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Gisburn Forest & Stocks Reservoir

In the hills above the picturesque village of Slaidburn there’s a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts just waiting to be explored.

Stocks Reservoir in the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

From hiking and mountain biking to fishing, foraging and star-gazing, this wonderfully wild corner of the Forest of Bowland National Landscape is a hidden gem with more in common with the lochs and glens of the Scottish Highlands than the mill towns of urban Lancashire.

DAY 1: Circuit of Stocks Reservoir 

Lace up your boots to take on the eight-mile Stocks Reservoir Circular route climbs into the hills above the reservoir, providing expansive views of the wider Bowland landscape before descending to complete a circuit of the entire reservoir.

Start from the pay and display car park on the eastern shore of the reservoir and allow at least three hours to complete the entire circuit. Head to the wildlife watching hides on the eastern shoreline to watch the amazing birdlife that lives on and around the reservoir. Look out for geese, ducks, waders and even the occasional migrating osprey in spring and autumn.

Download the Stocks Reservoir Circular walk here


Make a detour to Gisburn Forest Hub Café for a wide range of snacks, light meals and refreshments – including ice creams and splendid home-made cakes. In the summer months, look out for wildflowers in the restored meadow at Stephen Park, where you’ll see an abundance of species that are often absent from more intensively farmed grassland – including rare orchids.


The star-studded Dark Skies above St James Church near Stocks Reservoir in the Forest of Bowland AONB

Return to the car park at Gisburn Forest Hub as night falls to explore the Forest of Bowland’s sparkling night skies. Gisburn Forest is an official Dark Sky Discovery site where celestial objects are brighter and easier to see thanks to reduced light pollution.

Look out for bright twinkling stars, planets, constellations and galaxies – including our own Milky Way, which arcs across the night sky from southeast to southwest.

DAY 2: Gisburn Forest MTB Trails 

For a two-wheeled adventure off-road, the purpose-built cycle trails through Gisburn Forest offer rides of varying length to suit all abilities from beginner to expert. Refreshments and bike hire is available at the Gisburn Forest Hub – just a short ride from the pay and display car park.

In addition to long distance touring routes, the Forest Hub is your base for more than 30km of forest trails and tracks designed specifically for mountain bikers.

The basic skills loop is ideal for beginners looking to hone their bike-handling skills before tackling the more ambitious 9.5km (5.5 miles) Bottoms Beck Trail which includes steep curvy descents and a scenic riverside ascent.

More accomplished riders can test themselves on a more demanding 18km (11 miles) double loop known as ‘The 8’ with optional Black routes to spice things up still further. Ride to the highest point in Gisburn Forest for outstanding views from the lofty perch of Whelpstone Crag – the perfect place for a picnic.

Whelp Stone Crag above Gisburn Forest on the Bowland Traverse

Head back to the Forest Hub Café for refreshments or venture further afield to the Hark to Bounty Inn or Riverside Tea Rooms at Slaidburn (4 miles away) or The Old Vicarage Tea Rooms at Tosside (2 miles away).


Bowland Knotts near Stocks Reservoir in the Forest of Bowland AONB

For a lovely short evening walk, take a wander up to the rugged outcrops of Bowland Knotts high above Stocks Reservoir. The panoramic views from this craggy ridgeline extend right across the Forest of Bowland and into the limestone country of the Dales, where the Yorkshire Three Peaks are prominent away to the north-east.


A wild brown trout from Stocks Reservoir in the Forest of Bowland AONB

Get up with the lark and fish for plump and tasty trout in the clear waters of Stocks Reservoir – the closest you’ll come to fishing a wild Scottish loch – outside Scotland! The Prince Albert Angling Society controls the fishing, visit their website to check whether the trout are biting:


Lovers of the outdoors who are less mobile can also enjoy the wonderful scenery of Stocks Reservoir and Gisburn Forest on an easy access Tramper Trail. The Tramper is a specially designed four-wheel drive all-terrain electric buggy, which can be used off road and even on rough ground, mud and grass. Find out more on the Forest of Bowland website. The Bowland Tramper can be booked in advance from Gisburn Forest Hub. Call 01200 446387 to make a reservation.

Download the Birch Hills easy access trail here


There’s no public transport to Stocks Reservoir, but it is within an hour’s bike ride of the following stations: Bentham (13 miles), Long Preston (9 miles) and Clitheroe (12 miles). Check timetables at Cycle reservations recommended.



There’s plenty more to see and do in the area to extend your break a while. The entire Forest of Bowland National Landscape is criss-crossed with footpaths and cycle trails. Picturesque villages like Slaidburn, Chipping, Waddington and Wray are within just an hour or so in the saddle, while the towns of Clitheroe and Bentham have more shops and entertainment to offer and are linked with good onward public transport connections. Click here for more ideas and itineraries.