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Lancashire is a county in the North of England. It takes its name from the city of Lancaster, and is known as the Red Rose county. Until Government boundary changes in 1974 Manchester and Liverpool were part of the county and these major cities still exert a strong gravitational pull over Lancashire. Less visited as a tourist destination than the neighbouring (and friendly rival) county of Yorkshire, Lancashire is often simply associated with its history as one of the focal points of the Industrial Revolution, and wrongly considered to be heavily built up and industrial. In fact the county has many attractions, including some very fine countryside.
Lancashire is, broadly, made up of three different regions:
- East Lancashire or Pennine Lancashire, where it merges with Greater Manchester. This is the heartland of the Industrial Revolution, with its small mill-towns and the larger cities of Burnley and Blackburn, but with attractive moorland areas between the valleys.
- West Lancashire, the low-lying, agriculturally rich coastal plains that merge in the south with Liverpool and Merseyside and include, further north, the seaside resorts centred on Blackpool, and the Fylde.
- North and Central Lancashire, a largely unspoiled and very attractive rural area that includes the Forest of Bowland, and Pendle Hill.
The Forest of Bowland (sometimes called the Trough of Bowland) is often described as 'Lancashire's hidden gem'. It remained inaccessible until late in the twentieth century and is almost completely unchanged. The southern part of Bowland bordering onto the Ribble Valley, around Stonyhurst College, was the inspiration for Tolkien's vision of Middle Earth in 'The Hobbit'. An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which was the first region in England to be awarded Europarc status, its villages are characterful and well worth visiting. Visit Bowland Wild Boar Park PR3 2QT; 01995 61554, firstname.lastname@example.org situated about 2 miles from the picturesque village of Chipping, on the Chipping to Dunsop Bridge road in the Forest of Bowland. It is signposted clearly from all directions.
The Pennine foothills around Rossendale (Rawtenstall, Haslingden, Waterfoot, Bacup and district) now being rebranded as Pennine Lancashire also provide interesting walking, and are rich in the remnants of industrial, textile and quarrying archaeology. These small mill-towns are surrounded by accessible moorland and make a good base for exploring Lancashire.
Rawtenstall is home to Fitzpatricks 5, Bank Street, BB4 6QS (01706 231836), founded in 1890 it's the last remaining Temperance Bar in the UK, where it serves black beer, sarsaparilla, blood tonic, cream soda and other non-alcoholic drinks.
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 (http://www.horseandbamboo.org), but it's worth noting that August is normally a quiet month.
Lancashire featured prominently in the Industrial Revolution, with many towns built around the textile industry. The inland towns still show this industrial heritage. Conversely, the coastal towns developed into holiday resorts for the textile mill workers, including Blackpool, Morecambe, and Southport.
There are, however, many beautiful rural areas, mainly upland. Most of these are ideal for walking, in particular the Pennine hills and foothills to the east, and the spectacularly beautiful Forest or Trough of Bowland in the heart of Lancashire.
Charles Nevin's book 'Lancashire:Where Women Die of Love' (Mainstream Publishing) describes many of the charming eccentricities of the county, including its friendly rivalry with neighbour Yorkshire which dates back to the War of the Roses when the two royal houses of Lancaster (Red Rose) and York (White Rose) vied for the English throne. He also writes of the great tradition of Lancashire comedians (Stan Laurel, George Formby, Eric Morecambe, Gracie Fields, Les Dawson, - and many more) which continues to this day; the love of Rugby League; how Southport became the model for a rebuilt Paris after an exiled Napoleon III stayed there and fell in love with its wide boulevards; and the county's associations with Balzac, Shakespeare, King Arthur, Brief Encounter, George Orwell, etc.
Historically, the County of Lancashire has been strongly associated with the cities of Manchester and Liverpool. From very early, they lay within the historic county boundaries of Lancashire, and many Mancunians in particular still consider themselves Lancastrians. In 1889, the cities, along with most of the large Lancashire towns, became county boroughs, running their own affairs separate from Lancashire County Council. In 1974, the Local Government Act 1972 came into force and created two new Metropolitan Counties.
The Pendle witch trials of 1612 are among the most famous witch trials in English history. The 12 women accused were charged with murdering 10 people in and around the Pendle Hill area of Lancashire. Most of the accused were tried at Lancaster Assizes in what became known as the Lancashire witch trials. "The Witch Way", the Burnley and Pendle bus services from Manchester use a flying witch as its logo. Pendle Hill dominates the landscape of the area and continues to be associated with witchcraft, and, every Halloween, there is a hilltop gathering on the summit.
Lancashire is one of only three County Palatines in England, with special authority and autonomy from the rest of the kingdom. In feudal times, Counts Palatine exercised royal authority, and ruled their counties largely independently of the king, though they owed allegiance to him. Nowadays the distinction is largely ceremonial.
People from Lancashire tend to speak English with a Northern accent called Lancastrian. 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/immigrants now reside in the county, and languages such as such as Hindi, Urdu, Chinese, Polish and Lithuanian are spoken within those groups.
You can reach Lancashire via ferry from Ireland, by road via the UK motorway network, or you can fly in via airports in Liverpool, Manchester, or Blackpool.
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 both on and off road cyclists. Visit http://www.visitlancashire.com/site/things-to-do/cycling for up-to-date information.
- Blackpool - Britain's premier holiday resort.
- The Forest of Bowland - moorlands which are an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the north-east of the county.
- Arnside & Silverdale - another Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty situated between Lancaster and the Lakes.
- Pendle Hill - moorlands near 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 link St Paul's cathedral set among woodlands. Lord Ashton (a linoleum industrialist) gifted 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.
- Hoghton Tower, the family home of the De Hoghtons. A place steeped in history and visited by kings and famous playwrights such as Shakespeare. Hoghton Tower is situated between Preston and Blackburn.
- Stonyhurst Catholic College set in the beautiful Ribble Valley, north of Blackburn.
- 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 elegant and charming west coast resort of Southport with its gentle pavement cafes and upmarket shopping areas, backing onto the miles of beach and neighbouring nature reserves. If golf is your thing this place is a must. Across the Ribble estuary on the Fylde Coast lies the coastal up-market twin towns of Lytham and St. Annes. An ideal gentle place to stay avoiding the hustle and bustle of neighbouring Blackpool. Drive a few miles up the coast (or take a vintage tram) to the small town of Thornton Cleveleys with its new twenty million pound promenade and bustling shopping streets boasting every type of shop (a must for the more mature visitor). Continue into the old fishing town of Fleetwood with its pleasant seafront golf course, boating lakes, Freeport shopping centre and marina. You can also take a seagoing ferry to Northern Ireland from here or the little ferry taking the short trip across the Wyre estuary to Knott End.
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.
- The Inn at Whitewell, BB7 3AT, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A beautiful and old fashioned rural Inn in a stunning setting in the Forest of Bowland, at Whitewell near Clitheroe. It also has 23 bedrooms, plus good food using local ingredients, a noteworthy selection of drinks.
- The White Horse Helmshore Rd., Helmshore, Rossendale BB4 4LU, 01706 213873. A friendly pub with a good selection of local craft beers, plus a reasonably-priced restaurant, using locally sourced ingredients. Welcomes walkers.
- The award-winning Three Fishes, in the Ribble Valley, Mitton Rd., Mitton, nr. Whalley, BB7 9PQ, 01254 826888 is a pub restaurant serving Real Beer and Real Food.
- Paul Heathcote’s flagship The Longridge Restaurant 104-106 Higher Rd., Longridge, nr. Preston PR3 3SY, 01772 784969, firstname.lastname@example.org is an award winning establishment in Longridge, near Preston. Heathcote has championed new British cooking and the use of fresh Lancastrian ingredients.
- Marco Pierre White's The Swan Inn (MPW The Swan), Springfield Rd Aughton, Ormskirk L39 6ST, ☏ . The food at Marco Pierre White’s The Swan Inn blends traditional pub fare with the very best of modern Anglo-French cooking. 2 courses £14.50, 3 courses £18.50.
- As well as typical British pub culture, there's Fitzpatricks Temperance Bar (see above) in Rawtenstall.
- Lots of interesting 'olde worlde' 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 present day 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.
Manchester is the main international airport for the region and less expensive to use in comparison to other airports in the South. Liverpool, Blackpool are the smaller regional airports but also offer European destinations.
The area is served with an excellent road and rail system (Manchester to London about 3 hours).