Bob Clare takes us on a leisurely walk through Whalley, taking in the grounds of the historic abbey and Lancashire’s longest and most impressive viaduct

Start: Entrance to Whalley Abbey, The Sands BB7 9SS
Distance: A little over a mile
Time: 3/4 hour – 1 hour not including a stroll through the abbey grounds
Map: OS Explorer 287 The West Pennine Moors

The grounds of Whalley Abbey are open daily and offer a rewarding stroll close to the banks of the Calder. Today the main buildings are used as a C of E Retreat and Conference Centre.

The original monastery was a Cistercian Foundation of the 14th century and of course fell into disuse following King Henry VIII’s break with the Church of Rome – an early example of Brexit! While no Fountains or Rievaulx, the abbey is one of Lancashire’s most important historical buildings.

Start: Standing with your back to the entrance of Whalley Abbey turn left along the Sands. Almost immediately pass the grounds of English Martyrs RC church. Its neat garden has on display the names of the martyrs who were put to death in the turbulent years following King Henry VIII’s break with the Church of Rome. Beyond the church quickly come to an imposing gatehouse once the main portal leading northwards into the Ribble Valley.

Passing below its ancient stones arrive at another imposing structure from an entirely different era – Whalley’s magnicent railway viaduct.

Constructed in the 1840s at the height of the railway building boom, its 48 arches cross the River Calder on what is Lancashire’s longest viaduct. Note the decorative brickwork on the arches closest to the lane designed in keeping with the medieval abbey.

Pass under the arches and turn left onto a public footpath. This section of the walk will give you a good idea of the impressive scale of this fine example of Victorian engineering. The path leads across a metal bridge over the Calder and continues to meet Longworth Road in a semi-industrial part of the area. Turn left under the arches and walk along Longworth Road for a little under 300 yards.

Turn left onto Whalley Road. This takes you back to the river. Upstream on the south side of the river a micro hydro-electric generating plant can be seen providing an interesting contrast between ancient and modern.

It started operating in 2014 – its electricity being supplied to the national grid. The river rises in the moors above Burnley and runs for 20 miles through east Lancashire joining the River Ribble as one of its main tributaries. Cross into King Street and then turn left on a public footpath leading to Whalley’s parish church – yet another historical gem. In the churchyard there are three Anglo-Saxon crosses indicating that the site has been a place of Christian worship for over 1,000 years.

The present structure dates back to the 14th century and is a Grade I list building. Of particular interest inside the church is its furniture. One writer has said that the church could qualify as a museum of ecclesiastical seating.

Follow the path left in the church grounds leading round to the Sands and back to the start.

With thanks to Bob Clare chairman Norwest Fellwalking Club and author of 100 Walks in Lancashire published by Crowood Press.

Bob’s walks are now available as digital guides on the iFootpath website and app.




Tedd Walmsley

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