The Forest of Bowland AONB is Lancashire’s hidden gem, and is essentially Disneyland for hot hatches. It’s one of our favourite stomping grounds because although short, it packs every possible surface and turn into its figure of eight loop, and it’s quiet - making it an ideal location to suss the dynamic attributes of a car.
Apart from the moorland preceding Quernmore, the roads are narrow and bumpy in places, so this isn’t the location for a low slung supercar - even if it's famous for being the land upon which TVR developed their famed Blackpool bruisers. Despite the area being named a forest, it's not the wooded variety - the name comes from the Olde world term for hunting ground due to the large population of wild Pheasants.
Our starting point is Longridge, not far from the M6 motorway. Should you need to fill up with high octane, there is a Shell garage in the town centre. Alternatively you can start at Mitton Hall near Whalley if coming over from the east, which will be our first point of call, reached via the B6243 which has some interesting combinations but is really too populated to enjoy. Carry on past the outskirts of Clitheroe towards Waddington and the B6478, which is where the fun really begins striding Easington Fell. The drop to Newton in Bowland will challenge you mettle and the cars’ brakes, before taking a left towards Dunsop Bridge takes us deep into hedge lined B-road territory. If your belly is rumbling there is a cracking little café in the village called Puddle Duck.
There is a fork exiting Dunsop and our choice is right and up through the Trough of Bowland. Although single track for the majority of its length, it's a worthy detour even if you can’t really push your car because the landscape is terrific and once negotiated you’ll be rewarded with a wide, beautifully surfaced moorland road over the top of the Fells with distracting views of Morecambe Bay and the Lake District.
Afterwards it's all aboard the rollercoaster to Caton, then a short A-road respite along the A683 before turning off down the curvy B6480 towards Bentham. From the high street turn right to head back south past the train station. You’ll be returning to the fells, meaning visibility is outstanding so despite the single track road you can really push on and indulge your tarmac rally fantasies. The surface is well maintained, just keep your eyes peeled for a couple of sump scraping drops and be on the lookout for daredevil sheep.
From Slaidburn and the tempting Hark to Bounty, it's back through Dunsop Bridge but taking the left fork. The road will trace the River Hodder through the scenic valley before the trees envelop you at the Inn at Whitewell, which is often frequented by Royalty, and it’s not hard to see why. From there it's a fast and winding run out to the hamlet of Chipping, and then back to base at Longridge. There are more direct routes, but going via Chipping is the most fun.
Overall Bowland might not hit the heights of some of the other drives to come on this list, but it's a great launchpad when mixed into a longer run - right next door are the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Parks. It's also one of those places that brings less powerful vehicles alive and humbles powerful machinery - it would be just as much fun at maximum attack in a GR Yaris or cruising along in an MX-5 at 7/10ths on a sunny day searching for a country pub. Another great thing is the map isn’t absolute - there's huge fun to be had going off piste and exploring one of the countless unlisted spaghetti B-roads that seem to lead no-where. It’s enough to keep us coming back for more time and time again.