Forest of Bowland AONB

Forest of Bowland, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, England
Forest of Bowland AONB ©

The Forest of Bowland – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is located in the north of England in the counties of Lancashire and North Yorkshire. The area was first designated a AONB back in 1964, the AONB has been established for over 50 years. The area covers 802 square kilometres, located primarily in Lancashire with a smaller portion in North Yorkshire, the area makes it a medium sized AONB. The area provides one of the finest examples of heather moorland, tranquillity, serenity and isolated location along with its wildlife.

The local population of approx 16,000 live primarily in historic villages others in small hamlets and properties across the countryside. The AONB covers an area from close to Lancaster in the north to Forton in the west to Longridge in the south to Gisburn in the east. The area is of national importance for nature conservation and 13% is designated as Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI). The area is important as a bird breeding ground and has been designated as a Special Protection Area under the European Birds Directive.

There are a range of distinctive landscape characteristics in the area including a number of gritstone fells with summits in excess of 450 metres and areas of heather covered peat moorland. There are steep sided valleys that include the lowlands and a number of wooded areas.

The main industries in the AONB include agriculture, farming, forestry, mineral extraction and tourism, there are a number of scenic villages located in the AONB including Dunsop Bridge, Chipping and Slaidburn.

The area is popular horse riding, bird watching, fishing, gliding, paragliding, hot air ballooning, day trippers and walkers and cyclists with a range of routes to explore. Visitors can enjoy the range of unspoiled scenic landscapes and benefit from the serenity and tranquillity the area is famous for.

Quick Facts

Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty:

Year of Designation: 1964

Population: 16,000

Size in square kilometres: 802

Percentage designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs): 13%
Main Settlements close by: Clitheroe, Lancaster, Skipton and Preston.
Located in: Lancashire & North Yorkshire.


Forest of Bowland AONB is located primarily in the county of Lancashire with a small portion located in West Yorkshire in the north of England, the area has long since been a popular destination for visitors looking for a scenic, isolated haven away from the traffic and congestion of the towns and cities. The AONB is sparsely populated and includes a number of traditional villages steeped in history an tradition offering an insight in to the rich cultural heritage of the area. The AONB area is an important one for its rich history, ecology, geology and wildlife. Within the AONB area in common with many other AONBs there are no large cities, towns or settlements, rather the area includes smaller villages and hamlets with cities such as Preston and Lancaster located a few miles away. Overall the commercial development in the area is still smaller in scale when compared to other AONBs across the UK, visitors can see areas in the AONB including historic villages that are on the whole still unspoilt and mainly rural making the area ideal for visitors after a quiet, rural getaway.

The location in the north of England means the AONB is assessable from the north west and north east of England, Scotland and the Midlands and is approx 3 hours drive from Glasgow, under 3 hours from Birmingham and 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes from Manchester and Liverpool. From these regions the AONB is assessable as a day trip, short break or longer break destination. From London and southern England the area is 4 hours 30 minutes to 6 hours by car.

Tourist Information Centres are located at various locations in the Forest of Bowland. The Bowland Visitor Centre is located in the Beacon Fell Country Park within the AONB area, the visitor centre provides visitors with information, help, advice and tips on the AONB area and the surrounding areas. There are also tourist information centres are located in Barnoldswick, Bentham, Clitheroe, Pendle, Garstang, Lancaster, Preston and Settle. Each of the centres has knowledgeable staff that can provide useful local knowledge on local attractions, places of interest, things to see and do, along with local advice and tips. A visit to the tourist information centres makes for a good first port of call for visitors helping to better plan and organise trips in and around the local area.

Local Accommodation includes a choice of both historic and contemporary hotels, B & B’s, Guest Houses, Self Catering houses, camping facilities and cottages. Local accommodation is available in Clitheroe, Chipping and Abbeystead. There is accommodation available in the nearby cities of Preston and Lancaster, Gisburn and Garstang all of which are located close by to the AONB and provide convenient locations from which to explore the AONB and the local areas.

Within the Forest of Bowland AONB there are no large cities, major towns or settlements, visitors can see a number of charming, historic villages and hamlets each has its own character, history and storey to tell. Visiting the local villages and hamlets located across in the AONB offers visitors an insight in to local history, tradition and culture. The small towns and villages include a number of local attractions and places of interest for visitors to explore.

Local Towns & Villages include Clitheroe a gateway town located next to the Forest of Bowland. The facilities, local amenities and convenient located next to the AONB make Clitheroe a popular base from which visitors explore the region. The market town retains many of its historic charm, character and customs and includes a open air market on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays. Local amenities include a wide choice of independent shops and smaller branches of well known high street retailers and supermarkets. The market town hosts a number of events throughout the year including a Spring Festival and an annual Food festival held in August.

Local attractions include the historic Clitheroe Castle and Museum located in the town and known for being one of the smallest Norman keeps in England. The St Mary Magdalene's Church, Clitheroe, a historic Grade II listed church known for its gothic architecture.

Dunsop Bridge is a village located in the Ribble Valley in the AONB, 10 miles north west of Clitheroe. The village is famous for being one of leading contenders to being located at the exact geographic centre of Great Britain. The scenic village is surrounding by rolling hills on all sides presenting visitors with a scenic area to explore.

Local attractions include the 19th century St Hubert's Church, the Roman Catholic church is noted for its design and architecture. The village takes its name from the bridge in the village that spans the River Dunsop. There are a number of winding and scenic paths around the village that lead through the moors to Lancaster and are popular among fell walkers.

Hurst Green is a scenic village located in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire, 5 miles to the west of Clitheroe. The village has the feel of an idyllic English village located in a beautiful setting, local attractions include the Anglican Church of St John, dating back to 1835, the church plays a leading role in the local community. Stoneyhurst College is a world renowned Roman Catholic boarding school, the independent school includes a number of historic buildings including the Gospel of St John dating back to the 7th century. Visitors can tour the co-educational college and learn more about the historical place of learning along with seeing the Grade I listed building the college occupies.

Chipping is a historic village located in the Ribble Valley in Lancashire. Located 9 miles west of Clitheroe, the picturesque village has a long history thought to go back 1,000 years. Located on the slopes above the River Loud, historically the village grew during the industrial revolution and was once home to five water mills. Visitors can see the history and character of the village has been well maintained, there are stone built houses along with historic almshouses and a school dating back to the 17th century. Local amenities include a number of charming inns ad public houses located in the village centre, where visitors can find accommodation and choice of food and drinks options.

Local attractions include a 13th century church, that was partly re-built in the 19th century. The Chipping Craft Centre is located at a property that has been used as a shop for the longest continuous time in the UK, first opened back in 1668 the shop operates a craft shop, tea shop, newsagents and part time Post Office. The village hosts a number of events including the Chipping Agricultural Show celebrating all aspects of farming and rural life and the Chipping Steam Fair held in May attracting visitors from far and wide.

Clitheroe Castle & Museum is located in the gateway town of Clitheroe, located in acres of scenic gardens there is a historic castle and museum for visitors to explore. Visitors can learn more about the geology and history of the Ribble Valley going back 350 million years through history. The castle keep has been a familiar and dominant site in the local skyline for over 800 years. There are a number of exhibitions and galleries that cover the natural history, archaeology and the social and industrial history of the area. Exhibits include fossils, rocks, paintings, coins, medals, photos and artefacts from the local areas.

Browsholme Hall is located 5 miles north west Clitheroe in the AONB in Lancashire. The historic house dates back to the 16th century and is the historical ancestral home of the Parker family who have lived here since 1507. The Elizabethan house is one of the oldest surviving family homes in Lancashire. With plenty of historical, cultural and architectural importance, the historic house is a Grade I listed building. Visitors can enjoy guided tours of the house and impressive gardens during the summer months, the hall is known for its impressive and eclectic collections that have been built up by many generations of the family. Notable collections include impressive furniture, paintings and portraits and porcelain.

Visitors can tour the house visiting the impressive and ornate rooms that include the drawing room, dining room, the ante room, the library and more. The rooms are full of impressive collections and period features, after the tour visitors can relax in the Tithe Barn Tea Room and enjoy a tea of coffee, the gift shop includes a range of presents, souvenirs and mementos.

Walking is a popular activity in the AONB and surrounding areas, there are a number of popular walks in the area for visitors to try. The Forest of Bowland offers walkers a choice landscapes an terrain including the moorland hills with its splendour and isolation to the river valleys, woodland cloughs, moors and fell tops. There are a number of routes available, the range of walks and terrain in the area means there is something to suit most tastes and abilities. Walks include Ribble Way, Pendle Way and Gisburn Circular Walk among others. Walking in the area provides a cost effective, environmentally friendly, fun way to get closer to nature, get off the beaten track and discover the finest in the local countryside.

Cycling provides a cost effective, fun way to explore the Forest of Bowland AONB and the surrounding areas in an environmentally friendly way whilst getting fit and seeing local attractions and places of interest up close. The area includes a range landscapes and scenery including quiet country lanes and a number of charming villages with a choice of tea rooms to visit. There are a choice of cycle routes in the area, including the Tour of Pendle Hill, Gisburn Forest Mountain Bike Trails and Ribble Valley Villages, there are cycle routes and a choice of terrains to suit a range of abilities and interests.

Visitors to the Forest of Bowland AONB in the north of England can enjoy a scenic area with plenty of open spaces and countryside. There is a varied landscape here and a number of charming historic local towns, villages and hamlets. The area is known for its grandeur and isolation making it ideal for visitors after a tranquil location offering the great outdoors.

How to Get There

Forest of Bowland AONB is accessible by both car and public transport.

By Car:

The Bowland Visitor Centre located in the Beacon Fell Country Park is located in the AONB. Located approx 10 miles from Preston and 240 miles from central London. From London, take the A40, then the M40 until junction 3A. At junction 3A of the M40 exit on to the M42 towards the M1 and M6. On the M42 there is a choice of using either the standard M6 or the M6 Toll motorway, driver can choose to either pay the toll charge or avoid it by using the standard M6. Continue along the M6 up to junction 32 and then take the M55 then take the A6 exit to Garstang. Then take the B5269 and then Langley Lane. From Langley Lane take the exit for Silk Mil Lane, then Button Street. From Button Street continue on to Bleasdale Road and then Crumbleholm Road that leads to the Bowland Visitor Centre . The approx journey time is 4 hours 30 minutes to 5 hours depending on traffic and time of day.

By Train:

The train station at Clitheroe is located in the AONB area, from London Euston Station there are services to Preston railway station from Preston there are services to Blackburn station and from Blackburn station there are services to Clitheroe. The approx journey time is 4 hours depending on time of day and connections. There are services from London Euston station to Manchester Piccadilly station. From Manchester Piccadilly there are services to Salford Crescent and from Salford Crescent there are services to Clitheroe. The approx journey time is 4 hours depending on services, connections and time of day.

By Bus/Coach:

There are regular buses available from London Victoria Coach station to Preston located a few miles from the AONB. The approx journey time is approx 5 hours 40 minutes to 7 hours depending on time of day and traffic. From Preston there are bus services available to Clitheroe via the 280 bus service. Bus services to Clitheroe are provided by services are provided by Lancashire United Coach services to Exeter are provided by services are provided by National Express.

Contact Details

The Forest of Bowland AONB
6 Root Hill Estate Yard
Whitewell Road
Dunsop Bridge

Telephone: +44 (0)1200 448000

Website: Forest of Bowland AONB


For Local Search and Directions see: Forest of Bowland (AONB) Map

Tips & Other Considerations

The weather and climate can be unpredictable, there can be elements of all four seasons in one day. Ensure you check the weather forecast before you travel and have the correct clothing and footwear including comfortable walking shoes, fleece, raincoat and umbrella.

Follow travel advice and remain alert, vigilant and aware of your belongings at all times especially your wallet/purse and valuables and ensure they are hidden away from public view. If you have a bag try to use a shoulder bag with a good quality, strong strap, that is put across your shoulder not on your shoulder making it more difficult for anyone to take your bag.

If you are travelling by car to the Forest of Bowland ensure you are well prepared with maps and Sat Nav to aid your journey, particularly if you are not familiar with the local area and roads. Use the journey planner for door to door directions. Check traffic updates before you travel.

If you are looking for car parking in and around the AONB, ensure you fully understand the rules, regulations & charges for car parks and street parking. The rules & regulations can be complex & confusing if you are unclear, it is wise not to park there.

If you are travelling by public transport, check for service updates prior to beginning your journey for any delays, disruption or cancellations to services that may impact on your journey. Ensure you have the service timetables for the trains, trams, buses and coaches. Remember when the last services are and ensure you make it to the train/bus/coach stops well in time to avoid missing the service.

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