With a name like Beacon Fell, expect a prominent hill. An outlier of the Bowland Fells, its altitude of 873ft (266m) may seem comparatively modest but its detached position gives excellent sight lines – and it was much more accessible for those who had to man the beacon!
Part of a network
In the days before telegraph and telephone, beacons were the nearest thing to instantaneous communication. Admittedly they couldn't convey any detail, but they did serve to warn of great events. Most famously, a network of hundreds of beacons – of which this was one – spread the news of the appearance of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
From this history, and some contemporary publicity, you might reasonably expect 360 degree views, but at the present time stands of conifers block out the southern half of the panorama. However, you get much of the 'missing' half anyway, early in the walk, as you descend the southern flank of the hill. Preston figures prominently. Alongside the anonymous tower blocks are the Preston North End football stadium at Deepdale and the slender spire of St Walburge's Roman Catholic Church, the tallest church spire in Britain after Salisbury Cathedral.
You wend your way across farmland, pleasantly enough, and then drop abruptly into the enclosed valley of the River Brock, usually referred to as Brock Bottom. A paper mill existed here in 1786, but was replaced soon after by a larger cotton mill. The mill site is just downstream when you reach the river, while on the way upstream you'll see remains of the millstream, dam and sluices. Since the mill closed in 1923, the valley has been popular with Preston folk. In the days when a bicycle was the most likely means of transport it was a handy distance from the town.
From the bridge at Brockmill (don't be confused; this is not the main mill site previously referred to) you climb again. Rougher pastures, illdrained and with large stands of rushes, intervene before the steeper climb through forest onto the upper slopes of Beacon Fell. Here there are large open areas, now being managed as heathland.
The summit view may expand with forest clearance in years to come but even now the half that you can see is grand. Mostly it's a fairly local prospect, over Bleasedale to the higher Bowland Fells. These rise to 1,673ft (510m) at Fair Snape Fell, but the most prominent is the abrupt end of Parlick. When the wind is right you'll usually see hang-gliders here (there's a gliding club below) as well as an enticing slice of the Lakeland skyline.
Leave the bottom-left corner of the parking below the Visitor Centre on a descending footpath through woods. Entering fields, bear left downhill to Crombleholme Fold. Walk through the farmyard and turn right along a lane.
At a bend, abandon it over a stile on the left. Walk down, cross a stream and climb right into pasture. Swing left across the slope to a stile near the distant right corner. Head out, following trees to a gate. Bear right to a bridge and gate and on along a track to a lane.
Go through the yard of the former Cross Keys opposite, past buildings to a stile at the far end. Bear right along a field to a stile in the far corner. Cross a drive and continue forward by the right-hand hedge. Passing an oak, bear left to a corner gate. Follow the right hedge to a stile and cross a final field to another lane. Turn left.
After 150yds (137m) turn right along a track to Lower Trotter Hill Farm. Swing left and right through the yard. Taking the leftmost of two gates, walk on beside a couple of fields. Eventually crossing a stile, follow a track out to a lane and go right.
At the bend, leave ahead down a hollow way. Over a stream, bear right to cross a footbridge at Brock Bottom. The path right cuts a bend before continuing beside the river to Brockmill.
Over the bridge turn left through a gateway and fork right. Reaching cottages, turn off right on a rising path through trees into a field and head right above the wooded gully. Over stiles and a footbridge walk on by the right hedge, bearing away by a tree towards Lower Lickhurst. Leave by a gate right of the house and follow its drive to a lane. Take the track opposite, going forward at a bend over a stile and at the edge of successive fields. Across a footbridge head for a power cable post to reach a lane. Turn right.
After 100yds (91m), abandon it over a stile on the left and make for an isolated hawthorn. Keep going past an abandoned gatepost to a stile and footbridge by trees. Continue beside a shallow ditch, later following power lines towards a house. Reaching a sturdy waypost, turn right, crossing an intervening stile to a lane. Opposite, a broad track rises into forest. At a junction, go left. After 100yds (91m) a path off right climbs onto Beacon Fell.
Keep ahead past the trig point into trees. Over a crosspath, continue down by a wall. At a T-junction, go right back to the Visitor Centre.
Field paths, in places indistinct, clear tracks, many stiles
Forest, heathland, farmland, woodland, riverside
Dogs should be under close control throughout
OS Explorer OL41 Forest of Bowland & Ribblesdale
Pay-and-display car parks by Beacon Fell's visitor centre
At visitor centre
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Lancashire was at the centre of the British cotton industry in the 19th century, which lead to the urbanization of great tracts of the area. The cotton boom came and went, but the industrial profile remains. Lancashire’s resorts, Blackpool, Southport and Morecambe Bay, were originally developed to meet the leisure needs of the cotton mill town workers. Blackpool is the biggest and brashest, celebrated for it tower, miles of promenade, and the coloured light ‘illuminations’. Amusements are taken very seriously here, day and night, and visitors can be entertained in a thousand different ways.
The former county town, Lancaster, boasts one of the younger English universities, dating from 1964. Other towns built up to accommodate the mill-workers with back-to-back terraced houses, are Burnley, Blackburn, Rochdale and Accrington. To get out of town, you can head for the Pennines, the ‘backbone of England’, a series of hills stretching from the Peak District National Park to the Scottish borders. To the north of the country is the Forest of Bowland, which despite its name is fairly open country, high up, with great views.