The Tolkien Trail is a wonderful 6.5 mile circular walk through stunning Lancashire scenery. Starting and finishing in the lovely village of Hurst Green at the pub named The Shireburn Arms you walk through a rich variety of landscapes with the confluence of three rivers to the Ribble Valley.
Discover an area that JRR Tolkien lived and walked within as he here wrote much of Lord Of The Rings, plus landmarks that may have been inspiration for within the book itself. Some have great cases to make and some are mixed in time from other places of Tolkien’s past. After all, we know the books became huge in the world of fantasy writing.
Let’s take a look and walk.
A lovely place to start the walk, the village of Hurst Green. 4 miles from Clitheroe one way and 5 miles from Longridge the other.
The village is said by many to be the inspiration for Hobbition. We shall take a look at how Tolkien came to be here, and when, later in the walk. Tolkien himself in one note has stated that The Shire and Hobbiton (descriptions) came from where he spent much of his youth in Sarehole near Birmingham.
However it was when he came to this place that the name ‘The Shire’ came to be. The Hobbit was published in 1937, before he came to Lancashire. But, ‘The Shire’ is not mentioned in The Hobbit book (it is mentioned in the film version yes). The Shire (name) came in Lord of The Rings which was written during his time here near Hurst Green.
One of the roads out of Hurst Green is literally called Shire Lane.
In the centre of the village is a green and a cross memorial to those that fell in the wars. Just off this green is the pub. The Shireburn Arms. Perfect for refreshment before and after your wander.
Parking – You will find a car park behind the pub. The village is only small so if you arrive late in the day and there is no space in the car park, please be respectful of the residents and driveways as I know it causes lots of problems.
The village of Hurst Green grew from a hamlet to a small village due to the nearby Stonyhurst Hall, a place we shall discover soon on the walk. This was founded by a Richard Shireburn and it is easy to see now how the local pub bore the family name.
It is a pub that Tolkien himself would have frequented. And, in the Lord Of The Rings there is a River Shirebourn.
Starting The Walk
Below I have attached a GPX of the walk and the pathways are all easy going with little in the way of big climbs etc.
To get started if you have the pub behind you, you have the village green and cross in front of you. Cross the road, just past the green and turn right down the first lane. It will lead past a few houses and into open fields.
One thing I must say here is the pathways are not signposted ‘Tolkien Trail’ at any point apart from the one at the pub car park.
After passing through fields and pastures you will start to enter the surrounds of Stonyhurst College, an independent Roman Catholic School.
As you approach it, passing the cricket fields as well as being careful of the clay pigeon shooting areas, you cannot miss the towers of the buildings. It was here that JRR Tolkien spent much of his time writing Lord Of The Rings.
Tolkien’s son, John, was training to be a priest at the English College in Rome. When WW2 broke out he was evacuated to continue his studies here at Stonyhurst. Thus Tolkien spent a lot of that time coming here visiting, getting out into the local landscape that he loved, and writing a very famous book.
From this base he walked the paths and lanes we walk today. Developing more of the landscape of middle earth in his fantasy world. It is a beautiful area and it added to previous places in his life to create his fantasy world.
Stonyhurst has other literary connections too. It was here that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle studied and used the place for his own book inspirations. The hall itself inspired Baskerville Hall. And Sherlock Holme’s nemesis Moriarty was named after one of his fellow pupils here.
After passing Stonyhurst the route takes you down into the woods for a different section of walk. Into the trees and beside the River Hodder
The dogs were welcome of a drink and cooling down break in the water and the shade. The next couple of miles brought such variety to the scenery along the way too. Tree lined river path that is never a bad walk at all.
Before long you come upon the B6243 and straight across the road is the wonderful sight of Cromwell’s Bridge. I have written a whole post about that on its own.
From here turn right up the road for a few hundred metres until you see a junction off to the right for Stonyhurst. Here you will turn left though and over a stile. Back into pastures and paths through fields.
The Sight of Pendle Hill
For much of the walk there is one sight that remains prevalent. The shape of Pendle Hill rising high above the landscape. An unmissable sight indeed.
There is no doubt that Tolkien saw the view of it so many times during his stays. He would not have missed it. He is known to have a love of dark history, of which Pendle Hill has plenty! Some people do say this could be the inspiration for The Misty Mountains or The Lonely Mountain? However these were in The Hobbit which was pre his time here.
Plus it is known that Tolkien spent much of his life walking and hiking including as a 19 year old being inspired by the Swiss Alps too as part of middle earth.
The River Ribble
After walking through pastures and down lanes you pass through woods, a farm and back to the riverside.
Here you will pass where the Hodder flows into The Ribble. The walk then turns into a walk through open fields beside the River Ribble.
You will come to what was once a boat house that is now a dwelling. In Tolkiens time here this would have been a boat house, Hacking Boat House. From here there would have been a ferry to get people across the River Ribble. Buckleberry Ferry?
I had chosen this walk today of many knowing it was going to be hot, and thus would be better for the dogs to cool down and drink plenty on the way.
It is a stunning last section to the walk. The walk along the Ribble. The sun was out, the sky was completely blue, the fields were deep green and the landscapes majestic.
After turning away from the river it was just a couple of fields and suddenly you end up back where you start, at the Shireburn Arms, ready for some refreshment.
The Tolkien Trail was a walk I had of course heard of and now finally got around to. To walk here is to walk in JRR Tolkien’s footsteps that is for sure. He was a fantasy writer who had many great experiences prior to being here and thus nobody will ever know what exactly inspired what.
There is no doubt whatsoever though that this is a wonderful walk of less than 7 miles that provides great landscapes, great history and wonderful gems to discover. This is a lovely area in Lancashire that is not visited by the masses and a super area to explore in nature.
Don’t forget the man himself said.
Not all who wander is lostJRR Tolkien
Distance: 6.5 miles
Parking: Shireburn Arms, Hurst Green – Postcode BB7 9QJ