The West Pennine Moors is a picturesque but often overlooked area of the Pennines in the North West of England. With travel restrictions in place during lockdown in early 2021, Beck and I were fortunate enough to have the West Pennine Moors on our doorstep to explore.

Admittedly, in usual circumstances, we would have skipped the West Pennine Moors walks in favour of the more popular trails of the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales or Lakes District. But, we were surprised at how much we enjoyed the West Pennine Moors, and hope that you’ll give these 11 brilliant walks a ‘look in’ for one of your next hiking adventures.

For more epic UK hiking content, read our guides on the Brecon Beacons in Wales and the NC500 in Scotland.

Dan and Beck are dressed in warm clothes as they wait for sunrise on a vast  stretch of moorlands. The moon and pink horizon are visible in the distance.
Beck and I braving the cold for sunrise at Darwen Tower

West Pennine Moors

Spread across a small portion of Lancashire and Greater Manchester, the West Pennine Moors is a relatively compact area of moorlands packed with natural and historical attractions. These 11 West Pennine Moors walks are packed full of glorious scenery of the moorlands, rolling hills and countryside with reservoirs, waterfalls, ruins and monuments to enjoy. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds of busier national parks in North West England and tackle some gentler walks, we recommend visiting the West Pennine Moors.

To get the ball rolling, we recommend that you select two or three of these walks to enjoy over a day or a weekend. Hopefully, after a taste of the West Pennine Moors, you’ll be stoked to revisit the list, pick a few more, and visit again!

Dan and Beck are walking on a flat grassy trail, with the side of a hill to the left and a set of reservoirs in the distance.
Enjoying the Knowl and Hailstorm Hill loop on Scout Moor.

1. Holcombe Hill and Bull Hill Loop

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 8.8km
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 192m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Lumb Carr Road Car Park

Travel Made Me Do It have personally rated each trail in this guide

Affectionately known as Holcombe Hill to locals, the walk up to Peel Tower on Harcles Hill is the best of the West Pennine Moors walks. It’s located next to a small village called Holcombe, which is a sub-district of Bury.

From Holcombe, with mostly cobblestone underfoot, you’ll begin winding and gently ascending up the hill. There are quite a few side trails and shortcuts shooting off in different directions but there’s a clear path to follow. Soon enough, you’ll arrive at Peel Tower – the monument at the top of Harcles Hill. It was built to honour the famous Sir Robert Peel (he was a resident of Bury who founded the Metropolitan Police Force, as well as serving twice as British Prime Minister). The monument stands tall on the hill, exuberating significance and grandeur.

After you’ve checked out Peel Tower and the magnificent sweeping countryside views, don’t head home just yet! You’ll want to explore the vast and open moorland towards Bull Hill to complete the entire loop. Although, this is where the Holcombe Moor firing range is located; so, just double-check the Holcombe Moor firing times before you plan on doing this walk. Don’t worry, it’s absolutely safe to walk here and is accessible to walkers most of the time.

After exploring Bull Hill, you’ll loop back via Moor Road, where you’ll pass Shoulder of Mutton Pub and Restaurant in Holcombe (go on then, the pub does an excellent Sunday Roast) before finishing your walk.

Holcombe Hill for Sunrise

If you’re lucky enough to bag a clear day, Holcombe (Harcles) Hill may be the best place in the West Pennine Moors to watch sunrise. Additionally, Holcombe Hill can get busy during the day; so, to avoid the crowds, it’s worth visiting for sunrise. In fact, we enjoyed the sunrise at Holcombe Hill so much that we decided to write about it for Europe Backpacker.

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2. Rivington Pike

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 3km
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 194m
  • Difficulty: Moderate (in winter)
  • Trailhead: Rivington Hall Barn

If you’re keen on another exceptional sunrise hike, head to Rivington Pike! Set north of Horwich, near Bolton, the walk up to Rivington Pike is a similar affair to the Holcombe Hill walk, where you’ll meander up a gently ascending and easy to follow trail. There is an interesting monument positioned at the top of this hill as well (there seems to be a theme to this list) called the Pike Tower!

SIDE NOTE: Although the trail was a bit slippery, Beck and I really enjoyed this walk after a healthy dump of snow in winter. Thankfully, despite our slow shuffle up, we made it just in time for sunrise, and finished the hike unscathed, even after a couple of tumbles on the snow-covered countryside! We can’t believe we forgot our IceGrips (see gear essentials)!

3. Waugh’s Well Loop

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 9.65km
  • Time: 2.5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 230m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Dearden Fold

Scout Moor is one of our favourite areas of the West Pennine Moors. In fact, two of the West Pennine Moors walks on this list are on Scout Moor! For the Waugh’s Well Loop, you’ll start from Edenfield, and make your way through these moorlands, mostly via Rossendale Way.

Although, before even venturing far into the glorious moorlands, you’ll have the Dearden Clough Waterfall to enjoy near the start of your adventure.

After seeing the waterfall, you’ll have sensational views of the countryside to soak in, and this will distract you from some decent stretches of elevation gain. Of course, it’s all worth it in the end as you get to Waugh’s Well – a fascinating commemorative well built in 1866 to honour the local poet Edwin Waugh.

Interestingly, the final stages of your hike will cut through the Scout Moor Wind Farm, which is the second-largest onshore wind farm in all of sunny England! Walking by large wind turbines might not be your cup of tea, and we get that, but there’s still a nice trail to speed hike through.

What is speed hiking? It could be your new fitness obsession or hobby! It’s basically walking at a higher speed on hiking trails for whatever reason you have. We love speed hiking for the workout and endorphin hit; plus, we get to fit more trails into our day!

4. Knowl and Hailstorm Hill Loop (Scout Moor)

  • Type: One-way
  • Distance: 10.6km
  • Time: 2.5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 333m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Ashworth Moor Reservoir (Owd Betts Pub)

The second of the Scout Moor walks is the Knowl and Hailstorm Hill Loop. If you enjoy Waugh’s Well Loop, you should definitely head back to Scout Moor to do this walk. Starting from Ashworth Moor Reservoir, you’ll climb Knowl Hill straight off the bat, gradually taking in views of the sweeping moorlands.

Afterwards, you’ll head towards Naden Middle (and Higher) Reservoirs. By doing so, you’ll take in some classic Lancashire countryside and brilliant views of these reservoirs as well as Greenbooth Reservoir. Afterwards, there’s a short ascent up Hailstorm Hill on a fairly faint grassy trail. Once again, the trail concludes with a bit of meandering through the Scout Moor Wind Farm.

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5. Musbury Park Moor Loop

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 10km
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 250m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Helmshore Mills Textile Museum Car Park

For this next West Pennine Moors walk, you’ll head to Helmshore to hike Musbury Park Moor. The first hill to climb in these peaceful moorlands is Tor Hill. Having gained elevation relatively quickly, you’ll soon have vast views of the moorlands, farmland and surrounding urban areas.

You’ll then continue towards Burnt Hill. Through fairly boggy terrain (particularly in winter), you’ll cross Musbury Brook and weave your way through the winding Musbury Valley. By doing so, the trail you’ll be mostly following is the Rossendale Way! You’ll then head towards Ogden Reservoir, passing some fascinating abandoned quarry sites. Walking by Ogden and Holden Wood Reservoir provides a nice finish to this hike.

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6. Darwen Tower Loop

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 7.5km
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 80m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Ryal Fold

We have yet another sunrise hike to recommend on this fantastic list of West Pennine Moors walks. Starting at Ryal Fold, you’ll likely set off in early light, making your way through lovely countryside. After a steep climb to Darwen Hill, you’ll arrive at Darwen Tower, otherwise known as Jubilee Tower. Similar to Peel and Pike Tower, Darwen Tower is another brilliant monument perched atop a hill, that provides a captivating scene for a sunrise.

On a clear day, expect amazing orange and purple hues in the sky. After sunrise, we recommend checking out some of Darwen Moor too. Although you’d expect hiking to Bigger Hill, to be a huge climb, the hills on the Darwen Moors are pretty flat and easy to manage. To complete the loop, head away from the moors, back through farmland, and follow Mills Lane through Roddlesworth Wood.

7. Ashworth Valley Loop

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 10km
  • Time: 3 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 146m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Hutchinson Road (Norden)

Although not technically in the West Pennine Moors, Ashworth Valley in Rochdale is only a stone’s throw away, and so, we thought it would be rude not to include this fantastic hike!

We combined quite a few trails and paths to form a 10km loop around Ashworth Valley. Starting in Norden, you’ll essentially follow Naden Brook south, heading through various woodlands. On the way, you’ll pass by some old mill ruins located next to a small but pretty waterfall (known as Ashworth Valley Waterfall).

To form a loop, you’ll follow Cheesden Brook back north, before briefly crossing Old House Brook to complete the hike. For those keen to speed hike, this trail can be done in around 2–2.5 hours. With waterfall photography, drone flying and stretches of muddy terrain, Beck and I completed the hike in around 3 hours 10 mins.

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8. White Coppice, Great Hill and Anglezarke Loop + Hatchbrook Waterfall Loop

  • Type: Loop x2
  • Distance: 24km
  • Time: 6.25 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 576m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: White Coppice Cricket Club

The White Coppice, Great Hill and Anglezarke Loop with the Hatchbrook Waterfall Loop is the longest of the West Pennine Moors walks on this list. So, for those looking for a longer hike in the West Pennine Moors, pop this one down on your hiking to-do list (we assume every hiker has one of these, right?!)

Starting from the White Coppice Cricket Club, head towards Brinscall, following the Goit – a pleasant canal with a flat dirt trail by its side. After passing Brinscall Park and Lake, make your way to Hatch Brook Waterfall. The brightness of the morning will make waterfall photography fairly challenging, but nevertheless, it’s fun climbing down to the base of the cascades. Keep in mind though, it is quite steep and slippery to access these cascades (unless there is a safer alternate route we’re unaware of!)

Heading through the woodlands, you’ll briefly return to White Coppice, before continuing the hike by following Black Brook. This track by the side of the brook is much quieter than the main track heading directly to Great Hill. After navigating through some boggy moorland, you’ll eventually arrive at Great Hill, which is the ideal lunch spot to re-fuel!

You’ll then make a loop around the moors, hiking parallel to Belmont Road, before cutting back towards Anglezarke Reservoir. After walking by the side of the reservoir, we veered away from the water’s edge for a viewing area of the reservoir, which was quite nice. If you follow suit, you’ll then need to re-join the trail following the Goit, which will lead you back to White Coppice.

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9. Cheesden Mills Loop

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 6.5km
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 96m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Owd Betts Car Park / Ashworth Moor Reservoir

Similar to Ashworth Valley, the Cheesden Mills Loop technically falls outside of the West Pennine Moors. But again, Cheesden Valley is only a short distance from the West Pennine Moors. Plus, the Cheesden Mills Loop has something for everyone: a lovely reservoir, stunning countryside, fascinating mill ruins and even a waterfall! So, the Cheesden Mills Loop deserved its place on this list!

The trail begins at the Ashworth Moor Reservoir. Following the reservoir in an anti-clockwise direction, you’ll briefly join Ashworth Road before following Deeply Vale Lane. The lane takes you to Deeply Vale Mill – an abandoned paper mill with interesting ruins to explore.

Eventually, you’ll follow Croston Close Road, and be taken to more mill ruins – the most impressive being Cheesden Lumb Mill. There’s a small waterfall there, adding to its charm. Overall, it’s a fairly easy hike, but with a few long muddy stretches that’ll slow you down.

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10. Lancashire Three Reservoirs Walk

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 17.8km
  • Time: 3.5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 212m
  • Difficulty: Very Easy
  • Trailhead: Jumbles Reservoir Car Park

Just prior to the easing of lockdown restrictions in the UK in early 2021, Beck and I were running out of options for new West Pennine Moors walks. So what else is there to do, then combine three reservoirs into one walk?

Starting from the Jumbles, you’ll head through the lovely Turton Bottoms, before circling Wayoh and Entwistle Reservoirs. Entwistle Reservoir was our favourite of the bunch, despite hearing great things about the Jumbles prior to our visit. Overall, this combined reservoirs trail wasn’t our favourite walk in the West Pennine Moors; but, it was a great way to explore more of the area and prepare us for some longer distance hikes in the future.

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11. Tigers Clough and Crooked Edge Waterfalls

  • Type: One-way
  • Distance: 3km
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 25m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Rivington Reservoir Car Park

After hiking Rivington Pike, you should also check out the nearby Tigers Clough and Crooked Edge waterfalls. On the weekend, you can expect the Rivington area to get quite busy. However, it’s possible to escape the crowds with this short walk. Set among lovely woodlands, you may even get these small cascades to yourselves! They’re certainly not the largest, but they’re full of charm and worth seeing if you’re in the Rivington area.

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SIDE NOTE: My (Dan’s) phone had a bit of a hissy fit with the cold weather, and so, our GPS directions are incomplete for this trail. However, you’ll get the jist of the walk by following the directions above (basically, the red pin-drop marker signals the start/finish point).

Top 11 West Pennine Moors Walks Recap

We hope that the top 11 West Pennine Moors walks list has inspired you to visit this less-frequented area of North West England. With an excellent combination of gorgeous countryside scenery, natural attractions and fascinating monuments and ruins, there certainly isn’t a shortage of superb walks to do in the West Pennine Moors.

Getting to Lancashire/Greater Manchester

Flights: Of course, you’ll need to fly to Manchester to do these walks from abroad. If you’re travelling to Manchester, use Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flights. When flying abroad, we always get the ball rolling with a Skyscanner search. Although, with the pandemic, we have changed tactics and decided it’s safest to book directly with the airlines.

Additionally, if you’re UK or US-based, you should sign up to Jack’s Flight Club for the best flight deal alert service. By simply subscribing to the free weekly newsletter or buying premium membership, you could save lots of money on international travel. For the Aussies, we recommend subscribing to I Want That Flight for the best flight deal alerts, where you can usually find cheap flights with Jetstar or Tiger Airways.

Getting to the West Pennine Moors

Spanning across Lancashire and the Greater Manchester area, the West Pennine Moors are a reasonably short drive for anyone lucky enough to call the North West of England home. Exploring the West Pennine Moors is much easier with a car. Accessing many of the trailheads would be time-consuming to reach by public transport. We highly recommend Rentalcars.com for the best car hire deals; plus, they have an unbeatable free cancellation policy!

Accommodation

Being local to the West Pennine Moors, we’re unable to recommend any specific accommodation. Your best bet is to search for accommodation using Airbnb or Booking.com. Although, be sure to book somewhere with a reasonable free cancellation policy, just in case!

Five Hiking Gear Essentials for the West Pennine Moors

These are our five hiking gear essentials for exploring the West Pennine Moors. For a more comprehensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Otherwise, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.

  • Merrell Moab 2 Mid Goretex hiking boots – it’s our go-to hiking boot and suits the terrain of the West Pennine Moors. Although, in winter, you may want to opt for a proper winter’s hiking boot.
  • The North Face TKA Glacier Snap Fleece Jacket – it’s best to stay warm when waiting for those glorious sunrises in the West Pennine Moors.
  • Yaktrax Pro Ice Grips – for the slippery trails in winter, ice grips are an absolute life saver! We wouldn’t hike without these on an icy trail. Simply attach to your boots and you can speed hike to your heart’s content without falling over!
  • Patagonia Torentshell 3L Jacket – a high-quality waterproof/windproof jacket is an absolutely neccessity for anyone hiking in the UK!
  • GoPro HERO 9 – to capture your hiking adventures, you can’t beat the durable GoPro HERO 9.

Trail Navigation

Each one of these West Pennine Moors walks are fairly straightforward to follow. However, some of the hikes combine multiple trails and can be tricky to navigate if you’re unfamiliar with the area. So, we recommend using our Wikiloc maps for GPS guided directions. You’ll see many of our GPS maps on this page; although, we didn’t record every single route. So, you’ll find some other GPS directions from AllTrails and Outdooractive to help you navigate these trails.

For those not so prepared, if you’re needing navigation help during your hike and don’t have any phone reception, consider using Maps.me. Although, you need to have at least downloaded the map of the general area beforehand.

Bonus Tips

  • Sunrise hikes are the best: We absolutely love hiking to the peak of any trail to watch sunrise. It’s hard to beat golden hour for epic colours in the sky; plus, it’s a great way to avoid the crowds. So, consider timing your West Pennine Moors walks with sunrise!
  • Visit lesser known places: Yes, we admit it, the West Pennine Moors walks can’t compete with the epic trails of the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales and the Lakes District. But, don’t be afraid to dedicate your weeeknd to walking in the West Pennine Moors. We promise, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
  • Check out the waterfalls following rainfall: For the West Pennine Moors walks that include waterfalls, make sure to check them out after a decent downpour; in particular, the White Coppice, Great Hill and Anglezarke Loop and Hatchbrook Waterfall Loop trail. The waterfalls will be even better after a bit of rain!

What other UK hiking destinations would you like us to write about it? Let us know in the comments below.


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