The perfect short break in Lancashire for Lord of the Rings fans

The Dark Walk, Stonyhurst College by Karol Gajewski

The Dark Walk, Stonyhurst College by Karol Gajewski - Credit: Archant

Over the 16 years, he took to write The Lord of the Rings trilogy, JRR Tolkien regularly stayed at a guest house belonging to Stonyhurst on the college grounds, here you can follow in his footsteps with the added bonus of fine dining and luxurious accommodation.

Stonyhurst College has many connections to JRR Tolkien

Stonyhurst College has many connections to JRR Tolkien - Credit: Photo courtesy of


The Tolkien Trail
For those who consider New Zealand to be the definitive Hobbit country, moulded from JRR Tolkien’s epic fantasy world, you might want to look a little closer to home.

Tracing paths trodden by the legendary author, this five-mile trail starts out at the tucked-away Shireburn Arms and winds towards Stonyhurst College where it’s thought Tolkien dreamt up his ethereal vision of Middle Earth and his cast of otherworldly characters.

During summer holidays you can pop in for a tour, wandering the corridors where literary figures such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle studied, staring through its crooked windows to a landscape that helped shape Tolkien’s fantasy leanings.

Further along, the route meets the River Hodder and walkers may spot the flash of a heron as they meander towards the merging of the Hodder with the River Ribble.

Beyond this, the crumbly Cromwell’s Bridge leans over the waterway, plus a collection of lush fields, quite rural lanes and tracks where it’s entirely plausible Tolkien honed his vision of Middle Earth, bringing a whole new dimension to this corner of the county.

READ MORE: Great walks in and around Stonyhurst College

The Shireburn Arms Hotel in Hurst Green

The Shireburn Arms Hotel in Hurst Green - Credit: Archant


The Shireburn Arms
The handy thing about bedding down here is that you’re right at the starting point of the Tolkien Trail. Yet convenience is not its only ace card.

Arrive back here after a bracing autumnal yomp and you can cosy up, fireside, melting into tartan-upholstered armchairs and gazing at patrons chatting over pints and candles glowing on each table.

Rooms are serene and in keeping with the 17-century hostelry: large wooden headboards, freestanding baths, dried flower bouquets; and if you’re going the whole hog, there’s even a Tolkien Suite with a four-poster bed, white drapes and views across the valley.

Scarlet Prawn with foraged wild garlic and butter sauce

Scarlet Prawn with foraged wild garlic and butter sauce - Credit: Northcote


It’s difficult to round-up any foodie institutions in Lancashire and not mention Northcote. 
It’s around 20 minutes’ drive from your digs at The Shireburn Arms, but undoubtedly worth striking out for with its soaring reputation for fine dining.

Under the watchful eye of super chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen, cooks rustle up haute cuisine to Michelin standard with zero pretension or faff for the full-blown six-course tasting menu or a four-course seasonally-led gourmet menu.

Though whatever you go for – even if it’s just cocktails and canapes - knockout food is a dead cert. There are rooms too, should you wish to stay, pulling open the curtains each morning to soothing views of the Forest of Bowland.