Days out in Lancashire
Perhaps best known for the seaside resort of Blackpool, its pleasure beach and illuminations, there’s plenty more to discover in Lancashire. Alongside the cities of Preston and Lancaster, the towns of Blackburn, Burnley, Morecambe, Colne, and Chorley, all provide a range of activities and attractions, as well as historic places to visit, that will keep you busy for days.
Steeped in English history, Lancaster is a must-see city. The hilltop Lancaster Castle in the heart of the city is the feature attraction and is certainly worth visiting to discover its 1,000-year-old past as a royal home and even a prison. The Lancaster City Museum and the Lancaster Maritime Museum both give fascinating insights into the city’s social and trading history.
The seaside town of nearby Morecambe has a wonderful and scenic promenade overlooking Morecambe Bay, but there are several landmarks to see while you’re there. As part of the coastal defence, the Stone Jetty provides excellent views with pavement games and sculpture artwork to enjoy. For a fitting tribute to one of Morecambe’s most famous sons, don’t miss the bronze statue of comedy genius, Eric Morecambe.
Lancashire’s second city of Preston also delivers its fair share of history and culture. A perfect place to start a family day out is a visit to the Harris Museum and Art Gallery where you can explore a wide range of collections from art, history, and ceramics to fashion, photographs, and books. In nearby Leyland, the British Commercial Vehicle Museum is home to a huge display of transport from all ages.
Lancashire’s most famous, and possibly the UK’s favourite holiday, town must be Blackpool. Renowned for its universal appeal to all ages, there’s plenty of attractions to entertain everyone. Alongside its glorious golden sands, don’t miss the attractions and rides at the Pleasure Beach, the Blackpool Tower and its famous ballroom, the Sea Life Centre, and Blackpool Zoo.
Blackburn Cathedral is one of the youngest in the UK and the coloured glass and aluminium spire of the Lantern Tower is well worth seeing. Also worth visiting is nearby Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, which is filled with fascinating collections.
Experiencing the great outdoors doesn’t get much better than in the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Covering over 300 sq. miles in the north of the county, this unspoilt, rural landscape of moorland, remote fells, hills, and pikes lets you go off-grid and get away from it all. You really can take your pick of things to do, but it’s a real attraction if you want to explore its many walking or cycling routes, or even just to take in the stunning scenery and enjoy the bird and wildlife.
Hoghton Tower is a site of medieval origins, the present house being a 16th-century fortified house with enclosed courtyard and terraced gardens. The gardens occupy about 1 hectare within woodland and parkland of about 15 hectares.
Features of Duxbury Park include a fishpond, a formal garden and woodland plantations.
Topography, geology, and climate
With its mix of populated towns and cities, exposed coastline and open countryside, Lancashire displays a range of distinct land qualities, giving the county a mix of different soil types and fertility levels.
While much of the county is dominated by a mix of seasonally wet, slightly acid, and base-rich loam and clay soils of moderate fertility, there are patches of more diverse soils on offer. Blanket peat bog soils are prominent in the Forest of Bowland AONB as well as more southern areas around Burnley and Blackburn. Hugging the coastline of the north, loam soils are more free-draining but mildly acidic. On the coast between Blackpool and Lytham St Annes, lime-rich sand dune soils turn sandy and loamy further inland.
With a temperate climate, Lancashire doesn’t generally experience weather extremes, with temperatures averaging around 19ºC (66ºF) across the summer months and around 3ºC (37ºF) in the winter months. But, being on the west coast, Lancashire does receive a higher share of rainfall, averaging at around 1,000mm (39”) across the year.
Lancashire’s parks and gardens
With Lancashire’s expansive open countryside and the Forest of Bowland AONB together with the county’s urban spread, there aren’t many traditional gardens on display. However, there’s still a good handful of hidden gems and more notable venues to enjoy.
- North Lancashire
The riverside gardens of Gresgarth Hall near Caton, just outside Lancaster, are a real treat. Though with limited openings, the home of leading landscape designer, Arabella Lennox-Boyd, has opened to reveal the gardens in all their glory. Covering around 10-acres, the gardens contain everything from formal terraces and garden rooms to hedged double herbaceous borders, a bog garden, kitchen garden, wild garden, and stunning magnolia and hydrangea walk.
Near Garstang, midway between Lancaster and Preston, Cobble Hey Farm is a working farm that features some award-winning gardens. In under a decade, the farm has turned an area of land used for livestock grazing into an amazing, tranquil, and naturalistic country garden. With features including woodland, water features, and greenhouses, the main draw is the wide selection of rare plants and flowers, including rare snowdrops, sitting next to more common varieties.
On the upper edges of north Lancashire near Carnforth, Leighton Hall Estate sits within rolling parkland, but the gardens and woodland walk are not to be missed. The gently sloping Main gardens offer clipped lawns and fine displays of well-stocked herbaceous borders, alongside plenty of rose shrubs and climbers. While the walled garden is a beautifully designed, ornamental veg plot with herb and sensory garden and hidden pavilion. For the kids, there’s a caterpillar path maze to complete, and look out for the wildflower border and Bee Corner.
- South Lancashire
In Rufford, near Ormskirk, Rufford Old Hall is a National Trust-owned Tudor Hall, with impressive Victorian and Edwardian gardens. Touted as ‘one of the most beautiful gardens in Lancashire’, it’s hard to disagree. Alongside a mix of formal lawns, including the Squirrel border, orchard, and Beech tree walk, you’ll discover the wonderful walled garden showing fine displays of roses and peonies throughout the summer.
As a ‘jewel in the Ribble Valley crown’, Stydd Gardens in Ribchester, near Blackburn, is a real hidden treat. Alongside a selection of boutique, independent shops, you can relax and enjoy the beautifully landscaped grounds. With an abundance of plants on display, with plenty of bee-friendly varieties, the key draw at Stydd are the fabulous roses, filling the air with fragrance all summer long.
Sitting between Preston and Blackburn, Hoghton Tower is a glorious walled manor house dating back to the 1500s with magnificent gardens and remarkable views over the surrounding countryside. From manicured lawns with deep herbaceous borders and topiary displays to the beds and borders inside the stunning rose garden. Whether you’re a keen gardener or just enjoy pleasant, outdoor spaces, Hoghton ticks all the boxes.