Walking the Northern Loop
In July 2018, I walked the Northern Loop as a long distance walk i.e. over consecutive days. Unfortunately I did not complete it all as the open access moorland over the Northern Bowland Fells was closed due to fire risk so I had to skip a day.
The logistics of completing the Northern Loop are not easy – please see the introduction to the Northern Loop by following the link – http://www.lancashireway.com/northern-loop/
So hopefully my experience of terrain, distance and accommodation will help. I completed it in five days or I would have done as follows
Day 1 – Stages 29-32. Total Milage 24.75. The distance is above a normal days walking but three of the stages have less than a 500ft ascent and a total of 2,027ft. It took just over 8 hours helped probably by being the first day and so not tired yet. I stayed at the Fleece Arms just outside Dolphinholme, which although not cheap is an excellent place to stay. The problem is transport from Abbeystead to the Fleece but fortunately my wife was on hand with the offer of a night away.
Day 2 – Stage 33 and part of 34 – 22 miles. This would have been a hard day but I could not complete it due to closure of the Bowland Fells due to fire risk. Instead I filled the day by walking 22 miles with the LDWA from Hest Bank north to the Fairy Steps near Slackhead and back. I stayed at the Fenwick Arms, which is a descent place to stay with good food. It is located in Claughton on the main road – A683. It is just 2.5 miles from Wray and 1.5 miles from Hornby. With the Castle Hotel in Hornby currently closed it is the best accommodation for the end of this day.
Day 3 – The final part of Stage 34 and Stage 35 – 23 miles. A big day including the climb up to the summit of Gragareth and then beyond into Cumbria before the descent into Kirby Lonsdale. The day took 9.5 hours! I stayed at the Royal Hotel, which is very central with good food and rooms and very good value for money.
Day 4 – Stages 36 – 39 – 23 miles. Thankfully not nearly the same ascent as the previous day but still a long day – 9 hours in total. Nice sunny day and some lovely walking including along the Lune valley, parts of the Lancaster Canal and the countryside around Leighton Moss. I stayed at the Silverdale Hotel in the Silverdale, where I ended the day. Whilst its decor is in need of a little updating you are given a friendly welcome, there is a great beer garden, the food is good and you have views towards the sea. Recommended, reasonably priced and on the Way, with no transport required.
Day 5 – Stages 40-42 – 17 miles. A relatively easy day with the first two Stages being amongst the best of the whole 5 days. 6 hours walking so arrived in Lancaster to catch a train south at a reasonable time.
So conclusions. If you can walk 20+ miles in day then the above works well providing you can arrange transport at the end of Day 1 and 2. For those who prefer shorter days and want to minimise transport at the end of the day I would recommend
Day 1 – Lancaster to The Mill at Condor near Glasson- approx 8 miles so combine with travel to the start at Lancaster.
Day 2 – The Mill at Condor to Dolphinholme – 13 miles. It is only 0.7 mile from Dolphinholme to the Fleece Inn. Alternatively you could add on Stage 33, which is an extra 3.5 miles to shorten the next day, which is a big day. Taxis are available in Galgate just south of Lancaster.
Day 3 – Dolphinholme/Abbeystead to Wray. This is either 20.5 miles or 17 miles long. A long day but it is followed by a much easier day. You can take a bus or catch a taxi to a variety of accommodation options including the Fenwick Arms.
Day 4 – Wray to the A65/Hipping Hall near Cowan Bridge. 11 miles in total, although you can add a further 2 miles to the day by walking to Fellside Barn (GR 656 776) on the single track road up Leck Fell. A taxi could pick you up at the end of the day and take you into Kirby Lonsdale and drop you back off in the morning. Say at the Royal Hotel in Kirby Lonsdale.
Day 5 – Stage 35 -17 miles or 15 miles if you went onto Fellside Barn the previous day. Start the day and end the day in Kirby Lonsdale.
Day 6 – Stages 36-37- 13 miles. There is accommodation in Over Kellett or you can catch a bus into Carnforth.
Day 7 – Stages 38-40 – 14.25 miles. Stay overnight in Warton or Cranforth.
Day 8 – Stages 41-41 – 12.25 miles ending in Lancaster and staying overnight in Lancaster or catching the train home.
There are other options which would reduce the walk down to 7 or 6 days. Reduce the walk by one day by condensing Day 6-8 into just two days and dispense with the half day on Day 1 to gain another day.
Completing the Northern Loop is the most complicated logistically but hopefully I have given you the many options so that you can plan according to your requirements. And it is well worth a taxi or bus at the end of the day – its all part of the adventure and exploring Lancashire.