Clitheroe is a pretty market town in the Ribble Valley, a truly beautiful and largely undiscovered, part of the country. Undoubtedly, the scenery is one of the main attractions and brings in walkers all year round, who are either walking the Ribble Way or even climbing the surrounding Pennine Hills. However, there are several attractions for those visiting the town itself.
The town was established in the eleventh century, although there may have been a settlement there before that date, and grew up around the Norman castle built on one of the two limestone crags. On the other crag stands the parish church of St Mary Magdalene.
The castle keep is all that remains of the original castle and this has recently received a facelift making the stonework more secure. For several years it was impossible for visitors to go into the keep because the structure was so dangerous. There are steps up to a walkway around the keep for those with the stamina to climb them or just a little lower, there is another walkway around the castle walls giving spectacular views across the town to the hills beyond.
As well as the castle keep, there is an excellent museum in what was the Steward's House. (The steward was the person responsible for the day to day administration of the castle). The museum has only recently opened and tells the story of Clitheroe, its people and its geology over the last 350 million years, and includes the story of the Pendle Witches, local women condemned for witchcraft in the seventeenth century who were later tried and hanged at Lancaster Castle. The building and displays are modern and interesting. The entrance fee is £3.50 for adults and accompanied children are admitted free.
There is also a café adjoining the museum serving local food, drinks and snacks, including the delicious Mrs Dowson's ice cream. (That's the ice cream that's delicious. I can't speak for the charms of Mrs Dowson). Again, if you manage to get a seat by the large windows, you get great views.
Sadly, with the economic climate as it is, several of the small shops in Clitheroe have recently closed but there are still several specialist shops in the town, including Cowman's Butchers on Castle Street, which is famous for its prize winning sausages. The town also has a market three days a week, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, where there are stalls selling locally grown fruit and vegetables, pies and cheeses. Lancashire cheese is one of the best for toasting. The market is also the venue for a flea market on Fridays if you want to pick up a second-hand bargain.
Clitheroe Station was one of the victims of Dr Beeching back in the 1960s when so many stations and branch lines were closed. Happily, the station has reopened with a shuttle train running between Clitheroe and Blackburn and Manchester every half hour or so.
From Clitheroe Station, it's possible to take the Dales Train on Sundays during the summer months. This goes to Settle where travellers can take a trip on the Settle to Carlisle train, through the dramatic scenery of the Dales.
Also at the station is the Platform Gallery, which exhibits the work of local artists in many media including glass, silver, paintings and photography etc. Many of the exhibits are for sale if your pockets are deep enough to buy a piece of original art.
On the outskirts of the town, well within walking distance, is the River Ribble, and Brungerley Park leading into the Cross Hills Nature Reserve. In the park there is the Ribble Valley Sculpture Trail with some interesting interpretations of the natural history and heritage of the area all produced by different artists.
If you're feeling energetic, from Brungerley Bridge you could take a stroll along part of the Ribble Way. Climb over the stone stile on the left just before the bridge. This takes you onto the trail and it is possible to walk from one end of Clitheroe to the other along the river to Edisford, passing on the way, Waddow Hall, home to the Girl Guides Association and the large weir and salmon ladder. When the river is in full spate, this is a dramatic sight with the water tumbling over the weir onto the rocks about 15 or 20 feet below.
Some of the above attractions are best viewed in good weather and, unfortunately, being in Lancashire, there are quite a few days when it's raining in Clitheroe. However, there are lots of little cafes and coffee shops dotted about the town where it's possible to have a reasonably priced meal while you wait for the rain to ease off.
One thing is for certain, rain or shine, there is quite a bit to do and see in Clitheroe and you will always receive a warm and friendly welcome from the locals.
Details of attractions:
Clitheroe Castle Museum: Opening times 11:00-17:00 Apr to Oct 12:00-16:00 Nov to March. Entrance Fee: £3.50 Adults, Concessionary Fee: £2.50, Accompanied children: Free
Clitheroe Market: Held all year round. Flea Market held in the summer only
Platform Gallery: Open all year. Entrance: Free
DalesRail: Trips on Sundays from 23rd May 2010 until 17th October 2010. Details of fares, timetable at http://www.dalesrail.com/
Ribble Valley Sculpture Trail: Brungerley Park, Waddington Road, Clitheroe.