. Between the mountains of the Lake District and the point where the river Mersey separates it from Cheshire , this is arguably the most varied of the north- western counties. There is splendid scenery here with lofty mountain peaks and bare moorland, beautiful rivers and fast-flowing streams.
. In Northwest England , the main county (excluding Furness) has clearly defined geographical boundaries. To the north, it is marked by the high fells of the Lake District; to the east by the Pennines ; to the south by the River Mersey ; and to the west by a long and irregular coastline on the Irish Sea , broken into two unequal parts by Morecambe Bay . Off the coast at Barrow is Walney island. The Mersey forms the boundary between this county and Cheshire for some distance.
. The scenery is mountainous in the north, hilly in the east, and low-lying in the south on the border with Cheshire . But there is also a good deal of fertile farmland, particularly in the Fylde and in the southwest of the county.
. Furness is the peninsula jutting down in the northwest, separated from the main part of Lancashire by the stretching sand of Morecambe Bay it is bordered by Westmorland and Cumberland to its north and west.
Origin of name: From the Brittonic/Anglo-Saxon meaning 'the Roman fort on the River Lane '. The local English population often called any Roman settlement 'ceaster' - hence Lune-ceaster which became Lancaster .
Name first recorded: 1127 as Loncastra.
County Motto : In Condlio Consilium ("in Counsel is Wisdom").
LANCASTER The town fairly creaks and groans under the weight of its formidable history and some of its oldest buildings are still in use. The castle is used partly as a crown court and prison and the Shire Hall, which has a collection of coats of arms dating from the 12th century, can also be visited.
BARROW-IN-FURNESS Capital of a beautiful area with the ruins of Furness Abbey once the most powerful around lying in a wooded vale. The town is a succession of terraced house dominated by the once all-menacing Trident nuclear submarines.
BLACKBURN Another of Lancashire's key cotton weaving centres with the Lewis Textile Museum to prove it. Modern engineering is the main industry.
BOLTON Busy industrial town and cotton-spinning centre with many old mills converted to other industries. Ye Old Man and Scythe inn situated in Church Gate has Civil War connections and is an attractive pub to visit. William Lever, son of a Bolton grocer was born here and went on to soap making and the beginnings of Port Sunlight and Unilever.
BURY A Roman station, Saxon fort and baronial castle at Castle Croft shows this was an important place before King Cotton made its name for the town.
LIVERPOOL Beatles' fans may head for Mathews Street site of the Cavern Club, or try the Magical History Tour.. Take a ferry across Mersey to get glorious views of the waterfront or shop at Albert Docks. There is so much on offer in this city which vividly reflects the later history of England .
MANCHESTER The Castleford area boasts a fine industrial museum on the site of the world's oldest passenger railway station. The G-Mex Exhibition Centre and club scene is the modern face of the city.
OLDHAM History has it that this was a textile town in Charles 1's day and of course it then developed into one of the great Lancashire contributors that put the Great in Britain , its Town Hall cost £4,000 in 1840!
PRESTON Lancashire County Council's administrative centre. North End FC once a major footballing force now famed for its unique Tom Finney Stand opened in 1995. Fine museums and an art gallery.
SALFORD After cotton came rubber and waterproofing industries and considerable replanning. The Quays are a reminder of its links to Manchester to which it is more or less joined. A new Lowry Art Gallery and Albert Finney Theatre have opened here.
ST HELENS Began its development as an industrial town in the 1600s with coal-mining, and in 1773 glass making was introduced. There have been four different churches on the site of the current one.
WARRINGTON Equidistant between Manchester and Liverpool but with an identity of its own, designated a new town in 1968 and now a communications centre. .
Crosby . Formby . Grange over Sands
The major rivers are the Mersey , Ribble and Lune, all of which flow westwards into the Irish Sea . Also the Calder, Hodder and Wyre.
The Old Man of Coniston at 2,633 feet.
. Easter: in the town of Bacup , Coconut Dancers, 'Nutters', perform a traditional dance with wooden cups attached to their hands, waists and knees. On Easter Monday, the ancient custom of Egg Rolling takes place in Preston .
. June: Hornby village Festival.
. July: St Helen's Show at Sherdley Park .
. July: At the Manchester Show at Platt Fields, there is a flower show, military tattoo and show jumping.
. End of July: Royal Lancashire Show at Chorley .
. August: Southport Flower Show, one of the largest in the country, is held at the end of the month.
. Late August: Blackpool illuminations are turned on.
. August Bank Holiday: Lancaster hosts the Georgian Legacy Festival and one of the highlights is the National Sedan Chair Carrying Competition.
. September: The Greater Manchester Marathon is held on the first Sunday of the month.
. Liverpool will forever be remembered for its popular music connections from the war years to the 90s rave scene. All four members of the Beatles were born in Liverpool , as were 60s singers Frankie Vaughan, Cilia Black and Gerry Marsden (Gerry and the Pacemakers). The 80s saw the likes of bedsit favourites The Smiths and Echo and The Bunnymen and New Order (resurrected in the 90s).
. The Manchester dance scene produced the Happy Mondays since transformed into Black Grape, and another band Oasis have crafted two of the best pop albums of the 90s. Take That burst on the scene here also in the 90s and disappeared to reappear in solo guises. Mark Owen lives at Leek.
. Gracie Fields was a native of Rochdale and museum honouring her is to be built in the town.
. Lisa Stansfield, the international pop star, is related to Gracie Fields, and like her famous relative comes from Rochdale .
. The town of Preston , 'Proud Preston', has many famous sons (and daughters). Sir Richard Arkright, a prominent figure in the industrial Revolution, was bom in the town and the house in which he developed his water frame in 1768 survives on Stone/gate.
. Other natives of Preston include the 18th century painter Arthur Devis and poets Francis Thompson and Robert Service. The opera singer Kathleen Ferrier was born three miles southeast of the town at Higher Walton.
. Children's author Beatrix Potter lived on the county's northern border at Hill Top Farm, near Sawrey, until her death in 1943.
. Writer John Ruskin, after whom the Oxford college is named, bought a house in Coniston in 1871 and retired there in 1884. He died in 1900 and is buried in the churchyard at Coniston.
. The Manchester aviators Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown made the first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic by air in 1919, flying from St John , Newfoundland , to Clifden , Ireland .
. The long-running ITV soap Coronation Street is shot almost entirely on location in a specially built set at the Granada studios in Manchester . The set forms part of a studio tour along with Russell Grant's World of Astrology and Sherlock Holmes's Baker Street.
. The film version of Noel Coward's Brief Encounter, directed by David Lean, was shot on location at Carnforth station.
. Brookside, Channel 4's soap is shot and set in Liverpool .
. Albert Finney; recently resurrected in Dennis Potter's bequest plays, was born in Salford .
. Stan Laurel (he the tall thin one) was born at Diversion, which now houses the Laurel and Hardy Museum .
. Ukelele-playing comedian with the toothy grin George
Formby was born in Wigan and was hugely popular in the music halls and cinemas of the region.
. Josef Lock, Irish tenor and subject of the movie Hear My Song lived in Lytham St Annes.
. Errol Flynn, Clark Gable and Johnny Weissmuller were stationed in Warrington during the Second World War and drove to Royal Lytham to play golf.
. Dame Thora Hird comes from Morecambe.
The County of Lancashire has a complicated administrative map. Lancashire County Council only caters for about half of the County of Lancashire which is shared on a two-tier basis with 12 District Councils, namely Burnley, Chorley , Fylde, Hyndbum, Lancaster , Pendle, Preston , Ribble Valley, Rossendale, South Ribble, West Lancashire and Wyre. Blackpool and Blackburn are unitary councils where Lancashire County Council has no place.
Lancashire North of the Sands known as Furness is two-tiered with Cumbria County Council, Barrow in Furness District and South Lakeland District Councils (shared with the Counties of Westmorland and Yorkshire ) providing the services, in the south, a number of unitary metropolitan authorities cut a swathe across Lancashire 's boundary with Cheshire where the Metropolitan Boroughs of Halton, Manchester , Tameside, Trafford and Warrington actually provide services for parts of both Counties. Todmorden (partly in Yorkshire ) comes under Calderdale council. Bolton, Bury, Knowsley, Liverpool , Oldham, Rochdale, St Helens, Salford, Sefton, Wigan are unitary councils solely to administer Lancashire lands.
THE FAMILIAR NAMES of Lytham St Anne's, Blackpool, Southport , Cleveleys and Morecambe conjure up seaside jollity. Lancashire north of the sands, as they say locally, lies Barrow in Furness nudging up to the beautiful Lake District - and Lancashire can even lay claim to part of it as Coniston Water is pure 'Red Rose'. And south? Well, the roll call of hard-grafting towns says it all: Manchester , Liverpool, Bolton, Salford, Wigan , Warrington , Widnes, St Helens and Oldham . It also pleased me to hear Matthew Lorenzo on GMTV refer to the Liverpool vs. Manchester United soccer match as the ' Lancashire derby'. It's a fact that not many people realize these great cities lie in the county, and some may even recall the familiar battle cry in the 1970s of 'MANCS IS LANCS!'
Historic towns, picture-postcard villages, seaside resorts great and small and, of course, workmanlike industrial centres, this county is a microcosm of England itself. The industrial tradition grew up, 200 years ago, first on cotton and then on coal-mining, chemicals and engineering. Lancashire has a good record for caring for its many old buildings - the peel towers of the north and bewildering array of fortified houses, farms and even churches are reminders that the county has constantly been the target of invaders. Southwards, the image of Lancashire is of a county of heavily-industrialized and Lowry-inspired names like Accrington, Ashton-under-Lyne, Burnley, Bootle , Rochdale, Widnes and Wigan that sound like a roll-call from the football or rugby league. They do exist and while they may not be the most picturesque towns in this county, they do have a past of which they are rightly proud.. In the 1990s, civic pride rules. Once-blackened buildings are being scrubbed clean and, as industry declines, attention is being given to attracting new business - tourism, something Lancashire is brilliant at! Wigan , immortalized in George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier, has been the butt of many music hall jokes, like its famous son George Formby, but it has had the last laugh by creating, out of a complex of former mill buildings overlooking a canal, one of the most imaginative of the new breed of heritage centres. At the heart of Wigan Pier is The Way We Were exhibition, which contains a vivid re- creation of a coal pit.
The rival cities of Manchester and Liverpool are both contained within the county's boundaries, and have also been quick to put industrial dereliction to positive use. Liverpool 's defunct docks are now given over to cafes, restaurants, boutiques and the like; while in Manchester you can take a canal-side amble through the centre of the city (despite the devastation of the IRA 1996 bombing), stopping off to pay homage to the Coronation Street set at the Granada Studios, pop into the City Art Gallery to feast your eyes on works by Gainsborough, Hogarth, Reynolds and others, or visit Old Trafford to see Manchester United footballers or Lancashire's or England 's cricketers in action.
Urban Lancashire has its appeal, but so, too, does rural Lancashire . At its northern boundary, the county meets the high fells of the Lake District in a series of spectacular peaks. South of here, the River Ribble rolls through a marvellously scenic stretch of countryside, passing within a stones throw of delightful Clitheroe, the most northern of the cotton mill towns, dominated by its Norman castle perched on a lonely outcrop of limestone. To the east of Clitheroe, looming on the horizon like a huge hump- backed whale, is Pendle Hill which, in the 17th century, was supposed to have been inhabited by witches. It is also according to local folklore a weather predictor "If Pendle Hill do wear a hood, Be sure the day will ne'erdo good." In 1612. the witch-finder Thomas Potts was sent north and the most celebrated witches - the Demdikes and the Chattoxes - confessed and were sentenced to death in Lancaster jail.
You can't come to Lancashire without trying the legendary Lancashire hotpot or Morecambe Bay shrimps. This is also a county for cakes: the Nelson and Eccles' offerings come crammed full of currants, while from near Preston the over-sweet but popular Goosnargh cake is a tasty treat. Annie's Garden Restaurant at the Wyevale on Preston New Road, Westby-with-Plumpton or The Priory at Scorton both offer a healthy variety of hearty Lancashire fayre. Lancaster, the town that gave its name to a dynasty as well as a county, is also worth a visit, perhaps as a stopping point on the way to the coast. It is a grey, rich, leaden city and I like its 'out-on-its-own' feel. West of Lancaster . Morecambe, may be famous for its shrimps and bay, but it's also a thriving holiday resort in its own right, complete with an oceanarium, in which dolphins frolic for the benefit of visitors, and even a Wild West theme park. To the south the fertile Fylde - the name comes from the Old English word gefilde, meaning a plain - is one big flourishing market garden. In summer, townies heading for the coast can halt their car at roadside stalls for tomatoes or whatever happens to be in season. As a Fylde coast base Blackpool offers a razzmatazz which is hard to match. With its seven-mile-long promenade, famous Pleasure Beach and amusement arcades, Blackpool is ideal for those in search of family fun. For a quieter respite try leafy - Lytham-St-Anne's, or pop over to floral Southport . Fleetwood, facing into Morecambe Bay at the mouth of the River Wyre, is a fishing port and an excellent place to sample the local seafood or ' Freeport ' shopping. Inland from here on the Preston-Blackburn road is Samlesbury, home to the military wing of British Aerospace and its magnificent 1530 Tudor 'Old Hall' with a glorious great hall constructed of massive and elegantly carved oak timbers: it is open to the public. Preston itself should not be by-passed as it is a popular shopping centre with a large and busy market.
Long before the rise of the House of Lancaster, Lancashire played a significant role in the history of England . The Romans passed this way, building a fort at Bremetennacum, the remains of which can still be seen at Ribchester, near Preston . The fells and moorland have always been sparsely populated, but Angles settled in the valleys and in the 7th century Lancashire was part of the Kingdom of Northumbria . Later hardy Norse farmers, descendants of the Viking invaders, established their thwaites - clearings - on the high moorlands. Once the Normans occupied Britain , the land passed into the hands of local barons. In the north of the county, the Forest of Rowland which rolls into Yorkshire - not a woodland, but a royal hunting ground - was controlled by the baron Robert de Lacy. The House of Lancaster came to prominence in 1399, providing the kings of England for 62 years until Henry VI was deposed during the Wars of the Roses. The Reformation was not generally accepted in Lancashire and many of the local clergy remained loyal to Catholicism. Later, in the Civil War, Lancashire Royalists were roundly defeated at the Battle of Preston in 1648, and in 1715 a large contingent of Lancastrians joined the Scots army to proclaim the Pretender King at Lancaster , but the rebellion was soon put down. Lancashire will forever be remembered for the leading part it played in the Industrial Revolution. Flemish weavers had brought their skills to Lancashire as early as the 14th century and they were followed in the 17th century by French Protestants fleeing persecution. But it was inventions such as Kay's Fly Shuttle, Hargreave's Spinning Jenny and Crompton's Mule during the Industrial Revolution that really accelerated the cotton industry's expansion. Iron ore was produced at Furness to make mill engines and the local coalfield provided the fuel to power them. Raw cotton was imported through the booming port of Liverpool (later joined by Manchester following the building of the Manchester Ship Canal ) and processed in towns such as Bolton, Bury, Rochdale and Stalybridge (partly in Cheshire ), where the spinning, weaving and bleaching were carried out. As well as being an important cotton manufacturing town, Rochdale was also the birthplace of the Co-operative Movement. The depression of the early 19th century prompted a group of locals to set up their own co- operative shop in 1844, with the idea of dividing the surplus for the benefit of all. They formed the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers and the original shop is now a museum.