The secret forest without trees


April 17, 2013 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Destination Guide


Just as the New Forest in Hampshire is not very new, dating back over a thousand years, so the Forest of Bowland on the border between Lancashire and Yorkshire is not renowned for its arboreal landscape. Regardless of this however, it is a beautiful unspoilt location truly far away from the pressures of modern life.

Sykes Cottages have the best selection of Forest of Bowland cottages across the area. Cottages4You have a few cottages on the edge of the Forest of Bowland. Hoseasons have a couple of cottages in both Slaidburn and Bolton by Bowland.

The Forest of Bowland is an area of wild fells, open moorland and deep valleys, not uncommon to the north of England, but certainly most worthy of its status as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Though only vestiges of the ancient royal hunting forest remain the Forest of Bowland offers some dramatic scenery.

The River Ribble winds its way through the Forest of Bowland from its source above the famous railway viaduct at Ribblehead in the neighbouring Yorkshire Dales. The fells are dissected by steep-sided valleys which open out into rich green lowlands, 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.

As the river flows downstream through a more pastoral, rolling landscape it reaches Clitheroe, the only centre of population in the Forest of Bowland. This cosy market town is dominated by a massive rock, crowned with the keep of Clitheroe Castle and lies between fells of the Forest of Bowland and the majestic and brooding whale-back shaped Pendle Hill, a Lancashire landmark famed for its stories of the Pendle witches. This majestic and brooding whale-back shaped hill rises to almost 2000 feet and the top offers breathtaking views across the rest of the Forest of Bowland, the Yorkshire Dales and on clear days, the Lake District.

Until quite recently visitors have been unable to access many of its rugged fells as private landowners reserved them for grouse-shooting. Today, thanks to the Open Access legislation the Forest of Bowland offers many opportunities for enjoying the great outdoors such as walking, cycling, fishing and horse riding. Visitors are just beginning to discover this attractive, but less well-known, part of the western Pennines where a network of paths cross ancient moorland and waterfalls cascade through the wild Bowland Fells.

From Hurst Green in the south to Wennington in the north, the Forest of Bowland is dotted with charming stone villages. Other notable villages include Downham, which has barely been touched since the 16th century and Slaidburn on the banks of the River Hodder which has remained delightfully traditional. Ribchester, a former Roman settlement is the only village which is set directly on the banks of the River Ribble. The 14th century Whalley Abbey lies on the banks of the River Calder in the beautiful little village of Whalley near Clitheroe.

My Pick of the Forest of Bowland cottages

Forest of Bowland choice

An outstanding, stone-built detached cottage for four in the tiny hamlet of Harrop close to Bolton-by-Bowland. The cottage has character and charm throughout with a beautiful kitchen with central island and dining area, and a spacious sitting room with wood burning stove and full length sliding doors to take advantage of the lovely views. Outside there is a delightful, south-facing garden. Click here to see more details.