Exploring Preston: what to see and do

Famed for its brutalist architecture, a Grade II listed concrete bus station and as being the home of the UK's first motorway, a stranger could be forgiven for having a grey outlook on Preston.

But the modernist Lancashire town planning and road systems belie a colourful and charming northern city, with a bustling centre, heaps of history, great green spaces and an attractive port and marina.

With as many as 770 listed museums, churches and stately homes half a dozen parks and an impressive shopping and social scene, could this be the country's best kept secret for a weekend getaway?

We think so which is why we have pulled together some of the highlights.

Avenham and Miller Parks

Just a five minute walk due south of the city railway station you will find the green lungs of Avenham and Miller Parks. Together they share an enviable position on the northern banks of the River Ribble, where visitors can stroll through Victorian-landscaped gardens designed in the mid-19th Century by Edward Milner. Look out for Derby Walk, with its Italianate Terrace, elegant listed fountain and Memorial Statue. Enjoy a heritage guided tour, look out for one of the many planned events or simply escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre.

Preston Docks

Maybe not the first thought to spring to mind when planning a trip to Preston, but the city has a marina that is well worth exploring whether you simply want to admire the boats moored on the River Ribble, learn about the history of the port, enjoy some retail therapy, a bite to eat or fancy catching a film at the cinema there.

Samlesbury Hall

Six miles east of Preston city centre is the back and white half-timbered Samlesbury Hall, possibly the most haunted location in the UK and certainly once at the centre of claims of 'witchcraft' in the local area. Take a guided tour to learn more about the history of this striking medieval listed building. Samlesbury Hall also showcases some of the finest art and antiques in Lancashire.

Turbary Woods Owl and Bird of Prey Sanctuary

Take flight on a southerly course from the city centre and within a 10 minute drive you will land at the door of the Turbary Woods Owl and Bird of Prey Sanctuary, home to over 90 feathery species. At home in the aviaries are rescued eagles, hawks and vultures, but you must plan ahead if you want to catch one of the regular talks, flight displays or even the chance to handle some of these beauties.

Ribble Steam Railway

Ribble Steam Railway is a great place to take both 'railfans' and simply those looking to sit back, relax and enjoy the views on a journey along the Preston's docklands and riverside line. The museum is also home to an indoor miniature railway, perfect for both young and young at heart.

Clitheroe Castle and Museum

Technically not in Preston, but we could not resist as it is well worth the drive out to Clitheroe Castle to witness its magnificent ruins and fortified towers, and also to enjoy the scenic journey up the fells and down the vales of the breath-taking Ribble Valley. A fascinating museum sits in the castle's shadow, where you can travel back over 350 million years of local history, geology and heritage.

For details of our hire car pick-up closest to Clitheroe Castle visit here.