Lancashire is a county in North West England. It takes its name from the city of Lancaster, which was the Roman camp (castrum) by the River Lune. The north is low-lying and agricultural, a series of resorts line the coast, while the south is industrial; to the east are the scenic Pennine moors and Forest of Bowland. Out of the moors surge rivers that in the Industrial Revolution were harnessed to drive mills - especially cotton mills, which Lancashire's soft water favours. Those mills spelt wealth for a few, but among those horrified by conditions in Lancashire were Mrs Gaskell, Marx and Engels, and George Orwell. Those enchanted by its rural wilds included Balzac, Conan Doyle and Tolkien.
Lancashire was much reduced by the 1974 local government re-organisation: northerly Barrow-in-Furness was re-assigned to Cumbria, while Manchester and Liverpool / Merseyside became separate areas. This means that the most heavily industrial areas have parted, while the rural charms have remained. The county's balance has shifted in favour of the enchanting.
Towns and villages
- Downriver it sprawls into the seaside resort of 2 Morecambe and ferry port of Heysham. The Brief Encounter railway junction of 3 Carnforth is a little further north. The lowland, cattle-farming plain is narrow here, with moors to the east and estuary marshes to the west.
- 1 Arnside and Silverdale is a small Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the border of Cumbria and Lancashire.
- To the north is agricultural, centred around 5 Garstang, while south and west are industrial: 6 Leyland is the base for Leyland Motors, with 7 Chorley nearby. West of Preston, 8 Kirkham includes Freckleton (with an aviation industry) and Wrea Green.
- The coast has a string of resort towns, well past their heyday if indeed they ever had one. South to north and linked by rumbling trams these are:
- 9 Lytham and St Annes has sandhills and a renowned golf course.
- 10 Blackpool is the main resort, with its tower, and accommodation and amusements.
- The strip continues through 11 Cleveleys to 12 Fleetwood. A little way inland, 13 Poulton-le-Fylde is a commuter village.
- East Lancashire starts with industry and commuter towns bordering Manchester, but stretches north into the scenic upper Ribble valley and Pennine Moors. The moors are low at this point, creating the historic transpennine route through the "Aire Gap" - it was even possible to route a canal across, the Leeds-Liverpool canal.
- 14 Rossendale is the steep-sided valley of the River Irwell where it flows out of the Pennines towards Manchester. There's a string of little textile towns along it, including Rawtenstall, Bacup, Haslingden and Waterfoot.
- 15 Blackburn, 16 Accrington, 17 Burnley and 18 Nelson are just north.
- 19 Clitheroe is where you finally shake off the burbs and industry, and break into open country. It's brooded over by Pendle Hill, home of the Lancashire Witches.
- The most attractive part of Lancashire is the expanse of upland countryside between Clitheroe to the south and Lancaster and Kirby Lonsdale to the north. This is the 2 Forest of Bowland, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which adjoins the Yorkshire Dales National Park to the east.
Was there a "Red Rose"?
In the 15th century, rival branches of the Plantagenet dynasty fell out, and for the next 30 years the Dukes of York and Dukes of Lancaster fought for the crown of England. The conflict only ended with the death in battle of Richard III in 1485, and accession of Henry VII and his Tudor dynasty.
In Shakespeare's Henry VI Part I, the rivals pick white or red roses to show their allegiance. Historians quibble that, while the white rose always symbolised York, the red rose for Lancaster didn’t appear till Tudor times, and the term “Wars of the Roses” was invented in the 19th century by Sir Walter Scott.
Such stuff! Fact of the matter is, neither duchy had much connection to its nominal city, and little of the fighting was in Lancashire: the battles were in Yorkshire, St Albans, Tewkesbury and anywhere but Lancs. So wouldn’t that mean that the Red Rose men usually had to turn out in an off-colour away-strip?
Britain's pre-1974 counties needed reform to catch up with modern ways of living and governing, especially in ramshackle Lancashire. Manchester and Liverpool were huge self-governing entities with their own centres of gravity. Barrow-in-Furness lay the far side of Morecambe Bay, yet was an exclave of Lancashire because stagecoaches used to go north by crossing the sands from Morecambe. So boundary change was necessary, but with it Lancashire lost 40% of its area, and an even greater chunk of its cultural history. The Beatles, Beryl Bainbridge, Ken Dodd, Jimmy Tarbuck, Bill Tidy: all gone to Merseyside, along with the seaside resort of Southport. Les Dawson, Samuel Crompton, Emmeline Pankhurst and Thomas de Quincey: all gone to Greater Manchester, along with LS Lowry’s Salford, Gracie Field’s Rochdale, Fred Dibnah's Bolton and George Orwell’s Wigan Pier. And Barrow went to Cumbria, along with its submarine-building yards, and Walney Island inspiration for Thomas the Tank Engine's "Isle of Sodor".
There was plenty left. The Blackburn of Barbara Castle and its infamous 4000 potholes, the Preston of Tom Finney, the Blackpool of Violet Carson aka Ena Sharples, and the Morecambe of none other than Eric Morecambe. More importantly, Lancashire had to re-think and re-balance itself. Blackpool declined as a resort but lived on as a conference centre; its airport closed to commercial flights but became an air-support base for the gas fields out in Morecambe Bay. Lancaster lost its lino factories but continued to expand its university, one of the “plate glass” universities of the 1960s. Preston North End played in football's lower divisions but the town's commercial and military aircraft industry prospered, and the polytechnic became a university.
And what the county never lost, and could now found upon, was its countryside. The mill towns were clustered in the southern valleys with limited spread onto the farmland and moors above. Nick Park of Preston created Shaun the Sheep to cavort amidst drystone walls in pre-lapsarian green fields. Lancashire gained some territory from Yorkshire, a rural area on the Aire / Ribble watershed, so upper Ribblesdale and the Forest of Bowland AONB now joined seamlessly to the protected scenery of the Dales. You won’t find many red roses growing up there, but you will find reasons to be pleased you came to Lancs.
People from Lancashire tend to speak English with a Northern accent called "Lancastrian" or sometimes "Lanky". The accent can differ from one town to another, although non-Brits are unlikely to be able to tell any difference. Traditional Lancashire accents are rhotic, as are most American and Irish accents.
As with most of the UK, very few natives speak other foreign languages. However, many ethnic minorities and immigrants now reside in the county, and languages such as Hindi, Urdu, Cantonese, Polish and Lithuanian are spoken within those groups.
By plane: 1 Manchester Airport (MAN IATA) has a global range of flights, competitive fares, and frequent direct trains across the county. 2 Liverpool John Lennon Airport (LPL IATA) is well connected to Europe.
By train: the main line between London Euston and Glasgow runs through Lancashire, with good connections to all the main towns.
By road: M6 runs north-south, with M55 branching to Blackpool and M61 to Manchester. M62 the main east-west transpennine route is just south of the county.
- All major towns have at least a daily or overnight bus from London Victoria, by either National Express or Megabus.
By ship: Cruise ships call at Liverpool Cruise Terminal. Ferries ply to Liverpool / Birkenhead from:
- Dublin twice a day (P & O, 8 hours), though there are faster sailings from Dublin to Holyhead in North Wales.
- Belfast twice a day (Stena Line, 8 hours)
- Douglas Isle of Man three per day (Isle of Man Steam Packet, 2 hour 45); Douglas also has ferries to Heysham near Morecambe.
The county is well served by motorways. The M6 runs north-south through the county, there are various spur motorways linking the M6 to towns (e.g. the M55 to Blackpool, the M65 to Blackburn and Burnley, the M58 to Merseyside), and the M62 crosses the Pennines to Yorkshire.
The Leeds-Liverpool Canal is a picturesque but slower way to travel in Lancashire.
Lancashire is increasingly a cycle friendly place for on- and off-road cyclists. Visit http://www.visitlancashire.com/site/things-to-do/cycling for up-to-date information.
- Stately homes and gardens include Samlesbury Hall near Blackburn, Gawthorpe Hall by Padiham near Burnley, and Hoghton Tower near Chorley.
- Arnside and Silverdale - another Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty between Lancaster and the Lakes.
- Pendle Hill - moorlands near Clitheroe and Burnley, renowned for the historic Pendle Witches.
- The Ashton Memorial - a monument in Lancaster's Williamson Park which can be seen when passing on the motorway and looks like St Paul's Cathedral set among woodlands. Lord Ashton (a linoleum industrialist) gave the park to the people of the city, and built the memorial to his wife. Contains an art gallery and a butterfly house.
- A game of cricket in one of the many small (and often picturesque) grounds throughout the county. Lancashire local cricket leagues are famous worldwide for the quality of their game, and many employ international professional players. Remember to put a whole day aside for one of these 'short' matches.
- The Britannia Coconut Dancers or The Nutters - one of Britain's most colourful traditional folk-dance troupes. Based at Britannia, in Bacup, Rossendale, the Coconutters take over the town on Easter Saturday, dancing from pub to pub along with their small band of musicians. Unusual in that they wear black-face make-up and skirts with 'nuts' attached to their arms and legs. The 'nuts' are cotton-bobbins and help create a number of highly distinctive dances. They can often be seen at other local events throughout the year.
- Helmshore Textile Museum (near Haslingden in the east of the county), a must to give you an insight into a working textile mill and past way of life in the county.
- Stonyhurst Catholic College set in the beautiful Ribble Valley, north of Blackburn, near Clitheroe.
- Walk in the scenic countryside areas listed above. There are extensive public footpaths.
- Visit the lively resort of Blackpool, or the quieter one Morecambe.
- Visit the old fishing town of Fleetwood with its seafront golf course, boating lakes, Freeport shopping centre and marina. You can also take a little ferry across the River Wyre estuary to Knott End.
- Waterfoot has The Boo Bacup Rd, BB4 7HB (01706 220241), an arts venue that puts on an occasional but unusual programme of family-friendly performances and runs an annual Puppet Festival in July. The Boo is also the home of the acclaimed Horse + Bamboo Theatre company - if you're visiting its always worth checking if they have something on, but August is normally a quiet month.
The County has distinctive culinary traditions. Black pudding, cow-heel and tripe, and a wide variety of savoury pies are traditional foods, some of which have been picked up and developed by a new generation of chefs. Other local specialities include young lamb from the hill farms, Lancashire hotpot (a lamb based stew), soft Lancashire oatcakes; Eccles cakes and Chorley cakes. Local bakers remain a common sight.
Lancashire cheese is considered one of the premier products of the county. It is associated with the town of Leigh, and Ben Gunn, a character in the Robert Louis Stevenson novel Treasure Island, craved Leigh Toaster during his three-year exile as a castaway. Lancashire cheese can be classified as either "tasty", "crumbly" or "creamy". Matured Lancashire Cheese is referred to locally as "tasty". Creamy and tasty are the original Lancashire cheeses, crumbly being a 1960s invention to effectively compete with Cheshire, Wensleydale and Caerphilly. It is reputed to be the best toasting cheese in the world and as such is a favourite for Welsh rarebit.
- As well as typical British pub culture, there's Fitzpatricks Temperance Bar in Rawtenstall which the last bar of its kind to serve black beer, sarsaparilla, blood tonic, cream soda and other non-alcoholic drinks.
- Lots of interesting old country pubs throughout the county, each with a story to tell dating back hundreds of years and a food menu worth testing. Try staying in these, dotted through the beautiful Ribble Valley. An ideal location whatever the time of year and within easy reach of all the best the county has to offer.
- Wolfen Mill Country Retreats. Luxury self-catering holiday cottages and apartments in Lancashire and the Forest of Bowland, romantic holiday accommodation, for short breaks, weekend breaks, the Ribble Valley, late availability. Romantic walking holiday location.
A safe county to visit but like most places worldwide in these modern times, take care walking at night, especially in the cities or dark unlit areas.
City centre pubs and clubs are safe to visit but some can get a little rowdy due to the drinking culture.
Check your cab home is a registered cab and displaying a cab licence plate number on the back if in doubt.
The local police are helpful and friendly.
Or hop on a ferry to Ireland or the Isle of Man.