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The Hidden Bowland Dales

Bounded by the rivers Wyre and Lune, the fells that dominate the skyline above the historic city of Lancaster are the highest in the Forest of Bowland.

Mallowdale Pike above Roeburndale in the Forest of Bowland
Image © Joan Martin/PhotoNorth

While rugged scarps like Clougha Pike and Tarnbrook Fell offer exhilarating fell-walking opportunities, it’s the intimate valleys of Roeburndale, Hindburndale and Grizedale which reveal a gentler side to the elemental upland landscapes of Bowland.

DAY 1: Roeburndale and Wray

Today is dedicated to exploring the valleys carved by the tributaries of the Lune: The Wenning – which rises beneath the limestone pavements of Ingleborough – and the twin rivers of the Hindburn and Roeburn.

Head for the picturesque village of Wray, where artisans and light industry have prospered for hundreds of years. It still has a rustic, slightly olde-worlde feel – as if it hasn’t changed much for a century or so.

Wray is famous for its annual Scarecrow Festival at the end of April, which often attracts thousands of visitors. The rivers Hindburn and Roeburn meet in the village – just below the new Kitten Bridge – the original arched stone footbridge was swept away, along with several cottages, in the great flood of 1967.

Walk up the quiet lane beside the left bank of the river into the dense woodland that dominate this verdant valley. Much of the land is managed along organic or permaculture principles, so nature is rapidly re-establishing itself here. Look out for rare butterflies and woodland birds like the redstart and pied flycatcher. The woodland floor is carpeted in dense drifts of bluebells in May and the autumn colours in September and October rival those of New England.

Download the Wray and Roeburndale Circular Walk


Bridge House Farm tearooms in Wray, Forest of Bowland

The Bridge House Farm Café and the George and Dragon pub both offer a warm welcome to weary walkers for refreshment and sustenance or the community-owned Wray Village Shop is well worth a visit for stocking up on local goodies. In spring and summer, the gardens at Hornby Castle are open on designated weekends (check in advance at – the snowdrops reach their peak in February and are a sight to gladden the heart as winter slowly gives way to spring.


The neighbouring valley of Hindburndale is accessed by a lane that follows the course of an old Roman Road which crossed the Bowland Fells to Ribchester. Follow this to the hamlet of Lowgill, then head northeast towards Bentham to find the Great Stone of Fourstones – a huge glacial erratic which once marked the boundary between Lancashire and Yorkshire.


Take the 81 or 82 bus to Wray and return the same way.

DAY 2: Coast & Mountains

Follow the first section of the famous Way of the Roses’ cycle route. This 35-mile route between Morecambe and Settle traverses some glorious countryside without too many hills. For more ambitious riders, the entire 170-mile route goes coast to coast from the Irish Sea to the North Sea via the Red and White Rose counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Our recommended route starts on the Prom at Morecambe and heads along traffic-free cycle routes through the old docks of the historic port of Lancaster before following the River Lune upstream to its confluence with the Wenning and contouring around the Bowland Fells to the Yorkshire border at Clapham and then south through limestone country to Settle on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.

And after a hard day in the saddle, don’t worry if the legs fail you upon reaching Settle – simply hop on the Bentham Line to let the train take the strain on the return journey! Booking bike spaces in advance is advisable. Bring your own bikes or hire cycles from Open Roads Open Skies in Lancaster (01524 424117).

For a slightly shorter – albeit hiller – circular ride, this 30-mile Wyre and Lune Valley route can be started from Lancaster for those who have brought their own bikes.

Download the Lune Valley Cycle Ride here

In the evening, adjourn to The Fleece at Dolphinholme – a recently renovated country inn where you’ll find an eclectic mix of beautifully cooked classics and contemporary treats.


If visibility is good, an evening visit to Victoria Tower as the sun sets is a must. The views from here on the western edge of the Bowland Fells are breathtaking, encompassing Lancaster and the Lune estuary, the Lake District fells, the Great Orme on the North Welsh Coast and maybe a glimpse of Snaefell on the Isle of Man.


Bentham Station on the Bentham Railway Line

The Bentham Line connects Lancaster and Morecambe with the Yorkshire Dales and the famous Settle-Carlisle Line. Tracing the Lancashire border across the northern boundary of the Forest of Bowland, the line links the rural villages and towns along the Wenning Valley. For timetables visit the Northern website For walks and visitor information, visit:



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 and Waddington 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. Have a look at the Rail to Trail routes on the Bentham Line website for more walking options or click here for more ideas and itineraries.