Around the ragged rocks of Dark Peak

Walk of the Month: Take a walk around the weird stone outcrops of the Peak District, says Mark Rowe. The views are great – if you’re lucky enough to visit on a clear day

Derwent Edge is popular with hikers of all ages and inclinations, and the reasons are obvious enough. In addition to some of the best views – on a clear day – that can be found in the Peak District, Derwent Edge is also the showcase for the region to flaunt its collection of wizened stone outcrops.

This is the Dark Peak, pitted with surreally shaped and strikingly named boulders, such as the Salt Cellar, Back Tor, the Cakes of Bread, and Wheel Stones, all formed by erosion of the strata of these sedimentary rocks.

Derwent Edge is the most northerly of the gritstone escarpments that flank the national park, yet despite its bleak appearance the influence of man is clear: in the land managed for red grouse shoots, and in the reservoirs far below that hide drowned villages.

This walk combines both elements. There is a rugged climb and some phenomenally boggy land to negotiate, but the effort is more than repaid. May is also a good month to visit because it features a change of shift in much of the wildlife and flora that can be found hereabouts.

The walk starts from the car park at Fairholmes by the Ladybower Reservoir. Follow the path north to pick up a track that passes in front of the dam wall and then, after the road bends to the right, bear left along a path up through the conifers to reach a gate by the east tower of the dam. Here, keep straight ahead along the road by the water's edge for about 1,200m by Hancock Wood, a mixture of pine, larch, beech and oak and home to several pairs of crossbills. You then reach a footpath signed for Bradfield and Strines, up Walkers Clough.

Follow the path as it meanders up the side of the flank of the hill, occasionally following yellow waymarkers past bilberry and heather and broken stone walls. You'll probably startle too many red grouse to count: the birds are managed for shooting but they are also crucial to how this part of the Peak District looks, nesting around the heather plants.

As the path finally levels off you come to a crossroads, where you keep ahead, again following the signpost for Strines. As you come to another broken wall, the path bears right and you make for a signpost and gate in the distance. Here, you keep ahead, once more following signs for Strines. Ignore a path coming in from the right, and bear left on the main track when a path branches off to the right.

The path then turns sharp right by the grouse butts to climb up a stepped and paved path through shoots of heather to Lost Lad Hillend, and a couple of hundred metres later, the cairn that marks Lost Lad. The mournful name recalls a shepherd boy who is said to have died here from exposure, but not before he had scrawled "lost lad" into the stone.

From here the path dips and climbs up to Back Tor, the first of the strangely shaped rock formations on Derwent Edge. In fine weather, there are few better views; when I made it here, visibility was down to 10 metres. This was no less atmospheric, with the unworldly boulders looming out of the mist and, thanks to the paved path, no need even for a compass. The occasional raven, kestrel, or peregrine falcon adds a thrilling dimension to the experience.

The path is clear, drilling along Derwent Edge for around two miles (3.5km), punctuated by rock formations. Down to the west are deep cloughs full of silver birch and upland oak. Also look out for mountain hare here. The Peak District is the most southerly location, and the only place in England, inhabited by mountain hares and they can often be spotted among the heather on the west flank of the hill that drops away from Dovestone Tor. Between Salt Cellar and White Tor you may see the first cotton grass of the season, thriving on the peaty flanks of Derwent Edge.

Finally, after passing Wheel Stones, the path continues to a junction and a signpost for Moscar and Derwent. Keep ahead and later gently descend to a junction of several paths. You need to take the second path on the right, down a steep, stony and rough trail. This then sweeps to the left to follow a drystone wall, and passes through forest and boggy ground to a gate. Here, turn right down the path and through another gate past a mill and bear left to the A57. Turn right and cross Ladybower Reservoir viaduct and then turn right, now following the road up the west side of the reservoir.

Keep on this road, or the waterside paths, for two miles to return to Fairholmes car park, and look out for buzzards above the woodlands of Hagg Side. Just before you reach the car park, you'll pass the remains of Fairholmes Farm, which survived here for 500 years before being demolished in 1945 to make way for the reservoir.

Compact facts

Distance: 10 miles

Time: 4-5 hours

OS Map: OL 1 G The Peak District Dark Peak Area

Mark Rowe stayed at the Yorkshire Bridge Inn, Bamford (01433 651361; yorkshire-bridge.co.uk), which offers double rooms from £90 per night, including breakfast.

How to get there

Cross Country Trains (crosscountry trains.co.uk) runs regular services to Chesterfield and Sheffield, from where bus and train services link to Bamford, Yorkshire Bridge, and Fairholmes.

Further information

For more details about the area, go to visitpeakdistrict.com.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
News
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
news
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Lars Ulrich of Metallica performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people
Arts and Entertainment
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform