The spooky tale of the Pendle Hill Witches makes the Pendle Hill Witch Walk a perfect Autumnal excursion for a spooky Halloween escape to the country.
Autumn is a wonderful time for enjoying the British countryside. The air is crisp and clear and trees are decorated in rich autumnal colours. It’s also a fabulous time for wildlife spotting – with deer bellowing in the dusk and squirrels busily gathering their reserves for wintertime.
This October we’re all keen to immerse ourselves in the great outdoors – so this day out that combines a walk through some of the best of the British countryside with some spooky tales of witchcraft is the perfect Autumnal walk this Halloween!
Just a reminder, remember to be conscious of those around you and try to stay 2 metres apart to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The Pendle Hill Witches
The story of the Pendle Hill Witches begins with a chance meeting near Trawden Forest in Lancashire, when a woman from Pendle, Alizon Device, asked a passing pedlar for some pins. He refused and so Alizon cursed him, only for him to stumble and fall moments later.
Most historians believed that John Law suffered a stroke after his exchange with Alizon. However, Alizon was convinced of her own powers and guiltily begged for forgiveness from John as he recuperated, attempting to reverse the curse she believed she had placed upon him.
This act set a judicial process in motion which concluded in August 1612 with ten people from Pendle found guilty of witchcraft and sentenced to death. Shockingly, the key witness in the case was nine-year-old Jennet Device, whose testimony led to the execution of the accused which included amongst them her own mother, sister and brother.
The case became notorious thanks to the best-selling account of the clerk of the court, Thomas Potts, who published his notes from the trial ‘In The Wonderful Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster’.
The Pendle Hill Walk
The region of Lancashire around Pendle Hill isn’t shy about this rather disturbing and spooky claim to fame – visitors to the area can enjoy the Pendle Sculpture Trail, which features witchy sculptures dotted along the trail, a Pendle Witches Walking Trail and the a longer Pendle Witches Long Trail walk from Pendle to Lancaster, which rather macabrely takes you to the site of the witches’ execution at Lancaster Castle.
This challenging five-mile walk takes you to the summit of Pendle Hill for some magnificent views across the surrounding landscapes. You can extend the walk to bracing nine miles by adding an additional section that follows part of the Pendle Witches Walking Trail.
How High Is Pendle Hill?
Pendle Hill is 577 metres above sea level, but the walk from Barley covers an elevation of just under 400 metres.
Although the summit isn’t close to the height of the peaks in the Lake District or Pennines, Pendle Hill is a well-known and easily recognisable landmark on the local landscape, thanks to its distinctive shape.
Besides its connection with the Pendle Witches, the hill also played a pivotal role in the birth of the Quaker movement. When George Fox climbed Pendle Hill in 1652, he had a vision that inspired him to found the movement. The summit of the hill, known locally as ‘Big End’ is also the site of a Bronze Age burial mound.
How to Get to Pendle Hill
Pendle Hill is located in the Ribble Valley. Bus routes will take you to the area from the nearby Lancashire towns of Preston, Darwen or Rochdale.
If you are driving, park in the small car park at Barley village. Bring some change for the honesty box.
The Pendle Hill Walk
A circular walk of five miles up Pendle Hill can be extended to a longer walk of nine miles by adding in a section of the Pendle Witches Walk that takes you through the village of Newchurch.
From the carpark at Barley village, you’ll need to cross the village green and walk up the main road to Methodist chapel. Turn right here towards Black Moss Reservoir and follow the track that passes alongside the waters edge. After leaving the reservoir, the route weaves across fields and past farmhouses on waymarked paths, with some narrow stiles to negotiate.
After crossing the road by Pendle House Farm, you head through trees, turn right just after the power lines and then begin the ascent up Pendle Hill.
How long does it take to walk up Pendle Hill?
This is the steepest route up the hill, but it does deliver some wonderful views over the Forest of Pendle and across to the Yorkshire Dales.
In total, this five-mile walk will take you around two and a half hours to complete. The time it takes to complete the section of the ascent will depend very much on your level of fitness – don’t be surprised if you need to stop every now and then to catch your breath!
The summit is marked with a trig point.
The Descent of Pendle Hill
From the trig point, the footpath is marked with large cairns. As you descend, the path is less easy to discern, but will lead you to two kissing gates which you go through and follow the right hand field boundary to a concrete path where you turn right. Turn left at the next junction with another track and the dam of the Upper Ogden Reservoir should be on your right.
This is the Pendle Way. You can follow this route beside the reservoir and back to the village of Barley to complete the five-mile circuit.
Extending Your Pendle Hill Walk to Include the Pendle Witches Walk
To extend the walk to include the village of Newchurch, where you can visit the Witches Galore teashop, you’ll need to turn right before you reach the reservoir and cross the stream on a bridge made of railway sleepers.
The path goes uphill through trees, then heads right beside the woodland before going over a stile and following the left-hand boundary of the fields. The path then descends into Newchurch where you can pick up some witch-themed souvenirs from the tearooms.
The route back incorporates some of the Old Laund Booth circular walk before re-joining the Pendle Way and taking you back to the carpark in Barley village, where you reward yourself with a cool drink or hearty meal at the village’s Pendle Inn.
What Do I Need to Hike the Pendle Witches Walk?
You’ll be covering some rough and uneven terrain, so a good pair of trekking boots are essential. The route up Pendle Hill is laid with stone, which can be slippery in wet weather, so you’ll need good grip on your footwear.
In this changeable Autumnal weather, it is advisable to carry waterproof layers will you as well, including waterproof over trousers and a packable waterproof jacket.
Given the shorter days at this time of year, you may find it a good idea to pack a lightweight hand torch in your rucksack too, in case the route takes you longer than expected.
About the Pendle Hill Witches Walk
Pendle Hill’s distinctive profile dominates the landscape in this part of Lancashire. This walk is a fabulous circular walk that takes you to the summit where, on a clear day, you can enjoy some magnificent views.
The area’s association with the famous story of the Pendle Witches adds a little extra spooky magic at this time of year.