Pendle Circumnavigation, Lancashire

Route Information

Stats:  19 miles and 1950 feet of ascent

OS Map: Refreshments

Shop in Sabden, toilets in Newchurch and Barley, pubs in all the villages.


A great tour around the rim of Lancashire’s great whale-back. There are long stretches of tarmac but this matters little as the landscape is beautiful and the lanes quiet. A longer loop could be made including a detour into Ogden Clough.

Two snippets of autobiographical detail – Pendle has become a bit of an obsession, even inspiring the co-writing of a whole book. The other is the verb “circumnavigate.” It’s more than just a pompous way of saying “go around”. When we were kids, we didn’t just go for walks “around” Buttermere, Wastwater or Derwentwater; we circumnavigated them. The distinction was crucial, making us mini-Magellans on perilous adventures. So shall it always be…


1. Set off North-eastwards along the wood-lined lane through pleasant pastures to Sabden.

2. Turn left up the hill and climb with vigour until you see a fingerpost sign heading right. Look for the words “Concessionary Bridleway” – this is your passport and trumps the older “No cycling” sign.

3. Follow the bridleway on a contouring line until another fingerpost sends you steeply down to the right.

4. Join a lane and cross a stream, climbing up and to the left to gain a high terrace, mostly tarmac, that leads past New York Farm and on to Sabden Fold. It ends with a bridleway sign pointing right but disregard this.

5. Turn left at the end and climb steeply across the shoulder of Pendle, through Newchurch and plummet down to Barley.

6. Fork right where the road veers left in the village (another concessionary bridle path sign), and follow the lane down to the reservoir. Turn left here and follow this round to the right and down to the road.

7. Turn left and follow tarmac, going straight on at the atmospheric crossroads of Annel Cross – where Robert Johnson would have come to sell his soul to the Devil if he’d been born a Lancastrian. Now descend into the charming village of Downham.

8. Before you cross the bridge, turn hard left into a quiet lane, signposted to a car park. Snake up and right, past the caravan park, turning left at the signpost to Little Mearley Hall.

9. Gain another contouring terrace-line and follow this unerringly to the Pendle Nick road.

10. Turn left and climb (more vigour required) up and over the Nick, looking out for a bridleway
turning right, only 100 m after the summit.

11. Follow this track, descending gradually to the foot of the ridge and a left turn to regain the car.

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