Lancashire is a county of two halves. To the south are the vast cotton mills and populous towns that sprang up during the Industrial Revolution. To the north are wilder landscapes of forests and moors, punctuated with the beautiful valleys of the rivers Ribble and Lune. The county is bounded by the Pennines to the east, and the Irish Sea to the west.

Many of the southern towns are characterised by robust 19th-century industrial architecture. There is plenty of evidence of civic pride in the solidly built libraries, town halls and law courts. East of Preston, stone is the most common building material; west and south of Preston, brick takes precedence.

Once part of Lancashire, the major cities of Liverpool and Manchester are now separate metropolitan districts. Much of Lancashire is within commuting distance of Liverpool and Manchester, and the east is within reach of Leeds and Bradford. Preston and Blackburn also have their own commuting belts.

The most desirable areas to live include the Ribble and Lune Valleys and Rossendale; Lancaster is also highly regarded. Prices are strong, and connected to the Yorkshire market.

Major towns

Bolton, Blackburn, Burnley, Lancaster, Preston, Wigan, Morecambe, Blackpool, Chorley.

Transport links

Train: Euston to Preston 2hr 55min; Euston to Burnley 4hr.

Car: Preston is 218 miles from London, via the M1 and M6; Burnley is 227 miles, via the M1, M6 and M65.

Public, grammar and maintained schools

Clitheroe Royal Grammar School, (01200 23118). Co-educational, age range 11-18, day. www.clitheroeroyalgrammar.lancs.sch.uk

Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Blackburn (01254 59911). Co-educational age range 4-18, day. www.qegs.blackburn.sch.uk

Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School (01524 32010). Girls only, age range 11-18, day. www.lancastergirlsgrammar.lancs.sch.uk

Lancaster Royal Grammar School (01524 32109). Boys only, age range 11-18, day and boarding. www.lrgs.org.uk

Rossall School, Fleetwood (01253 774247). Co-educational, age range 2-18, day and boarding. www.rossal.co.uk

Stonyhurst College, near Clitheroe (01254 826345). Co-educational, age range 7-18, day and boarding. www.stonyhurst.ac.uk

Leisure

Golf course: Royal Lytham St Annes (01253 724206).

Hunts: the Lunesdale, the Holcombe, the Pendle Forest and Craven.

Yachting clubs: the Royal Mersey and West Lancashire Yacht Clubs; the West Cheshire and West Kirby Sailing Clubs.

Fishing: rivers Lune, Ribble and Wyre.