Are you looking for a serene weekend getaway in the centre of the UK with easy access from both Northern and Southern England? In search of beautiful countryside and picturesque towns and villages, we set out to find the best things to do in the hidden gem of the Ribble Valley!
It is truly a well-kept secret, and as TrovenTrippers we are more than happy to explore this hidden gem and give you a glimpse of its unrecited beauty… and most importantly, bring you the details straight from the people behind the scenes who work tirelessly to ensure that the tranquillity of the place is well maintained!
So lets start our journey… here is how our day started…
We have picked an amazing day to drive down to Ribble Valley as the roads are snowclad and it gives the feeling of ‘Winter is Coming’ but in a very pleasant way! Paul is scared that his car may not handle the snow and icy roads well so is being extra careful… but Sneha is so thrilled to see the first snow of the winter that she’s too busy taking pics of the road to notice. Paul asks Sneha… “Are you even able to capture a single good one in a moving car?” Hmm I guess I have … what do you think guys… are they any good?!
TrovenTrippers in The Ribble Valley
- Holmes Mill in Ribble Valley
- Clitheroe Castle in Ribble Valley
- Clitheroe Town
- Mitton Hall
- Whalley Abbey
- Just the beginning…
Holmes Mill in Ribble Valley
As we head into Clitheroe our first stop is Holmes Mill…we picked it for a coffee break to kickstart the day. But wait a minute… it has a beer hall, a food hall, a restaurant, a hotel, and wedding venue, all in one! And believe us, they are just a beauty!!
It’s a very unique place and a great introduction to the Ribble Valley and Lancashire, showcasing local food and drink in a stunning converted old mill building… the coffee is good, and they have unique raspberry croissants, and the cakes are sooo good!
The food hall where we have breakfast is a really cool place… a farm shop come café selling anything and everything food and drink-wise, with a special focus on locally sourced produce (the local cheese is a particular speciality!)… and Sneha being a gin lover is amazed by the huge variety of gins… but it’s just 10am… so maybe something to pick up on our way back home.
Now it’s time for a tour of the entire place by Andrew, Opeations Manager at the Mill, who gave us a guided tour to showcase just how cool and unique it is! Watch below…
We start our look around the venue at the Bowland Beer Hall, featuring one of the longest bars in England (it was previously THE longest until somewhere in the South built a longer one, but let’s be honest, we all know that being in the North still makes this one the best! ). There is a huge selection of different beers on tap which would take you quite a few visits to work your way through trying all of them… a challenge Paul wants to try though!
Past the Beer Hall is the Engine Room and Chimney Room, both featuring original features from the mill but offering a cosier setting to sit and relax and enjoy your beer with friends and family. The original textile mill had been abandoned for over 20 years, so the wheel and the chimney are really cool features to have kept, and the rest of the modern industrial décor compliments them perfectly… hats off to the interior designer, this place is really exceptional!
Moving next door to The Spinning Block… this is where the restaurant, bistro and hotel is. And all are equally as stunning as the food market and Beer Hall are!
The restaurant is huge and decorated impeccably again, matching the original beams and supports with modern features everywhere you look, and the room is centred around a grand piano with a bar area at one side and the more formal dining area at the other… something to be included in a personal checklist to host parties with friends. Look out for the hand painted ceiling… all tiles individually painted by the owner during the restoration!
The hotel rooms are elegantly done too… the penthouse being split over 2 floors and featuring a bathtub in the bedroom, and the standard rooms featuring all of the mod-cons and being spacious and comfortable.
And then finally on to the event space used for weddings and other events… another great space featuring some really cool old school seating, and the bar area overlooking the Bowland Brewery tanks.
There is lots of outside space too (although not much is in use on a snowy day like today!), with an old red London bus serving as an outdoor bar and another tent serving pizza in the warmer months.
Overall it’s a really cool place and a must visit when you’re in the area, whether you’re looking for shopping, food, drink, somewhere to stay, or even to get married! Check out a preview of the different areas of the Mill below…
Find more information and to make any bookings on the website… https://www.holmesmill.co.uk/
Just a stone’s throw from Holmes Mill is Clitheroe Castle…
Clitheroe Castle in The Ribble Valley
Standing high above the town of Clitheroe is Clitheroe Castle, an 800-year-old ancient landmark offering breath-taking views of the town below and the surrounding valley.
Not much of the original 12th-century castle remains, but the keep is second smallest surviving stone-built keep in England.
On a normal day it would be a pleasant walk up the hill through the gardens to the castle, but on a snowy and icy day like today it proves to be a little tricky! But the effort is well worth it when we reach the top and see the Winter Wonderland all around!
In one direction we can see the rooftops of Clitheroe below with Pendle Hill in the distance… famous for the Pendle Witch Trials and the birthplace of the Quakers movement. And looking the other way we can see Longridge Fell, the southernmost fell in England, and out over the Area of Outstanding Natura Beauty of The Forest of Bowland.
Tom Pridmore from Ribble Valley Council knows the town inside out, and he definitely explains it better than we do… check out what he has to say…
The Keep and gardens are free to explore, and there is an award-winning museum costing £4.70 which details the history of the local area. More information can be found on the website… https://www.lancashire.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/museums/clitheroe-castle-museum/
We make our way back down from the castle to the market town below, and have a walk along the high-street, stopping to get some local sausages from Cowmans Famous Sausage Shop. We go for an eclectic mix of venison, wild boar, Lancashire pork, and some called Rudolph’s Revenge (pork and chilli apparently!).
The town has an array of local and independent shops and well worth a nice walk around the town!
Now it’s time to head towards the countryside… it’s tough to pick the next destination from so many good options, and also need to consider a good driving route. After much deliberation we pick Mitton Hall for lunch… we heard they give a very welcome Christmas feeling to the place so we decide to go and check it out!
Set on the edge of the picturesque village of Mitton is Mitton Hall, a stunning country house hotel which looks like somewhere straight out of a movie! You know those Hollywood movies when they travel to the UK for a wedding and it’s at some magical unrealistic location? Well, Mitton Hall is that magical (but very real) location!
As we step into the main lobby Sneha says it looks like the Gryffindor common room (we are sure only Harry Potter fans will get this bit!), and the Christmas decorations and snow-covered grounds outside only add to the amazing place!
The friendly staff show us to our table in the beautiful dining area, sat in the huge bay window away from the open roaring fire. We ask what the local specialities are… ordering a Mitton Steak Burger and a Fillet of Beef, accompanied by a Bowland Pils local beer and the only available Mitton Gin on the menu… Sneha finally got to try one of the Gins she was eyeing in the shop this morning!
You can check out the menu here… https://www.mittonhallhotel.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2021/11/04351_Mitton_Hall_Reduced_Menu_Nov.pdf
The Fillet of Beef and the potatoes were delicious, and it all went so well with the ambience of the place! It’s a really nice fine dining and romantic place… no wonder the Ribble Valley is called the capital of romance… you really don’t need roof top bars with amazing views to have the perfect date here… the place itself gives the magical feeling!
Once we’re done eating we have an explore, checking out the bar (very cosy), event space (a large space and bar with great views out into the gardens, perfect for a wedding), and have a wander upstairs to see the stunning lobby from above… Check out our video, you can see for yourselves and then experience it with a visit.
Check out the website and make any bookings… https://www.mittonhallhotel.co.uk/
We enjoyed the lunch so much that we have lost track of time and are running a bit late… we wanted to visit one of the best tourist destinations of the Ribble Valley… Whalley Abbey…
As we leave Mitton Hall to head to Whalley Abbey 5 minutes down the road, it’s starting to get dark and the snow is starting to turn to rain, so by the time we reach it’s not quite as pleasant to wander around the grounds as it was in Clitheroe this morning!
The Abbey is made up of a renovated country house offering retreat stays, conferences and weddings, as well as the ruins of the original 14th century Cistercian Abbey.
It’s free to wander around the grounds and the ruins, and we’re surprised at how well-preserved and how big the ruins are… the Abbey must have been absolutely huge in its day! There’s also a small garden area which we’re sure would look beautiful in Spring and Summer… many other similar sites charge for entry and are much smaller and don’t have as much to see, so this is definitely a great place to visit!
There are some info signs as we walk around, with some showing artist images of how it might have looked at the time which really brings it to life and is a nice touch.
Bookings for the retreat or events can be made online… https://www.whalleyabbey.org/
Our last stop for the day before heading home is at the village of Downham, just a 10-minute drive from Clitheroe, and a must-stop when you’re in the area.
The village appears to be frozen in time… there are no road signs, overhead cables, or satellite dishes anywhere… it’s like stepping back in time!
The village has been owned by the Assheton family since the 16th century and they have maintained the beautiful village ever since, with it becoming a popular filming location for TV shows due to its historic charm.
It’s a perfect place to end a great day out in the Ribble Valley, with a brook running alongside the stone-built cottages, a 15th century church to admire, and a cosy country pub to rest and relax in!
Just the beginning…
We barely scratched the surface in our day trip to the Ribble Valley… there’s loads more to do and see in this beautiful place and we definitely couldn’t have squeezed them all into 1 day!
The snow today made the whole place feel extra special, but the cold temperatures and icy roads also meant we couldn’t explore the beautiful countryside as much as we would have liked too. Pendle Hill looming over Clitheroe looks to be a must see, as does The Inn at Whitewell, an 18th century Inn owned by the Royal family!
We did get to see some of the countryside when we took a road trip from Morecambe Bay through the Forest of Bowland back in the summer (look out for that blog coming soon!), and we’ll definitely be back in the Spring to experience some of the amazing walking routes (and of course the cosy country pubs we’ll inevitably pass on those walks ).
If, like us, you haven’t visited The Ribble Valley before, then we suggest you make it your number one destination for 2022!
And special thanks to Tom, Lucy and Andrew who we met on our day out… they were super friendly and helpful in providing us with the information to help make our day out special and give us the inside info on the places, which we’re super happy to pass on to all of our readers.