Rawtenstall is the largest town in the valley of Rossendale, about 16 miles north of Manchester, and like most of East Lancashire's towns is known as a 'mill town', meaning it was a centre of the textile industry during the Industrial Revolution. Only a small proportion of the many mills and mill chimneys that once dotted the Rossendale Valley now survive; and some can still be seen in Rawtenstall. The textile industry declined from the 1930s, steeply after 1950, and has now almost disappeared. Rawtenstall can therefore be viewed as a town in decline. However for anyone interested in industrial archaeology Rawtenstall, and the neighbouring Rossendale towns of Bacup, Waterfoot, Haslingden and Helmshore are full of interesting relics of a relatively recent important and prosperous past.
The area is characterised by steep valleys which are typically lined by stone houses and terraces, but these tend to be narrow linear developments, following the roads, and behind these are to be found beautiful and wild moorland countryside. Rawtenstall and the surrounding area is great for walking.
The M65/A65 runs directly to Rawtenstall from the M62. Rawtenstall is a little over 30 minutes drive from the centre of Manchester. A regular and high-quality bus service, the X43 and X44, or the Witch Way, runs from Manchester to Rawtenstall and on to Burnley and Nelson.
Rawtenstall and Rossendale generally suffers from the lack of rail links, although there are steam and heritage trains running at the weekend (and at other times, but infrequently) from Bury, via Ramsbottom. For information http://www.eastlancsrailway.org.uk/.
Local buses run from Rawtenstall bus station to most neighbouring towns and the rest of the Rossendale Valley.
- Whitaker Park Museum.
- Fitzpatricks Temperance Bar. Britain's last temperance bar
- Use Rawtenstall as a base to explore the local countryside and industrial archaeology.
- Perhaps oddly, Rawtenstall is the centre for a number of high quality women's clothes shops - clustered around 'Sunday Best' on Bank Street.
- Rawtenstall has a characterful market, open Thursday and Friday, 9am - 4pm, at the far end of Bank Street on Newchurch Road. It's where 'Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit', Jeanette Winterson's semi-autobiographical novel was filmed for the BBC.
- Fitzpatricks traditional botanical brews can be bought in the shop to take away.
There are plenty of small restaurants - a tapas bar, a number of Indian and Chinese restaurants and takeaways and Italian restaurants in the town.
- Fitzpatricks Temperance Bar - have a pint of Blood Tonic, Sarsaparilla or home-made lemonade!