Back in March 2023 I had the pleasure of experiencing a mid-week stay at Holgates Ribble Valley, located in Rimington, Lancashire.
5 Days in the Ribble Valley – in collaboration with Holgates Ribble Valley holiday park
Written by Tom Pooley, founder of Lancashire Lad’s Life.
I absolutely love the Ribble Valley, but until this trip, I’d never stayed in the area for more than a day out.
This was my first holiday with Holgates, spending 4 nights in one of their Pet Friendly Holiday Homes, with my partner Laura and our little dog Henry joining me part way through.
When the collaboration opportunity opened up early in 2023, the thought of being based in the Ribble Valley for a week really excited me!
There’s so many great walks in the Ribble Valley, plenty of cafes and pubs to choose from, all of which are dotted among the many quaint towns & villages I’d yet to discover. The best part, Holgates Ribble Valley is perfectly located for them all.
Their holiday park is also right by the Yorkshire border – so it would be easy for me to hop over into ‘enemy territory’ for a day-trip or two, if I wished.
Gifted collaboration agreement sorted. Bag’s packed. Let’s go!
The Pet Friendly Holiday Home
Upon arrival, I sensed right away that this stay would be a remote, relaxed experience.
Holgates Ribble Valley has a lovely drive into the park, with the holiday homes rather hidden from back up on the main road.
After meeting the friendly with the staff on site, who were all super welcoming and attentive to anything I might need during my stay, they directed me towards my holiday home.
My caravan had 3 bedrooms, which could sleep 6, along with a large dining & lounge area. The perfect size for families looking for accommodation in the Ribble Valley area.
There was a spacious kitchen area, 2 toilets (+1 shower), and outside the property, we had space for 1 car next to a standard size picnic bench… with all this space, I wished I’d invited a larger party to join me at this point!
The team had been kind enough to leave me some milk, and a local beer from Bowland Brewery, based down the road in Clitheroe.
Soon after dropping off my belongings, I decided to go for a wander and explore the site.
The first thing I discovered (being a dog owner), was their fantastic dog field and child friendly playing field. There was a play area too for children. This holiday park just seems setup for making families and dog owners feel right at ease.
Both fields were vast open spaces, offering pets and children the chance to run around in safe, fenced off environments – so in theory, you wouldn’t need to leave the holiday park to burn off some energy!
The views from the fields looking out to Pendle Hill, were just spectacular. Each morning during my stay, I decided to walk up to the play fields and just sit on the bench here… the weather & clouds changed so much around the hillside by the minute. I could honestly look at Pendle Hill all day, quite sad right!?
Elsewhere, there was road access around much of the site, making it ideal for relatively dry, short morning & evening dog walks… for those all important wee’s and p’s haha!
Further down from my holiday home, I found the shower, toilet and laundry block. These would be more important for campervan visitors (without those facilities onboard). I did notice there wasn’t an iron in my holiday home, so it was good to know we had somewhere to iron out creased clothes… and wash items if necessary.
Not that it’s important, but the bins for general waste and recycling were also down here too, away from everyone’s accommodation.
I was told by the friendly staff that I should expect little activity on site during my week’s stay, and they were absolutely right. Nevertheless, the few visitors / home owners who were there at the time, were all rather pleasant whenever we bumped into one another.
I met a couple of dog owners / home owners who had nothing but glowing things to say about the Holgates Ribble Valley, further acknowledging how the peace & quiet on site is one of the reasons why they love frequently visiting.
The Perfect Base for Ribble Valley Walks
The main reason for me staying at Holgates Ribble Valley Holiday Park, was to get out on plenty of walks in the area and create content for the Holgates marketing team. Challenge accepted!
Even though I only live 30+ minutes from the area, In all honesty I hadn’t explored much of the Valley up to this point. One or two of the more popular walks, that was about it.
This was the perfect opportunity for me to try walks I’d not done before, creating content and recommending routes for Holgates to share with their guests.
The walks I had in mind included:
– Weets Hill, Blacko.
– Whelpstone Crag, Gisburn Forest.
– Pendle Hill (testing a ‘summit else‘ route).
– short walk around Gisburn Estate.
I knew I probably couldn’t do it all, but the selection above felt realistic enough to complete during my stay. I would have to factor in the weather – hey, it’s Britain after all, you can never predict sunshine and rainbows in this part of the country haha!
Towns and Villages in the Ribble Valley
Another important part of my stay, was to explore a number of towns and villages I’d yet to visit in the area… and if there was a top recommended pub, restaurant or cafe nearby, even better! The Ribble Valley is known as the food heaven capital of the north. I hoped to taste a little slice of this during my time here.
A few towns & villages I had in mind included:
– Blacko (just down the road from Holgates)
– Gisburn (also, stones throw from the park)
– Bolton by Bowland
– Clitheroe; been many times, but there’s a lot to see & do here
The amazing thing about exploring, going on a road trip, is you don’t quite know what you’re going to stumble across. I hadn’t done too much research other than creating this short list of ideas… so it was time to get started with my first mini adventure – starting down the road in Blacko, in search of Weets Hill summit.
Day 1 – Weets Hill, Blacko
The village of Blacko is no more than 10 minutes from Holgates Ribble Valley. The first thing I noticed on route to the village, was the tower up on the hillside… Blacko Tower, what a sight!
It doesn’t matter what way you enter the village, Blacko Tower catches your attention, a stunning landmark dominating the skyline.
The unfortunate thing is, there is no public footpath / right of way up to the tower itself. I ventured into the fields (by public footpath), hoping by some luck or crook, the land owner might have created passage up to it… no such luck.
I can confirm there is no way up to the tower, forget it. Just ask my smelly, bog filled walking boots haha!
I hopped back in my car and went down into the village of Blacko for a quick look around. One photography spot worth seeing, is the beautiful Pendle Heritage centre (local history museum).
Ok, time to start my planned walk. I drove back up the hill, and parked up by a row of terraced houses, further up towards the tower. Free parking here, can’t complain.
I knew of a highly recommended restaurant further up the road, Hamish’s cafe & bar, but my plan was to call here afterwards, on my way back to the holiday park.
As with most of my recommended walks, I would always suggest having GPS mapping as a backup for navigation. Here is the Weets Hill route I followed for my first walk whilst staying with Holgates Ribble Valley.
The walk is fairly simple to follow, there’s likely to be a bit of bog in parts before the summit of Weets Hill. Tough it out if it’s a bit wet. The views should be worth it!
Much of the route is connected with the Pendle Way, a 45 mile circular walk.
Weets Hill is a cracking scenic walk, full of adventure, viewpoints, big headed statues, made all the more fun by the more boggy it can be!
Don’t forget about Hamish’s
After Weets Hill, I would highly recommend calling in at Hamish’s bar and cafe on your way back to the holiday park. They serve the most delicious, unique dishes, the best coffee… and their cakes are fantastic too. They are dog friendly as well.
My plan was to visit with my partner Laura, later in the week. See my food choice further on in this blog! Spoiler… it was a HUGE pile of chips, deliciously topped with some of my favourite foods!
Dining Out (1st Night) – Calf’s Head, Worston
After cleaning myself off, doing a spot of work online back at Holgates, I decided to head back out for some local pub grub. My first pub visit was with The Calf’s Head in Worston.
I’d never been here before, nor the village of Worston in fact. What a beautiful little spot, no more than 10-12 minutes from the Holiday Park. Even though I visited mid-week, the pub was lively… and it didn’t take long to realise why. The service here was top notch, many of their beers were locally brewed, and the food was sublime.
I ordered one of their popular burger options, along with a pint of beer by Bowland Brewery – a meal to remember for sure. The inside decor at the Calf’s Head caught my eye, a really cosy pub, and I could imagine this place being packed in the summer, with what looked like a spacious beer garden outside.
With that, I was done for the night. Back to the holiday park for an early night… tomorrow was set to be a busy one!
Day 2 – Local Tourism Event in Clitheroe
Whilst Holgates Ribble Valley is in a relatively remote location, Rimington, it’s still close to all the popular spots around the Ribble Valley, none more popular than Clitheroe.
With the weather taking a turn for the worse on my second day, I decided to attend a local tourism event held at Holmes Mill, Clitheroe, no more than 15 minutes or so from the Holiday Park.
If you’ve never been to Clitheroe, you have to call in. There are lots of quaint little shops, cafes and restaurants in the town, Clitheroe castle of course, and more.
Holmes Mill has a lot to like too; featuring a cafe with a great selection of cakes and coffee, a lovely little restaurant, huge food hall, and a lively bar next door. Bowland Brewery are based in the bar area, brewing on site. In my opinion, Holmes Mill is an absolute gem for food and drink in Clitheroe.
After the event, hosted by the Forest of Bowland AONB, all about sustainable tourism, I popped next door to the Bowland Beer Hall for drinks with a few friends. Bowland Brewery have a lot of their own beer choices on tap, so we opted for a small sample selection to try among ourselves.
I also ordered food from the menu; nachos and loaded fries (below) were superb! After a full day of learning about sustainable tourism, networking with business owners and making friends with people from around the country, this naughty American-style grub, along with a local beer, went down a treat!
If you’re interested what was talked about at the Forest of Bowland AONB, sustainable tourism symposium – click this link to read all the key takeaways from the event.
Day 3 – Gisburn Forest and Whelpstone Crag
Time was flying! Day 3 already.
Whilst Pendle Hill was right on the doorstep, I really wanted to save a walk up here for more of a clear, sunny day. Day 3 was a mixed forecast of clouds and rain.
I decided to drive over to Tosside, in order to explore parts of Gisburn Forest on route to my second Lancashire trig summit of this trip, Whelpstone Crag.
I’d never been up to this trig before, but having seen some of my fellow hiker content creators tagging this location in their social media posts, I had to give this one a go during my stay in the area.
Note, the route I initially had planned, directed me through the thick woodland public footpaths.
Even with GPS, after taking a few wrong turns in the forest, trying to follow these ‘not-so-public’ footpaths… in the end I’d recommend mostly sticking to the main track through Gisburn Forest on route to Whelpstone Crag.
I’m glad I tried these public footpaths mind you. That’s what this Lancashire Lad’s Life blog is all about… I get lost before sharing my recommended routes – so you don’t have to!
Find my recommended route for Whelpstone Crag below.
Free parking can be found in Tosside, but it’s not the biggest carpark, so don’t expect guaranteed spaces here, at the the weekend. Best to get here early perhaps?
Like with many fell walks, some of the public footpaths here can get boggy in places, especially on return after reaching the summit, if you decide to head back to Tosside using the fell & forest public footpaths like I did.
All part of the experience if you ask me, but for those less experienced / not keen on trying to dodge huge muddy puddles, you may wish to do something more simple. See below.
If you’d prefer easier, but slightly longer tracks with little to no bog, opt to do an ‘out and back’ following the main track up through Gisburn Forest instead. There’s paid parking down at the bottom of the woodlands, right by Stocks Reservoir.
Please note, Gisburn Forest is popular for mountain bikers too, so if you’re out with the dog, and heading up from Stocks, be sure to keep them on leads near any obvious bike trails… they come through fast!
That’s why I prefer to start from Tosside, you rarely see any bikers from this point, with it being towards the top of the hill. The bikers you do see, they’re mostly coming uphill, so they don’t come through as quick, often super tired from all the pedalling.
Also, do expect sheep in the field near the summit. They were super curious on the day of my visit, so dogs on leads for this bit.
After a good chunk of the day exploring the woods, having a stand-off with the sheep, before reaching the summit, the rain began to fall so it was time to head back to Tosside.
Tonight’s plan was to save some pennies by cooking food myself, doing a little bit of work back at the Holiday Cottage, before welcome my partner Laura and our dog Henry. Best to get an early night too, my legs were shot after a full day of hiking in the woods!
Day 4 – Road Trip
It was the start of a new day, but unfortunately another wet one in Lancashire.
After taking Henry to the dog field first thing whilst Laura made brews, we had a spot of quiet time sat in the holiday homes’ lounge area. A chance to relax and catch up on some morning reading.
The good thing about the Ribble Valley is there are lots of other things to do besides going for walks. I’m just as passionate about visiting villages I’ve never been to before, exploring roads I’ve never driven before, always on the look out for hotspots and hidden gems to share with my fellow ‘Lancashire Lunatics’ over on Instagram.
We planned out where we wanted to go, which included:
- Hamish’s cafe (for breakfast)
- Sawley Abbey
- Holden Clough Nurseries (for a brew)
First stop, food down at Hamish’s cafe. Freshly prepared food, with locally sourced ingredients… what more do you need! I couldn’t possibly visit this area and not sample some of Hamish’s food menu. We opted for two internationally inspired dishes; Cubano Sandwich and Carne Asada fries. Yum!!
We chose to do a scenic drive on route to Downham, starting from down in Blacko, hoping to snap some pics of Black Moss Reservoirs, at the foot of Pendle Hill.
Thanks to a short rain break, we were able to do just that! I love filming above reservoirs, especially when they are remote, out of sight from the main roads, like these two.
Pendle Road, connecting Blacko to Downham, is such a beautiful road to drive. I couldn’t resist stopping to take pictures, passing so much nature along the way.
Before long, we reached the picturesque village of Downham. A perfect start point for walks up Pendle Hill, and famous for it’s film appearances, Downham is a must visit village if you’re visiting the Ribble Valley.
You can find a decent Downham route up to Pendle Hill via the Summit Else campaign by the Forest of Bowland.
There’s also one pub in the village, under new management as of early 2023, the Assheton Arms. I hope to visit soon and sample items from their mouth-watering food menu.
If you approach Downham from Rimington Road (Holgates park is just off this road), or further up via the A59, it’s no more than a 10-15 minute drive.
After a quick stop for photos in Downham, we passed through the next village on our list, Sawley, home of the historic Sawley Abbey.
Sawley Abbey is a Grade I listed building, which existed from 1149 until its dissolution in 1536, during the reign of King Henry VIII.
The old ruin, currently fenced off for the protection of the public, offers a glimpse back in time, accompanied with facts and knowledge located around the site, a unique stop-off for any adults or children interested in history.
Continuing through the village of Sawley and over the bridge, you can’t held but marvel at the beauty all around. Lots of public footpaths venturing off in all directions from here as well, for another day perhaps!
Holden Clough Nurseries
Our next stop is near the village of Bolton-by-Bowland, over to a popular garden centre & cafe in the area, Holden Clough Nurseries.
Holden Clough has been providing all things garden since 1927. Let’s just say there’s been a lot of green fingers to help develop this site to what it is today.
The cafe on site, known as The Reading Room Kitchen, serves food on a walk in basis throughout the day, with reservations available for Afternoon Tea at weekends.
We had a look around first before ordering cakes & coffee, with Henry sitting patiently, for the most part (yes, it’s a dog friendly cafe here).
I could easily spend a fortune at Holden Clough Nurseries, not just in terms of cakes and coffee, or on garden essentials, but in their lovely gift shop!
They have done a great job at sourcing products that are pleasing on the eye, don’t expect to find any cheap, gimmicky items in here.
After a wander around, and a quick purchase of some lavender wax melts for Laura, we were off again, this time just a fleeting visit through the village of Bolton-by-Bowland.
Their’s a fabulous pub in the village known as the Coach & Horses. I’ve heard really good things about this pub, with their AA rosette dining experience, and dog friendly bar area, but we’d spent up for the day, so we decided not to call in on this occasion.
The village is rather cute, with the river Skirden Beck passing through. I can imagine this being a good starting point for river walks in the area, followed by a pint in the pub.
This was our last stop today. We stayed on Gisburn Road from here, driving through the stunning Gisburn Estate (more on this in day 5), on route back to the village of Gisburn, just a few minutes from our base – Holgates Ribble Valley holiday park.
Although the weather wasn’t great, we still had a smashing day out, with lots of great food & drink, enjoying the incredible Ribble Valley landscape during our mini roadtrip.
At this point, after a plenty of miles covered and several coffees downed, we decided to stay in for the night, purchasing a take away meal from over in Barnoldswick (10+ minutes away). Another location visited for the first time, albeit late at night, to pick up a curry haha!
Looks a nice enough place mind you… no pics of the food unfortunately. We ate it too quick!
Last Day – Leaving Holgates 🙁
After four fun-filled days, it was time to leave the holiday park.
We wanted to make the last day a memorable one. We made plans to explore the neighbouring Gisburn Estate, also known as Ribblesdale Park.
First things first, quick brew before heading over to the dog field, so Henry could do his ‘morning business.’ We met the most lovely dogs on this last day as well. It was nice watching them play together, running around in a wide but secure space.
We handed in our keys mid morning, said our goodbyes to the friendly staff on site, and hopped in the car for a short journey over to Ribblesdale Park.
There’s a really nice restaurant at the centre of the holiday park, called Hindelinis. Several items from their mouthwatering lunch menu caught the eye, here’s what we ordered.
It was Henry’s lucky day – with a member of staff offering us a free puppychino (doggy ice cream), as he was being a good lad, sat quietly in their dog friendly restaurant.
After a latte or two, big breakfast and the little dog treat, we decided to have a wander around part of the vast 1000 acre estate. There’s a lot to look out for whilst visiting Ribblesdale Park. First thing we noticed was a peacock sitting in the carpark… not your typical restaurant experience upon arrival!
Before long, we found a small herd of grazing sika deer, also belonging to the estate – seeing them during our stay at Holgates, was high on my list of things to do in the area. Mission accomplished!
It’s not often people like myself get to experience being so close, to what most will associate as a wild animal. We were told the deer often hang around the lodges at the holiday park, as well as Hindelinis, surprising diners with their unexpected presence.
As we continued through parts of the estate, we passed the historic building of Gisburn Park hospital, which as of 2023, now has plans to be renovated for hospitality. Would love to capture this place by drone someday…
decided to venture down a track leading to a popular spot with a bridge. Little did I know, this would be one of their star attractions, a wedding venue like something you’d expect in fairytales. What a stunning setting for newly weds to celebrate with their loved ones.
After a few pictures, and a lot of convincing my partner that we couldn’t afford to get married here, we were back on the main track, continuing our short stroll around the estate.
The walk itself was no more than a mile, but there’s plenty to see including;
- Gisburn Park Hospital, which has future plans to be turned into a fancy spa hotel, as of 2023.
- The wedding venue, mentioned above.
- The River Ribble, with an interesting old ruin, riverside.
- A lovely stream running alongside, down mill lane, the road back up towards the main entrance of the park; Hindelinis and the estates’ holiday lodges.
Whilst it didn’t make for a full day out, we did spend most of our morning at Ribblesdale Park, dining at Hindelinis, as well as that short stroll around the estate to take some pictures. Well worth a visit if you’re near Gisburn, a mere 6 minute drive from Holgates, Ribble Valley.
What a lovely morning spent exploring Gisburn Estate. One of the many attractions in the area, I look forward to visiting again for more fantastic food from Hindelinis.
… and that was the end of my trip!
5 fun-filled days in the Ribble Valley – jam packed with plenty of things to do.
Summary of my stay with Holgates
Even though it’s only 40 minutes from my home in Lancashire, it was still really nice to get away for 4 nights, tucked away in scenic part of the Ribble Valley.
Waking up to an ever changing view of Pendle Hill and the rolling Lancashire countryside around the site, enjoying the peace and quiet each day, this Holgates holiday park has a lot going for it, that’s for sure.
I don’t have a bad word to say about my accommodation either. The holiday home had everything we needed and more. The fact I was able to invite my little four legged friend, thanks to this property being dog friendly – was a real bonus for us!
Whilst I didn’t quite end up venturing into the Yorkshire Dales, the fact some of it’s best walks are right there on the doorstep, makes this holiday park perfect for any keen walkers reading this blog review.
I didn’t end up climbing Pendle Hill during my stay either. Anyone that’s not done this infamous Lancashire hill walk, and they’re staying at Holgates… a walk up Pendle Hill is an absolute MUST! I’d always recommend sunrise up Pendle, but a warm summers day climbing those steps to the top of the hill, with views for days – you can’t go wrong.
At weekends the park apparently gets a little more lively, with their onsite pub opening up to holiday guests & residents, and during the summer, apparently food trucks are sometimes invited, to serve pizzas and other take away meals, giving families the chance to avoid cooking and truly relax. Sounds idilic!
The walks, cafes, towns and villages surrounding Holgates Ribble Valley, for me, make this an ideal base for both hikers & foodies looking to experience the best of the Ribble Valley area.
Could I see myself owning one of their holiday homes or luxury lodges, escaping the busy town life for some peace and quiet, right at the foot of one of my favourite Lancashire walks, Pendle hill… ??
Absolutely I can! I just need to start saving haha!
For more information about Holgates Ribble Valley, their holiday lets, as well as available lodges for sale, visit their website at https://www.holgates.co.uk/our-parks/ribble-valley
Thanks again to the whole of the Holgates for such a lovely welcome to their Ribble Valley holiday park. I hope to visit again in the future, with my family.
*this holiday home was gifted, in exchange for an honest review of my experience and a collection of hiking related content for Holgates marketing team.