Our favourite walks in the Peak District

Posted by Clare Willcocks on 4th August 2020

Encompassing 555 square miles of awe-inspiring landscapes which span areas of Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire, Yorkshire and even Greater Manchester, the Peak District offers incredible walks whichever way you turn.

To the north, the rugged Dark Peak sprawls out in a tangle of heather, black granite outcrops and bogs of sphagnum and black peat. The wilderness is its allure, with stunning gritstone escarpments offering the perfect vantage points to admire the largely uninhabited moorland. White Peak, in contrast, is where the landscape mellows to the south, draped with lush green valleys and dotted with limestone caves and welcoming towns and villages.

In the space of your Peak District holiday, you can get to know both sides of the national park. We’ve put together a list of our top walks in the Peak District, so put your best foot forward and discover this beautiful part of the country for yourself.

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Long walks

Kinder Scout Walk

Start/end: Old Nag’s Head, Edale

Distance: 9 miles

Average time: 4 – 5 hours

Pub lunch: The Old Nag’s Head

Stay nearby: Top Tack, Chapel-en-le-Frith (2.9mls E) | Sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

This epic circular route takes you through some of the most challenging terrain in the Peak District, rewarding your efforts and endurance with unforgettable views and some natural wonders to boot. Kinder Scout is the national park’s highest peak and boasts a plethora of noteworthy sights, including the spectacular Kinder Downfall waterfall, the endearingly named Mermaid’s Pool and the intriguing rock formations of Pym’s Chair.

The route serves up a challenge from the beginning: the climb to the top of Kinder Plateau. There are two options, neither of them a walk in the park! Choose from a steep climb through the gritstone landscape of Grindsbrook Clough, or a leg work-out up the stepped Jacob’s Ladder path. Strike out, then, across the compelling landscape of the plateau, with its moonscape of peat groughs, streams and tarns, drinking in the panoramic views across the Kinder Reservoir, Hayfield and Glossop.


Hathersage to Stanage Edge

Start/end: Hathersage car park

Distance: 9 miles

Average time: 5 hours

Pub lunch: Bank House Hathersage

Stay nearby: The Room For All Seasons, Hathersage (3mls W) | Sleeps 2 + 2 dogs

Breathtaking views abound on this stunning 9-mile walk from the village of Hathersage along the striking cliffs of Stanage Edge. Let your eyes linger on the open countryside which encompasses the Derwent and Hope Valleys within its folds and offers inspiring perspectives on Mam Tor and Kinder Scout. While you’re up there, muster your best Keira Knightley impression to re-enact the moment she stands atop these very rocks in the film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Another literary point of interest en route is North Lees Hall, a 16th-century manor which is thought to have inspired Mr Rochester’s home in Jane Eyre.

Keep your eyes peeled for the millstones peppered across the landscape – vestiges of one of the area’s ancient industries. Dropping back down into Hathersage at the end of the walk, you can reward your efforts with a hearty meal in one of the village eateries.


Medium walks

Bakewell – Edensor – Chatsworth

Start/end: Centre of Bakewell

Distance: 6 or 8 miles

Average time: 2 – 4 hours (with additional time for house visit)

Refreshments: Edensor Tea Cottage, Chatsworth House, Chatsworth Garden Centre

Stay nearby: Sugar Cottage, Bakewell | Sleeps 4

Elegant Chatsworth House is a sight for sore eyes as you catch glimpses of its honey-coloured magnificence throughout this pleasant walk. Starting in the centre of Bakewell, the trail meanders through leafy woodland and the attractive grounds of Chatsworth Park to the picture-postcard village of Edensor.

The midpoint of the circular trail offers the opportunity to visit Chatsworth House itself, whose opulent interior and admirable art collection is a pleasant distraction before the walk back to Bakewell. Depending on how long you’ve spent perusing the treasures of Chatsworth, you may wish to choose the short route back, or head off along the River Derwent to add an extra couple of scenic miles.


Castleton – Mam Tor – The Great Ridge

Start/end: Castleton car park

Distance: 6.5 or 8 miles

Average time: 4 – 5 hours (for 8-mile walk)

Pub lunch: Cheshire Cheese Inn (one of our Top Pubs in the Peak District!)

Stay nearby: Cave End Cottage, Castleton | Sleeps 3

This is one of the best walks in the Peak District if you enjoy ridge rambles with magnificent views (how could you not!). In fact, we’ll go as far as to say it’s one of the best ridge walks in the whole country, offering an unparalleled perspective on the patchwork fields and natural landscapes of Edale, Hope Valley and, if you’re lucky, the edge of Kinder Scout.

An added attraction on this bucket-list Peak District walk is the showcaves which you pass en route. Factor in time to explore Treak Cliff and Blue John Cavern to take in the magical underground worlds of stalactites and stalagmites.

As for the route, it traces its way up from Castleton to the top of Mam Tor, also known as the Shivering Mountain due to the landslips caused by unstable layers of shale. Keep to the trail though, and you’ll soon be enjoying the uninterrupted views from the top, snapped by many a landscape photographer. More inspiring views await along the ridge at Back Tor and Lose Hill Pike before your descent back down into Castleton. At this point, if you’re feeling really energetic, you can extend the walk to 8 miles to amble along the riverside on the return journey.


Dovedale – Milldale

Start/end: Dovedale car park

Distance: 6.5 miles

Average time: 3 hours

Pub lunch: Coach & Horses (Fenny Bently)

Stay nearby: Church Gates Cottage, Parwich | Sleeps 2 + 1 dog

This is one of the most popular Peak District walks, featuring one of the most iconic scenes from the national park – the Dovedale stepping stones. The route can get busy in the summer, but along its picturesque 3 miles, you’re sure to find some peaceful spots for contemplation. It skirts along the banks of the River Dove, through the pretty valley, taking in the stepping stones which you can cross if the river is low enough, adding in a detour to climb up the pointy peak of Thorpe Cloud to appreciate the views from the top.

Back on track towards Milldale, you’ll follow the river, passing through ash woodlands, and end up in the quaint village of Milldale before turning back and retracing your steps to Dovedale.


Wetton – Thor’s Cave – Manifold Valley

Start/end: Car park in Wetton

Distance: 5.7 miles

Average time: 3 hours

Pub lunch: The Royal Oak, Wetton

Stay nearby: Hillsdale Lodge, Grindon | Sleeps 4 + 3 dogs

This fascinating circular trail has made it onto our list of the best walks in the Peak District for the diversity of landscapes and sites you encounter en route. Beginning in the unassuming little village of Wetton, it heads off into the Manifold valley, where the subterranean River Manifold runs its merry course, disappearing underground at Wetton Mill to emerge again at Ilam. The gaping limestone mouth of Thor’s Cave greets you about a mile after leaving Wetton, then the path continues along the Manifold Trail. The rest of the walk takes in a plethora of interesting sights, including Grindon Church, Wetton Mill and a narrow valley between Sugarloaf and Wetton Hill before heading back to your starting point in the village.

The National Trust Tea Rooms in Wetton Mill make the perfect stop halfway round, and back in Wetton, The Royal Oak Inn (home to the annual Toe Wrestling Championships…) will welcome you with homemade fayre and thirst-quenching real ales.


Short walks

Heights of Abraham to Matlock

Start: Peak District Mining Museum, Matlock Bath

End: Matlock Tourist Information Centre

Distance: 1.6 miles

Average time: 1 hour (one way without stops)

Pub lunch: The Remarkable Hare

Stay nearby: Millside Cottage, Matlock | Sleeps 6 + 1

A pleasant, linear walk with a steep uphill section thrown in for good measure, this is a good way to stretch your legs while taking in one of the Peak District’s top visitor attractions, the Heights of Abraham. You’ll come to it just as you head uphill out of the village of Matlock Bath, and can spend a good while here, visiting the caves, perusing the museums, admiring the stunning views and letting little ones burn off some steam on the play areas.

Make sure they save some energy for the rest of the walk though, as from here it continues through the woods, passing St John’s Chapel and on through open countryside before descending through fields into Matlock and the promise of an energy-boosting pub lunch! If you don’t fancy the return journey, there are frequent bus and train services to take you back to Matlock Bath.


Mam Tor family-friendly route

Start/end: National Trust Mam Nick car park

Distance: 2.8 miles

Average time: 1 – 2 hours

Pub lunch: The George (Castleton)

Stay nearby: Bobbin Cottage, Hope | Sleeps 4

If you have little ones with you, or simply don’t want to take on the full Mam Tor and Great Ridge walk outlined above, an ideal variation is the family-friendly trail which kicks off from the Mam Tor National Trust car park.

Beginning with a stepped path through woodland, you’ll soon be presented with the same awe-inspiring views as you would have done had you chosen the more strenuous option! On sunny days, paragliders provide a perfect distraction for children, and the flagstone footpath along the ridge makes for easy walking before curving round via the entrance to Blue John Cavern on your route back to the car park.


Padley Gorge

Start/end: Roadside parking opposite National Trust Granby Discovery Centre

Distance: 2 miles

Average time: 2 hours (with little ones)

Refreshment: Grindleford Station Cafe

Stay nearby: West View, Eyam | Sleeps 4

This trail will delight children and adults alike: a peaceful foray through fairy-tale woodland, studded with twisted ancient trees and with the babbling of a shallow stream providing nature’s soundtrack. There are many opportunities to pull off shoes and socks for a paddle, and numerous spots to crack out the picnic and enjoy the peace of the woods.

Use your imagination along the way and you’ll discover a natural play area, where flat rocks in the stream become stepping stones, a rope swing takes you back to your own childhood, and gates and squeeze stiles provide an obstacle course. Make sure you have a few coins in your pocket to pop in the magic money tree but save some for an ice cream from the van at the end!


Planning a Peak District holiday?

Whether you’re looking to challenge yourself with long hikes uphill and down dale, or cherry pick the shorter walks so you can fit in as much sightseeing as possible, you’ll need somewhere comfortable to rest your head. Our wonderful collection of Peak District holiday cottages are set in some of the most desirable destinations within the national park, offering the perfect base for your outdoor adventures. Pop the kettle on, have a browse of our Peak District cottages and be inspired!

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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.