Widdop Reservoir

Things to do in Lancashire

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Lancashire, with its rolling landscapes, historic sites, and plentiful activities, has something for everyone. While its cities like Lancaster and Preston have their own share of attractions, there's plenty to do across the county, from medieval castles to musical sculptures. 

Whether you're a family hunting for adventure or a couple looking for a serene getaway, here are the top things to do in Lancashire.

Lancaster Castle, Lancaster

Lancaster Castle, Lancaster

Overlooking the River Lune, this medieval fortress sometimes known as John O’ Gaunt’s Castle boasts more than 1,000 years of history, much of it rather dark! 

Guided tours delve deep into the castle's intriguing past, which includes witch trials, the English Civil War, and its grisly past as a prison (which only closed in 2011) and the site of numerous hangings.

Forest of Bowland

Forest of Bowland

Listed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Forest of Bowland is the perfect spot for hiking, birdwatching, or taking in the panoramic views. One of the best things to do in Lancashire for couples is enjoy a romantic picnic here. 

With over 800 square kilometres to explore edging towards Yorkshire, there’s plenty to see including Ingleton Waterfalls and its adjacent trail, the river Hodder steppingstones (not for the fainthearted) and the pretty village of Hurst Green.

Hoghton Tower, Hoghton

Hoghton is a fortified manor house with breathtaking views, lush gardens, and a rich history that stretches back to its inception in 1565. Sitting 650 feet above sea level, its grounds offer one of the best views in Lancashire, looking over Wales and the Lake District. 

The tower offers tours that guide you through opulent rooms and ancient tales. You might also catch the farmer’s market held here the third Sunday of each month, or one of their many events which range from motorcycle races to immersive storytelling experiences for Halloween.

Clitheroe Castle, Clitheroe

Clitheroe Castle, Clitheroe

This Norman keep sits on a limestone hill, providing great vistas over the Ribble Valley. It’s free to visit and contains a fine museum of archaeological finds dating back to the Bronze Age. 

There are changing exhibitions and plenty to keep the kids entertained while the adults imagine the medieval intrigues that must have taken place here. Clitheroe town is worth a wander too: grab an ice cream and sit in the grounds of the castle on a warm day, or explore the still well-visited market and the town's many independent shops and cafes.

Burnley's Panopticon

Nicknamed the 'Singing Ringing Tree' and part of a series of “panopticons” (structures offering 360° views) in Lancashire, this unique musical sculpture is an engineering and artistic marvel.   

Designed by architects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu, this windblown audio sculpture makes eerie or beautiful noises, depending on the wind’s direction as you enjoy the stunning views all around.

And while you're in the area, Burnley's Towneley Park and Hall are worth exploring, too, with a range of historical displays and a rich calendar of events.

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Helmshore Mills Textile Museum, Rossendale

Helmshore Mills Textile Museum, Rossendale

Dive deep into Lancashire's industrial heritage and its textile trade at this working museum.  

See historic machinery, learn about cotton spinning, and understand the region's connection to the global textile industry with a series of hands-on displays and demonstrations.

Astley Hall, Chorley

Astley Hall, Chorley

Historian Simon Jenkins called Astley Hall “the most exhilarating house in Lancashire” and it’s not hard to see why. An Elizabethan mansion set amidst serene parkland, it offers visitors a journey through time with its museum, art gallery, and period rooms.

Its tall, mullioned bay windows are highly unusual, and inside is equally special with 17th-century plaster ceilings and rare painted panelling. Recently restored, the house and grounds offer plenty of children’s activities too, ranging from seasonal storytelling to animal mask-making and cupcake decoration.

Visit Lancaster

Visit Lancaster

Steeped in history and situated in beautiful Lancashire countryside, the city dates to Roman and Saxon eras, became a popular 18th-century port and later became a centre of sailcloth manufacture and ropemaking.  

Highlights of Lancaster (other than its castle – see earlier section) include the Custom House Maritime Museum, picturesque Williamson Park, and expansive City Museum. It’s well-served with theatres, galleries and has more pubs per square mile than any comparable city.

East Lancashire Railway, starting in Bury

East Lancashire Railway, starting in Bury

Experience the golden age of steam and explore the stunning Irwell Valley on this heritage railway line, which travels through a number of Greater Manchester (formerly Lancashire) towns. You can even combine it with a visit to Bury Transport Museum, or explore the lovely town of Ramsbottom with its charming shops and pubs.

Special events, like themed dinners and holiday rides, add to the experience. Kids might even enjoy an appearance from Thomas the Tank Engine!

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