The most spectacular walks in the Peak District, from Mam Tor to Chatsworth House

The yawning valleys of the Peak District are ripe for rambling. Here are the best walks around the UK's first national park

Lizzie Pook
Monday 11 May 2020 11:27 BST

On Sunday 10 May prime minister Boris Johnson eased some lockdown restrictions in an address to the nation - this included removing the once-per-day limit on exercise and saying people could now travel to other destinations to do so.

So why not make the most of the new freedom and plan a scenic walk?

The beautiful Peak District is replete with screensaver scenery, from limestone gorges and sprawling wildflower grasslands, to thundering river valleys and ancient broadleaf woodland.

Fortuitously, this exceptionally pretty part of the planet can be easily explored on foot. Here are the best routes to take.

The Roaches and Lud's Church

Length: 5 miles

Twilight skies over The Roaches, Peak District (iStock)

The battered gritstone formations of The Roaches are awash with Arthurian legends. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight are said to have done battle here, their swords ricocheting off the rock face of Lud’s Church (not actually a church, more of a deep chasm in the bedrock caused by a huge landslip). An eerie five-mile walk through the gnarled stone will leave the skin tingling, and also puts you in with a good shot of spotting the peregrine falcons that swoop around the stones.

The Chatsworth Estate circuit

Length: 4.5 miles

There is over 500 years of history to explore at Chatsworth House (Getty Images)

This much-loved estate is rich with royal history. The Elizabethan Hunting tower offers superb views over the house and gardens while Queen Mary’s Bower – where Mary Queen of Scots kicked back during her imprisonment – is a must visit. For the best vantage spots, follow the walking track towards Beeley Church and climb the steep footpath to Beeley Hilltop. Cross the Moor to find the woodland track above Chatsworth for lakeside views to the left and right and stay close to the house on the return stretch to try and peek in through the windows at the famous collection of Old Master drawings and neoclassical sculptures.

Hartington to Pilsbury Castle

Length: 7.5 miles

Long Dale road leading to Hartington (iStock)

This seven-and-a-half-mile circular walk is perfect for those who like crumbling castles and particularly strong cheese. It also has the benefit of winding through some of the most picturesque scenery in the UK. Starting in the quaint Derbyshire village of Hartington (where teeny cheese shops serve up Hartington Stilton, Peakland Cranberry and Orange and the nostril-torching Peakland Blue) it then meanders towards Pilsbury Castle, which is inaccessible by road and therefore wonderfully quiet. Built by the Normans in 110AD, the motte and bailey castle – overlooking the gurgling River Dove – is considered one of the finest in the country.

Mam Tor

Length: 3 miles

The Peak District stretches across five counties (iStock)

Mam Tor is directly translated as ‘mother hill’, but its other moniker, Shivering Mountain, is far more apt. Reach the summit and clap eyes on that view (on a clear day you can see as far as Manchester) and you’ll be shivering for sure. At 517 metres high, the mountain is the main link between the eastern end of Rushup Edge and the western end of the Great Ridge.

If you approach from nearby Edale, you’ll find yourself at the start of the Pennine Way, a steep but satisfying climb that demands a celebratory ale at one of the nearby pubs once you’ve made it back down again.

Ilam to Dovedale

Length: 1.5 miles

The mountain wilderness of Dovedale (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

This one-and-a-half-mile walk is bitesize yet beautiful, moseying from the stately grounds of Ilam Hall to Dovedale, through the craggy limestone of the District’s White Peak section. With sweeping views across the Manifold Valley it ends at the River Dove, which marks the boundary between Staffordshire and Derbyshire. Keep your eyes peeled for the wildlife that calls the river home, such as kingfisher, heron and trout.

Hathersage to Stanage Edge

Length: 9 miles

Charlotte Bronte is also thought to have been inspired by the peaks of Hathersage (iStock)

The road to Stanage Edge is speckled with old abandoned grindstones, remnants from the mills that flourished here in the 19th century. This nine-mile walk takes you into the heart of Jane Eyre country. Starting in the village of Hathersage then onto the cliffs of Stanage Edge, you’ll skirt by North Lees Hall, the 16th century manor that is believed to have formed the inspiration for Mr Rochester’s home. There are more literary associations to be found at Stanage Edge; the gritstone escarpment – with views across the Derwent and Hope Valleys – is where a windswept Keira Knightley stands in the film adaptation of Pride & Prejudice.

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