Clitheroe is an attractive market town in the Ribble Valley in East Lancashire. It has a Norman castle guarding the transport route along the valley, and is a good base for exploring the Forest of Bowland to the north. In 2021 Clitheroe had a population of 17,141.
The Tourist Information Centre is within Platform Art Gallery on the railway station, open M-Sa 10:00-16:30.
The Pendle Witches are Clitheroe's dark claim to fame. Belief in witches, and legal and church persecutions, took hold in Britain in the 16th century. Witchcraft was made a capital crime, and people started seeing them everywhere. In 1612 eleven people living around Pendle Hill were tried for witchcraft: eight women and two men were found guilty and hanged, one woman was acquitted. Others such as the nearby "Samlesbury Witches" were tried about the same time, an unusual spate of cases.
So many "confessions" have been wrung out under torture, but the striking factor here was how the accused seemed to believe in their own supernatural powers. Six of them came from the Demdike and the Chattox families, who were rival folk-healers quick to accuse the other. It had all started when Alizon Device asked a pedlar for metal pins, often used for divination, healing, and hocus-pocus. He refused, but as he walked away he collapsed to the ground. He was able to get back up and hobble on his way, yet within a day or so, Alizon was claiming (without being put under pressure) that the Devil had lamed the pedlar at her request. Soon the elderly Demdike and Chattox matriarchs were boasting in court about their alliances with Old Nick.
There were attempts in 1998 and in 2008 to obtain judicial pardons for the witches, but their convictions stand.
1 Clitheroe railway station has hourly trains from Manchester Victoria, taking 75 min via Salford, Bolton, Darwen, Blackburn and Whalley. These trains start from Rochdale. Clitheroe station is just an unstaffed halt with ticket machines but no toilets or waiting room. There is step-free access to both platforms. The railway continues north to Hellifield, for the scenic Pennine route to Bentham and Lancaster, but the regular service was axed aeons ago and only occasional heritage steam trains now run that way.
Blackburn Bus 22 runs from Blackburn every 30 min M-Sa and hourly on Sunday, taking 30 min via Mellor and Whalley.
Stagecoach Bus 280 runs from Preston, taking 50 min via Mellor Brook and Whalley, and continuing to Chatburn, Gisburn, Barnoldswick, Earby, Thornton-in-Craven and Skipton. It's hourly M-Sa and every two hours on Sunday.
Rosso Bus 64 runs from Burnley hourly M-Sa and every two hours on Sunday, taking an hour via Padiham and Whalley.
Bus 66 / 67 runs from Nelson every hour or two M-Sa, taking an hour via Chatburn.
The bus station is next to the railway station.
By road from the south take M6 onto M65 east then A680 onto A59. The A59 continues north into the Yorkshire Dales and is congested on summer weekends.
The town is compact and walkable, but most attractions are some miles out, so you need wheels.
Bus 3 runs every two hours M-Sa to Pimlico, Chatburn and Sawley.
Bus 4 circles town hourly M-Sa from the station to Market Place, Peel Park, Little Moor and back to the station.
Bus 5 runs to Whalley, Hurst Green, Ribchester, Longridge and Chipping, hourly M-Sa and every two hours on Sunday.
Taxi firms include Station Cars / Angel (+44 1200 422422) and Tiger (+44 1200 443100).
- 1 Clitheroe Castle, Castle St BB7 1BA, ☏ +44 1200 424568. Mar daily 12:00-16:00, Apr-Oct daily 11:00-18:00, Nov-Feb F-Tu 12:00-16:00. Held by the Royalists in the Civil War, this castle was one of many that the Parliamentarians ordered to be "slighted" ie partly demolished, but it was already so bashed about that they hardly bothered doing so. What's left of it is a small Norman keep with curtain wall balancing on a 35-metre outcrop of limestone coral. It's surrounded by pleasant gardens and a park. Adult £4.90, conc £3.70, child free.
- 2 St Mary Magdalene, Church St, Clitheroe BB7 2DD, ☏ +44 1200 422828. Daily 09:30-15:00. Anglican (C of E) parish church: the tower and east window are 15th century, the rest is 19th.
- 3 Edisford Bridge on B6243 is a nine-arch bridge over the Ribble of late medieval construction. It's not wide enough for two vehicles to pass, and there's no sidewalk, so take photos from the riverbank and don't linger on the bridge.
- 4 Browsholme Hall, Clitheroe Rd BB7 3DE, ☏ +44 1254 827160. Apr-Sept Tu W 11:00-16:00. Ancestral home of the Parker Family, who have lived here since it was built in 1507. The Tithe Barn is used for events such as weddings. In summer the Hall can be visited by guided tour.
- 5 Sawley Abbey, Sawley BB7 4NH (off A59 four miles NE of Clitheroe). Daily Apr-Oct 10:00-17:00, Nov-Mar 10:00-16:00. Scrappy remains of a Cistercian abbey founded in 1148, set on the banks of the Ribble against the Bowland hills. Free.
- 6 Whalley Abbey, The Sands, Whalley BB7 9SS, ☏ +44 1254 828400. Garden open daily. A 14th century Cistercian Abbey on the banks of the Calder; it was ruined at the Dissolution and the abbot hanged for his part in the "Pilgrimage of Grace" uprising. The abbey was demolished and its stone recycled into a house, so there are limited remains, which you can see from the garden. The monk's dormitory has become an RC church, English Martyrs, still in use. The rest is now owned by the Anglican Diocese of Blackburn and the house is a spiritual retreat, offering residential programmes. "SuperWhalleyAlbanAbbots, Solas-are-the-focus" was the zingy title of one such event.
- 7 Pendle Hill is 557 metres / 1827 ft high, but looks bigger as it looms up in isolation from lower country. "Pen" means hill as does the "dle" element, so like Breedon Hill in Leicester, its full meaning is "hill hill hill." It's a detached part of Forest of Bowland AONB. Its claims to fame are i) the Pendle Witches - the Demdike and Chattox families lived hereabouts in the early 17th centuries; ii) the "Moses" moment for Quakers, where in 1652 George Fox had his vision to propagate his Quaker beliefs, and iii) Richard Towneley's barometer measurements on the hill in 1661 showed the relationship between gas pressure and volume, which we call Boyle's Law. The hill is gritstone overlying limestone, so it's sparse moor heath on top. The usual ascent is the steepest, from the lane above Barley village (east) then straight up the scarp. In Aug 2012 some 483 people dressed as witches climbed the hill to mark the 400th anniversary of the witch trials.
- 8 Stonyhurst College, Stonyhurst BB7 9PT. Occasional open days. Roman Catholic independent school, established by the Jesuits on the continent in 1593, and relocating to England once it was safe to do so in 1794. Those who were here include Gerald Manley Hopkins, Arthur Conan Doyle and JRR Tolkien - and the college and adjacent moors can be clearly traced in their works. The grand building, mostly 1880s, can be visited on open days.
- Cromwell's Bridge is a rickety crossing over the Hodder a mile east of Stonyhurst, near its confluence with the Ribble. It was built in the 1560s but was named for Cromwell after his troops crossed in 1648. They were marching from Skipton to Ribbleton near Preston, where they smashed the Royalists.
- What's on? Clitheroe Advertiser & Times is published on Thursday. It's part of the Burnley Express.
- Cinema: Everyman is within Holmes Mill.
- Ribble Valley Sculpture Trail extends along the riverbank between Brungerley Park on Waddington Rd (a mile north of town) upstream to West Bradford Rd. There are some 20 sculptures plus interpretation boards about the area and its wildlife.
- Golf: Clitheroe GC is a mile south of town on Whalley Rd, blue tees 6532 yards, par 71, visitor fee £60.
- Ribble Valley Jazz & Blues Festival is next held 28 April - 1 May 2023.
- Beat-Herder is a rock music festival at Sawley Top, seven miles northeast of town along A59. The next is 13-16 July 2023.
- Clitheroe Food Festival is next held on Sa 12 Aug 2023.
- Clitheroe Market is held Tu, Th, Sa 09:00-16:00, between New Market St and Station Rd.
- Tesco on Duck St in town centre is open M-Sa 06:00-00:00, Su 10:00-16:00.
- Sainsburys on Moor Lane is open M-Sa 08:00-21:00, Su 11:00-17:00.
- Aldi south on Whalley Rd is open M-Sa 08:00-22:00, Su 11:00-17:00.
- Brizola, Swan Courtyard, off Castle St, Clitheroe BB7 2DQ, ☏ +44 1200 429660. W-Sa 12:00-22:00. Great Greek food with many choices for vegans.
- Tom's Table, Carter House, off Lowergate, Clitheroe BB7 1AZ, ☏ +44 1200 422392. Tu-Sa 12:00-23:00. Slick friendly bistro near castle.
- Vista Cielo is a good Italian at 1 York St, open Tu-F 17:00-22:00, Sa Su 13:00-22:00.
- The Emporium serves pizza and similar fare on Moor Lane by the castle. It's open M-F 09:00-21:00, Sa Su 10:00-19:00.
- 1 Three Fishes, Mitton Rd, Whalley BB7 9PQ, ☏ +44 1254 826666. Tu, F-Su 12:00-22:00. Cosy pub with an excellent restaurant.
- 2 The Wellsprings, Clitheroe Rd, Sabden BB7 9HN, ☏ +44 1200 472722. Tu-F 17:00-20:00, Sa 12:00-21:00, Su 12:00-19:30. Last place you'd expect to find Spanish and Mexican food, along a lane over windy Pendle.
- 3 Parker's Arms, Hall Gate Hill, Newton-in-Bowland BB7 3DY, ☏ +44 1200 446236. Th-Sa 12:00-14:00, 19:00-22:00, Su 12:00-16:00. Good place for pub lunches after a hike.
It wasn't just a stage name - the comic actor James Robinson Clitheroe (1921-73) was born in Clitheroe and grew up in nearby Nelson. An endocrine disorder meant that he never grew to adult proportions, and maintained a shrill pre-pubertal voice, so his comic role was as a mischievous 11 year-old schoolboy. "Don't some mothers 'ave 'em!" was the catchphrase of his sitcom, aired on BBC Radio for 16 years and spawning two TV series; he also performed in variety theatre and pantomime. He was devoted to his mother and lived with her in Blackpool. On the day of her funeral, he was found unconscious from an overdose of brandy and sleeping pills, and died later that day.
- New Inn, 20 Parson Lane, Clitheroe BB7 2JN (by castle), ☏ +44 1200 423312. Daily 11:00-00:00. Excellent range of ales at this central pub.
- Maxwells cafe and wine bar next to the station is open M-W 09:00-17:00, F-Sa 09:00-23:00, Su 10:00-22:00.
- The Dog & Partridge at 1-3 Wellgate (open Th-Su) has music and live sport.
- Bowland Brewery is within Holmes Mill. Their beerhall is open M-Sa 11:00-23:00, Su 11:00-22:00.
- Others in town centre include Royal Oak, Buck Inn, White Lion, The Ale House, Beer Shack, SoBar, Castle Pub, Keystreet Bar, The Dispensary and Brown Cow Inn.
- Bowland Distillery makes gin and vodka. No tours.
- Swan & Royal Hotel, 26 Castle St, Clitheroe BB7 2BX (100 yards north of castle), ☏ +44 1200 423130. Comfy central 2-star with bar. B&B double £70.
- Rose & Crown Hotel, 21 Castle St, Clitheroe BB7 2BT, ☏ +44 1200 442848. Central 2-star with rooms en suite. B&B double £85.
- 1 Spinning Block Hotel, Holmes Mill, Greenacre St, Clitheroe BB7 1EB, ☏ +44 1200 407111. Charming friendly hotel in a converted mill, often used as a wedding venue. B&B double £100.
- 2 Freemasons at Wiswell, 8 Vicarage Fold, Wiswell BB7 9DF, ☏ +44 1254 822218. Stylish gastropub with rooms at Wiswell (say "wizzul") near Whalley. Dog-friendly. B&B double £250.
- 3 Red Pump Inn, Clitheroe Rd, Bashall Eaves BB7 3DA, ☏ +44 1254 826227. Small inn up the back lanes with eight rooms and glamping yurts and huts. B&B double £110.
- 4 Waddington Arms, 56 Clitheroe Rd, Waddington BB7 3HP, ☏ +44 1200 423262. Pub with rooms. B&B double £110.
- Higher Buck and Lower Buck are similar pubs with rooms nearby in Waddington.
- 5 The Inn at Whitewell, Dunsop Rd, Whitewell BB7 3AT, ☏ +44 1200 448222. Upscale hotel with fine dining, out in the countryside of Trough of Bowland. B&B double £200.
- 6 Coach & Horses, Main St, Bolton by Bowland BB7 4NW, ☏ +44 1200 447331. 18th century coaching inn with good restaurant, micro-brewery and seven rooms. B&B £150.
As of Feb 2023, Clitheroe and its main approach roads have 4G from EE and Vodafone, but a poor signal from Three and O2. 5G has not reached town.
- The Forest of Bowland is a scenic yet little-visited area of England.
- Blackburn and Nelson for their history of the textile era.
- Skipton is an attractive market town and a good base for exploring the Yorkshire Dales.
|Routes through Clitheroe|
|Liverpool ← Preston ←||SW NE||→ Skipton → Yorkshire Dales|