I first came across Clitheroe last year when my sister in law and I were looking for vintage furniture shops in the area. We literally parked up, hunted down the relevant shops, did a coffee and shot out again, not really taking the town in. But it was enough to get me intrigued and make another, more leisurely trip there.
To be honest, I had always imagined Clitheroe to be a struggling little town, clumping it with the likes of Blackburn and Burnley, former woollen towns down on their luck. But it wasn’t. It seemed to be a thriving community, with well dressed citizens and a feeling of being reasonably upmarket.
I returned with my daughter a few weeks after that first hectic trip, driving over the Forest of Bowland. It’s a bit misleading is the name Forest of Bowland as it’s not exactly a Forest now, but a huge swathe of remote moorland, to the east of Lancaster. Many centuries ago, it was a large hunting area, presumably covered in trees. Now the only woodland surrounds Stocks Reservoir, managed by the Forestry Commission as a commercial concern and a cycling hub. We passed through the little village of Slaidburn, nestling in the valley before heaving up again. A long hill descends into Clitheroe.
We parked up in the car park near the railway station and walked the brief distance to the town centre. We wandered around. Apart from Fat Face, Cafe Nero and the ubiquitous Costa Coffee, Clitheroe is full of independent shops and cafes. My kind of town.
We wandered up to the castle, perched high on a hill in the middle of town. It was a steady drag, investigating the grounds. At the top was the museum and cafe which we didn’t visit, but clambered up towards the ruined tower where you got spectacular 360 degree views of the town and surrounding fells. We spent quite a while there, just taking in the view and watching the good people of Clitheroe go about their business.
We waddled down again, around the little parkland and back into town. We discovered the market with the traders working out of little purpose built cabins, selling all sorts. The shops in Clitheroe are quite upmarket and are very varied. A whiskey shop, a shop selling the likes of Joules and Barbour merchandise, a fantastic butchers specialising in sausages of every description and many others. It was a delight to wander around. We did coffee and cake in Jungle, an trendy cafe, though it was hard to choose – they all looked welcoming. At the bottom of the hill, the shops petered out as we approached a big Sainsburys supermarket. We paused – the little row of shops left seemed to be those shabby places housing taxi offices, tattoo parlours and fast food chicken joints. For some reason, we carried on and discovered, unexpectedly, at the rear of these shops, looming over them, a large building, which I initially mistook as a Marks and Spencer’s outlet.
It transpired to be an old mill called Holmes Mill, refurbished into a retail outlet, a large pub and bar, an Everyman cinema and a food hall. A quick peek in the bar – full of people enjoying a drink, trendy and full of atmosphere. The food hall was another on trend place and very popular. Stuffed with food, drink and gifts, it had an excellent deli, cheese and meat counter. It was one of those places where you can end up buying lots of things and spending a fortune – which we did. We decided to eat lunch here and sat at the bar on high stools. It was very agreeable. I decided to have the Buddha bowl and was able to choose my food at the deli. It was a very pleasant lunch indeed.
We staggered out again and wandered around, checking down ginnels and alleyways, finding more shops. It was all remarkably compact. Clitheroe seemed to have everything you needed in a town. I was very impressed – it’s just had a really nice feel about it and I decided that this was the place I would come to spend a day shopping when I was in the mood.
Very happy, we found the car and headed back over the moor. There was just one blot on the landscape literally, in the shape of an ugly belching cement works just up the road. It dominated the local area, but it must of employed hundreds of the townspeople and obviously kept the local economy humming. A necessary evil, I suppose, rearing it’s ugly head in the very pleasant surrounding countryside.
Below are some photos of the castle at Clitheroe. We came across a little white pillar in the castle grounds, which seemed to connect the town with the Pendle Witchcraft Trials in the 1600’s – Pendle Hill is nearby. There are many stories around this area of the infamous Pendle Witches, all of which are fascinating. Clitheroe is definitely worth visiting!