When searching for inspiration for weekend hikes, I frequently use the National Trust website. More than just country manors (although it is as easy to get lost in one of those houses as it is outdoors, am I right?) the National Trust website offers loads of walking route ideas ranging in length and ability, and are particularly good for those with little hikers to entertain!
Recently I completed one of the National Trust’s more challenging hikes, created in association with Cotswold Outdoor. Located in the Peak District and covering some of the national park’s biggest highlights, adept hikers can enjoy dramatic ridge walks, some light scrambling, and of course fun times clambering over some of the Peak District’s famous quirky rock formations!
Day one of the walk starts in Edale, at the beginning of the Pennine Way. There are lots of choices for self-catering accommodation in Edale, but we chose to stay at the YHA Edale, located approximately two miles from the starting point. With large kitchen facilities and a games room, plus the offer of a hot breakfast and packed lunch in the morning, it is a good option for economical (and forgetful) hikers!
(Top tip: take a look at some of the YHA’s properties in the Peak District. Many of them are former manor houses, and the easiest way to feel like a princess for only a few pounds.)
The route follows peaceful farm fields that were filled to bursting with wildflowers, as well as curious locals (aka sheep). Soon after though, the trail turns steep really quickly, and we caught our breath, as well as this beautiful view, from the rather appropriately named Jacob’s Ladder.
Eventually we reached Noe Stool. Here everyone tests their climbing prowess (not to mention fear of heights) by climbing onto the top of these rocks. On windy days it can feel as if you’re going to take off into the skies!
Only a short distance away is the first peak of the route, Kinder Low. Here lies more weird and wonderful rock formations, including this one of a giant penis that I couldn’t resist summiting!
From there the path follows the top of the ridge, where views of Hope Valley and all the heather in bloom open below. Also, the rock formations get better and better the farther along you walk.
This boulder might look like fun, but BEWARE! Trying to slide down it will only result in you getting stuck – I learnt this from experience, much to the delight of passing hikers.
Getting down from the ridge is surprisingly the hardest part, and also one of the most beautiful sections of the route. Just to the right of Grindsbrook Clough is a very, very steep path following Grindsbrook. Prepare for some potential scrambling, as the large rocks can feel a little unstable underfoot, particularly if you are of the short-legged variety like me.
Make sure to take frequent breaks, not only to rest and recharge yourself, but also to admire the view of the verdant green valley mixed with the purple haze of heather, and the sound of the tumbling water below.
At the bottom of the brook, the trail finishes at the Old Nag’s Head Pub, near where the Pennine Way starts. This means you’re on the home stretch of Day One of the route – if by home stretch you don’t mind including summiting another ridge.
The route then follows a footpath past the old mill in Edale, through farmland, and through to Hollins Cross. This is the lowest point on the ridge, and back in Ye Olden Days was a “coffin road” between Edale and Castleton. As Castleton had a church prior to Edale, villagers from Edale would carry the coffins of their loved ones over the ridge to be buried at the church in Castleton. Today the area is a popular spot for hikers, given its close proximity to Mam Tor, Lose Hill and the villages of Hope Valley!
After reaching Hollins Cross, the route continues southeast and through the backroads of Castleton. This picture-perfect village features little streams meandering throughout the streets, and old-fashioned sweet shops and historic pubs dotting the way.
After a long day of hiking, we decided to rest our feet up at the YHA Castleton. Located in the old Losehill Hall manor house, it’s winding halls and rooms are the perfect place to explore after a day of exploring the outdoors. Turns out Doctor Who is a fan of the place too?
Thunder and the patter of rain greeted us on the second day of the weekend hike, but with a hike through the breathtaking Winnat’s Pass awaiting us, we huddled under our waterproofs and headed outside for Day Two of the trek.
Winnat’s Pass is one of the most distinctive sights of the Peak District, and while the rain might have dampened everything else on us (and around us), it didn’t dampen our excitement of walking through this gorge. Eventually the path meandered through a small pass with the apt name of Windy Knoll, and we clambered up the stairs and onto the ridge that connects Mam Tor to Hollins Cross and Lose Hill. Here we saw a few other hardy hikers braving the wind, and even some grizzled trail runners that somehow seemed to float along the ridge (I’m still trying to figure out how they managed to run so fast against the weather!).
After slowly clambering our way up a rocky path (and narrowly missing a giant toad in the process) we reached the top of Lose Hill…or rather Back Tor. Luckily the wind carried away our f-ing and swearing, along with the fog that had hidden Lose Hill from view until then. With the summit less than a kilometre away, we persevered, and were so excited to reach the top we did a little victory dance on the summit.
The rest of the path from Lose Hill was all downhill from there, and with the promise of tea and cake there was no time to ‘lose’!
The promise in question was the Adventure Cafe, an inviting and charming cafe that is the perfect haven for soaking wet hikers, bikers, climbers….and even those that just fancy a coffee and a chatter. With weekly organised bike rides for customers, updated weather reports and bicycle lock stands, they are ideal for stopping off for a reviving bite to eat. Despite dripping from head to toe they ushered us in and we gradually revived ourselves with pots filled with tea and several plates of chocolate tray bakes and of course, a Bakewell tart – I mean, have you really been to the Peak District if you didn’t have one while you visited?