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Explore England's Dark Peak with a Cicerone guidebook - Sample Route

Cover of Dark Peak Walks
3 Mar 2017
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.3cm
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Dark Peak Walks

40 walks exploring the Peak District gritstone and moorland landscapes

by Paul Besley
Book published by Cicerone Press

Guidebook to 40 walks in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park. 35 circular routes for most abilities, from 8km to 19km, around Edale, Marsden, Fairholmes, Baslow and Castleton, including Kinder Scout and Mam Tor, and 5 longer (25km to 45km) routes highlighting the best of the Gritstone Edges, High Moorland and Deep Valleys.

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Located in the Peak District and distinguished from the neighbouring White Peak by the layer of gritstone which covers its limestone bed, the Dark Peak features a wild landscape of sweeping moorland and big skies. Easily accessible from Sheffield, it boasts a wealth of natural, geological, historical and cultural interest – and some great walking. 

This guidebook describes 40 walks in the Dark Peak. Ranging from short strolls to full-day adventures, they showcase the region's unique character. Dramatic waterfalls, striking gritstone edges, heath and woodland are just some of the delights encountered, with many of the routes venturing off-path to explore hidden cloughs and valleys. Detailed route description is provided for 35 walks, accompanied by 1:50,000 OS mapping and interesting facts about local points of interest, then a further five longer walks (of 25-45km) are summarised in the final section, including a classic circuit of the Kinder Scout skyline.

Taking in the high moors of Derwent, Bleaklow, Kinder and Howden, the walks reveal not only the area's wild beauty but also some of its fascinating stories. 10,000 years of history lie waiting to be uncovered – from Neolithic burial mounds and Bronze Age cairns to remnants of the region's more recent industrial past. This guide is a perfect companion to discovering the secrets of the Dark Peak and experiencing its magnificent landscape in all its glory.

  • Activities
  • Seasons
    The high moorlands in winter and summer; the gritstone edges in spring and summer; the valleys in autumn; the cloughs in spring
  • Centres
    Hathersage, Grindleford, Langsett, Marsden, Dove Stones, Edale, Upper Derwent Valley, Castleton, Greenfield, Chatsworth, Sheffield, Hayfield, Crowden, Hope, Dunford Bridge
  • Difficulty
    Walking in the Dark Peak requires good navigational skills, especially in winter, and a good level of hillcraft. Having the correct equipment and clothing and knowing how to use it is paramount when venturing out onto the high moors.
  • Must See
    Kinder Scout, the highest point in the Peak District; Bleaklow, the second highest; Howden and Derwent Edges; Black Hill and the Wessenden Moors; the gritstone edges of Derwent, Bamford, Stanage, Burbage, Froggatt, Curbar, Birchen, Gardoms and the Roaches; the Eastern Moors; the Goyt Valley, Shutlingsloe and Wildboarclough
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Plants and wildlife
The future
Local services and transport
The walks
Responsible walking
Maps and navigation
Using this guide
Eastern Dark Peak
Walk 1 Chatsworth to Birchen Edge
Walk 2 Longshaw Estate and the gritstone edges
Walk 3 Fox House to Big Moor
Walk 4 Fox House to Stanedge Pole
Walk 5 Grindleford to Higger Tor
Central Dark Peak
Walk 6 Hathersage to Stanage Edge
Walk 7 Wyming Brook to Stanage Edge
Walk 8 Bamford Moor
Walk 9 Win Hill to Hope Cross
Walk 10 Kings Tree to Shepherds Meeting Stones
Walk 11 Westend and Bleaklow Stones
Walk 12 Derwent Edge
Walk 13 Alport Castles and the Woodlands Valley
Walk 14 Margery Hill to Back Tor
Walk 15 Low Bradfield and Dale Dyke
Walk 16 Langsett to Howden Edge
Walk 17 Langsett to Pike Lowe
Walk 18 Torside to Bleaklow Head
Walk 19 Wildboar Clough to Lawrence Edge
Walk 20 Old Glossop to Bleaklow Head
Walk 21 Kinder Scout Northern Edge
Walk 22 Kinder Scout Western Edge
Walk 23 Kinder Scout
Walk 24 Kinder Scout Southern Edge
Walk 25 The Great Ridge
Northern Dark Peak
Walk 26 Dunford Bridge to Ramsden Clough
Walk 27 Crowden Horseshoe
Walk 28 Crowden to Chew Valley
Walk 29 Marsden to Black Hill
Walk 30 Alphin Pike to Birchen Clough
Walk 31 Binn Green to Great Dove Stone Rock
Walk 32 Cotton Famine Road
Western Dark Peak
Walk 33 Goyt Valley to Shining Tor
Walk 34 Derbyshire Bridge to Shutlingsloe
Walk 35 The Roaches
Long day walks
Walk 36 Marsden to Edale
Walk 37 Langsett to Edale
Walk 38 Gritstone edges
Walk 39 Edale Horseshoe
Walk 40 Kinder Scout skyline
Appendix A Route summary table
Appendix B Useful information
Appendix C Aircraft crash site locations

Sample Route

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 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.

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.

Wellington’s Monument, Baslow Edge

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.

The Three Ships on Birchen Edge

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.

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.

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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