Ribble Valley was named in the ‘Happiest Place to Live in the UK’ in 2019, following a study by the Office for National Statistics.
Ask the residents of the Ribble Valley whether they would swap their rural lives for a busy city one, and the answer is straightforward: “Definitely not. The thought of it horrifies me,” said Jonathan Gledhill, the landlord of the Red Pump Inn, a village dining pub in this quiet part of mid-Lancashire.
Just north of the former mill towns of south Lancashire, this green and pleasant part of the north-west – which includes the vast and unspoilt Forest of Bowland – is officially the happiest place in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics. On a scale of 0 to 10, Ribble Valley residents scored an average of 8.30 when asked by government surveyors about how happy they felt. This compared with an average of 7.56 for the country at large.
Once best known for its small Norman castle and countryside surrounds, Clitheroe and the Ribble Valley has developed a reputation as a gastronomic hotspot in recent years, with a cluster of award-winning inns. It attracts clientele from across the north and further afield, and won welcome exposure when Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon visited the Inn at Whitewell for their TV series The Trip.
“People don’t realise how accessible it is,” said Steven Smith, the chef-proprietor of the award-winning Freemasons at Wiswell, who frequently visits London on business via a two-hour train ride from Preston.
“My customers work in Manchester, London and so forth. Here you can get that little step out and that ‘breathe’ factor. Its beautiful, but not a million miles from anywhere,” he said.
The former head of the Professional Footballers Association Gordon Taylor, who plied his trade as a winger at nearby Bolton Wanderers, lives in the quiet village. Smith said executives from firms across the north-west called the area home – including those from BAE Systems, one of the biggest employers in the county, with several factories near Preston.
The beauty of the Forest of Bowland is hard to match, and the best way to see it first hand, is on foot. Whether you’re a rambler at heart and love nothing more than long walks, knee deep in wild grass or you just want to explore the historical towns close by, Ribble Valley has something to offer everyone.