England, Europe and Middle East, Hotel Reviews, Lancashire, Newsletter, United Kingdom

Great Glamping at Ribblesdale Park, Lancashire

02/09/2022 by .
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Helen Warwick goes glamping at Ribblesdale Park in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland

Often overlooked by the neighbouring Lake District, Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland lures visitors with its smooth green hills, river-threaded woodlands, and revelatory pubs plucking the very best local provender. It’s here you can wild swim in the gin-clear waters of the River Ribble, cycle up bun-crunching slopes, and hike to the plateau of Pendle Hill – the infamous home of the Pendle witches who were tried and executed for witchcraft in 1612.

Lord of the Rings lovers can trace the former pathways of JRR Tolkien along hushed rural lanes and forging through velvety fields, where its thought the author conjured his ethereal vision of Middle Earth. Gaze from the pinnacle of Pendle Hill, or over the waves of green hills from the crumbly Shireburn Arms pub and you’ll instantly feel the parallels with his idyllic shire.

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For a stay that puts you in grasping distance of the region’s green and serene charms, look to Ribblesdale Park – a collection of lodges, cottages and bell tents on the sprawling Gisburn Park Estate. The former childhood home of renowned artist Guy Hindley, Gisburn is a remarkable crumbly house, of soaring ceilings, grand curved doorways and timeworn windows opening to views of the River Ribble and the vast and verdant breadth of the Ribble Valley.

Over the past half a century, corners of it were converted into a private hospital and its theatre rooms remain intact, as does its solitary confinement quarters and sinister impregnable entrance which were in use during its darker days as a high-security hospital housing mass murderers.

Hindley harbours huge ambitions to convert these empty and sombre rooms, knocking parts of an extension to the ground and transforming the original house into a hip and playful hotel. We’re not talking stuffy or overly formal, but an outpost of fun with a state-of-the-art spa, a much-talked-about restaurant and a keen focus on art. If he pulls this off, for it’s a mammoth project, there won’t be anything quite like it in the north of England. Though for now, Hindley and his team are concentrating on their lodges, cottages, and bell tents of Ribblesdale Park, of which there are every shape and size.

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My husband and I were staying in Sika – named after the Japanese deer that stalk the park, whose antlers emerge from behind cars and lodges when you nip around a corner. We drove up to the entrance, past timber-clad cabins and pulled in, gazing back over a meadow where peacocks squirrelled in and out of the long grasses. You could call it glamping, but then this is glamping at its greatest.

Outside Sika is a hot tub, hidden from prying eyes by a high wall, and inside it’s fitted with all the gear of a house. There’s a proper kitchen with a wine fridge, cosy sofa and TV and beyond the dining table, pull open the door to a sun-dappled terrace where we ate breakfast every morning. The bedroom is vast: a standalone bath sits on one side, where I wallowed after a challenging hike up Pendle Hill; and on the other, a gorgeous white bed with handy USB chargers right beside your pillows. And then there’s the bathroom with a rainshower and double sinks.

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It’s just the sort of place you want to hunker down, whether you’ve been kayaking down the river or walking through the autumnal blaze in the woods bordering the area. You can stock up on supplies and cook in your kitchen (the Booths in neighbouring Clitheroe is excellent), though one evening we walked the five minutes to Hindelinis, the park’s all-day casual dining space, dishing up pizzas, burgers and British classics.

Outside, blooms of verbena jostle with ornamental grasses and diners gather on the outdoor tables to listen to live music and drink balloon glasses of gin. We sat inside and devoured mammoth plates of fish and chips and starters of calamari, rounding off with a dark and delicious chocolate mousse cake, topped with a splodge of cherry sorbet, and an oozy peach crumble with ginger ice cream.

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Just beyond the semicircle of bell tents, strung with fairy lights, you’ll also find the heated pool, hidden in a walled garden. One morning we arrived for its 10 am opening, lugging our towels on our shoulders, and finding it entirely empty apart from the lifeguard. Sun loungers are dotted around but we lazily flopped in the shallow end, relishing the balmy water, and attempted a few lengths before pulling ourselves out and dangling our legs in the water, the sun on our faces.

My verdict? Ribblesdale Park puts you in the centre of Lancashire’s most sublime landscapes – the eerie plateau of Pendle Hill, the darkly magical corners of Stonyhurst College, and the rush of the River Ribble that’s especially enchanting with shafts of sunlight dancing on the surface. Days can be spent exploring its corners before huddling down in one of its all-frills lodges with a dip in the hot tub or a long soak in the tub. Come in summer and you can soak up some rays by the pool, or arrive in autumn when the entire park and surrounds will be ablaze with the first signs of autumn.

Tell me more about glamping at Ribblesdale Park

Ribblesdale Park, Mill Lane, Gisburn, Lancashire, United Kingdom

For the lodges at Ribblesdale Park, prices start from £429 for 3 nights.



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