Feb 19

7 reasons to take a detour off the M6 in Lancashire

by in History, Top Tips, Transport, UK

Forest of Bowland signpost - by Zoe Dawes

As drivers hurtle up and down the M6 to and from the Lake District and Scotland it’s easy to miss out on some of the north of England’s most interesting sights.  Lancashire is an incredibly diverse county with vast areas of charming countryside, rural villages, historic towns and, in Blackpool, one of this country’s most iconic beach resorts.  Here are seven reasons to take a quick detour off the M6 in Lancashire and savour a few of the delights of this ancient region – you will be well-rewarded.

1. Leighton Hall

Leighton Hall and garden - by Zoe Dawes

Leighton Hall: a short drive from Junction 35 takes you to the beautiful home of the Gillow family, one of Lancashire’s most famous names, designers and purveyors of quality furniture to the gentry and others of refined taste.  This warm and welcoming house is crammed full of antiques and quirky knick-knacks.  It has a charming walled garden laid out with fruit and vegetables, a little maze and a glorious herbaceous border.  Set in a graceful hollow the views of the Lake District fells and Morecambe Bay are outstanding.

2. Carnforth Station

Carnforth Station Clock - by Zoe Dawes

Just down the road from Leighton Hall, on the A6 Lancashire, is Carnforth Station Heritage Centre. You’re transported back to the age of steam, when smuts got in your eye and a train’s whistle was the signal for a journey to unexplored areas of the country. Run by knowledgeable volunteers, the Centre traces the vital history of freight and passenger rail in the area.  However, it’s the connection with that classic B&W British weepie Brief Encounter that brings visitors from all over the world.  Filmed during WWII, it tells the story of ill-fated lovers kept apart by the upright morals of 1940s England.  You can watch the movie, see stills from the filming and have a sandwich in the meticulously recreated ‘Refreshment Room’, where any minute Stanley Holloway might pop in for a quick cuppa …

3. Lancaster Castle
Lancaster Castle Lancashire

Get off the M6 at Junction 33 or 34 and take time to visit Lancaster Castle, one of England’s most historic buildings.  Looking down over the city and River Lune, it has a solid and authoritarian air, much as it would have done in John of Gaunt’s day.  Modified as a Court and Prison, there’s a fascinating tour taking in the 12th Century Keep, the Witches Tower, the old cells, the Crown Court and graceful  Shire Hall.   The city of Lancaster is compact and easy to explore. Find one of the old pubs along the river or take a stroll beside Lancaster Canal

4. Glasson Dock

Glasson Dock boats - by Zoe Dawes

Glasson Dock: tootle off at Junction 33/34 and find where the Lancaster Canal makes its exit at the very quirky Glasson Dock, to the west of the Fairtrade village of Garstang.  It has an elusive air of times gone by when, in the 1800s it was a lively port handling over 100,000 tons of cargo.  There’s a little cafe overlooking the waterway where you can watch the boats pass through the lock or you can to The Stork Inn and watch the sun set over the Irish Sea.  Do search out the Smokehouse for a delicious souvenir of your visit.

5. The Forest of Bowland

Witches Galore in the Forest of Bowland - by Zoe Dawes

In the little maze of narrow lanes and rolling hillsides to the east of Preston (J32) it’s easy to get lost awhile around The Forest of Bowland and forget the hectic pace of modern life.  Wander along the main street of pretty Chipping or have lunch in the well-known Inn at Whitewell.  Covering over 300 square miles, this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has over 500 listed buildings and 18 scheduled monuments.  One of its most impressive landmarks is Pendle Hill, near the home of the infamous Lancashire Witches.

Listen to ‘A day out in the Forest of Bowland’ on Audioboo

6. Rivington Pike

Rivington Pike Tower by John Darch

Rivington Pike Tower – photo by John Darch

Rivington Pike is easily spotted from the M6 (Junction 27/28) with its Beacon, Tower and aerials, it’s the summit of Winter Hill, on the Pennine Moors.  On a clear day you can see Blackpool Tower, the Lake District mountains, the Welsh mountains and, across the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man.  The Beacon is part of England’s early warning system and the Tower was built as a hunting lodge in the 1700s.  Further down are the recently restored ‘Lost Gardens of Rivington‘, originally laid out for Victorian industrialist Lord Lever.  At the foot of the hill you can get refreshments at enormous Rivington Hall Barn, weekend gathering place for bikers showing off their immaculately-kept shiny motorbikes.

7. Morecambe Bay and Heysham

The Lake District fells from Morecambe Bay, Heysham Lancashire - photo zoe dawes

The Lake District fells from Morecambe Bay, Heysham

Finally, some of the loveliest view in the country are to be had from Morecambe Bay. Only ten minutes off the M6 Heysham Barrows has a ruined chapel and ancient stone graves overlooking the Bay. The coastal town of Morecambe, with its Art Deco Midland Hotel and Victorian Winter Gardens Theatre, currently being restored. Get your photo taken beside the statue of Eric Morecambe. Walk along the Stone Jetty to admire the massive sweep of the Bay, where huge flocks of seabirds dabble and swoop all year round.

Cormorant sculpture at sunset over Morecambe Bay - photo zoedawes

Cormorant sculpture at sunset over Morecambe Bay

Watch the sun go down before you head back to the M6; better still, tarry a while longer at one or more of these fascinating places in lovely Lancashire.

M6 detours in Lancashire

A shorter version of this article originally appeared in my Visit Britain Superblog section.

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20 Responses to “7 reasons to take a detour off the M6 in Lancashire”

  1. From Zoë Dawes:

    I’m probably a tad biased as I was born Lancashire – at least Southport was in Lancs when I was born – it’s Merseyside now 🙁 But this county is really well worth a visit and if possible a longer stay.

    Posted on February 19, 2013 at 7:04 pm #
  2. From Natalie:

    Hi Zoe
    I have been living for half a year in England and this article brought back some really nice memories of the English countryside! I do miss it! Just looking at the road signs and remembering all these tiny roads – driving it with a truck;)
    Thanks for that!

    Posted on February 19, 2013 at 11:31 pm #
  3. From Zoë Dawes:

    Glad you enjoyed it Nat – most intrigued by the truck driving!

    Posted on February 20, 2013 at 12:12 am #
  4. From Elspeth Wrigley:

    My parents are great at actually properly travelling to a destination rather than selecting the fastest route and I think I should learn from both them and yourself.

    For anyone heading up to Cumbria from the South and the East then meandering through Lancashire would be such a lovely and relaxing start to the holiday.

    I don’t know much about the Lancashire Witches – sounds intriguing!

    Posted on February 20, 2013 at 11:20 am #
  5. From Kay Cook:

    Looks like I still have some places nearby which I haven’t discovered yet – a day out beckons! Thanks for the great tips Zoe 🙂

    Posted on February 20, 2013 at 11:36 am #
  6. From Zoë Dawes:

    Hope it inspires more people to travel Elspeth and as you say there is a lot more to see around Lancashire. Watch out for a post about the Lancashire Witches – fascinating story!

    Posted on February 21, 2013 at 8:19 pm #
  7. From Zoë Dawes:

    A lot of people living in Cumbria miss out on the delights of Lancashire Kay – you’ll love exploring some of this county’s lesser known treasures 🙂

    Posted on February 21, 2013 at 8:20 pm #
  8. From Steve Collins:

    I love detours. Thanks for sharing these out of the way gems!

    Posted on February 21, 2013 at 9:12 pm #
  9. From Zoë Dawes:

    Cheers Steve – hope you & Billie can visit one day when you travel from across that big Pond 😉

    Posted on February 22, 2013 at 1:32 pm #
  10. From Christy:

    This does look intriguing! I love that boat photo.

    Posted on March 28, 2013 at 8:17 pm #
  11. From Sonya:

    Your quirky travel tales always make my day! 😉 I long to explore more of this part of England so I appreciate these fab travel gems.

    Posted on April 23, 2013 at 6:01 pm #
  12. From Zoe Dawes:

    Hope you get the chance to explore more Sonya- there’s so much to see even us locals are forever surprised!

    Posted on April 24, 2013 at 12:16 pm #
  13. From Jollies and Jaunts:

    Lancashire has so many interesting places to explore – Rivington Pike is a great walk. I recently took a walk along the Tolkien Trail near Stonyhurst College which was a beautiful place to visit (and there were some nice places to eat nearby).

    Posted on November 27, 2016 at 11:19 pm #
  14. From Zoe Dawes:

    Thanks for your comment 🙂 Hadn’t heard of the Tolkien Trail; added to my list of quirky places to visit 🙂

    Posted on November 28, 2016 at 11:44 am #


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