In northwest England, Lancashire is where you break free from the conurbations into beautiful countryside.
The landscapes can vary between green arable farms and pasture near the coast, and the wild and romantic moors and fells of the West Pennines and Forest of Bowland.
There’s great variety in the kind of towns you can call in on, ranging from raucous seaside resorts like Blackpool to former centres of industry such as Burnley.
And in-between you’ll uncover an abundance of adorable villages and historic market towns.
Lancashire is also a county of unembellished warming food like the Lancashire hotpot and savoury pies, and of course real ale.
Lets explore the best places to visit in Lancashire:
Although just a little city and easy to traverse on foot, Lancaster’s historic ties to the British throne (Queen Elizabeth II is the Duke of Lancaster) makes it an exciting place to explore.
It’s also very attractive, with lots of proud Georgian houses from the 1700s, particularly around the castle and on the banks of the Lune River.
And as for that castle, it’s one of the region’s most treasured historic monuments, suffused with almost a thousand years of tales and intrigue.
Go in for a tour, but don’t neglect the Lancashire City Museum, the Lancaster Canal or the haunting Ashton Memorial high on a hilltop in Williamson Park.
The coastal town of Blackpool is pretty much the model for an English seaside resort and is one of the country’s most beloved domestic holiday destinations.
A fixture since 1894, and one of the things that helped put the town on the map, is the 158-metre-high Blackpool Tower.
It was inspired by the Eiffel Tower, and has an observation deck 140 metres up and a glorious Victorian ballroom.
The sandy beaches were cleaned up in the 1980s and Blackpool South Beach meets the exacting Blue Flag standards for hygiene.
There’s way more in Blackpool than we can list here, but the Pleasure Beach amusement park and the Illuminations lights festival in the autumn months are extra incentive to come.
An adorable market town, Garstang was mentioned in the 11th-century Domesday book and has a weekly market that has been running since 1310. Just west of the Forest of Bowland, this is prime walking country.
Set a course for the ruins of Greenhaigh Castle on elevated ground over Garstang.
There isn’t a great deal remaining of this sandstone building, but the decayed remnants have their own fragile beauty.
Up here there’s a great perspective of the town and countryside, while the Lancaster Canal crosses the town and runs all the way to Kendal.
Hire a longboat or walk the towpath for to experience Lancashire’s wild moorland and fells at a lighter gradient.
4. Lytham St Annes
A conurbation of two coastal towns a few miles down the coast from Blackpool, Lytham St Annes is an ideal antidote to its glitzier neighbour.
Amusements and theatre shows are replaced by more tranquil forms of enjoyment: The marshes on the Ribble Estuary and 80 hectares of sand dunes in the resort provide a wintering habitat for more than 100,000 migratory birds.
Golf is the sport of choice, and there are four courses, including the Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club, which has hosted the prestigious Open Championship, the oldest of the four majors.
St Annes is the seaside destination and is an understated Victorian resort, with a pier, gigantic beach and loads of period character.
As a textile town in the 19th and 20th centuries, Burnley is a good place to delve a bit deeper into industrial times in Lancashire.
The atmospheric Weavers’ Triangle, with its workers’ houses and cotton mills on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, is permeated with this history and you’ll get enthusiastic insights about these times at the visitors centre.
There’s a more refined side to Burnley too, at Towneley Hall a sublime Elizabethan manor house in sprawling grounds and with a museum containing everything from traditional local furniture to pre-Raphaelite paintings.
Burnley FC meanwhile is the overachieving local team, playing in the Premier League at Turf Moor one of the top flight’s last traditional grounds.
Crossing the river Calder with a stark majesty is the Whalley Viaduct, a titanic railway bridge built in the 1840s, 21 metres high and comprising 7,000,000 bricks.
Go to view the spectral ruins of Whalley Abbey.
This Cistercian monastery was founded in the 13th century but was divided up after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, The church and most of the monastic buildings were pulled down, but the dormitory is still there and is still used as a catholic place of worship.
The Northwest Gatehouse is also mostly intact and has Grade-I listing.
You’re in the scenic Ribble Valley in Whalley, and can hike up through woodland and pasture to the nearby Whalley Nab for a satisfying panorama of the village.
The story of the city of Preston is one echoed throughout the northwest: A small market town that grew rich and large from the cotton mills in the 1800s.
This era was when Preston’s most imposing landmarks were created.
Take the gothic revival Church of St Walburge, which has the tallest spire of any non-cathedral church in the country.
Or there’s the classical purpose-built Harris Museum, with paintings by Lucien Freud and Stanley Spence, and the excellent Discover Preston section, guiding you through the city’s and region’s past back to prehistoric times.
Rolling down to the north bank of the Ribble River are the joyous Avenham and Miller Parks, with a Japanese Garden and a grand stairway dominated by a statue of Edward Smith-Stanley, the MP for Preston and three-times the country’s Prime Minister.
A seaside town in the scenic bay of the same name, Morecambe means huge sandy beaches, kite-flying, chippies, ice cream parlours and the many other simple joys of a British coastal destination.
One fabulous sight to take in is the breathtaking MIdland Hotel, an art deco masterwork built in 1933 and recently brought back to life.
Morecambe has several cultural connections, as the playwright Alan Bennett based some of his works in the town.
And if you have a thing for British comedy you’ll appreciate the statue of the performer Eric Morecambe, who is fondly remembered for the Morecambe and Wise double act in the 1970s.
One of Lancashire’s cotton towns, Chorley’s skyline was a crowd of chimneys until the last decades of the 20th century, while the nearby collieries closed in the 1980s.
The Industrial Revolution brought sudden growth to Chorley, but it had been an important town for centuries, with a market that goes back to the 15th century.
Come to browse the stalls on Tuesdays and try a freshly-baked Chorley cake, shortcrust pastry with a currant filling.
Astley Hall is owned by the town and is a sublime 17th century country house with a walled garden.
And for fresh air, the sandstone peak of Rivington Pike climbs to 363 metres and is an amazing vantage point for the barren but enchanting moorland around the Rivington Reservoir.
It may be that you’d prefer a more placid and rural setting to retreat to during your trip to Blackpool.
The pretty market town of Poulton-le-Fylde is ten minutes away and has a centre protected as a conservation area.
At least 15 buildings in this little town have been listed, and some, like the Golden Ball pub, have been regional landmarks for as long as anyone can remember.
Poulton is in an agricultural area, far from the coalfields and so was unaffected during the Industrial Revolution.
Salad and vegetables are grown in the local countryside and sold at Monday’s weekly market.
And while you’re on Market Square, look for the medieval whipping post and stocks, still in place though thankfully they haven’t been used recently!
Neighboured by tall hills, Darwen is a good shout for an outdoor holiday, with bike trails, footpaths and bridleways into the West Pennine Moors.
The scenery is windswept and barren, but has an untamed appeal.
These moors weren’t always accessible to the public, and that’s the story behind the Jubilee Tower.
At the crest of the 372-metre Darwen Hill, this landmark was created to commemorate Victoria’s jubilee in 1897, but also to celebrate the reopening of historic rights of way, which had been blocked off by private landowners for much of the late-19th century.
Up here drink in the vistas of Blackpool, the Isle of Man and Morecambe Bay.
Also spend some time in the town, visiting the Victorian Market Hall, which has 130 stalls overflowing with great local produce.
A large town between Preston and Burnley, Blackburn is well-known for its historic cotton-weaving industry.
This dates further back than in other towns in the county as Blackburn was settled by Flemish migrants who brought the trade with them in the 1300s.
The Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery, established in 1874, has curated a lot of this heritage, including the awesome Japanese Print Collection, as well as medieval manuscripts, fine arts and Egyptology collections.
The other big claim to fame is the football team Blackburn Rovers, who won the Premier League in 1995. They are the bitter rivals of Burnley but currently languish in the second tier of English football.
On Thursdays and Saturdays, the pedestrianised centre of Ormskirk bustles with shoppers at a market that got its charter in 1286. And the moment you see it you’ll know that the 12th-century Church of St.
Peter and Paul is a bit of oddity: This is one of only three in Britain to have both a western tower and a spire.
What’s inside is just as intriguing, as the church is the burial place of several Earls of Derby.
Thomas Stanley changed sides in the Battle of Bosworth, accelerating Richard III’s defeat and death, while the royalist James Stanley was beheaded at the end of the Civil War.
His head and body were buried in separate caskets.
A small town in northern Lancashire and close to the boundary with Cumbria, Carnforth’s reputation as a “railway town” was enshrined in 1945 when the classic movie Brief Encounter was shot at Carnforth Station by David Lean.
You can go into the Heritage Centre to see reconstructed sets and artefacts from the steam age.
You could also catch a steam train to Scarborough on the West Coast Line heritage railway, and get the luxury cream tea treatment in first class.
Carnforth is a town for walkers, who can climb Warton Crag, a steep limestone hill, which has a breeding site for peregrine falcons.
On Morecambe Bay, Heysham is the a ferry-port with traffic to and from Ireland and the Isle of Man.
But there are lots of little things to hold your attention.
High above Morcambe Bay are the atmospheric ruins of St Patrick’s Chapel, a Grade I-listed building from the 8th century.
What makes this site so unusual is the presence of six tombs that were carved directly from the rock in the 1000s.
Heysham is the only site in the UK with two functioning power stations, and you may as well embrace them: If you’re curious about nuclear energy then the EDF centre offers pre-booked tours.
They’ll kit you out with safety gear like a hi-vis jacket, hardhat and safety glasses, and take you round the reactor, cooling systems and turbines.