Where to eat in the English town of Clitheroe
From specialist sausage shops to award-winning bistros, this Lancashire market town has impressive culinary credentials.
For years, Clitheroe’s main claims to fame were its role in the development of the jet engine, its ignominious association with the Pendle witch trials, and — for those old enough to remember — the BBC radio programme The Clitheroe Kid. More recently, though, the Ribble Valley market town has made a name for itself as a culinary destination, thanks to a winning combination of established foodie favourites and exciting new openings.
Every July, Clitheroe Food Festival commandeers the marketplace and its surrounding streets to bring local artisanal produce and global cuisines to town. For the rest of the year, however, there’s plenty to try at the covered stalls of Clitheroe Market, which opens on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. It’s been going since the 12th century and plays host to purveyors of everything from cheeses and meats to smoked Lancashire kippers. Afterwards, shoppers often head over to Castle Street, the town’s central axis, dotted with pubs and shops. It slopes gently downhill from the park encircling Clitheroe Castle, a characterful little Norman keep with a big hole in its side.
D Byrne & Co, on nearby King Street, is a lovely little anachronism of a shop, dating back to the Victorian era, with a wooden ladder still used to reach the wines and spirits on the upper shelves. Pick up a flinty Chablis to pair with regional seafood such as Morecambe Bay shellfish, or sea trout and whitebait from the Lune Estuary, which can be found on ice at Wellgate Fisheries.
One of the most exciting developments in Clitheroe over the past few years is Holmes Mill, an ongoing project that’s respectfully repurposing the town’s heritage by rejuvenating a 19th-century textile mill.
The first section, opened to the public in 2016, houses Bowland Beer Hall and Brewery, where the 42 hand-pull bar is one of the longest in Britain. The best seats are alongside the former boiler house’s giant steam engine, which has been carefully preserved. The old weaving shed of the Grade II-listed building has since been converted into the Bowland Food Hall, with shelves and counters laden with preserves, cheeses and produce from the fields of Lancashire and beyond. The mill’s former spinning block, meanwhile, now houses a hotel, and the Distillery Bar & Grill.
Toms Table, is another recent addition. Opened at the height of the pandemic, it was named best restaurant in Lancashire at the England Business Awards in September. Chef Tom Drinkall spent eight years working in kitchens in France, and that influence shows in his French-inspired bistro menu, which has garnered fans for its locally sourced steaks — including an imaginative vegetarian version made with beetroot.
For fine dining, take a trip to The Three Fishes, a few miles away in Great Mitton, a small village that inspired JRR Tolkien when he was creating Middle Earth. Nigel Haworth — who earned a Michelin star at nearby Northcote — reopened the doors here after an extensive refurb in late 2021, offering a delicious take on traditional pub cooking. Haworth is passionate about ingredients, and when he’s not growing his own veg he’s sourcing top-quality local produce, something this corner of Lancashire has in spades.
Three unmissable culinary stops in Clitheroe
Cowmans Famous Sausage Shop
This shop has been churning out the links for over 120 years. According to managing director Paul Howard, it’s reputation rests on the decision of former head Cliff Cowburn to use good quality meat in its sausages, rather than just waste meat.
Brizola Bar & Grill
Brizola brings a bit of Greek flair to Swan Courtyard, off Castle Street. Where once were stables for visitors’ horses, now there’s a dining room serving an assortment of mezze, flavour-packed gyros and halloumi, as well as a dedicated vegan menu. There’s al fresco dining in the warmer months, too.
Hiking up Pendle Hill is a great way to see the Ribble Valley at its best. Before setting out, visit Georgonzola, a lovely deli with all the ingredients for a tasty picnic, including fresh loaves, olives, sliced meats and — as the name suggests — a fine cheese selection.
How to do it
Trains from Manchester Victoria to Clitheroe take an hour and 15 minutes. The 280 bus runs to Preston and Skipton (45 minutes either way). Holmes Mill’s 1823 Spinning Block hotel has doubles from £75, room only.
Published in Issue 18 (winter 2022/23) of Food by National Geographic Traveller (UK)
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