Walk 77: Castleton Circular: To ‘the Edge’ & back…the Great Ridge

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 9.5 miles (14.9km)

Time to walk: Given the climbs this is roughly a 4.5 hour walk although, if the weather’s good & you want to take your time, it could take the best part of a day

Difficulty: Strenuous initial climb up Lose Hill & some steep descents. Generally though the ridge path is well constructed. There is some field walking which could prove muddy in wet weather. Take your time with the climb & have regular breaks to look back at the views which keep getting better & better

Parking: We parked at the tourist information car park in Castleton. It’s a pay & display, but luckily the machine was broken when we visited!

Public toilets: Toilets in the car park at the start & pubs & cafes in Hope, but then there’s nothing until arriving back at the start

Map of the route: None, but the path’s well marked

We’ll start by making a bold claim…on a fine day this is one of the best ridge walks you’ll ever do in England & on a par with some in the Lake District – there, we said it!

Note the comment “on a fine day”. To experience this walk at its best you have to do it in good weather to experience the spectacular views. You also don’t want high winds. The ridge isn’t narrow so you won’t get blown off it, but it could make the walk less enjoyable

Castleton is approximately two hours drive from The Shire so it’s easy to watch the weather forecast & say “tomorrow we’re off!” A word of warning though as on a fine summer’s weekend the ridge does get very busy. We were lucky to walk it in glorious October sunshine midweek & had most of it to ourselves

Right…we make no excuses for the photos of the views so…

Let’s Walk!

1. This walk starts in the lovely Derbyshire village of Castleton, quiet when we were there, but very busy in the summer months. We parked in the Pay & Display next to the excellent Tourist Information Centre

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Castleton is a village in the High Peak district of Derbyshire laying at the western end of the Hope Valley on the Peakshole Water, a tributary of the River Noe. The village is situated between the areas known as the Dark Peak to the north & the White Peak to the south. The village was mentioned as Pechesers in the Domesday Book where “Arnbiorn and Hundingr held the land of William Peverel’s castle in Castleton”.The village later prospered from lead mining

2. We bought a couple of local maps from the Office. The staff were superb, knowledgeable & very helpful. There’s weather forecasts & lots of advice here. Turn left into the main street & follow it through the village

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Look up the street to the right to spy Peverel Castle which we’d hoped to descend past today, but fate deemed us not to do so this time

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Peveril Castle, also known as Castleton Castle or Peak Castle is a ruined 11th century building. It was the main settlement of the feudal barony of William Peverel & was founded some time between the Norman Conquest of 1066 & its first recorded mention in the Domesday Survey of 1086

3. Carry on through the village. There’s plenty of watering holes along here including Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese which reminds us of our favourite pub in Fleet Street

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Opposite is a shop selling what this area is most famous for though..Blue John stones

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Blue John (also known as Derbyshire Spar) is a semi-precious mineral, a form of fluorite with bands of a purple blue or yellowish colour. In the UK it’s found only at Blue John Cavern & Treak Cliff Cavern in Castleton. During the 19th century, it was mined for its ornamental value, & mining still continues on a small scale

4. Walk round the bends & out of the village. Don’t forget to keep turning round as sometimes the best views are behind…

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Look for a signpost on the right showing a footpath to Hope down a walled lane

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This is already fabulous walking with great scenery all around

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The only thing that spoils it is the Hope Valley Cement Works which dominated the whole valley, although the higher you climb the less obvious it becomes

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5. The path follows one of several small rivers that flow through the valley. Continue through a gate into a grassy field, stop, & do a 360 degree turn – stunning surroundings (apart from the works)

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Pass over a couple more stiles & then & over the ‘wall steps’ – love these

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They're very friendly around here...

They’re very friendly around here…

6. Through the gaps in the trees on the left we keep getting views of the challenge that lies ahead, so take your time on this stretch as there’s more exertions to come!

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On this walk you never know what you’re going to come across next. In this case it’s the railway that serves the works, & as if on cue…

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7. Carefully cross the track & climb up the other side passing through another field & along the edge of some woods

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All the time across to the left the Great Ridge is calling us (& we can’t wait!)

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8. At the end of the track exit the gate & turn left down the lane towards the village of Hope…

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On the left, hidden amongst the undergrowth’s a circular walled structure which you could easily walk past without spotting. This is the Hope Pinfold which probably dates from medieval times & by the 16th century most villages would probably have had one. Unfortunately relatively few remain today with many having fallen into disrepair or been dismantled

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Pinfolds were originally built to hold animals which had been found straying from their owner’s land or grazing on the common without common rights. The animals were driven into the pinfold & kept there at the expense of the owner until a fine was paid. It was only on payment of a fine to the Pinder, who was an officer of the Lord of the Manor, that the animals were released

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Forcibly breaking into the pinfold to release the animals was an offence punishable by a fine &/or imprisonment. Sometimes, for a small fee, the Pinfolds would be used by drovers to pen their animals overnight whilst on route to the market

9. Walk up to the crossroads past St Peter’s Church &…welcome to Hope!

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Hope lies at the point where Peakshole Water flows into the River Noe. To the north, Win Hill & Lose Hill stand either side of the Noe. Traces of a Roman fort were found just to the east. The village is also known for its well dressing

If you fancy stocking up on grub for the walk then we can highly recommend the Hope Chest Deli which is a little treasure chest. They’ll make up excellent filled rolls etc for you & you’ll end up spending more than you wanted to!

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10. Walk up the alleyway alongside the Deli & climb the steps at the end. We’re now finally heading towards Lose Hill & the start of the Ridge & the way is well signposted

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The alley exits into a housing close, passing the Hope Clinic. There’s no chance of getting lost as it’s a straight line path

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11. Walk across the next road & now it’s finally grass under our feet…

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…& ahead of us we get a good view of our first challenge Lose Hill. Suggested explanations for the name of Lose Hill include that it derives from the Old English “hlose” meaning pigsties, or that it may be a corruption of “loose” as in ‘free land’. It doesn’t look much of a climb from here, but looks are deceiving!

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Across to the left we also get our first real view of the highest point we’ll reach today…Mam Tor

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12. Pass some very impressive raised beds & climb the stile onto a much narrower path that eventually emerges at a footbridge across the railway line we crossed earlier

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Now…if you’re walking this in a large group you’d better all split up…

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13. Cross the final road we’ll see for quite some time & walk through someone’s back yard. We always like doing this – nosy!

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Rejoin the narrow path as it now begins to climb, passing over a couple of stiles into an open grass field

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Lose Hill doesn’t look particularly steep from here, but don’t be deceived as you can’t actually see the top as it’s hidden behind. Cross the next stile & now climb higher & higher keeping the stone wall on your left

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And…as we climb, keep stopping to look back as this is spectacular English countryside

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14. At the end of the wall go through the gate & take the left path past the farmhouse. It’s at this stage that the climb begins to get steeper so take your time & have regular rests to enjoy the view – don’t forget we’ve still got a long way to go

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Cross the final stile & join the man-made stone path to the summit of Lose Hill. The steps actually make the climb easier

img_117715. And finally there it is…the summit point of Lose Hill, which means that the hardest part of this walk is done!

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There’s always one show off! Well she has four legs & isn’t carrying a bag & cameras! You can see the village of Hope where we’ve come from way down in the valley

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16. If the weather’s good sit around & enjoy the views. To the right now’s the beautiful Edale Valley. Edale is the name given both to the valley between Mam Tor, Lose Hill & Kinder Scout & to its main settlement. As well as the main village, there are several small farming hamlets strung out along the valley – Barber Booth, Ollerbrook Booth & Nether Booth

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Edale is also the start of the Pennine Way, England’s first & most famous long-distance footpath

17. Okay…ready for one of the best 2 mile stretches of walk in England? Well here we go & the good news is that you can see the path clearly laid out before you…

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It’s hard from photos to show just how stunning this path is & we dare you not to have a great big grin on your face!

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18. The path is quite undulating, but nothing too difficult & with all hill-walking there’s plenty of cairns. You can just make out the Cement Works in Hope Valley below

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It’s time for another short steep climb now to the top of Back Tor. The climb isn’t as hard from this direction as it is from the other, but take your time. At the top step out (if you dare) onto the slab overhanging Edale

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 We can best describe Back Tor as a ‘spectacular bump’ as the approach from this angle is gentle, but the other side ‘bites you on the bum’! After crossing the top the descent is quite steep, but take your time & it’s quite easy

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Looking back you can see the slope better & the drop from the slab!

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19. Pass through the gate & we now start our descent towards Hollins Cross before beginning the ascent to Mam Tour. Just look how  good this walk is…

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Look across to the left below the mass of Mam Tor to see the broken old road – when we walk this next time we’ll have a closer look & update this walk

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This section of the road was first constructed in 1819 by the Sheffield Turnpike Company using spoil from the nearby Odin Mine. It replaced a much earlier, ancient packhorse route, running through the Winnats Pass. Also known locally as “The New Road”, the new section was set at an easier gradient than the earlier Winnats Pass route & crossed the Mam Tor landslip

As a result of further movement, major road works were required in 1912, 1933, 1946, 1952 & 1966. On the last occasion, the road was closed for 6 weeks. In 1974 large parts of the Mam Tor section collapsed during a massive landslip. Additional road works were carried out regularly but wet years led to further landslips. Finally, the Mam Tor section of the road was abandoned in 1979 & thereafter, traffic was routed through the Winnats Pass to rejoin the A625 at Windy Knoll. Today it’s a magnet for mountain bikers

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20. Pass the small round marker of Hollins Cross, the lowest point on the ridge, It was also the traditional route from Castleton to Edale. Coffins from Edale were taken over Hollins Cross to Hope church until a church was constructed in Edale, leading to the nickname of the “coffin road” for this route. Hollins Cross is named for an actual cross which was raised here. This had disappeared by 1905

So this being the lowest point there’s only one way to the top of Mam Tor & that’s up!

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21. After Lose Hill though Mam Tor is a breeze as the path’s so good & the views from the top are simply amazing. It was also kind of someone to leave us a rose…

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Mam Tor stands 1,696 feet high. It’s name means “mother hill”, so called because frequent landslips on its eastern face have resulted in a multitude of ‘mini-hills’ beneath it. These landslips, which are caused by unstable lower layers of shale, also give the hill its alternative name of the Shivering Mountain

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We sat down just off the top out of the breeze for lunch overlooking Edale

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22. Lunch over it’s time to head back down to Castletown & there are a number of routes available. For a start though just carry straight in the direction we approached the summit, heading down to the road

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23. On reaching the road cross straight over past the remnants of old minings to the next road

Now you have several options – today we chose the wrong one! We were looking to cross straight over to join the Limestone Way & descend via Cavedale past Peveril Castle, but got horribly lost in a field of sheep that were clinging onto a drop down to the pass!

We’ll come back & update this next time we walk the route again, but fancy walking down the old road route. This time though with light fading we decided to walk back down the new road…

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Be careful but it is spectacular

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24. A bonus of walking down the road is we get to pass one of the area’s main attractions, the Speedwell Cavern

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The Speedwell Cavern consists of a horizontal lead miners’ adit (a level passageway driven horizontally into the hillside) leading to the cavern itself, a limestone cave. The adit is permanently flooded, resulting in Speedwell Cavern’s feature. After descending a long staircase, the visitor makes the journey into the cave by boat. Originally the guide propelled the boat by pushing against the walls with his hands, later the boat was legged through, but now it’s powered by an electric motor

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At the end of the adit, the visitor alights from the boat & walks into the cave to see the fluorspar veins, the stalactites & stalagmites & the “Bottomless Pit”. This pit is an extremely deep vertical shaft, the original depth estimated at around 490 feet

25. Continue down the road & straight on at the junction back into the village

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If you fancy a look at Peveril Castle the entrance’s on the right together with another to Peak Cavern, also affectionately known as The Devil’s Arse so called because of the flatulent sounding noises from inside the cave when flood water is draining away

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Unlike the other caves in the area, Peak Cavern is almost entirely natural, the only artificial part of the cave was blasted to bypass a low tunnel that was only accessible by lying down on a boat. The cave system is the largest in the Peak District & the main entrance is the largest cave entrance in Britain. Until 1915 the cave was home to some of Britain’s last troglodytes who lived in houses built inside the cave mouth & made a living from rope making, while the depths of the cave were known as a haven for bandits

So that’s it – what a stunner. If you’re going to do just one of our ‘Walks outside Northamptonshire’ then make it this one

The other thing that struck us about this walk was the friendliness of the other walkers we met on the ridge & the range of ages. Maybe it’s because we all just like walking, but more likely it’s because talking the ridge just leaves you with a great big smile on your face – it’s a happy place

Go Walk!