Split between the limestone crags of the White Peak and the wilder, higher moorland of the Dark Peak, the Peak District is breathtakingly beautiful any tine of the year and is temperate in summer so it’s not too hot too hike generally. With so much space to lose yourself in – and an endless number of trails to choose from – it can be difficult for walkers to know which parts of the area to head for if you’re looking for a weekend walk to blow off the cobwebs; here’s our guide to some of the best treks in the area, with something for everyone of all ages and abilities:
Best for: eye-opening geology
Distance: approx 8km, 4hrs
This spectacular White Peak trek leads past the crazed gritstone formations of The Roaches escarpment, one of the Peak District’s best-known natural features. It is an area with links to Arthurian myths – Sir Gawain and the Green Knight are said to have done battle in the high-sided chasm known as Lud’s Church, which you will pass through – and the exposed, rocky trail is also a good place for spotting peregrine falcons.
Best for: a gentle, quick blast of fresh air
Distance: approx 4 km, just under 1 hour, depending on enthusiasm
After eating all the food in the world over Christmas, not everyone feels keen on stomping up hillsides. The Sett Valley Trail, on the Manchester side of the Peak District, is a perfect alternative New Years day amble for the stuffed-stomach brigade and all ages. The 2.5 mile walk, between the towns of Hayfield and New Mills, was originally a stretch of the Hayfield to Manchester railway, closed down in 1970, which explains why it is an easy, level walk for those on little legs and older overfed wanderers alike. Starting from Hayfield, it is less than an hour’s walk to the beautiful deep river valley of the Torrs Riverside park in New Mills. Overexcitable types can split off at the village of Birch Vale and head up Lantern Pike peak, with its stunning view from the summit of the elevated plateau of Kinder Scout and the beginning of the Pennine Way (the somewhat more demanding walk from one end of Britain to the other). After waving their bloomers at the rest of their family below, the fit group can reconvene with the fatter one in The Bulls Head pub or The Packhorse, both in the pretty little village of Hayfield, for a good pint of cask ale and, who knows, maybe even some more food.
Best for: experienced walkers
Distance: approx 14km, 5hr
Kinder Scout will always be associated with the mass trespass of the thirties when a group of ramblers made a valiant stand for public access to open country. The protest ultimately worked, and today this circular walk – up the rocky steps of Jacob’s Ladder, across the elevated Kinder Plateau and down narrow Grindsbrook Clough – is one of the finest in the Peaks.
Best for: stunning views across a wide area
Distance: approx 14km, 5hr
Ascending to the summit of Eccles Pike rewards you with some of the best views in the Peak District. It’s a steep incline in parts but if you take it easy it’s fine. You can access Eccles Pike from Chapel-en-le-Frith (or Whaley Bridge if you wish) and a great way to do this walk if you’re coming from Buxton is to catch the train and walk through Chapel. It’s about a three mile walk from the train station/centre of Chapel-en-le-Frith. You follow the road down Long Lane from the station, crossing Manchester Road to Crossings Road and then turning left into Eccles Road and basically follow the road up until you see Eccles Pike on your right hand side where you can climb the style and reach the summit. The views are really quite staggering and at the summit you will find a topograph which shows all the sights you can see from the top.
Best for: first-timers
Distance: approx 8km, 2.5hr
This classic short-distance walk is deservedly popular, leading to the top of Mam Tor (the name means “Mother Hill”) before striking out on easy footpaths along an undulating ridge to Lose Hill. The visual rewards throughout the walk are superb, with deep panoramas of the Edale Valley. Mam Tor itself is topped by Bronze Age and Iron Age remains – so when you take in the view from its summit, you are the latest of many to do the same.
Best for: ridge-walking
Distance: approx 14.5 km, 5 hours
The Stanage Edge escarpment is legendary in rock-climbing circles, and it’s a fine place to walk, too, with various options for scrambling if you’re so inclined. Begin in the valley below at Hathersage before ascending to the lip of the ridge itself and walking along its length, cresting the 458m-tall High Neb as you do so. On a fine day, the views are some of the furthest-reaching in the region.
Best for: an easy ramble
Distance: up to 21km each way
If yomping up steep hillsides is not your thing, the beauty of the Tissington Trail is that it’s well surfaced and relatively flat throughout – much of the route occupies an old railway track. It is also popular with cyclists, and runs from Parsley Hay in the north to Ashbourne in the south, offering impressive views across the surrounding limestone countryside. Walk for as long as you feel like – great for either a long walk or a quick short one.
Best for: pretty waterfalls
Distance: 20.9 miles, 6 hours
From the town centre of Buxton, walk westerly towards the area of Burbage. At Burbage, cross onto Macclesfield Old Road and follow this road uphill until it becomes a track. Climb the track and just before reaching the highest point, turn due south, crossing open moorland over the top of Axe Edge Moor. Continue following path which swings south-west and on reaching Orchard Farm, walk along metalled road, following the stream into the pretty Three Shires Head and Panniers Pool. From Three Shires Head, climb path northwards to where it crosses the Congleton road. After crossing road, continue north-west and then north along path over open moorland towards the Cat & Fiddle Public House, England’s second highest. From the Cat & Fiddle, head east on road, take the first turning left a short distance from the pub and descend into the Goyt Valley. At the bottom of the hill is the Derbyshire Bridge (old county boundary) Ranger Centre. From here follow the obvious path east, climbing back up towards Buxton and your starting point.
For more information on walking in the Peak District, go to www.peakdistrict.gov.uk where you can find a number of further links and details on local walking groups and clubs as well an general useful information about the Peak District National Park.