Travelling across the de Lacy lands

Someone left a poor review of The de Lacy Inheritance on the Waterstone’s website complaining that the distances and travelling times in the story were confused. So, just in case anyone thought I’d simply made them up, I’ll share an extract from Dr T.D. Whitaker’s History of the Original Parish of Whalley, and Honor of Clitheroe (Volume IV, chapter III).

He says that the estates of the de Lacy family stretched from Pontefract in Yorkshire to the Trough of Bowland in Lancashire. He calculates that a journey from one side to the other, on horseback, would have taken at least three days. The first stage would have been from Pontefract to Rothwell. The second stage from Rothwell to Bradford, then over the moors to Luddenden, on to Cliviger and to their manor at Ightenhill (on the outskirts of what is now Burnley). The third stage would have taken them from here to the castle at Clitheroe.

He gives the distance travelled as around 90 miles, which would mean a distance of 30 miles a day, which at a speed of 3 miles an hour would have meant 10 hours in the saddle each day – so the journey would not have been leisurely. Neither would it have been possible to travel so far each day in winter, as the travelling would be restricted by the hours of daylight.

On Google maps a similar route from Pontefract to Bradford then over the moors from Keighley to Colne and on to Clitheroe via Burnley is 70 miles and would take two hours by car. But one feature I find useful when calculating medieval travelling times is the estimate of how long it would take the walk the route. This shows as 21 hours. So maybe three days, at seven hours a day, is not so far out after all. But given the hilliness of the route over the moors and the need to stop for food and some respite I think that it is probably too optimistic and that it’s more likely to have taken four or five days to cross the Pennine hills from Pontefract to Clitheroe.

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