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Things to do in Rawtenstall, Lancashire

Church in centre of Rawtenstall © Peter J Hurst
Church in centre of Rawtenstall © Peter J Hurst

Rawtenstall, pronounced Rotten-stall by the locals, is a pretty Lancashire town in the Rossendale Valley. It is uniquely known for two features: it has one of the best dry ski slopes in England, and it is the location of the last remaining Temperance Bar in England.

Rawtenstall dates back to the early 14th century when it was part of the Royal Forest of Rossendale. Like much of the area, it rapidly expanded with the Industrial Revolution and its mills produced textiles and footwear.

Those interested in the history of Rawtenstall's mills will enjoy a trip to the Helmshore Textile Museum which shows how raw cotton and local wool were spun and woven. An important collection of textiles can also be seen at the National Trust property, Gawthorpe Hall at Padiham.

The wealthy mill owners brought prosperity to Rawtenstall and one of the wealthy mill owners, George Hardman, built a grand mansion with landscaped gardens in Whitaker Park. The estate was eventually donated to the town and is now the home of the Rossendale Museum, with exhibits of local history and art.

The grounds are a well-kept public park where visitors can enjoy tennis, bowling, basketball, formal gardens and fountains.

Located at the end of the M66 motorway, Rawtenstall is a popular commuter town for those working in Manchester, just 30 minutes drive away. Situated on the River Irwell, visitors are attracted to the town by its historic buildings, excellent restaurants, dramatic landscapes and pleasant walks.

The East Lancashire Light Railway (ELR) runs regular trips by restored steam and diesel trains to nearby Bury from Rawtenstall after the main line was closed by British Rail in 1972. The journey passes through beautiful scenery, restored stations, tunnels and viaducts along the way.

Those staying around picturesque Rawtenstall should take time to make history by visiting Mr. Fitzpatrick's on Bank Street. This last remaining Temperance Bar serves an array of cordials and floats based on old favourites such as Dandelion and Burdock, Sasparilla or Lemon and Ginger cordial.

The rolling hills and dales around Rawtenstall offer some spectacular scenic views, especially from the top of the local hill known as Top o'Slate. There is a contemporary sculpture on the hilltop known as Halo Panoception, lit by blue lights, which resembles a UFO hovering above the ground from a distance.

Those who appreciate modern art will also enjoy a ramble along the Irwell Sculpture Trail, a 30-mile footpath which goes all the way to the Pennines, with natural breaks along the way to admire the 28 sculptures.

Another long-distance footpath and bridleway is the 46-mile Rossendale Way, along with the Mary Towneley Loop. Cycling, mountain biking and horse riding are all great ways to get some fresh air and exercise in this lovely area, and don't forget Ski Rossendale, the largest dry ski run in the North of England. It offers three slopes for skiing, snowboarding and tubing whatever the weather!

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