48hrs in the Ribble Valley - a luxurious foodie retreat
Considered the foodie capital of the north, the Ribble Valley is Lancashire’s gastronomic heartland packed to the brim with romantic dining opportunities, incredible local purveyors, and family-friendly eateries. Alongside great places to eat, the picturesque Bowland Fells, infamous Pendle Hill, and winding River Ribble ensure your 48hrs in the Ribble Valley will be varied and beautiful.
Easily accessible from all corners of the UK, this well-connected area of Lancashire is often overlooked when considering a weekend break or longer in the county. Close to the Lake District and the vibrant coastal resorts of Blackpool and Lytham St. Annes, what the Ribble Valley lacks in bright lights and big lakes, it makes up for in understated charm and heritage.
The Ribble Valley, and accompanying Forest of Bowland, are both an outdoor lovers paradise with woodland and waterside walks aplenty together with the chance to visit some incredible country pubs, bustling food markets, and fine-dining restaurants. Whether you fancy a romantic retreat for two or a child-friendly holiday, the Ribble Valley ticks all the boxes when it comes to an incredible UK staycation.
For a touch of luxury, base yourself at the Bowland Retreat Lodges for your 48hrs in the Ribble Valley. Located just north of the quaint Great Mitton and a 10-minute drive to Clitheroe; this small, family-run site is a home away from home with a huge helping of 5* luxury and attention to detail. Offering 3/4/7 night stays, there are currently eight fully-equipped lodges available, consisting of one, two, and three bedrooms, all with hot tubs and outdoor decking areas.
For more information on lodge types and images, please refer to the handy links section.
Although just a stone’s throw from some of Lancashire’s famous attractions, you could easily feel like you have escaped to the middle of nowhere. With views over rolling farmland and hills, the ever-changing landscape will leave you blown away.
**We were invited to stay at the Bowland Retreat lodges for the purposes of this review, however, all opinions are entirely my own and honest throughout**
Begin your 48hrs in the Ribble Valley with a slow drive to Bowland Retreat Lodges located just north of Great Mitton and 10-minutes from Clitheroe. Depending on your direction of travel, it is easy to incorporate a stop or two along the way.
For those with a National Trust membership, the grand Gawthorpe Hall in the heart of Industrial Lancashire is worth a stop. Affectionately referred to as the ‘Downtown of the North’, the Elizabethan Gawthorpe Hall, close to Padiham, is also the final stop on the Bronte Way.
Lancashire is famed for its rich industrial heritage built on cotton and coal; although the working mills have long since closed, the legacy that Lancashire manufactured 85% of the world’s cotton during the 1800s, is easy to spot. From the decommissioned mills dotted among the towns and villages, the exciting and diverse mix of cultures and with it, so much incredible food and culture.
For a taste of ancient history, a stop in Ribchester, with the Romans as it’s earliest occupants, together with a chance to visit the pretty Stydd Gardens. Considered the jewel in the Ribble Valley crown, the gardens are a must for horticulture enthusiasts. This delightful garden and shopping complex is a lovely stop for lunch, taking time to stroll through the beautifully landscaped grounds and a spot of shopping in the independent stores, before settling into The Glasshouse for tea and cake.
If you prefer a late pub lunch instead, the nearby Shireburn Arms, between Ribchester and Whalley is a great stopping point before arriving at Bowland Retreat Lodges. There are a number of walks along the river to enjoy in good weather.
On arrival at Bowland Retreat Lodges, your accommodation for 48hrs in the Ribble Valley, you may be happy to enjoy the comfortable surroundings and stay in for the evening. There are plenty of takeaway options available locally, from Indian, Chinese, Italian, and Fish & Chips.
The nearby Aspinall Arms is a fabulous pub nearby; set on the banks of the River Ribble, a delightful place to sit outside during the warmer months and cosy in front of the fire during the winter. Ensure to book a table ahead to avoid disappointment.
The fully-equipped kitchens at Bowland Retreat Lodges have everything you need if you fancy cooking in the lodge. There is an induction hob, oven, microwave, dishwasher, and full-size fridge/freezer. The dining table and breakfast bar in our particular lodge, Rue, were ideal and there was plenty of space to eat both in the lodge, outside on the decking, or prepare picnics to enjoy while out and about.
There are also large supermarkets in Clitheroe, a 10-minute drive from the lodges.
After dinner, take full advantage of the luxurious covered Hot tub; sit back, relax and look up at the twinkling stars with a glass of wine in hand. I guarantee you, it will be the perfect end to your first day exploring the Ribble Valley.
As the sun begins to rise, raise the blinds, grab a cuppa, and take in the unfolding view. The uninterrupted rolling countryside, farm animals going about their business, and rolling hills in the distance will soothe the soul. After a slow morning, maybe a coffee on the decking if the weather is kind, head to Holmes Mill in Clitheroe for a delicious brunch.
This pristine converted mill complex is unique to the area; filled with independent traders, eateries and an Everyman Cinema. Celebrating Lancashire’s food, drink and entertainment, the Bowland Food Hall & Market, brewery and beer hall are a must for all foodies and ideal on a wet day. With a full belly, it’s time to begin exploring more of Clitheroe before heading deep into the Ribble Valley and the Forest of Bowland.
If you fancy a local’s take on eating and drink in the area, why not book a private gastronomic tour with Bowland and Bay. With pick up from Bowland Retreat Lodges, this personal driving tour allows you to eat and drink your way around the region under expert guidance. With over 100 artisan makers in the area, your personal foodie ranger will curate an edible tour unique to you and your tastebuds.
If choosing to self-drive, the pretty market town of Clitheroe with its medieval Castle is a great starting point. After brunch at Holmes Mill, you can spend time shopping among the independents in the town and a special stop at the Chocolate Works for a scrumptious cup of Hot Chocolate. Close by, Brungerley Park contains the Ribble Valley Sculpture Trail, an easy and interesting walk.
You are spoiled for choice with where to eat and drink along the way, a personal recommendation would be the Brown Cow at Chatburn for the traditional home-cooked fayre. After lunch head deeper into the Forest of Bowland; highlights include Dunsop Bridge and the Puddleducks Tearoom, together with the pretty villages of Downham and Waddington.
The Trough of Bowland is also an exhilarating drive, walk or cycle and follows the original route taken by the Pendle Witches as they made their way to Lancaster Castle for their trial in 1612. A stop at Lancashire’s oldest historic family home, Brownsholme Hall, is a must on a warm day, where visitors can enjoy walks around the landscaped gardens, woodland, and 3-acre lake (open during Summer months).
After a busy day exploring this stunning part of the county, book a table at any one of the popular gastropubs and restaurants locally. For a fine-dining experience, Northcote is a Michelin star restaurant run by top chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen. Creating exquisite dishes using the finest local ingredients, a meal at the Northcote Restaurant is a real treat and a deserving place for a celebratory meal.
Nigel Haworth, former head chef at Northcote for over 20 years, has recently opened the Three Fishes gastropub at Mitton; a beautifully restored building creating dishes true to the ‘field to fork’ philosophy. With seasonal, plant based and Sunday lunch menus available, the Three Fishes is a short drive from Bowland Retreat lodges and offers guests a true gastronomic journey, a stones throw from the front door.
After a restful nights sleep and a long lie in, begin your final day in the Ribble Valley with breakfast on the decking overlooking, the duck pond before a final dip in the hot tub. On checking out of your lodge, finish your 48hrs in the Ribble Valley with brunch in the nearby village of Whalley.
Sitting on the banks of the Calder River and home to the famous Whalley Abbey ruins; the village and its 14th century Cistercian Abbey are both worth exploring. After a bite to eat at either Tastebuds Cafe or Deux Amis, take the short drive to the Spring wood Nature Reserve, an ideal place to take little ones, or finish with a look around the shops in Whalley.
If you time your visit right, the Blackpool Illuminations are a mere 45-minute drive away and the number 1 attraction from late August to the new year. The bustling city of Preston is also within easy reach, packed with plenty of great shopping opportunities, restaurants and bars for something a little bit more urban.
For those spending 48hrs in the Ribble Valley with little ones, there are a variety of seasonal attractions to enjoy; the most popular being Bowland Wild Boar Park, Mrs Dowsons Farm, and Thornton Hall Country Park. For a full list of attractions, excursions, and days out within a short drive of Bowland Retreat Lodges, take a read of their website information (linked below).
After a wonderful weekend at Bowland Retreat Lodges, I’m sure you will be sad to say goodbye. For those staying for a longer 4/7 night break, relax into the next few days exploring more of the Ribble Valley and the Forest of Bowland, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
After checking out, it is easy to combine your journey home with a visit to Brockholes Nature Reserve, the Ashton Memorial in Lancaster, or the southern tip of the Lake District National Park; depending on your direction of travel. All make a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours outside and a place to enjoy a bite to eat on your way home.
If you are leaving on a clear day, walking enthusiasts could choose to climb Pendle Hill, steeped in stories of witchcraft. There is an easy, circular 5-mile walk to enjoy, taking in the Ogden Reservoirs as you climb high above the rolling Lancashire farmland. At the top, it is easy to spot the Blackpool Tower and Lakeland Fells on a clear day with the Pendle Inn and The Cabin tearoom in Barley providing amenities and refreshments.
Top Tips & Additional Extras
For additional extras to make your stay even more special at Bowland Retreat Lodges; from indoor picnics, afternoon tea and electric bikes, contact Elouise to arrange prior to your visit.
For a romantic stay, my top tip would be to book the beautiful Perry lodge; nestled in the corner of the site with uninterrupted views and a private wrap around deck with a hot tub, this is perfect for honeymooners and couples.
Elmore lodge is the only 3-bedroom property at Bowland Retreat Lodges and ideal for families.