A straightforward walk, though steep in places, taking in a superb viewpoint.
Distance 3.7 miles (6km)
Minimum time 1hr 30min
Ascent/gradient 804ft (245m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Mostly clear tracks, well-marked paths
Landscape Managed woodlands, rougher moors and formal gardens
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 287 West Pennine Moors
Start/finish SD 635128
Dog friendliness Can mostly run free, but be careful crossing Rivington Lane and watch out for sheep on moors
Parking At Hall Barn, in Lever Park
Public toilets Near car park and just below highest point
1 Go round the right side of Hall Barn to a red-brick house then down the drive, between ponds, and on down an avenue of beech trees. Keep straight on and cross the busy road to Great House Barn. Walk down the track away from it, towards the lake, then go left by some iron railings. Skirt the woodland conservation area and return to the lakeshore. Keep to the lower path, which leads to The Castle.
2 From the castle gate take the long track running straight away. Just before a barrier, with a car park beyond, go left on a short track to the road then straight up the track opposite. This track, sometimes a bit muddy, climbs steadily up the left side of a wood before angling left to join a wide gravel track. Where this reaches a crest, go sharply back right on a path below a gorse-covered slope. This meets a stony track. Go left through the gate and steadily up the track. Keep on climbing steadily as the gorse thins out and the track doubles back right near a gate (this leads into the Terraced Gardens). The tower on the summit of Rivington Pike soon appears, a lot closer now than it was before.
3 You go through a gate and rough paths climb up left directly towards the tower but it's a lot less steep to stick to the track then go right by a prominent signpost where the mast on Winter Hill also comes into view. Go slightly downhill to a track on the left just beyond a clump of rhododendrons. Climb this stony track through a couple of curves then finish straight up on eroded paths to the tower.
4 Descend stony steps in front of the tower then more steps cutting the corner of the track. Then join the track, almost level now, to a gate just above a toilet block. Go right, above rhododendrons, and descend slightly to the tall, narrow Dove Cote. From this, backtrack for about 100yds (91m) to a fork and take the lower track between some stone gateposts. This leads into the Terraced Gardens. You can wander and explore pleasantly here for hours and the described route is just one suggestion.
5 The track leads to a broad level space with the remains of a tile floor, site of a substantial bungalow. Just beyond this, go down steps to a flagged path. Where it splits go left and down more steps and out on to a balcony. Go down and left along the track below, then right through a small arch and down more steps. Cross a rough track and continue down beside some ruins. Curl down below them and there's a pool on the left, complete with waterfall and grotto. Go down through the rough stone arch and cross a wider path to descend a narrower one slanting to the right. Keep descending in the same general direction, at the same easy gradient, until the track swings left as the slope begins to ease.
6 Go straight down across a field then through a gate into woodland again. Keep straight on then swing right on a track flanked by a wooden fence. When you reach some buildings pass them on your left-hand side and go down left back to the car park.
William Hesketh Lever, later Lord Leverhulme, left two great monuments in the region. One is Port Sunlight. The other is Lever Park, which he bought in 1900. Born in Bolton, Lever made a fortune from soap, and spent much of it on philanthropic projects. He intended to present the park to the people of Bolton but legal wranglings resulted in it being gifted to Liverpool instead, though it's the inhabitants of Bolton and Chorley who get the benefit. It can get very busy.
The Castle in the park is a replica of Liverpool Castle, not as it appeared in its heyday, but in the dilapidated condition in which it appeared around 1900.
Another highlight - and high point - is Rivington Pike. At 1,198ft (365m) high, it was a beacon site known to have been used to warn of the arrival of the Spanish Armada. The tower was built in 1733. It gives a tremendous view over most of Lancashire, extending to Cheshire, Wales and the Lake District. At closer quarters two prominent features are the Reebok Stadium, home of Bolton Wanderers, and the long brick sheds of the Horwich locomotive works.
There are still pockets of farmland in Lever Park but before Lever acquired it the area was wholly agricultural. The two outstanding relics of this are Hall Barn and Great House Barn, both probably 16th century in origin and, though considerably altered, remain fine examples of cruck-framed construction, which uses massive timber trusses. Most of the large trees in the park are around 100 years old.
Great House Barn has a tea room with a good selection of cakes, but no ale. For this, head up 'over the top', by Winter Hill, to Belmont and the Black Dog Inn. Food is good and the Holt's beer well kept. The nearby Wright's Arms, up the A675 northwards, is also recommended.