Dark Peak Walks: A Sample Route from Paul Besley's new guidebook

Try a walk in the Dark Peak from our guidebook by Paul Besley.

WALK 1: Chatsworth to Birchen Edge

Start/FinishChatsworth House SK 259 702
Distance17.5km (11 miles)
TerrainSteep, uneven ground, open moor and forest tracks
MapOS 1:25000 Explorer OL24 White Peak
RefreshmentsChatsworth House
ParkingChatsworth House SK 259 702

Chatsworth, in the Dark Peak, is a wonderful place to start and end a walk. The grounds reflect an interesting period of English social history, full of the romance and adventure of the European tours of the landed gentry. The Three Ships on Birchen Edge provide a wonderful photo opportunity with extensive views across Chatsworth. Hob Hurst’s House is an important site, being one of the first to be protected by law. The end of the walk brings you through the grounds surrounding Chatsworth House and provides stunning views over gardens created by Capability Brown and Joseph Paxton.

Sample Route from Walking in the Dark Peak by Paul Besley

From Chatsworth House car park walk directly west to Queen Mary’s Bower, a folly situated by the River Derwent. Take the tarmac drive north past the nursery and on to the Cannon kissing gate to exit the park and enter Baslow by a walled lane. At the road junction turn left onto the A619, then cross it at the pelican crossing and walk up the road directly opposite for 400 metres. Where the road forks take the right hand road uphill, continuing on when the road becomes the track Bar Road and pass through a Peak District National Park access gate to a stony track leading up towards Baslow Edge. At the top do not go left to Baslow Edge but proceed straight on to Wellington’s Monument.

The stone cross is Wellington’s Monument, erected in honour of the Duke of Wellington. It looks across the valley to Nelson’s Monument on Birchen Edge, met later in the walk. The large boulder visible on the moor above Baslow Edge is the Eagle Stone. Bouldering routes on the stone include: The Beagle Has Landed, The Good The Bad and The Beagle, and A Beagle Too Far.

Follow the northeast track from the monument, eventually bounded by a stone wall on the left and passing a guide stoop on the right, to a gate giving access to a minor road. Go right and then straight across the A621 and through a wooden gate on the opposite corner of the crossroads. Initially the path across the open moor is flagged but it becomes faint, winding its way for 850 metres south to a very large boulder situated on the right in a clearing among trees below the gritstone edge. This marks the turning point to go left and make a short easy scramble up onto Birchen Edge. Reaching the triangulation pillar at the top, head southeast to three large gritstone boulders on the left known as the Three Ships.This is a good place to stop for refreshments.

Nelson’s Monument stands by three of his ships: Victory, Defiance and Royal Soverin, the last spelled incorrectly. The obelisk was erected 56 years before Wellington’s Monument. If time allows make a diversion to Gardom’s Edge to view a menhir (standing stone) and also a replica of a stone with cups and rings. It is well worth the effort.

Sample Route from Walking in the Dark Peak by Paul Besley

The Three Ships on Birchen Edge

Follow the footpath along the edge for approximately 700 metres until it turns sharp right by two concrete posts marking the position of a pipeline. Follow the path right, down the steep slope, to reach a wide path with a wall beyond. Turn left and walk south down the path, keeping the wall on your right, to a gate that leads onto a road taking you past a pub. From the pub walk down the A619 pavement until you are opposite a signpost on the other side of the road pointing to a concessionary path to Chatsworth. Cross here and go over the stile, down the stone steps and across a wooden bridge, then up a short slope to a marker post.

Turn left and walk along a waymarked footpath, following the signposts at all times southeast to stone steps set into a wall. Go over the wall and continue following the marker posts leading you up a small clough with a stream on your left until you reach a marker post at the foot of a slope. Turn right here and walk up the slope and out onto open moorland. Follow the footpath across the moor to go through a gate giving access onto a wide track. Turn right along the track following it across Gibbet Moor to woodland in the distance. Walk on past the woodland until it finishes at the corner of a wall. Go straight on, east, for 70 metres to Hob Hurst’s House.

Hob Hurst’s House was one of the first monuments in Britain to be protected under the Ancient Monuments Act, a fact noted by the stone bollards with the inscription VR for Queen Victoria. It is a large burial cairn that contained burnt human remains.

Retrace your steps to the wall corner and turn left to descend the slope keeping the walled forest plantation on your right. Where the plantation ends and the wall turns northwest carry straight on southwest across Rabbit Warren to meet a well-made track. Turn right, northwest, along the track and follow this until it ends at a wall stile leading into woodland. Go over the stile and along the woodland track until it forks after crossing a stream. Take the left hand fork and follow the track until the junction with a tarmac forest road. Walk straight across the road and proceed along a woodland track bearing left at the next track junction. Pass the Cascade Waterfall stopping to take in the views across Chatsworth Gardens and carry on to the Hunting Tower.

Sample Route from Walking in the Dark Peak by Paul Besley

The Hunting Tower Chatsworth

Bess of Hardwick had the Hunting Tower built both as a retreat and to view hounds hunting deer in the park. Lancelot Capability Brown turned the deer park into one of his creations embodying coherence and elegance.

From the Hunting Tower go down the steps situated beyond the cannons, cross the track at the foot of the steps and then descend steep stone steps and a footpath to connect with a forest track. Go left along the track and at the next track junction go right and right again at the next junction, then follow the track down to re-enter the car park.

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Paul Besley

Paul Besley is a volunteer Ranger for the Peak District National Park and a member of Woodhead Mountain Rescue, an informative walking guide and writer. He first went walking in the Dark Peak when he was 14 years old and a love of the high moors and gritstone edges was born. Over the following years he has explored the area, walking its moorlands, investigating hidden cloughs, expanding his knowledge and experience. His Ranger base is in the Upper Derwent Valley, just a few minutes from his home in Sheffield.

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