22 of the Best Things to Do in Preston

Nestled in the heart of Lancashire, Preston is a city boasting a rich cultural heritage, some truly lovely landscapes and an assortment fascinating visitors attractions.

For those of you looking to visit Preston, we’ve put together this guide. It showcases 22 to Preston visitor attractions, ranging from museums to scenic country parks.

What follows are some of the Preston’s top-rated tourist spots.

The Harris Museum and Art Gallery

The Harris Museum and Art Gallery

The Harris Museum and Art Gallery, housed in an imposing Grade I listed building, holds an important place in the cultural landscape of Preston.

Its vast collection offers insights into local and international history, art, and culture and includes fine art, costumes, ceramics and glassware.

European paintings and contemporary prints are prominent, providing a rich pictorial journey through different eras and artistic movements.

Textile displays and ceramic collections showcase the material culture of Lancashire and beyond, reflecting various historical periods.

The museum actively promotes visitor engagement. Its programming includes regular exhibitions, workshops, and events that offer in-depth perspectives and hands-on experiences.

These activities are aimed at fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of the collections.

Children’s learning is well catered for at the Discovery Room. This space offers interactive activities that combine education and fun, introducing younger audiences to the world of art and history.

The museum also has an on-site café, providing refreshments in a relaxing setting amidst the historical grandeur of the building.

Visitors can also browse the museum’s gift shop, which offers a variety of unique souvenirs related to the collections and exhibitions.

Ribble Steam Railway and Museum

Delve into the heart of Preston’s rich industrial heritage at the Ribble Steam Railway and Museum.

This dynamic attraction offers a unique blend of education, history, and fun, making it an exciting destination for both young learners and seasoned history enthusiasts.

Ribble Steam Railway takes you on a journey back in time, showcasing an impressive collection of over 40 steam and diesel locomotives that have played pivotal roles in Britain’s rail history.

As you traverse the 1.5-mile dock and riverside line, you’ll enjoy scenic views of the River Ribble and the city’s historic docklands, a crucial part of Preston’s industrial past.

Adjacent to the railway, the museum is a treasure trove of railway artifacts and historical displays.

Interactive exhibits, alongside beautifully preserved steam engines, bring to life the stories of the people who built and operated the railways.

From the engineering feats to the impacts of the railway on society, the museum captures the essence of Britain’s industrial progress.

A major highlight is the workshop viewing gallery where visitors can observe restorations in progress.

Watch skilled engineers breathe life into old machines, perpetuating the legacy of Britain’s railway heritage.

Avenham and Miller Parks

Avenham and Miller Parks, two adjoining parks in Preston, offer an oasis of tranquillity amidst the hustle and bustle of the city.

Situated close to the city centre, the parks are an essential part of Preston’s green spaces and hold significance in the city’s historical context.

These parks feature well-preserved Victorian-era landscaping that resonates with natural beauty.

Resting on the northern bank of the River Ribble, Avenham Park provides captivating river views, creating a peaceful environment for unhurried strolls.

The meticulously cared-for gardens, broad open spaces, and wooded areas make for inviting spots for outdoor picnics, unwinding, and diverse outdoor pursuits.

Just a stone’s throw away from Avenham lies Miller Park, a classic Victorian green space renowned for its neatly arranged gardens, artistically laid out flower beds, and grand water fountains.

The park is also home to the Derby Walk, a striking promenade with an ornamental canopy, providing a pleasant space for strolling.

The parks promote visitor engagement through various organised events, including guided walks, open-air concerts, and community gatherings, that cater to a broad range of interests.

These events invite local residents and visitors alike to enjoy the parks’ natural setting and contribute to community spirit.

Children’s amenities include play areas with equipment designed for different age groups. These playgrounds offer safe and enjoyable spaces for children’s physical activities and play.

Moreover, the Pavilion Café, located within Avenham Park, offers refreshments for visitors, making it a perfect spot to unwind while enjoying the views.

British Commercial Vehicle Museum

The British Commercial Vehicle Museum, located in Leyland, Preston, presents a captivating insight into the history of British road transport.

Filled with nostalgia and engineering marvels, the museum is a must-visit destination for transport enthusiasts and history lovers alike.

This unique museum houses an extensive collection of vintage commercial vehicles that reflect the evolution of British road transport.

From early horse-drawn carriages to fire engines, buses, trucks, and military vehicles, the exhibits span over a century of progress.

The museum’s collection includes iconic brands like Leyland Motors, whose roots in the local area add a unique local relevance to the museum.

Each exhibit at the British Commercial Vehicle Museum tells a story of the development of commercial transport and its influence on British industry and society.

Detailed information panels and interactive displays provide context, enabling visitors to fully appreciate the historical and technical significance of the vehicles on display.

The museum also houses a library with a wealth of reference materials related to commercial vehicles, making it a valuable resource for researchers and enthusiasts.

For a break from exploring the exhibits, visitors can enjoy refreshments at the museum’s café and browse the gift shop for souvenirs.

Brockholes Nature Reserve

Brockholes Nature Reserve

Located near Preston, Brockholes Nature Reserve is an exceptional wildlife sanctuary known for its diversity of habitats and species.

Owned and managed by the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside, the reserve is a haven for nature lovers and conservation enthusiasts.

Spread across 250 acres, Brockholes boasts a variety of natural landscapes, including woodland, wetland, and meadow habitats.

These diverse environments provide a sanctuary for a wide range of wildlife, from birds and butterflies to small mammals and insects.

Seasonal changes bring different species into view, making every visit unique.

The reserve is also home to the UK’s first floating visitor village, designed to blend with the natural environment.

This innovative complex houses a welcome centre, gift shop, and restaurant, offering panoramic views of the surrounding wetland habitat.

Several walking trails navigate through the reserve, allowing visitors to explore the different habitats at their own pace.

Information boards along the way provide insights into the reserve’s wildlife and conservation efforts.

In addition to self-guided exploration, Brockholes offers educational programs and guided tours that aim to foster a deeper understanding of nature and wildlife conservation.

Regular events and activities cater to all ages, ensuring an engaging and educational experience for the whole family.

Museum of Lancashire

The Museum of Lancashire is one of the top Preston attractions, standing as a beacon of the rich cultural and historical tapestry of Lancashire County.

The museum resides in the historic ex-Quarter Sessions House, imbuing a touch of historical charm to the visitor’s experience.

Visitors can explore the museum’s broad collections which unveil the detailed history of the county.

The range of displays include local and archaeological history, military heritage, and the industrial revolution, with each exhibit curated to enlighten and intrigue visitors of every age.

A standout feature is the Lancashire at War gallery, offering an evocative exploration of Lancashire’s role during the World Wars.

‘Life in Lancashire,’ another key exhibit, brings to life the day-to-day experiences in the county from the 1800s to today.

The museum further also runs regular educational programmes and revolving exhibits, presenting fresh learning opportunities.

One of the best places to visit in Preston, especially those with families.

Samlesbury Hall

This magnificent medieval manor house invites visitors to step back in time and explore over five centuries of history.

Built in 1325, Samlesbury Hall was once the home of the Southworth family and has seen countless historical events unfold.

From tales of witches to wealthy merchants, the hall has many stories to tell. The hall itself is a stunning example of black-and-white half-timbered architecture.

It boasts a plethora of beautifully restored rooms, each filled with a collection of antiques and period furnishings that reflect the changing times.

Highlights include the grand Great Hall, the intimate priest hole, and the Victorian kitchen.

The charming, well-tended gardens that surround the hall offer further delights. The fragrant herb garden, the colourful rose garden, and the sprawling woodland are idyllic settings for a leisurely stroll or a picnic.

For younger visitors, the hall offers an engaging experience with its animal farm, home to a collection of cute and cuddly creatures

A great option for those of you looking for things to do in Preson for famlies.

St. Walburge’s Church

An architectural marvel, St. Walburge’s Church is a prominent landmark in the city of Preston.

This impressive Gothic Revival style church, designed by renowned architect Joseph Hansom, boasts the tallest spire of any parish church in England, making it a sight to behold.

Constructed between 1850 and 1854, St. Walburge’s Church stands as a testament to the city’s rich religious history.

The impressive spire, reaching a height of 309 feet, dominates the Preston skyline and can be seen from various vantage points across the city.

Stepping inside, visitors are met with a beautifully adorned interior. The church is famed for its stunning stained glass windows, which cast a myriad of colours across the intricately carved wooden pews and stone columns.

The high altar, made from Caen stone and marble, is an impressive focal point.

One of the church’s notable features is the Shrine of St. Walburge, which houses a relic of the saint. This, along with the beautiful Lady Chapel, offers tranquil spaces for prayer and reflection.

St. Walburge’s Church regularly holds traditional Latin Mass and hosts a variety of religious events throughout the year, welcoming visitors and worshippers alike.

Guided tours are also available, providing an opportunity to learn more about the church’s fascinating history and architectural features.

Cuerden Valley Park

Cuerden Valley Park

Cuerden Valley Park, positioned on the southern fringe of Preston, serves as a lush retreat blending natural splendour with recreational offerings.

Covering a vast area of over 650 acres, this expansive country park teems with wildlife, creating an appealing environment for lovers of the great outdoors.

The park is marked by an array of distinct landscapes that include woodlands, grasslands, and the gently winding River Lostock.

These diverse ecosystems shelter an array of wildlife, with numerous footpaths and trails enabling visitors to immerse themselves in these natural habitats.

A key aspect of Cuerden Valley Park is its comprehensive system of trails. Catering to walkers, joggers and cyclists of all abilities, these trails are also favoured by dog owners.

They reveal scenic vistas of the park’s greenery and provide opportunities for birdwatching and nature photography.

The park is home to the historical Walled Orchard, a captivating area that evolves with the changing seasons, and Cuerden Hall, an impressive Grade II listed structure.

A Visitor Centre located within the park offers an abundance of information regarding the park’s plant and animal life, as well as its history.

Cuerden Valley Park is an active centre for community interaction, offering a variety of Preston activities throughout the year.

These include nature-focused workshops, guided nature walks, and a variety of educational initiatives.

The peacefulness of the park, coupled with its recreational offerings, makes it a prime destination for people looking for things to do in preston for families.

Nature enthusiasts, and anyone seeking outdoor lactivities in Preston should also be well-satisfied.

Lancashire Infantry Museum

Located within the confines of Fulwood Barracks in Preston, The Lancashire Infantry Museum stands as a treasured keeper of military heritage and is an ideal attractions for those of you looking to visit Preston.

It’s recognised officially as the leading resource of historical military data and artefacts in the North West of England.

As such, the museum honours the dedication and service of Lancashire’s men and women in uniform.

It’s collection covers over three hundred years tracing the history of Lancashire’s soldiers across various conflicts and wars.

This includes both, World Wars, the Napoleonic Wars and conflicts of recent history.

A diverse range of artefacts are on display including medals, uniforms, weapons and personal affects.

Each item narrates a unique tale, offering a deeply personal glimpse into the lives of these individuals and the sacrifices they made.

The museum’s key features include the Roll of Honour, a poignant homage to Lancashire’s servicemen who fell in the line of duty, and the Victoria Cross Gallery.

The latter collection showcases the gallantry awards conferred upon regiment members.

With its remarkable array of exhibits and commitment to preserving Lancashire’s rich military heritage, The Lancashire Infantry Museum serves as a fascinating point of interest and is one of the most popular of Preston’s cultural attractions.

Beacon Fell Country Park

Beacon Fell Country Park is a splendid natural retreat spread over 270 acres of woodland, moorland, and farmland.

This designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty offers breathtaking views and an array of recreational Preston-based activities, making it a favourite among nature enthusiasts and families.

The park’s rich habitat supports an abundant wildlife population, including a variety of birds, and provides a tranquil setting for leisurely walks or energetic hikes.

Several well-marked trails traverse the landscape, leading visitors through serene woodland and up to the summit of Beacon Fell, which offers panoramic views of the Lancashire countryside.

Among the trails is the Sculpture Trail, a unique path dotted with intriguing wooden sculptures that add an artistic touch to the natural surroundings.

You’ve also got mountain biking trails, and designated picnic areas.

The Visitor Centre functions as a key resource for info about the park’s rich variety of plant species, animal inhabitants and of course the area’s history.

Throughout the year, Beacon Fell Country Park plays host to a variety of events and activities, from guided nature walks to wildlife spotting, ensuring a different experience with each visit.

With its blend of stunning landscapes, recreational activities and captivating wildlife, Beacon Fell Country Park is considered one of the top free activities in Preston.

Turbary Woods Owl and Bird of Prey Sanctuary

Turbary Woods Owl and Bird of Prey Sanctuary provides a unique wildlife experience for all ages.

This refuge hosts a diverse collection of birds of prey including owls, hawks, eagles and falcons, among others.

Boasting a population of more than 90 birds, the sanctuary provides visitors with the opportunity to observe these awe-inspiring creatures at close range.

Moreover, the sanctuary actively participates in the rescue and rehabilitation of wounded birds, supported by a devoted group of volunteers.

An great highlight of a visit to Turbary Woods is the chance to participate in the interactive flying displays.

During these sessions, visitors can see the birds in action, watch their impressive flying skills, and even have the opportunity to handle some of the birds under the guidance of trained staff.

This hands-on experience brings visitors closer to these amazing creatures, fostering a greater understanding and respect for wildlife.

Lancashire Canal Cruises

Lancashire Canal Cruises

Lancashire Canal Cruises, located in Riley Green, Hoghton, offers visitors a unique way to explore the scenic Lancashire countryside and is one of the most popular Preston visitor attractions.

The cruises travel through the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, which is the longest canal in Northern England, offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

Each cruise is a delightful journey, allowing guests to enjoy the tranquil beauty of the canal while being served delicious food and beverages.

As you leisurely traverse the serene waters, you’ll gain insight into the significant role that the canal played during the Industrial Revolution.

The canal also takes in sights of historic mills, aqueducts, and locks that echo the era gone by.

The focus here is on creating journeys that are as engaging as they are enjoyable.

To this end, the crew members share captivating details and stories about the canal and its surrounding region.

A voyage with Lancashire Canal Cruises offers a uniquely enjoyable and memorable experience.

Bowland Wild Boar Park

The Bowland Wild Boar Park offers an immersive wildlife experience, allowing visitors to engage with a broad array of animals amidst the splendid backdrop of a rustic setting.

The park is most notably a residence for a troop of wild boars, seen roaming freely within their natural confines.

Alongside these intriguing animals, the park hosts an assortment of other creatures including deer, meerkats, wallabies, and a medley of farm animals.

To further enhance visitor engagement, the park provides opportunities to feed the animals.

This not only garners enthusiasm from younger guests but also facilitates learning about the various dietary preferences of different animal species.

A leisurely tractor ride around the park lets visitors appreciate the scenic beauty while getting a glimpse of the resident animals.

The park extends its educational focus beyond wildlife to include the surrounding environment.

As a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI), it offers nature trails for visitors to explore, fostering an understanding of local plant and animal life, along with conservation initiatives.

With a delightful blend of captivating wildlife interactions and serene outdoor landscapes, the Bowland Wild Boar Park serves as one of the best placse to visit in Preston and is ideal for families as well as nature enthusiasts.

Haslam Park

Located in Ashton-on-Ribble, Haslam Park serves as a delightful and retreat.

It’s the perfect example of a Victorian-era city park, replete with picturesque views and diverse amenities, making it a cherished place among residents and tourists alike.

Haslam Park hosts an array of Preston attractions including elegantly landscaped gardens, a bowling lawn, tennis courts and a playground for children.

The park also boasts a duck pond, outfitted with a viewing deck, allowing visitors to closely observe local fauna.

The park’s rose garden, adorned with exquisite and fragrant rose shrubs, offers a serene spot for leisurely walks.

The park is also renowned for the Haslam Park and Ashton Park Conservation Area.

This conservation zone is a haven for wildlife, offering nature enthusiasts a chance to discover a wide range of plant and animal species.

For those inclined towards sports, the park furnishes courts for tennis and basketball, alongside a bowling green.

These facilities ensure an engaging visit for all. The specially curated play area keeps the young visitors entertained, and the strategically placed picnic tables invite visitors to enjoy open-air meals.

Notably, the park houses a memorial dedicated to the 51st (Highland) Division, serving as a touching homage to those who laid down their lives during the World Wars.

With its pleasing mix of recreational facilities, tranquil natural spaces, and historical relevance, Haslam Park provides a perfect backdrop for a restful and enlightening outing.

Preston

Preston Guild Wheel

The Preston Guild Wheel is a spectacular 21-mile greenway that circles the city.

The route provides cyclists and walkers with a unique and invigorating way to explore the city and its surrounding countryside.

Opened in 2012 to mark the Preston Guild celebrations, the wheel is a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike.

The route combines city and country, taking you through parks, woodland, and alongside rivers, as well as offering views of the city’s iconic landmarks.

These included the Riversway Docklands and Avenham and Miller Parks.

The Guild Wheel is designed for all abilities, with the circular route divided into short sections, each with varying degrees of difficulty.

So whether you’re an experienced cyclist, a casual walker, or a family looking for an active day out, the Guild Wheel has something for everyone.

Visitors should not miss the Brockholes Nature Reserve section of the route, where they can take a break and explore a floating visitor centre and wildlife habitat (see above).

Similarly, the section passing through the city’s historic docklands provides a striking contrast between Preston’s industrial past and its present day status as a vibrant city.

Hoghton Tower

Hoghton Tower, positioned majestically atop a hill in Hoghton, Preston, is a fortified manor house steeped in history and grandeur.

Dating back to the 12th century, this ancestral home of the de Hoghton family offers visitors a glimpse into England’s fascinating past.

The house’s stunning architecture combines elements of Medieval, Tudor, and Georgian design, resulting in a distinct and elegant structure.

It boasts of impressive features, such as a grand banqueting hall, opulent state rooms, an atmospheric underground dungeon, and extensive gardens and grounds.

Upon visiting, guests can embark on guided tours led by knowledgeable guides who share captivating tales of the Tower’s historical lineage.

These include the visit of King James I, who famously knighted a loin of beef, giving rise to the term “sirloin.”

The well-manicured gardens of Hoghton Tower are an attraction in their own right.

With stunning views across Lancashire, the gardens host a variety of plants and wildlife, making them a delight for nature enthusiasts.

The Dollhouse, a miniature replica of the tower, is another unique feature in the gardens.

There’s also a regular farmers’ market, which serves as a great place to  sample and buy local produce, from artisan cheeses and organic meats.

Rufford Old Hall

Rufford Old Hall, located in Rufford, Lancashire, is a striking 16th-century manor house brimming with tales of history and heritage.

This Grade I listed building is managed by the National Trust and offers an enriching experience for visitors.

The hall stands as a testament to the rich Tudor history, with its beautifully preserved Great Hall being one of the finest surviving examples of its kind in England.

Rumoured to have once hosted a young William Shakespeare, the hall’s hammer-beam roof and intricately carved movable wooden screen are bound to captivate history and architecture enthusiasts.

The manor also features ornate Victorian and Georgian rooms, each adorned with period furnishings, fine art and tapestries.

The house’s collection includes arms and armour, 16th-century oak furniture and an array of family portraits depicting various members of the Hesketh family.

The gardens at Rufford Old Hall are equally charming. They’re spread over 14 acres and consists of manicured lawns, seasonal blooms, an orchard, and a canal.

For younger visitors, the natural play area offers an engaging outdoor experience.

Throughout the year, Rufford Old Hall hosts various events, including guided tours, family activities, and seasonal celebrations, ensuring there’s something for everyone.

Ribchester Roman Museum

The Ribchester Roman Museum is an archaeological treasure trove that presents a vivid picture of the area’s Roman past.

Established in 1915, the museum stands on the site of a Roman fort, Bremetennacum Veteranorum, making it an epicentre of historical significance.

Upon entering, visitors are greeted with a range of artefacts excavated from the fort and surrounding area.

These include the Ribchester Hoard.

This is a captivating collection of Roman military equipment, which narrates the tale of the soldiers stationed at the fort and the settlement that developed around it.

The museum’s interactive displays provide engaging ways to learn about Ribchester’s Roman history.

Scale models of the fort, insightful visual presentations, and children’s activity areas bring the past to life and make the experience both fun and educational.

The museum extends its learning opportunities beyond its walls, offering guided tours of the visible fort ruins located nearby.

Walking through these ruins offers an opportunity to visualize the scale and importance of this once bustling Roman settlement.

Throughout the year, the Ribchester Roman Museum hosts special events such as Roman reenactments and themed activity days, making it an exciting visit for people of all ages.

Stydd Gardens

Stydd Gardens presents a tranquil retreat that blends boutique retail therapy, culinary delights and alluring gardens.

It’s an idyllic haven where one can retreat from the daily grind and bask in nature’s serenity.

The meticulously tended garden houses a diverse selection of flora and a tranquil pond inhabited by koi.

With changing blossoms marking each season, the gardens provide a visual feast throughout the year, perfect for leisurely exploration.

Garden enthusiasts will appreciate the on-site plant nursery, offering a variety of plants to bring a touch of Stydd Gardens to their homes.

Beyond the allure of nature, Stydd Gardens also caters to those seeking unique retail experiences.

Nestled in charming cabins and repurposed glasshouses, the independent boutiques offer an assortment of items, from fashion pieces and handcrafted jewellery to vintage items and home decorations.

On the culinary front, the garden’s café and glasshouse kitchen serve a range of homemade dishes.

Whether it’s a filling lunch, a delightful afternoon tea, or a rejuvenating beverage, visitors can savour their meal while enjoying the garden views.

Stydd Gardens also serves as a vibrant events venue. Throughout the year, it plays host to a multitude of events such as plant exhibitions, artisan fairs, and music performances.

Potters Barn

Potters Barn presents a unique trio of pottery studio, café and alfresco tea garden.

Famous for its warm atmosphere, this establishment offers an ideal setting for sparking creativity, unwinding, and savouring life’s simple joys.

At the core of Potters Barn is the pottery workshop. It caters to all demographics and proficiency levels, offering pottery lessons.

It’s an ideal venue to channel your inner artist and master the pottery craft under the supervision of skilled instructors.

Opt for a single class or an extended course and create your ceramic treasure.

Beyond the creative sphere, Potters Barn is also recognized for its quaint café.

The menu features a variety of homemade dishes and beverages, all prepared with locally-sourced ingredients.

From satisfying breakfasts and lunches to tempting cakes and classic afternoon teas, the café caters to all tastes.

The allure of Potters Barn extends to its inviting outdoor tea garden. Visitors can indulge in alfresco dining while appreciating the serene ambiance.

The garden also becomes a venue for BBQs and live music events during the summer, contributing to a lively and pleasurable atmosphere.

A trip to Potters Barn allows visitors to enjoy an immersive pottery experience complemented by delectable dining and a relaxed garden setting.

Preston Markets

In the beating heart of Preston, the Preston Markets thrives, blending modern infrastructure with old-fashioned charm.

The market, encased beneath an avant-garde, eye-catching cover, pulsates with life, connecting the finest local vendors and their loyal patrons.

The market houses a rich mosaic of stalls, presenting a cornucopia of top-tier, fresh goods sourced from local farmers and suppliers.

Its offerings span across the spectrum, with a colourful display of fruits, vegetables, and pastries, artisan cheeses, meats from local farms, and fresh catch from the sea. It’s a gastronomic haven that would delight any food enthusiast.

Yet, the market is not solely about food. It extends its appeal by featuring stalls that cater to a variety of needs and tastes – clothing, jewellery, literature, music records, and homeware.

The Preston Markets embody a one-stop destination that satisfies everyday necessities and the desire for unique, often rare, finds.

Adding to its lively charm is the food hall, a gastronomic arena offering an international palate – from comforting Lancashire dishes, Italian pizzas, exotic Asian flavours to soul-soothing coffee – it’s a culinary journey in one place.

The market further enhances its vibrant community spirit by hosting regular events such as live music, cooking workshops and more, infusing every visit with entertainment and cultural experiences.

For more ideas about the best things to do in Presto, visit the official website: https://www.visitpreston.com

Dale Shelabarger

Dale is the owner and founder of Cottages to Rent which he launched back in 2005. As well as promoting holiday cottages, Dale blogs regularly about top UK holiday destinations, visitor attractions and places of historical interest.