Great Peak District Walks

There are a huge number of great Peak District walks and trail running.

In terms of outdoors activities, walking is a big reason that people visit the Peak District. There are almost 2000 miles (3000 km) of public footpaths, bridleways and green lanes (BOATs). With the CRoW Act, walking in the Peak District became even better. How? Several previously restricted areas were opened up to walkers, for example Chrome Hill and Parkhouse Hill.

Access hasn't always been that easy though. When walking became more accessible to the masses, much of the countryside was in the hand of the rich. They did their utmost to keep people off 'their' land. In April 1932, a Mass Trespass took place on Kinder. This is well documented, so I won't bother expanding on it here since I have nothing original to add. It did, however, have far reaching consequences and contributed significantly to the access that we enjoy today. One of my favourite areas for walking for a day is the area betwen Howden reservoir and south of the Woodhead pass  (A628). Here you can walk all day and see virtually no one else. Even Bleaklow isn't so bad if you keep off the Pennine Way section.

In short, choose your Peak District Walks with care and you can experience the best the area has to offer without the crowds.

Avoiding the Crowds

OK, this is really a section telling you where some of the most crowded Peak District walks are. Some Peak District paths can be very crowded as they are easy to get to. Others are classic routes, for example, the footpath along the top of Curbar Edge and Froggatt Edge. There is good parking at both ends so if it is peace and quiet you want, go somewhere else! But for great views in the southern half of the Peak District, it is hard to beat! Now that there is a concessionary path along White Edge, you can make it into an excellent circuit. But even this is now becoming well worn and busy.

Other really crowded Peak District walks are Dovedale and the Monsal trail since that the tunnels were reopened. The trails following former railways are shared with cyclists too. Around Edale it gets quite busy, after all, it id the start of the Pennine Way. The top of Kinder isn't too bad, but the ridge walk eastwards from Mam Tor, on summer weekends in high season is like a walkers version of the M25 at rush hour! Cavedale from Castleton can also be busy in season. The reservoirs (Ladybower, Derwent and Howden) are a big pull for visitors too. If you get away from the road and track that skirts these, you can find a bit more peace and quiet.

Peak District Walks on Green Lanes and BOATs

Trail bikers and 4x4 drivers have damaged many green lanes, so in the winter the deep ruts can make things very difficult for Peak District walkers. From personal experience, some off-roaders seem to show little respect for others or for the environment and strangely, some of them believe that walkers do more damage to rights of way than their high powered and irresponsibly driven machines. The majority seem to forget the 'gentle touch' ethos practised by sensitive and responsible off roaders. There are also those who do not repect the law and drive on bridleways.

They also do not seem to realise that people come to do Peak District walks in order to seek fresh air, peace and quiet. Unless there is a breeze, after the passage of a group of riders or cars, the air is extremely unpleasant and unhealthy to breathe. Still, they do have a perfect legal right to spoil the day out for other people.

On the other hand, there are a small minority who drive/ride appropriately. Unfortunately, the majority forget that these green lanes were only ever meant for foot powered traffic, whether than be the feet of people, horses, donkeys, cattle, sheep etc. Engine power means the main force is horizontal. This rips through the surface and exposes the soil below to erosion.

The green lanes and BOATs are probably best avoided when planning your Peak District walks.

A few Ideas for Peak District Walks ...

Image: classic Peak District walks - the view towards Chrome Hill.

Disclaimer - these walks are only described in broad detail. If you decide to follow any of the Peak District walks from this site, please make sure that you have fully planned the route and that your party has the necessary skills, equipment and fitness before setting off into the hills.

Stanage Edge

Park at Higgar Tor but instead of going onto the Tor, take the opposite direction across the moors to Stanage. Simply walk along the easy path along the top of the edge and enjoy the views over the Peak District. Alternatively, take the bottom path if you want to watch the climbers. There are options to make a circuit of this route either in the direction of Sheffield or Hathersage. You can also make a circular route by walking firstly the top path and returning by the lower path. The lower path is rough in places.

Edale Head Horseshoe

Park at the Mam Tor car park. Firstly,  cross the road and walk along Rushup Edge. Cut off this north to Edale Cross and up Swine's Back. Next, follow the path along the edge of Kinder Scout past Noe Stool, Pym's Chair, Wool Packs and Crowden Tower. You can then drop into Edale via Grindsbrook Clough. From Edale, return to Mam Nick and the car park via Harden Clough. To reduce the road section, take the Bridleway past Greenlands and up Cold Side.

Dovedale and the surrounding Dales

Parking at the lower end of Dovedale is a good starting point for several Peak District walks. A circuit incorporating Alstonefield is always enjoyable. You may even be lucky enough to spot a white clawed crayfish. This endangered and protected species needs clear and clean water, so the Dove is a perfect habitat. At the top end of Dovedale lies the popular tourist village of Hartington with its duck pond and stilton cheese factory. You will also find tea shops, local produce outlets,  a pottery and pubs.

There is a really nice, if fairly short, walk from Hartington, perfect if time is tight. Walk over the hill past Crossland Sides and Brighton then down into Biggin Dale. Follow Biggin Dale SW to where it joins Wolfscote Dale. Follow Wolfscote Dale northwards into Beresford Dale. From here, the path cuts back through the woods and across the fields to drop you back into Hartingon at the public toilets.

Alsop Station

Park at Alsop Station and take the Tissington Trail northwards. Leave it to descend into Wolfscote Dale via Iron Tors and the slopes of Nettly Know (on National Trust land). Follow Wolfscote Dale southwards, through Milldale and on to Hall Dale. Here you turn eastwards, climbing through the woodland to return via either Hanson Grange or Bostern Grange Farm. Whichever of the two return routes you choose, please take care as they involve crossing the often very busy A515 Ashbourne to Buxton road.

Lathkill Dale

If you are short of time a stroll up Lathkill Dale from Over Haddon or Alport is worthwhile or try a longer circuit from Monyash. Follow the Limestone Way past One Ash Grange and Calling Low past Youlgrave (Youlgreave as the OS call it) via Bradford Dale to Alport. Follow Lathkill Dale back to Monyash.

Alstonefield

Another popular destination for Peak District tourists and walkers and quite rightly so! It is serviced by public transport and there is some car parking too. Please respect the locals if you need to park on the street. A popular walk takes a footpath across the fields (shortly after the church) and down into Milldale. Here, you can cross the old pack horse bridge (Viator's bridge in Izaac Walton's Compleat Angler) and explore Dovedale.  You can either return the way you came or use one of the many footpaths west of Dovedale to return to Alstonefield.

Monsal Dale

There is a pay and display car park behind the Monsal Head Hotel. From there you can descend into the deeply incised Limestone valley of Monsal Dale. There are several options. One of my favourites in autumn is to head for Great Shacklow Wood. The colours here are amazing, especially on a sunny day. You can walk through the woods or head to Taddington or Sheldon. Alternatively, you can follow Monsal Dale in the other direction.

The Monsal Trail takes you to Cressbrook and Litton Mill, where the former mill buildings have now been converted into luxury apartments. Litton Mill itself is well known for the abuse of orphans during the 19th century. Return via the Monsal Trail or via the road and a short, steep bridleway back to the hotel.

From the old station on the Monsal Trail, a bridleway leads uphill. Following this takes you to Middle Farm. A short descent to a bend in the farm road lets you explore High Dale. I always think that High Dale looks strange, almost human made. It is straight as a die and the slope on both sides is uniform. From the top end of High Dale, cross high ground, pass some old mine workings and drop down to join the Monsal Trail near Litton.

Image: Peak District walks - through High Dale, near Taddington.

High Dale

There is a small parking place on the left, down in the bottom of the valley as you head along towards Cressbrook. If there is room, that is more convenient if you are aiming to visit the nature reserve of Cressbrook Dale.

Chatsworth Estate and surrounding areas

Park at Calton Lees, maybe visit the Garden centre and meander through the fine parkland of the Chatsworth Estate. Alternatively park by the church in Edensor, walk the length of the Park to Calton Lees and continue towards Rowsley. Take the track round Bouns Corner Wood and down to the River Wye. Pick up the Monsal Trail for a short way then cross the golf course, through the woodland and onto Calton Pastures. From here, pass through a short woodland section and drop back down to Edensor.

Making your Peak District walks a little wilder ...

Start from the Fox's Piece arm of Howden Reservoir (check access first, may need to use the shuttle bus depending on when you go). Head uphill to Birchin Hat through Ditch Clough Plantation to reach the top. There are a couple of aircraft wrecks around here, but they take a bit of finding now. On the high ground, you can look over the impressive Alport Castles landslip.

Follow the path NW along the edge of Alport Dale to the trig point, navigate across the moorland to The Ridge. From here, head to the stakes just south of Bleaklow stones, the terrain is a bit easier. Wander over to Grinah stones, it's a great place to be at any time of the year. From there, contour to Round Hill and descend the broad ridge to reach the track that takes you back to Ditch Clough plantation.

This route requires good navigational skills over at times fairly featureless terrain with limited visibility owing to the peat hags. Not advised in poor weather unless you are extremely good with a map and compass (sorry, not a fan of GPS!!).