There are great views to enjoy on this glorious walk from Holcombe to Peel Tower – just avoid the military manoeuvres 

The village of Holcombe sits below the steep east flank of Harcles Hill and the famous Peel Tower that can be seen for miles around. The moor is in the care of The National Trust and owned in part by the Ministry of Defence and is a very popular walking area. The village also has one of the steepest hills in Lancashire for cyclists known as the Rake, real name Rawsons Rake, which has been part of the route of the Tour of Britain as well as many local hill climb cycle races. 

Holcombe also was the subject of one of the first aerial attacks in history. In 1916 a German Zeppelin dropped five bombs on the village that damaged the post office, the village school, and the Shoulder of Mutton pub. Windows in the church were also damaged. Sadly, the post office and the village shop are gone but the Shoulder of Mutton remains and added to this is the Mala Indian Restaurant. 

This walk offers great moorland views and to the skyscrapers of Manchester, but only set off on this route if you have checked there will be no exercises taking place on the military firing range. To find out, go to 


1. Leave the car park and cross the road, bearing slightly left to a stile, cross this and follow the path uphill to another stile. Cross this and turn right and follow Cross Lane and, when it reaches the main road, turn immediate left into Moor Road and follow this steeply uphill. 

It turns into a wide rough track that at the top of the hill splits with the left fork going uphill. Keep straight on the wide track, passing a farm on the right. Go through a gate and pass a derelict farm on the left, then another gate and reach a disused quarry. Turn left and follow a path that climbs uphill with a wall on the left and turn left as the wall turns left. 

 Bury Times: The walk is a good one, whether you're on two legs or fourThe walk is a good one, whether you're on two legs or four (Image: John Lenehan)

2. Approach a sign warning of the shooting range, then turn right and follow the track slightly downhill to reach a green sign that says: ‘Public Footpath to Beetle Hill-Pilgrims Cross-Helmshore'. Turn left and follow Beetle Hill a small footpath and keep straight on to reach a wall and another green sign saying: ‘Helmshore via Tor Hill-Lumb via Robin Hoods Well-Stubbins-Edgeworth'. Follow the narrow path to Edgeworth, there is a post with an orange sign saying ‘West Pennine Way’. 

Keep on the path, do not at any time be tempted to go left uphill although there are paths breaking off in that direction. West Pennine Way markers are along the path and when it reaches a marker pointing uphill ignore it and keep straight on, although this is a lesser obvious path. Reach a sign saying ‘Military Firing Range’ next to two wooden posts. At this point turn right and follow a rather indistinct path over open moor and peat bog and keep straight on following footprints and mountain bike tracks to eventually drop downhill to reach a wall running behind a derelict building. 

Turn right and, with the wall on the left, keep going downhill. The main path breaks right but ignore this and keep following the wall to reach a gate stile on the left, cross this and bear left with a ruined wall on the left then carry on to the wire perimeter fence of the building. Reach a track and turn right and follow this downhill to reach a metal gate, this is locked but there is a gap at the side to go through and reach a wide vehicular track. 


3. Turn left and follow this, passing a farm on the right, and go through a metal gate and keep on the track to reach another deliberately left open metal gate with a warning sign about the firing range. The gate is locked during military exercises. The track eventually becomes a rough track that drops steeply into the valley of Red Brook, cross the brook and follow the path as it goes right. 

Note: The training camp on the firing range was home to the long running ITV television game show The Krypton Factor, in which contestants’ physical and mental abilities were tested. 

Bury Times: The Hill Raisers walking group at Peel TowerThe Hill Raisers walking group at Peel Tower (Image: John Lenehan)

4. After around 100 metres there is a small path on the left that goes away from the main track, take this and after a few metres it turns right and climbs uphill. Stay on the path as it crosses a track and carries on uphill and eventually bears left on to the moors. When you reach a fork in the path, go straight ahead to reach a stile, cross this and then turn left and follow the path leading to the obvious Peel Tower. 

Note: Peel Tower, or Holcombe Tower as it is also called, was built in memory of Sir Robert Peel who served twice as the Prime Minister of the UK 1834-1835 and 1841-1846. Among his achievements, he founded the Metropolitan Police, and introduced income tax. 

Bury Times: Heading towards the rainbowHeading towards the rainbow (Image: John Lenehan)

5. Pass to the right of the tower to reach a track and turn right and follow this as it bends left and goes very steeply downhill to eventually reach a concrete track. Turn left and follow this to reach Cross Lane. Turn right and follow this down to the stile on the left you came over at the start of the walk and go down to the car park. 


Compass points 

Start and finish: Car park on Lumb Carr Road, the B6214, Holcombe, Ramsbottom 

Distance: 7 miles/11.26 km 

Time: 4 hours 

Terrain: Good walking on tracks and footpaths but part of the section between points 2 and 3 is over peat moss and can be very wet and muddy – gaiters and good boots are best in or after wet weather 

Map: OS Map 287 West Pennine Moors 

Facilities: No public toilets on route 

Important note: The walk crosses the military Holcombe Firing Range and cannot be completed if exercises are taking place. Check online at for a list of dates and times. 

Bury Times: The route of the walkThe route of the walk (Image: OS)

This feature first appeared in Lancashire Life in March 2023.