The late Queen once famously said she could retire to the Ribble Valley and when an area has had that level of praise, it might understandably rest on its laurels but not so. It has since been called one of the happiest and healthiest places to live and, earlier this year, the Sunday Times named it one of the best places to live.

Families appreciate it because almost all its 42 schools, including three independents, have been rated as good or outstanding and brides love it because it’s dubbed the Romance Capital of the North West – they’ve even made TV programmes about that.

Waddington is one of many lovely villages in the Ribble Valley. Waddington is one of many lovely villages in the Ribble Valley. (Image: Getty Images)

But you don’t have to have children or be tying the knot to appreciate the Ribble Valley – a fact made evident by the ever-increasing number of visitors who come along to enjoy it. At its centre are the two lively market towns of Clitheroe and Longridge, filled with independent shops – many of which have been in the same family for decades – and where you can buy everything from bespoke lingerie and high-end frocks to rare wines and award-winning sausages. Don’t forget to visit Clitheroe’s famous market and Whalley’s artisan market, taking place on the last Sunday of the month.

Pretty villages, made for Instagram, are a delight to visit – ducks sit on riverbanks and pretty cottages abound. Many have their own historic church and some, like Whalley and Sawley, have ancient ruins and the unspoiled village of Downham is a must. Gastro pubs and restaurants dot the villages, making the area perfect for foodies.

The Ribble from Dinckley Bridge by reader Gillian DunwoodyThe Ribble from Dinckley Bridge by reader Gillian Dunwoody (Image: Gillian Dunwoody)

The Ribble Valley is known for its fabulous walking countryside, whether you’re a hiker or a stroller and there are plenty of routes to choose from or just go freestyle. The Ribble Valley Sculpture Trail combines walking with art, or you could follow the Tolkien Trail around Hurst Green, an area which inspired the author.

Pendle Hill is a looming presence and it is something of a rite of passage for all Lancastrians – and adopted Lancastrians – to make their way to the summit.

Paw-trait painter Ricky Young.  (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

More than a ruff sketch 

It’s not just skill with a paintbrush that has made Ricky Young of Contemporary Canines so successful.

‘I never imagined I would have to brush up on some espionage skills. Often, my portraits are a surprise gift but, if possible, I like to meet the dog, so I had to come up with a James Bond strategy. I ask when the dog will be walked and then stroll up, play with the dog and take some pictures. I’ve not been rumbled yet,’ says Ricky, who has held exhibitions, won prizes and been represented by Longridge Gallery.

Once Ricky meets the dog, he really likes to get to know it.

‘All dogs have different personalities, so I’ve developed some canine behaviourist techniques when engaging with them. One unscientific but failsafe technique I’ve learned is that a dog will usually show interest if I scrunch an empty crisp packet.’

One of Ricky's pet portraitsOne of Ricky's pet portraits (Image: Courtesy of Ricky Young)

‘I paint their eyes in a photo realistic style, because that is where the soul of the dog is,’ says Ricky whose paintings have been described as looking as if the dog’s nose is about to punch through the canvas.

Sometimes, Ricky is asked to paint the same dog at different stages of its life and people often ask him to paint a dog who has died.

‘It’s an amazing moment to see an owner’s face light up and say that I have captured the essence of their pet in a way photographs can’t,’ adds Ricky who also has a reputation as an international record producer.

‘That takes me over the world but it will never replace painting portraits of wonderful dogs.’


Isabel and Ruby Driscoll pride themselves on their polished perfomances. Isabel and Ruby Driscoll pride themselves on their polished perfomances. (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

Polished off 

Not many YouTube videos on how to polish a piece of furniture have attracted over 55,000 views but for Isabel and Ruby Driscoll, it wasn’t a surprise. The video featured them using their very own polish, made using secret ingredients and encouraging people to step away from the throwaway society and look after what they already have.

The sisters, who operate Priory Polishes – an arm of their father’s business, Driscoll Antiques – have really taken the business to heart.

‘Our dad, James, is a trained furniture restorer and French polisher and it’s something we’ve been involved with since we were little. He encouraged us to respect antique furniture and he knows what he’s talking about – so much so that the BBC approached him to be one of their on-screen experts.

‘During lockdown, we realised that polish was in our blood and we gave up our jobs in order to develop the business. We now have 40 products and we sell over 500 a week throughout Europe and the UK,’ says Ruby.

‘People send us pictures of furniture they have spoiled by using the wrong product, getting suncream on it or simply over polishing. We can usually help but yes, you can polish too much,’ adds Isabel, who, along with dad James and Ruby, carries the secret recipes of the polish in her head.

There is no written record and the hand-mixed batches can take up to a week to create.

So, who does the polishing in the Driscoll household? ‘That’s the one chore we’re all happy to do. It smells delicious and polishing can be very mindful,’ says Isabel.


Suzanne Pattinson of North West Jewellery School.Suzanne Pattinson of North West Jewellery School. (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

A hidden gem 

Tucked away on Backridge Farm, just outside Waddington is the gorgeous calming space of the North West Jewellery School, owned by Suzanne Pattinson.

‘I worked in PR but always knew I wanted to do something creative. You name it, I tried it: cake making, crochet – my husband got used to the fact that as soon as I’d bought all the equipment, I lost interest. Then I took a jewellery making course and knew I’d found the perfect fit,’ says Suzanne who gave up her job and began teaching in various venues.

‘But jewellery equipment is heavy to carry and besides, I wanted my own base that would enable me to do much more and this glorious hidden space was ideal.’

A year later, Suzanne employs two tutors and offers a variety of courses.

‘I run day courses, regular weekly courses, corporate courses and hen party events, as well as individual classes – some couples like to make their own wedding rings. I also offer parent and child courses where they each make a ring for the other,’ says Suzanne whose clients come from as far away as the Isle of Man.

‘Clients don’t need any experience and I’m always amazed by their stories – some want to refashion pieces they already have and one lady recently made a bracelet from a pair of sugar nips and some are just open to ideas. We’re fuelled by creativity and by the biscuits that every jeweller needs in their kit,’ says Suzanne.



Clitheroe's medieval castle is said to have the the second-smallest surviving stone keep in England. Clitheroe's medieval castle is said to have the the second-smallest surviving stone keep in England. (Image: John Cocks)

Clitheroe Castle Museum

High above the town, this Norman keep stands in 16 acres, offering panoramic views, pretty gardens, a skate park and the first public labyrinth in Lancashire. The museum, exhibiting local history, is housed in the Steward’s House and the nearby café serves snacks and ice cream.

Browsholme Hall, Bashall Eaves

Lancashire’s oldest historic family home, the hall is open for guided tours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout the summer. The gardens, which were painted by Turner, are lovely and include a three acre lake. The Cart Shed Cafe offers locally sourced light meals, as well as some delicious cakes.

The Grand, Clitheroe

A showcase venue for the performing arts. As well as offering a recording studio and creative classes, including ballroom dancing, it has a varied programme of live events. This summer sees The Grand Chor performing, ‘Sounds Natural’ a range of songs linked by the theme of flora and fauna.

Buy art

There are many galleries to choose from. Clitheroe’s Platform Gallery showcases contemporary arts, while Longitude Gallery represents northern artists. Knowle Top Galleries is worth a visit and Longridge Gallery showcases collectible artists. Ribchester has the internationally renowned Ascot Studios and, around the corner, nature painter Geoff Rollinson has his own gallery.



The Spread Eagle at SawleyThe Spread Eagle at Sawley (Image: The Spread Eagle at Sawley)

The Spread Eagle, Sawley

This picturesque inn offers eleven stylishly and individually decorated rooms – including a family room located over two floors – and dogs are welcome in some rooms. Views are over the river and village and food is available in the restaurant.


The Assheton ArmsThe Assheton Arms (Image: The Assheton Arms)

The Assheton Arms, Downham

This idyllic inn is set in one of the country’s most picture-perfect villages. All 12 bedrooms are beautifully styled in contemporary fashion, making them perfect for romantic breaks. Dogs are welcome both in the rooms and restaurant.

Holmes Mill in ClitheroeHolmes Mill in Clitheroe (Image: Holmes Mill)

The Spinning Block at Holmes Mill, Clitheroe

Centrally positioned in the heart of Clitheroe, it offers 39 individually designed bedrooms, including two family rooms and a suite superbly located in the original hoist tower. Holmes Mill offers three on site eateries.


How to get there

About an hour’s drive from Manchester, Clitheroe is 12 miles from Blackburn, with Longridge 10 miles from Preston. Junction 31 off the M6 leads to the A59 to Clitheroe and to many of the surrounding villages. Exiting at junction 31A will lead to Longridge. There are hourly trains to Clitheroe from Manchester.