Top ten Peak District walks
A selection of walks of varying levels and distances that show off some of the Peak District’s best spots.
If the name Benny Rothman doesn’t mean anything to you, perhaps it’s worth briefly highlighting his actions during the 1930s, which are widely believed to have led to something that many of us regularly enjoy and largely take for granted: the freedom to roam some of the UK’s finest open countryside.
Mancunian Rothman was the most prominent organiser of 1932’s mass trespass of Kinder Scout – a moorland plateau in the Peak District. Rothman, the Lancashire secretary of the British Workers’ Sports Federation (which arranged walking and cycling trips for young workers from Manchester and other mill towns), addressed hundreds of ramblers at an old quarry before setting off for the summit.
The group’s aim – aside from taking in the great views from the highest point in the Peak District – was to draw attention to the fact that walkers in England and Wales were being denied access to vast areas of countryside. Some participants became involved in altercations with gamekeepers along the way, and the subsequent prison sentences handed out to some ramblers made the headlines in local and national newspapers. The coverage led to an increased number of protesters at the following rally, for which around 10,000 converged at Winnats Pass.
Many historians argue that the mass trespass was an important milestone, influencing the creation of long- distance paths such as the Pennine Way, as well as the National Parks legislation in 1949. The Peak District National Park was established two years later – and fittingly it was the first of its kind in the UK.
The national park, which spreads across parts of Cheshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Yorkshire, attracts millions of people each year. Some are drawn by its spa and market towns, or the collection of country pubs, but surely most go for the mix of dramatic moorland scenery and pretty valleys and gorges. We highlight 10 walks that show some of the Peak District’s best spots.
Hathersage to Stanage Edge
Visit Britain/Tomo Brejc
This walk, beginning in the eastern Hope Valley is nine miles long, and the highlight for many will be the far-reaching views from the Stanage Edge escarpment, with Mam Tor and Kinder Scout visible. The route takes in North Lees Hall, thought to have been the inspiration for Mr Rochester’s home in Jane Eyre. Instructions and further information for this popular walk can be found at visitpeakdistrict.com. Hathersage is a useful hub, with shops, cafes and outdoor equipment shops.
Visit Britain/Casper Farrell
Mam Tor is on the edge of the Dark Peak (gritstone) and the White Peak (limestone), and close to Castleton Club site. At 517m, it is one of the highest points in the national park, and as such you can enjoy magnificent views once you’ve powered up to the top. However, there is an easier circular walk that takes you around ‘Mother Hill’ and affords just as many opportunities to enjoy the scenery – see nationaltrust.org.uk for details.
Club member Nathan Garside
It’s unlikely that you’ll have to confront an irate gamekeeper on the way to this large plateau, but do check access before you set off, as parts are still occasionally closed for reasons of conservation, public safety and grouse shooting (the Peak District National Park website gives plenty of notice if this is the case). At the top you can see Manchester and Snowdonia, so pick a clear, sunny day if possible. We recommend the well-trodden path that takes you from Edale Car Park (near Castleton Club site) to a beautiful old packhorse bridge at the foot of ‘Jacob’s Ladder’, a steep route that isn’t for the faint-hearted. See peakdistrictwalks.net for information, and please note that walking on the higher peaks in cold, wet and windy weather conditions can be very dangerous.
This section of the Trans-Pennine Trail begins at the Torside Reservoir car park in the northern part of the national park, around 40 minutes’ drive from Castleton Club site, via Glossop. It has been enhanced for accessibility, and includes ponds and viewing platforms. If you are brave enough to hang around at dusk you may even catch the Longdendale Lights – a mysterious light show that, along with other unexplained supernatural phenomena and sightings, has led to Longdendale being dubbed the ‘Haunted Valley’! See peakdistrict.gov.uk for information.
Club member Louise Heywood
The Monsal Trail is another long-distance track along a former railway line, suitable for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. It runs from Chee Dale near Buxton to Bakewell, and as such either Buxton Club site or Chatsworth Park Club site make for a good base if you’d like to explore. Monsal Head is arguably the most picturesque spot along the way, where the five arches of Headstone Viaduct stand over the River Wye, providing passage for walkers these days rather than trains.
Club member Fiona Driver
This prominent gritstone ridge line in the south-west of the national park will test the calf muscles of any visitor to Blackshaw Moor Club site, but members repeatedly rave about the views from the outcrop. The Countryfile website (countryfile.com) suggests a terrific, six-mile circular walk from The Roaches Tearooms & Restaurant, which is just over a mile from your pitch. If you’re quiet, patient and lucky you might even spot one of Bennett’s Wallabies – released by a local zoo during the Second World War. Fans of Arthurian legend should look out for Lud’s Church, where some believe Sir Gawain faced the Green Knight.
This valley to the north-west of Buxton (where there is, of course, a Club site) isn’t as well-known – and therefore is not as busy – as some parts of the Peak District National Park, but it’s no less beautiful. The website goyt-valley.org.uk has plenty of suggestions and details for walks that should suit a variety of abilities, but if you have the level of fitness required for the one that takes you from Errwood Reservoir to Shining Tor (six miles), that is well worth a day of your holiday.
Dovedale and Ilam Park
Visit Britain/Rebecca Read
Dovedale is popular with families as it’s fairly flat and not too taxing for younger children (providing they can manage a few miles). The public car park near the Izaak Walton Hotel is a good starting point for a stroll along the floor of this stunning, picturesque limestone valley, but be careful if crossing the River Dove via the stepping stones, which can be slippery. Members might also want to spend time at nearby Ilam Park, part of the National Trust-managed White Peak Estate, while a clamber up the steep banks of Thorpe Cloud rewards the out-of-breath with majestic views. A great day out when staying at Carsington Water, Blackshaw Moor or Uttoxeter Racecourse Club sites.
Bakewell to Chatsworth
Club member Kenneth Wilson
Tourism agency Experience Peak District and Derbyshire suggests two routes that take in charming Bakewell and Chatsworth Park (where of course the Club has a site) – one that is six miles long and the other eight. The walk passes over the Monsal Trail (a path for walking, cycling and horse riding) and through the charming village of Edensor, where the traditional tearooms welcome thirsty ramblers. The longer route is the more scenic of the two, and includes a stretch along the River Derwent; you’ll also pass a ruined corn mill and an Iron Age fort. Instructions can be found at visitpeakdistrict. com and can of course be adapted if you wish to start and finish at the Club site.
Club member Simon Sennett
It may be 13 miles long, but the Tissington Trail offers a gentler ramble that isn’t too taxing on the thighs – the bridleway, footpath and cycle route runs from the charming town of Ashbourne to Parsley Hay along a former railway line. If the full distance is too daunting, perhaps try a stretch that allows for a detour around the village of Tissington – where traditional well dressing takes place near Tissington Hall each May. Carsington Water Club site isn’t too far away.