lizwilliams: (big gothic)
[personal profile] lizwilliams
We've been up in Lancashire recently, staying at the fabulous Stirk House Hotel and attending the latest Pendle Witch Tour - this was one of a series of tours organised by the hotel itself. We caught up with the tour on Tuesday morning, and were whisked into Pendle Hill country - this is such a beautiful area, and it seems strangely remote still, but in fact it's only 35 miles or so from Manchester and a few miles from the M6. Pendle itself is a huge whaleback of a hill rising above the Ribble Valley, and some of the original witches lived on its slopes. Guide Simon Entwhistle, who really knows his stuff, introduced us to the story of the witches as we travelled around some of the beautiful villages which lie at the foot of Pendle. After that, it was back to the hotel for an excellent lunch and then out to Salmesbury Hall, which I've never been to before but which is a remarkable half timbered Medieval hall: a big establishment with some fine furniture and a fascinating history.

Back at Stirk House, Trevor and I explored the grounds (you can watch badgers and owls from their hide) and admired the views over the Ribble Valley, before spending some time in the hotel's bar (complete with priest hole) and then on to dinner, which was very good. An early night beckoned as we were up early - to a very good breakfast (I had haddock with poached eggs) and then over the Trough of Bowland to Lancaster. This part of the country is entirely new to both of us and we thought the countryside was absolutely stunning - huge sweeps of heather-covered moor and upland, with deep valleys containing farms belonging to the Duchy of Lancaster. Then it was up over the high hills and down into Lancaster itself, complete with castle and the old prison - it stopped being a HMP in 2010, so although its history as an ancient prison is extensive, it contains modern times, too. Simon came with us and added to the already very good tour at the castle itself.

I feel as though I've learned a lot about the Pendle witches. I knew the basic story, but not a lot of the detail - it was fascinating, for example, to see Alice Nutter's house and to realise that the witches came from a variety of social classes and positions. Nutter was quite wealthy, and fell foul of a local magistrate because of disputes over land rights - poor lady, she paid a high price for her social status. But many of the witches were peasants and although they probably were involved in some dodgy things, it was sobering to realise how far they were taken, from Pendle to the castle, and how far the authorities went to punish a handful of old ladies.

Stirk House and Simon run other tours, too, of York and Lancashire, and I really do recommend this as a destination of a part of Britain that deserves to be better known.

A big thank you to everyone at Stirk House, particularly Amanda and Katie, and to Simon, for making this such a great experience!

https://www.facebook.com/stirk.house/?fref=ts

http://www.stirkhouse.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/simon.entwistle.96?fref=ts



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