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.
Before you read this guide, feel free to watch our Forest of Bowland hiking video (coming soon).
We hope you find the information in this guide helpful. For other Forest of Bowland walking routes, read our guides about the Pendle Hill Walk, Trough of Bowland Walk and the Beacon Fell Walk. Feel free to also read our Forest of Bowland Walking Guide as well as our Forest of Bowland Visitor’s Guide.
Table of Contents
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.
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 good prices. The website is user-friendly and booking online is super easy.
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. Feel free to check the train times and prices here. We recommend using Trainline and Google Maps to help plan your journey.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
- Pendle Hill Walk: one of the most popular walks in the Forest of Bowland.
- Trough of Bowland Walk: experience the incredible Trough of Bowland by doing this exceptional circular walk. Also, autumn is a great time to see the trough turn ablaze with reds and oranges.
- Stocks Reservoir Walk: located near Gisburn Forest, Stocks Reservoir is a lovely reservoir worth walking around.
- Bowland Knotts: be sure to visit at sunrise.
- Clougha Pike Walk: one of our favourite walks in the Forest of Bowland.
- Parlick Fell Circular Walk: a great walk that takes in Parlick Fell and Fair Snape Fell.
- Beacon Fell Walk: another popular Bowland fell to explore.
- Longridge Fell Walk: for a shorter fell walk, this is a great option.
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?
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.
These are our five hiking gear essentials for the Tolkien Trail.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
Make sure to also pack plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen and a hat! For a longer hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Items You Must Travel With. For a general list of everything else you’d need for travelling, read our Packing Checklist.
- 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.
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