The Stocks Reservoir Walk, also known as the Stocks Reservoir Circular Walk, is a brilliant walk in the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Starting at Gisburn Forest, the circular route guides you around the large Stocks Reservoir. In this guide, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about the Stocks Reservoir Walk. After talking about the walk itself, we’ll also detail other things to do in the area. This will include information about other walks and activities to do in Gisburn Forest.

Anyway, before you read this guide, feel free to watch our Forest of Bowland hiking video (coming soon). For your convenience, when you press play below, it’ll start at the section showing the Stocks Reservoir Circular Walk.

We hope you find this guide helpful. For other great walks in the Forest of Bowland, read our guides on the Trough of Bowland, Parlick Fell Circular Walk and Pendle Hill walking routes.

Stocks Reservoir Walk Overview

The Stocks Reservoir Walk is one of the finest circular walks in Lancashire. Certainly, when it comes to exploring and walking around reservoirs in Lancashire, this walk is one of the best. This Forest of Bowland reservoir walk, which starts in the popular Gisburn Forest, is a decent walking option in the northwest of England. Without further ado, let’s look at the trail specs and GPS-guided directions for the Stocks Reservoir Circular Walk.

Stocks Reservoir, near Gisburn Forest

Stocks Reservoir Walk Route Details and Map

  • Type: Loop
  • Duration: 11.5km (7.1 miles)
  • Time: 3–4 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 165m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Stocks Reservoir Walk Car Park
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Stocks Reservoir Walk Route Description

In this trail description, we’re going to point out the highlights of the Stocks Reservoir Circular Walk. Your walking adventure starts in Gisburn Forest.

Gisburn Forest

Initially, find a spot in the car park located by the intersection of Hole House Lane and School Lane. From there, you’ll follow a path, heading north through the quaint Gisburn Forest. Basically, the north and east boundaries of Stocks Reservoir meet the western edge of Gisburn Forest. By doing the Stocks Reservoir Circular Walk, you’ll essentially walk along the western edge of Gisburn Forest during the early stages of the walk.

Beck on the Stocks Reservoir Circular Walk, near Gisburn Forest

At the 400m mark, turn left to visit a picnic area, which features a decent viewpoint of the reservoir. There, you’ll also find an information board. After re-joining the forest trail, you’ll soon ascend steeply up a track, which provides views of the reservoir from afar. Eventually, you’ll turn left, crossing a bridge that passes over the splendid waters of the River Hodder. The trail then steers left again, guiding you towards the western edge of Stocks Reservoir. Beck and I enjoyed speed hiking along this next section of the trail, which was downhill.

What’s speed hiking? It’s a great way to go faster downhill. Find out more about it here.

Stocks Reservoir

During the second half of the walk, you’ll get more views of Stocks Reservoir as walk you alongside it. You’ll really notice the vastness of the reservoir as the walk winds around the water’s edge. At this stage of the walk, you’ll get your best views of Bird Island, which is a small island in the middle of the reservoir. As the name suggests, you should see a bunch of different species of birds flying to, from and around this piece of land.

Bird Island, Stocks Reservoir, near Gisburn Forest
Aerial shot of Bird Island

As the trail continues, you’ll pass various patches of lovely wooded areas. Around the southern end of the reservoir, you’ll pass the Fisherman’s Hut (more on fishing below), Stocks Board House and the Stocks Reservoir Dam. After bending around the southern edge of the reservoir, you’ll eventually join Hole House Lane, which leads you back to the car park. You’ve now completed the walk!

Stocks Reservoir, next to Gisburn Forest

How to Get There

The simplest and quickest way to get to Stocks Reservoir for the circular walk is to drive there yourself. You’ll park at the Stocks Reservoir Car Park. In terms of parking charges, as of 2022, it’s £1.50 for an hour and £3 for full-day parking. Of course, you’ll need more than an hour to do the walk. So, you’ll be coughing up £3 for parking. Please let us know in the comments below if you find the Stocks Reservoir Car Park charges have changed.

If you don’t have your own set of wheels, we recommend hiring a car using Rentalcars.com. You’ll find a wide variety of cars on Rental Cars for reasonable prices. The website is user-friendly and booking online is super easy.

We don’t recommend using public transport to get to Stocks Reservoir. It just won’t work. That’s because public transport to Stocks Reservoir is non-existent. Of course, it’s possible to get to Slaidburn using public transport and walking around 3km to reach the southern end of Stocks Reservoir. But, public transport to Slaidburn is very limited. From Clitheroe, there’s only one bus (628), Monday to Friday, leaving mid-afternoon at around 3:45pm. Whilst the 628 service, from Slaidburn to Clitheroe, only runs once, Monday to Friday, early in the morning around 8am. So, basically, public transport isn’t a viable option.

Other Things to Do in the Area

There are plenty of things to do around Stocks Reservoir and the adjoining Gisburn Forest. Let’s look at some other things to do in the area, that’ll keep you busy after the Stocks Reservoir Circular Walk.

A tree next to a body of water

Stocks Reservoir Fishing

Stocks Reservoir is actually the largest fly fishery in the northwest of England. So, if you like fishing or want to give it a go, the reservoir will have you sorted. Although, you will need to apply for a permit. For more information on Stocks Reservoir fishing, head here.

Gisburn Forest Walks

Situated next to Stocks Reservoir, Gisburn Forest has plenty of easy walks, that you could do after the circular walk. Although Gisburn Forest is better known for bike trails, there are quite a few walking trails too. These include the Birch Hills Walk, Dale Head Ramble, Eggberry Trail and Gisburn Forest Hub Link Path. They’re all fairly short, simple and pleasant forest walks. For more information, head here. Of course, one walk that’s quite popular in Gisburn Forest is the Gruffalo Trail.

Gisburn Forest: Gruffalo Trail

Launched in 2017 by Forestry Commission England and Magic Light Pictures, the Gruffalo Trail is an interactive trail. Basically, by using the Gruffalo Spotter app, an augmented reality app, you can bring characters from the best-selling picture book, The Gruffalo, to life on the forest trail. Photos taken on your device, using the app, are automatically added to your gallery. This interactive trail was all the rage back in 2017. Similar trails were designed across another 25 forests in England. Admittedly, this one may be a bit more for the kids. But, who am I to judge?

Gisburn Forest MTB (Bike Trails)

In reality, there isn’t a Stocks Reservoir cycle route per se. But, as mentioned, Gisburn Forest is more about its mountain bike trails (MTB) than walking trails. So, if you’re keen on riding some stellar mountain bike trails, look no further than Gisburn Forest. For more information on Gisburn Forest MTB, click here.

Gisburn Forest Bike Hire

If you want to experience Gisburn Forest MTB, but don’t have your own set of wheels, then don’t worry! It’s possible to hire a bike at Gisburn Forest. The Gisburn Forest Cafe offers a bike hire service. FYI – providing proof of identity and payment for bike hire is required in advance. For more information on Gisburn Forest bike hire, head here.

Gisburn Forest Cafe

Also known as the Stocks Reservoir Cafe, the Gisburn Forest Cafe is just a short drive away from the Stocks Reservoir Car Park. The cafe is highly-rated for having good value for money food and drinks. Why not pop into the Gisburn Forest Cafe after doing the Stocks Reservoir Circular Walk?

Gisburn Forest Hub

The Gisburn Forest Cafe is just one of the great parts of the Gisburn Forest Hub. Located in a clearing of the forest known as Stephen Park, the farmstead, originally from 1662, is now a 40-bed residential centre. As well as the Gisburn Forest Cafe, the hub features a pop-up campsite and accommodation, cultural events and an outdoor bar in summer holidays. It’s also a Dark Sky Discovery Site. For more information about the Gisburn Forest Hub and its facilities, head here.

Gisburn Forest Camping

It’s certainly possible to camp at Gisburn Forest. There isn’t a permanent campsite at Gisburn Forest; but, they do run a pop-up campsite from time to time. For more information about Gisburn Forest camping, head here.

Gisburn Forest Lodge

If camping isn’t your thing, then there are great lodges to stay at near Gisburn Forest. The Gisburn Forest Lodge is one great accommodation option. The lodge itself isn’t actually positioned in the forest; rather, it’s located nearby (a 10 minute drive away) in Tosside. From all accounts, the lodge is a great nature escape, located on the fringes of the Forest of Bowland AONB.

Gisburn Forest Map

With so many great attractions next to Stocks Reservoir, we’re sure you’ll be tempted to visit Gisburn Forest after doing the circular walk. For your reference, please find a map showing the location of Gisburn Forest below.

Gisburn Forest Post Code

The Gisburn Forest post code is BB7 4TS.

FAQs

Below, you’ll find the most frequently asked questions about Stocks Reservoir and the circular walk.

Where Is Stocks Reservoir?

It’s located in the Forest of Bowland AONB, in Lancashire, in the northwest of England.

Can You Walk Around Stocks Reservoir?

Yes!

How Far Is the Stocks Reservoir Walk?

The Stocks Reservoir walk length is approx. 11.5km (7.1 miles) if you do the circular walk described in this guide.

Can You Swim in Stocks Reservoir?

No. Generally speaking, it’s advised that you don’t swim in reservoirs for various safety reasons.

Is Stocks Reservoir Pram Friendly?

Yes, to some degree. The trail along the eastern edge of Stocks Reservoir, on the path leading through Gisburn Forest, is pram friendly. But, the remainder of the circular walk isn’t pram friendly.

Is There A Village Under Stocks Reservoir?

Yes. The Stocks Reservoir flooded village, Stocks-in-Bowland, now lies beneath the water. In 1932, construction of the reservoir was finished and the valve was opened at the head of the Hodder Valley. This caused the loss of a small community that had been there for more than 1,000 years.

Hiking Essentials

These are our five hiking gear essentials for this walk.

Hiking Essential


Why do you need this?

See it in action

These hiking boots are very comfy and a good choice for exploring the Forest of Bowland, except during winter when it gets very boggy. In that case, you'll need winter boots


This camera is the best compact digital camera on the market. Lightweight, compact and durable, the Sony Cybershot RX100 VII takes high quality photos and 4K videos

Always pack a waterproof jacket when hiking in the UK, for obvious reasons!

This is a great backpack for day hikes. It has plenty of space to store everything you'll need

A GoPro Hero is the best action camera

Make sure to also pack water, snacks, sunscreen and a hat! For a longer hiking gear list, read our 66 Travel Items You Must Travel With. For a list of everything else you’d need for travelling, read our Packing Checklist.

Bonus Tips

  • Stocks Reservoir dog walks: the circular walk described in this guide is dog-friendly. Of course, make sure to keep your pooch on a leash.
  • Other walks around Stocks Reservoir: the Stocks Reservoir Walk from Slaidburn is the most popular alternative option to the circular walk described in this guide. Basically, from Salidburn, you have two options. The first option is just doing a loop from Slaidburn, which includes just visiting the southern edge of the reservoir. Otherwise, you could do the circular walk described in this guide, starting in Slaidburn – this would add an extra 7km or so.
  • Explore other national parks in the north of England: don’t just stop at the Forest of Bowland AONB. Make sure to also check out the amazing Lake District, Peak District and Yorkshire Dales.

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