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Tolkien Trail: Discover The Shire In Hurst Green, Lancashire

Tolkien Trail: Discover The Shire In Hurst Green, Lancashire

Walks in the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are perfect for any outdoor enthusiast, but, the Tolkien Trail might just pique the interest of literature lovers and film buffs out there too. That’s because this circular walk in the countryside village of Hurst Green, Lancashire was where J. R. R. Tolkien spent much of his time writing the epic novel, The Lord of the Rings. Walkers can follow along a Tolkien Trail map and soak in the landscape that likely inspired many elements of the popular story. Cross the historical Cromwell Bridge and peer into the prestigious Stonyhurst College as you enjoy a walk through the ‘original’ Shire and actual Middle Earth (well, middle of the UK, at least).

So, ‘come on Hobbits’, what are you waiting for? Let’s take a look at how to visit Hurst Green and walk the Tolkien Trail.

What Is the Tolkien Trail?

​​​​​​​I should start by mentioning this walk IS NOT a what’s what of filming locations for Lord of the Rings. For that, you’ll need to head to New Zealand! But, what this trail is, is something a little more intimate and special, so to speak. The Tolkien Trail is a quaint village walk around an area of England that likely inspired much of J. R. R. Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth. So, it’s like a glimpse into the creative mind of the man himself.

The Tolkien Trail begins from the small Lancashire village of Hurst Green. Indeed, in Hurst Green, you’ll find the odd nod to The Lord of the Rings with street names like ‘Shire Lane’. You’ll pass by Stonyhurst College, a place where Tolkien spent quite some time and is known as the location where he penned many pages of the book.

The Tolkien Trail meanders along the River Hodder, with its steep, tree-filled embankment. It’s easy to imagine Tolkien’s imagination dreaming up grand Elven cities as you wander along the banks. Crossing the famous Cromwell’s Bridge, one could easily imagine entering The Shire on a horse-drawn cart, watching fireworks and general Hobbit merriment.

The Tolkien Trail is an easy walk where Lord of the Rings fans can let their imaginations run wild. Surely, there’s no better place to sense Tolkien’s Middle Earth, than the place that inspired so much of it.

About J. R. R. Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien (John Ronald Reuel Tolkien) was an English writer famous for his fantasy fiction novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Many of his experiences in the English countryside, including that around Hurst Green in Lancashire, inspired his writing.

Where Is the Tolkien Trail?

The Tolkien Trail is located around the village of Hurst Green in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire. Hurst Green and the Tolkien Trail aren’t far from the historic town of Clitheroe, or the larger cities of Blackburn and Preston in the northwest of England.

How to Get to Hurst Green

The simplest and quickest way to get to Hurst Green in Lancashire to do the Tolkien Trail is to drive there yourself. Located in the Forest of Bowland, Hurst Green is around a 56km (35 miles), one hour drive from Manchester. From Leeds, it’s around 83km (52 miles) and 1.5 hours to drive. From both Blackburn and Preston, you’ll be looking at a 30 minute drive.

Where to Park For the Tolkien Trail

There’s no specific car park to begin the Tolkien Trail. But, you’ll find plenty of free street parking on Avenue Road, near the trailhead for the walk. Just be mindful of local residents, private driveways and narrow streets as you find somewhere to park in Hurst Green.

Car Hire

If you don’t have your own car, you should hire one using Discover Cars. Personally, we use Discover Cars and highly recommend them for finding your ideal car hire at an affordable price. Booking online is super easy and the free cancellation policy is great.

To find out more about renting a car with Discover Cars, read our Discover Cars review and Discover Cars Insurance review.

It’s possible to get to Hurst Green in Lancashire for the Tolkien Trail using public transport. You should first get to Burnley and/or the historical town of Clitheroe, where you can get a train to Whalley and then a bus to the Shireburn Arms in Hurst Green. We recommend using Trainline and Google Maps to help plan your journey.

Booking Trains


Trainline is one of the best online platforms for booking trains. By using Trainline, you can easily find the best available prices and times for your journey. We always use Trainline to book our train journeys in the UK and in Europe.

Despite public transport being an option, we recommend driving (if that’s possible) as it’s much less time-consuming.

Tolkien Trail Map and Stats

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 12km (7.4 miles)
  • Time: 3–4 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 170m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Tolkien Trail postcode: BB7 9QP
  • Trailhead: Avenue Road, Hurst Green
  • Tolkien Trail Map: Wikiloc or AllTrails

You can also use a pdf Tolkien Trail map from Visit Lancashire, which describes the walk in detail including all the notable points of interest along the way. Dan and I enjoyed having this Tolkien Trail Map to hand as well as the GPS map, as it was very interesting to read. You can find a link to the pdf Tolkien Trail Map from Visit Lancashire here.

Tolkien Trail Description

From the Shireburn Arms in Hurst Green, you can either begin the walk by heading across the field from the end of Warren Fold Road, or by heading north up Avenue Road, passing by the Bayley Arms pub, and then taking a right at Smithy Row and joining the same field at the end of the cute cottages. From here, you’ll cross pretty farmland countryside by the side of Fox Fall Wood.

Eventually, you’ll exit the fields at Stonyhurst College.

Start of the Tolkien Trail following the map

Stonyhurst College

Stonyhurst College in Hurst Green is an esteemed boarding school and a very grand building that is one of the main attractions along the Tolkien Trail. Indeed, that’s because J. R. R. Tolkien himself spent a good chunk of time here, whilst visiting his son. Tolkien’s name appears countless times in the college’s visitor book. He even taught a few lessons, all whilst writing and working on his acclaimed and much-loved novel.

Even Tolkien’s own son would later teach at Stonyhust College. And, there must be something in the water at Stonyhurst, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes, attended school here.

Cromwell’s Bridge

From Stonyhurst College, the Tolkien Trail continues into Overhacking Wood, where you’ll descend a long staircase into the depths of the pretty woodland. Watch out for Orcs as you go!

As you exit Overhacking Wood, you’ll follow the River Hooder as it winds through the woodland to the left and the open countryside to the right. Eventually, you’ll exit onto the road and site of Cromwell’s Bridge.

Cromwell's Bridge on the Tolkien Trail crossing the Hodder River

Cromwell’s Bridge is viewed if you head across Lower Hodder Bridge. Cromwell’s Bridge is a very picturesque and slightly dilapidated bridge that wouldn’t at all look out of place in The Shire. However, the clue is in the name as to why Cromwell’s Bridge is famous. Named after Oliver Cromwell, it’s said the politician and soldier marched his army over the bridge on the way to Walton-le-Dale to fight in the Battle of Preston in 1648. 

From Cromwell’s Bridge, follow Whalley Road south, before passing through a kissing gate and back into the Tolkien countryside.

Tolkien Trail in Hurst Green Lancashire near Cromwell's Bridge

Following the River Ribble

As you pass through this section of lush and quiet countryside, you’ll have splendid views of Pendle Hill. Of course, Pendle Hill is another historical attraction in the area. Perhaps, the witchcraft and magic Pendle Hill is known for inspired more of Tolkien’s writing.

Soon enough, you’ll pass through the Winkley Hall Estate and Farm. To be honest, it was here that we first saw signs indicating we were on the Tolkien Trail. We assumed they were more prevalent around here to ensure walkers keep to the path and don’t wander off around the estate.

You’ll eventually meet up with the River Ribble, which you’ll follow alongside as it meanders back towards Hurst Green. Certainly, the scenery is exceptional and it’s easy to transport yourself into The Shire and Middle Earth.

Tolkien Trail in Hurst Green Lancashire near Cromwell's Bridge

Back to Hurst Green

South of Hurst Green, you’ll leave the River Ribble and re-enter the pretty woodland of Raid Deep. Dan and I walked the Tolkien Trail in May and I was thrilled to see all the bluebells out in force. The last sections of the Tolkien Trail pass back through farmland, and then soon enough you’ll reenter Hurst Green at Shireburn Arms pub. How convenient!

Recap of Tolkien’s Inspiration

The Tolkien Trail might not visit the filming locations of The Lord of the Rings, but in many ways, it’s much better and so much more, especially if you’re a fan of the book as much as the films. Indeed, the walk gives a glimpse into the inner workings of J. R. R. Tolkien’s creative genius. In addition, it’s a beautiful walk and a wonderful legacy for the tiny Lancashire village of Hurst Green.

Hurst Green Pubs

One of the best elements of a country walk from a picturesque village is the beer garden enjoyment at the finish line. The Tolkien Trail provides just that with two stellar country pubs in Hurst Green.

Shireburn Arms, Hurst Green

The Shireburn Arms is actually where Dan and I finished the Tolkien Trail, so it was the obvious choice to grab a drink and soak in more of this Middle Earth land we’d just walked through. The beer garden here is lovely, with comfy seating and exceptional countryside views. Maybe, just maybe, you could be drinking a pint of mead in The Green Dragon, Hobbiton.

The Shireburn Arms host a variety of events, like weddings, and serve quality food and drinks.

Dan having a drink at the Shireburn Arms near Cromwell's Bridge

Bayley Arms Hurst Green

The second of Hurst Green’s pubs is on Avenue Road and is called The Bayley Arms. This is another wonderful drinking hole in Hurst Green and serves up regular local guest ales and exceptional food. Second breakfast anyone?

Both the Shireburn Arms and The Bayley Arms are also hotels, so you can spend the night in Hurst Green if you like.

Other Walks in the Forest of Bowland

As well as the Tolkien Trail, there are many other excellent Forest of Bowland walks to consider. Below, you’ll find a list of the best walks in the Forest of Bowland.

Read more: Forest of Bowland Walking Guide and Forest of Bowland Visitor’s Guide.

Tolkien Trail FAQs

Below, you’ll find the most frequently asked questions about the Tolkien Trail in Hurst Green, Lancashire.

How Long Is the Tolkien Trail?

It’s 12km.

Where Does the Tolkien Trail Start?

The village of Hurst Green in Lancashire.

Is the Tolkien Trail Signposted?

Yes and no. We only saw signposts on the second half of the walk. With that being said, if you follow the Tolkien Trail with a map, you’ll have no difficulty keeping to the trail.

Is the Tolkien Trail a Difficult Walk?

No, with the exception of a woodland stairs section, which some might find a little trickier, the Tolkien Trail is mildly undulating and easy to walk.

Where Did J. R. R. Tolkien Write The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit Novels?

J. R. R. Tolkien wrote the novels in many locations and certainly took inspiration from many locations too. But, we do know that he wrote substantially on The Lord of the Rings whilst visiting Stonyhurst College.

Is the Tolkien Trail Muddy?

The Forest of Bowland can be notoriously boggy after rainfall. But, Dan and I walked the Tolkien Trail a couple of days after some rain and found it wasn’t too bad; well, compared with other FoB walks we’ve done. But, some decent footwear, like quality hiking boots, won’t go amiss for the Tolkien Trail. We also found a lot of the Tolkien Trail paths were covered in old astroturf, so this possibly helps alleviate some of the mud issues.

Following the Tolkien Trail Map pass a bridge like Cromwell's Bridge

Hiking Essentials

These are our five hiking gear essentials for the Tolkien Trail. Make sure to also pack plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen and a hat!

Osprey Skarab 30
Osprey Skarab 30

The Osprey Skarab 30 is our go-to hiking backpack for day hikes. This well-designed unisex backpack is comfortable and spacious, so you’ll have plenty of space to pack everything without feeling the strain on your upper back.

Osprey Ultralight Raincover
Osprey Ultralight Raincover

A waterproof backpack cover is an absolute must when you’re adventuring outdoors. The Osprey Ultralight Raincover Medium is a high-quality waterproof cover that’ll keep your backpack bone dry.

GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle
GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle

The GRAYL GeoPress is the best water filter bottle that allows you to purify 710mL (12 ounces) of water. This bottle will make water safe to drink wherever you’re hiking.

BUFF Original Ecostretch
BUFF Original Ecostretch

The BUFF Original Ecostretch is a great option when it comes to multifunctional headwear. We use the Ecostretch as a neck gaiter to keep the sun off our necks and it helps us keep warm in cooler climates.

Sony Cybershot RX100 VII
Sony Cybershot RX100 VII

Capture epic photos and videos with the Sony Cybershot RX100 VII. This is hands-down the best compact camera. We love using this simple point-and-shoot camera when we’re hiking as it’s lightweight and durable.

To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite hiking gear, travel gear and camera gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.

Hurst Green in Lancashire close to Cromwell's Bridge

Bonus Tips

  • Cromwell’s Bridge: viewing Cromwell’s Bridge from the Lower Hodder Bridge involves standing on the road. There is no pavement on the bridge, so be sure to keep an eye on traffic as you snap away the incredible Cromwell’s Bridge.
  • Tolkien Trail Birmingham: there is also a Tolkien Tour and Trail in Birmingham, so as not to be confused with this one in Hurst Green, Lancashire.
  • Explore more of Lancashire: there are plenty of other fantastic walks in the county of Lancashire. In particular, the West Pennine Moors have many underrated trails such as Rivington Pike.
  • More of Tolkien and the Inklings: GetYourGuide offers some excellent walking tours of places J. R. R. Tolkien used to hang out with his literature pals, like C. S. Lewis, creator of Narnia.

Are you keen on doing this walk? Do you love LOTR? Share this blog post with your mates on Facebook.

Beck Piggott

With an art and design based background, Beck uses photography and writing to help inspire readers to climb mountains, hike coastal trails and chase waterfalls around the globe.

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