The Forest of Bowland is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is a beautiful stretch of rugged, unspoilt countryside covering 312 square miles of rural Lancashire and adjacent Yorkshire. Geologically it’s part of the main Pennine range and its series of gritstone fells bisecting remarkable sweeps of heather-covered moorland are perfect for gentle walks, tree-lined mountain biking, fishing and scenic picnics.

From Hurst Green in the heart of the Ribble Valley in the south to Wennington in the North, the Forest of Bowland is dotted with charming stone villages, some of which date as far back as pre-historic times. People have been living in the parish of Barley for around 3,000 years. Now this pretty, stone village is the perfect place from which to climb imposing Pendle Hill. When you reach the 577-metre summit you’re rewarded with spectacular views of the Ribble Valley and Bowland.

Forest of Bowland include Downham

Other notable villages within the Forest of Bowland include Downham, which has barely been touched since the 16th century. You might recognise it from the blockbuster Whistle Down the Wind, or more recently from the BBC drama Born and Bred. Another village that has remained delightfully traditional is Slaidburn on the banks of the River Hodder. Pop into its Heritage Centre to see the ornate 10th century Angel Stone carving and then visit the 15th century Church of St Andrew.

Fishing and bird watching at Stocks Reservoir

Enjoy some quiet fishing and bird watching at Stocks Reservoir, discover a variety of cycle paths through Gisburn Forest, and find out more about the famous Pendle Witches’ doomed history at Witches Galore in Newchurch-in-Pendle. The Forest of Bowland is home to Roman Catholic boarding school Stonyhurst College in Hurst Green, where authors Arthur Conan Doyle and J. R. R. Tolkien stayed. Follow the Tolkien Trail from here and enjoy the surrounding countryside that inspired his works.