the most beautiful and remote areas of the country.
- Slaidburn is a picturesque grey stone village set on the banks of the Hodder. The 10th-century ‘Angel Stone’ carving can be seen at the Heritage Centre, which has tourist information and houses displays, artifacts and an audio-visual presentation about the village’s heritage and the Forest of Bowland.
- Bowland Wild Boar Park, Chipping, ☏ . At a pleasant site with cafe for home made and produced foods. Lots to do for kids, plus wild boar, deer, llamas, goats, etc.
- Bowland Visitor Centre, Fell House car park, Beacon Fell, ☏ . Summer 9:30AM-6PM (6:30PM weekends); Winter 10AM-5PM. The centre provides displays and information about Beacon Fell Country Park and the Forest of Bowland. There is an education/conference room can be used by organized groups. Throughout summer the cafè facility serves drinks, hot and cold food, light snacks, all day breakfasts, sweets and ice creams. free.
- Dark skies: on a cloud-free night, you should have good views of the Milky Way, maybe an occasional meteor, and if you're lucky the Northern Lights. Pretty much anywhere in Bowland will do, but especially recommended are Beacon Fell Country Park, Gisburn Forest Hub, Slaidburn Village Car Park, Crook o’ Lune Picnic Site and Newton in Bowland.
- Walking: the Park suggest some 14 routes, free to download.
- There are 5 cycle routes within Bowland including the Gisburn Forest Cycleway and Lancashire Cycleway.
- There are opportunities for fishing, birding, gliding and horse-riding in the area.
- Learn how to build dry-stone walls. Training courses are held in summer, the next is Sat 1 & Sun 2 June 2019 at Slaidburn.
Eat and drink
- The Inn at Whitewell, nr Clitheroe, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. The Inn at Whitewell is a characterful and very special inn, originally lived in by the keepers of the Royal Forest, and still retains Royal connections as it is part of the Duchy of Lancaster Estate. Serves excellent food that can be eaten on the terrace overlooking the River Hodder. A beautiful and old fashioned rural Inn in a stunning setting in the Forest of Bowland. It also has 23 bedrooms, plus good food using local ingredients, a noteworthy selection of drinks, including beers and ciders.
- Camping is available at a dozen sites, including Dale House above Tosside (in a barn, so it's more like a hostel dorm), and Dalesbridge & Orcaber Farm off A65 near Clapham.
- The Inn at Whitewell (see listing above). Has 23 bedrooms, 14 with open fires.
- Lancaster - interesting town, a good base for Bowland and also a staging point for The Lake District
- Clitheroe - makes a good base for exploring the area