The Forest of Bowland (sometimes called the Trough of Bowland) is often described as 'Lancashire's hidden gem'. It remained inaccessible until late in the twentieth century and is almost completely unchanged. The southern part of Bowland bordering onto the Ribble Valley, around Stonyhurst College, was the inspiration for Tolkien's vision of Middle Earth in 'The Hobbit'. An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which was the first region in England to be awarded Europarc status, its villages are characterful and well worth visiting. Visit Bowland Wild Boar Park PR3 2QT; 01995 61554, firstname.lastname@example.org situated about 2 miles from the picturesque village of Chipping, on the Chipping to Dunsop Bridge road in the Forest of Bowland. It is signposted clearly from all directions.
The Pennine foothills around Rossendale (Rawtenstall, Haslingden, Waterfoot, Bacup and district) now being rebranded as Pennine Lancashire also provide interesting walking, and are rich in the remnants of industrial, textile and quarrying archaeology. These small mill-towns are surrounded by accessible moorland and make a good base for exploring Lancashire.
Rawtenstall is home to Fitzpatricks 5, Bank Street, BB4 6QS (01706 231836), founded in 1890 it's the last remaining Temperance Bar in the UK, where it serves black beer, sarsaparilla, blood tonic, cream soda and other non-alcoholic drinks.
Waterfoot has The Boo Bacup Rd, BB4 7HB (01706 220241), an arts venue that puts on an occasional but unusual programme of family-friendly performances and runs an annual Puppet Festival in July. The Boo is also the home of the acclaimed Horse + Bamboo Theatre company - if you're visiting its always worth checking if they have something on (http://www.horseandbamboo.org), but it's worth noting that August is normally a quiet month.
Lancashire featured prominently in the Industrial Revolution, with many towns built around the textile industry. The inland towns still show this industrial heritage. Conversely, the coastal towns developed into holiday resorts for the textile mill workers, including Blackpool, Morecambe, and Southport.
There are, however, many beautiful rural areas, mainly upland. Most of these are ideal for walking, in particular the Pennine hills and foothills to the east, and the spectacularly beautiful Forest or Trough of Bowland in the heart of Lancashire.
Charles Nevin's book 'Lancashire:Where Women Die of Love' (Mainstream Publishing) describes many of the charming eccentricities of the county, including its friendly rivalry with neighbour Yorkshire which dates back to the War of the Roses when the two royal houses of Lancaster (Red Rose) and York (White Rose) vied for the English throne. He also writes of the great tradition of Lancashire comedians (Stan Laurel, George Formby, Eric Morecambe, Gracie Fields, Les Dawson, - and many more) which continues to this day; the love of Rugby League; how Southport became the model for a rebuilt Paris after an exiled Napoleon III stayed there and fell in love with its wide boulevards; and the county's associations with Balzac, Shakespeare, King Arthur, Brief Encounter, George Orwell, etc.
Historically, the County of Lancashire has been strongly associated with the cities of Manchester and Liverpool. From very early, they lay within the historic county boundaries of Lancashire, and many Mancunians in particular still consider themselves Lancastrians. In 1889, the cities, along with most of the large Lancashire towns, became county boroughs, running their own affairs separate from Lancashire County Council. In 1974, the Local Government Act 1972 came into force and created two new Metropolitan Counties.
The Pendle witch trials of 1612 are among the most famous witch trials in English history. The 12 women accused were charged with murdering 10 people in and around the Pendle Hill area of Lancashire. Most of the accused were tried at Lancaster Assizes in what became known as the Lancashire witch trials. "The Witch Way", the Burnley and Pendle bus services from Manchester use a flying witch as its logo. Pendle Hill dominates the landscape of the area and continues to be associated with witchcraft, and, every Halloween, there is a hilltop gathering on the summit.
Lancashire is one of only three County Palatines in England, with special authority and autonomy from the rest of the kingdom. In feudal times, Counts Palatine exercised royal authority, and ruled their counties largely independently of the king, though they owed allegiance to him. Nowadays the distinction is largely ceremonial.
People from Lancashire tend to speak English with a Northern accent called Lancastrian. The accent can differ from one town to another, although non-Brits are unlikely to be able to tell any difference. Traditional Lancashire accents are rhotic, as are most American and Irish accents.
As with most of the UK, very few natives speak other foreign languages. However, many ethnic minorities/immigrants now reside in the county, and languages such as such as Hindi, Urdu, Chinese, Polish and Lithuanian are spoken within those groups.
You can reach Lancashire via ferry from Ireland, by road via the UK motorway network, or you can fly in via airports in Liverpool, Manchester, or Blackpool.
The county is well served by motorways. The M6 runs north-south through the county, there are various spur motorways linking the M6 to towns (eg the M55 to Blackpool, the M65 to Blackburn and Burnley, the M58 to Merseyside), and the M62 crosses the Pennines to Yorkshire.
The Leeds-Liverpool Canal is a picturesque but slower way to travel in Lancashire.
Lancashire is increasingly a cycle friendly place, for both on and off road cyclists. Visit http://www.visitlancashire.com/site/things-to-do/cycling for up-to-date information.
Visit the elegant and charming west coast resort of Southport with its gentle pavement cafes and upmarket shopping areas, backing onto the miles of beach and neighbouring nature reserves. If golf is your thing this place is a must. Across the Ribble estuary on the Fylde Coast lies the coastal up-market twin towns of Lytham and St. Annes. An ideal gentle place to stay avoiding the hustle and bustle of neighbouring Blackpool. Drive a few miles up the coast (or take a vintage tram) to the small town of Thornton Cleveleys with its new twenty million pound promenade and bustling shopping streets boasting every type of shop (a must for the more mature visitor). Continue into the old fishing town of Fleetwood with its pleasant seafront golf course, boating lakes, Freeport shopping centre and marina. You can also take a seagoing ferry to Northern Ireland from here or the little ferry taking the short trip across the Wyre estuary to Knott End.
The County has distinctive culinary traditions. Black pudding, cow-heel and tripe, and a wide variety of savoury pies are traditional foods, some of which have been picked up and developed by a new generation of chefs. Other local specialities include young lamb from the hill farms, Lancashire hotpot (a lamb based stew), soft Lancashire oatcakes; Eccles cakes and Chorley cakes. Local bakers remain a common sight.
Lancashire cheese is considered one of the premier products of the county. It is associated with the town of Leigh, and Ben Gunn, a character in the Robert Louis Stevenson novel Treasure Island, craved Leigh Toaster during his three-year exile as a castaway. Lancashire cheese can be classified as either "tasty", "crumbly" or "creamy". Matured Lancashire Cheese is referred to locally as "tasty". Creamy and tasty are the original Lancashire cheeses, crumbly being a 1960s invention to effectively compete with Cheshire, Wensleydale and Caerphilly. It is reputed to be the best toasting cheese in the world and as such is a favourite for Welsh rarebit.
As well as typical British pub culture, there's Fitzpatricks Temperance Bar (see above) in Rawtenstall. Lots of interesting 'olde worlde' country pubs throughout the county, each with a story to tell dating back hundreds of years and a food menu worth testing. Try staying in these, dotted through the beautiful Ribble Valley. An ideal location whatever the time of year and within easy reach of all the best the county has to offer.
A safe county to visit but like most places worldwide in these modern times, take care walking at night, especially in the cities or dark unlit areas. City centre pubs and clubs are safe to visit but some can get a little rowdy due to to present day drinking culture. Check your cab home is a registered cab and displaying a cab licence plate number on the back if in doubt. The local police are helpful and friendly.
Manchester is the main international airport for the region and less expensive to use in comparison to other airports in the South. Liverpool, Blackpool are the smaller regional airports but also offer European destinations.
The area is served with a excellent road and rail system (Manchester to London about 3 hours).