Peak District Walks by John Merrill (1976)
Decisions! Decisions! Which walk should I choose? I found it difficult to decide between one which started from the National Trust’s Longshaw Estate and another which began in Castleton. The variety offered by the Mam Tor walk won the day and we set off bright and early last Saturday for the 14 mile drive to Castleton. This was to be a totally different walk from the day before – no literary connections. But then we parked up and there, towering above us, was Peveril Castle. Of course, ‘Peveril of the Peak‘ by Sir Walter Scott.
Leaving Castleton Car Park
Peveril Castle, Castleton
The walk description is of “A short mountain walk, with nothing very strenuous apart from a gentle climb to the summit of Mam Tor from where you have an unrivalled view down the Hope Valley.”
Route : Castleton – Hollins Cross – Mam Tor – Windy Knoll Cave – Winnats Pass – Speedwell Cavern – Castleton
Distance : 4 miles (6.4 kilometres)
Terrain : Single track roads and well defined footpaths. Gentle ascent and descent
Map : 2 1/2 ” O.S. sheet SK 18
Car Park : Castleton Public Car Park on the RH side of the main road through the village (A625)
There’s a very gradual incline for the first mile as you leave Castleton behind. Finally the lane ends at the Liggate and a gate allows you to pass through to a walled path where the serious ascent begins.
We took it steadily and the climb finally ended at Hollins Cross a kind of footpath crossroads where the track from Edale joins the path from Castleton and they cross over the ridge path linking Mam Tor with the peak of Losehill.
We were amazed just how many people and dogs and bikes were up there. We had to wait at gates and side step people all the way to Mam Tor summit and down again.
Summit of Mam Tor
View over Edale and the Kinder Plateau from Mam Tor
After taking in the 360 degree views we made our way down (against the crowds) via the single rampart ditch, seven feet deep, of an Iron Age Fort. Several archaeological digs have uncovered stone axes, bracelet parts and fragments of pottery.
We crossed the Chapel-en-le-Frith road and headed to Windy Knoll Cave. Excavations here in 1875 revealed a huge amount of prehistoric animal remains including 500 teeth from bison, grizzly bears, reindeer, sabre tooth tigers and wolves.
Looking back up Mam Tor
A few fields away was the steep sided Winnats Pass which descends to Castleton passing the famous Speedwell Cavern on its way. A lot of the time we had to walk on the road although it was quite busy with traffic. Just after the cavern we took a right turn and left the road to follow a diversion back to our starting point. These days we noticed that a new path has been established parallel to the road. Obviously this didn’t exist when our book was published but it was interesting how very little of the route had changed over the decades. The main difference is that many stiles have these days been replaced by gates.
Castleton comes back into view after Winnats Pass
What a great walk. With the views and the variety and the history it seemed much further than the four miles designated in my little 1970s Dalesman Mini Book.
To add icing to the cake we’d finished by 12.30 and decided to add a visit to the National Trust’s Longshaw Estate just beyond Hathersage. We ate our lunch outside enjoying the views and took a walk past Longshaw Pond, downhill through Granby Wood, named after The Marquis of Granby, the Duke of Rutland’s son, replanted with Scots pine in 1990. We stopped at the information barn to learn about the history and wildlife of the estate then retraced our footsteps back to the Lodge and took the higher path to The Duke’s Seat for yet another superb view.