Pendle Hill is an eerie landmark that is best navigated with the help of Top Hat Tours who will take you on a location tour by minibus – safety by numbers help when roaming ‘witch county’. Expert guide Simon Entwistle will lead you through a 17th century tale, where ten Pendle born men and women were accused, trialled and hung for crimes of witchcraft – one of the largest and most infamous witch trials.
“Stand on the flat top of Pendle Hill and you can see everything of the county of Lancashire, and some say you can see other things too. This is a haunted place. The living and the dead come together on the hill,” writes Jeannette Winterson in her novel Daylight Gate, based on the tales of witch trials which took place in the forest and on the hill that carry the Pendle name.
In a 3 hour tour, expect to be taken to the locations of cursings, questionings and witches’ assemblies around various villages, with an evening vigil at the hill. A second extended variation of the tour takes you as far as Lancaster where the witches were imprisoned, tried then hung on Gallows Hill. Both tours offer a chilling insight into the brutality of living through the 17th century and the fear felt particularly by women, in a time where one stern word with a stranger, or the handling of some medicinal herbs, might land you with a witchcraft accusation to defend yourself against.
The story reads like a 17th century soap opera with two rival families, some serious mudslinging between the two houses and within each family too, and a final plot twist as a nine year old girl enters the court to give the most damning evidence – against her own mother, sister and brother.
In our modern age, it can be hard to fathom that these are more than just spooky campfire stories. Standing on the same soil and walking in footsteps of these witches is a sombre reminder that these were real people, living through oppressive times, ruled over by King James I and his specially appointed ‘Witchfinders’.
Simon will come suitably dressed and well informed with an array of voices and sound effects to embellish the tour. He’ll lead you through this fascinating story and other local, historical tales whilst you take in the beauty of Pendle’s countryside villages. If you prefer to stay local, Simon also offers a Blackburn ghost walk and other towns around the county.