By Lucy Woods
Clitheroe is a hidden gem in the county of Lancashire. If I had to describe it in a sentence, I would say it is a quirky market town with a medieval castle, an impressive culinary culture and stunning surrounding scenery. It is no wonder that JRR Tolkien is said to have fallen in love with the area.
What makes Clitheroe so special is its combination of natural beauty and fascinating heritage. At the summit of the (little) high street lies Clitheroe Castle, a Norman construction that has dominated the skyline for more than 800 years. A climb to the top is certainly worth the effort, offering breath-taking views of the town and Pendle Hill, the latter being renowned for the 17th-century witch trials.
Other sources of beauty include Brungerley Park, the River Ribble and the Castle gardens. These provide the perfect opportunities for a picnic or leisurely stroll, and even serve as a backdrop for the plethora of festivals that take place in Clitheroe over the summer months. One of the most renowned is the annual Ribble Valley Jazz Festival, which showcases the very best of jazz bands and singers from the local area.
In terms of cuisine, the Clitheroe Food Festival is not to be missed. Every year local food and drink producers fill the market square and the streets, allowing foodies who have flocked from all over the country to sample and purchase the best of Ribble Valley cuisine. For those looking for supplies all year round, the newly-established Holmes Mill is a must-visit. The shop offers an impressive variety of local produce, from craft beers to Lancashire cheeses.
Holmes Mill is also home to the Bowland Brewery, a trendy drinking establishment frequented by the young and old alike. Whether you fancy homemade beers and ales, delicious meals or nibbles, this brasserie (which allegedly has the longest bar in the UK!) is the place to be. Other popular bars include Escape Coffee & Cocktails and the Ale House, which also organise live music nights. And for those craving a non-alcoholic fix, Exchange Coffee is the homeliest of cafés with an impressive selection of coffee and tea from around the world.
And for those who want to explore more of the area? With other places just a mere train or bus ride away, Clitheroe provides the perfect base from which to explore the delights of Lancashire and beyond – whether it be the gorgeous grounds of Whalley Abbey, the undulating hills of the Yorkshire Dales, or the bustling streets of the city of Manchester.
For a town home to just 16,000 people, Clitheroe has a lot to offer. I hope that now, when you think of Lancashire, you can look beyond Blackburn Rovers, our “broad” accents and the Wars of the Roses, and truly appreciate the beauty of hidden gems such as Clitheroe which make our county so special.
Photographs: Damien Entwistle, Jazz Guy and BBC Radio Lancashire