THE UK’s largest free walking festival is set to return to Pendle in August and organisers are hoping to attract more ramblers than ever.

The festival, which boasts more than 70 different walks over nine days, has become a major part in the walking calendar and last year was thought to attract over 1,000 people to the area.

Launching on August 30, the festival has a variety of walks designed to be accessible for all the family.

Each route is graded from ‘easy’ to ‘very hard’ and all walks will be led by a team of experienced volunteers.

The walks vary in length from the 1.5 mile ‘ghosts, heroes and villains’ — a walk that begins at Wallace Hartley Memorial in Albert Road, Colne and gives walkers the chance to learn about the town’s ghostly past — to the 22-mile Forest of Bowland trek, circling the whole of the Pendle outlier.

This year marks the 50 years since the Forest of Bowland was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and so the festival has planned many events to celebrate the golden anniversary and lots of the walks fall within the Forest of Bowland boundary.

Coun Paul White, who is responsible for tourism in Pendle, said: “We believe this is the largest free walking festival in the UK. We’re very lucky to have such a huge network of footpaths criss-crossing over unspoilt wild moorland and rolling hills and through historic villages, with stunning views round every corner.

“And with over 70 free guided walks ranging from easy to challenging, there is something for everyone.

“We’re expecting thousands of walkers to head to Pendle for the festival to discover the range of spectacular walking routes the area has to offer including the dramatic Pendle Hill.

“Many of them choose to make a holiday or short break of their walking festival experience, which is absolutely brilliant for our local economy.

“And we’re lucky to have available a wealth of quality tourism accommodation — from guest houses and B&Bs to a luxury hotel — where walkers can unwind after a day out discovering the beautiful area.”