In medieval times, it was known as Bolton-in-Bowland, reflecting the shifting boundaries of the ancient Forest of Bowland on whose south-east flank the village sits. The manor of Bolton-by-Bowland, however, was not included within the Lordship of Bowland, being a part of the Percy family fee from earliest times.
The village is on the Tosside Beck, near its confluence with the River Ribble. The Beck has for many centuries marked the boundary between Bowland and Craven.
The village has a car park, toilet facilities and a tourist information centre, is the starting point for many of the area's walks. According to the 2001 census, it had a population of 498.
The village also has two pubs, the first, the Coach and Horses is situated in the middle of the village and is the centre of village life. The second, The Copy Nook, is a bar and restaurant and is situated a short distance from the centre of the village.