While Christmas is undoubtedly about the giving of gifts, the reunion of loved ones and the over-eating of food, the festive period is also the perfect time to get out and about.
Winter walks aren’t just about working off the mince pies; they’re also about enjoying the beauty of a frosted landscape, dusting off the cobwebs, getting some fresh air and having fun!
The Rambler’s Association schedules the fantastic Festival of Winter Walks each year around Christmas time. There are a host of guided walks taking in some of the UK’s most stunning locations. And while you can find the complete list on their website, we thought we’d use this installment of ‘101 places to go in the UK, Ireland and France’ to recommend one of our favourite walks in Lancashire.
The Tolkien Trail offers a delightful ramble taking in some of the region’s loveliest locations, which may have inspired some of the locations in Middle Earth. And while there may be little of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings left to explore, the same cannot be said of the man. The Tolkien Trail in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire allows you to follow in the author’s footsteps, around the stunning Stonyhurst College, while trying to work out which parts inspired the author’s work.
If you have any winter walks you’d like to recommend then please leave a suggestion in the comments below and we’ll get them added to the bottom of this article.
• It is known that Tolkien spent a lot of time at the college working on his epic trilogy. Stonyhurst itself was built by the Shireburn family, who may have also inspired the similar sounding River Shirebourne in the Lord of the Rings. There was also a ferry across the River Hodder, which was still active when the author visited the area and matches the description of the Buckleberry Ferry in The Fellowship of the Ring. Also the grey stone New Lodge matches the description of Tom Bombadil’s home, which suggests further Ribble Valley influences in the first book of the trilogy.
• Further literary connections can be found with a former student at Stonyhurst, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Not only was the Sherlock Holmes creator a pupil he later modelled the infamous Baskerville Hall on his former school. Incidentally, he shared classes with a fellow pupil named ‘Moriarty’ who we assume was not very nice to the young Arthur.
The circular Tolkien Trail walk starts and finishes at the Shireburn Arms Hotel and lasts for just over 5 miles. Find more info and a map of the route on the Visit Lancashire website.
Pic of Stonyhurst College by Sue Bristo. Find more lovely pics of the Ribble Valley on her Flickr page.