Mam Tor is an iconic peak in the Derbyshire Peak District, standing just outside the pretty village of Castleton. It lies on the border of the gritstone edges of the Dark Peak and the limestone plateaux of the White Peak. Its dramatic and distinctive skyline can be seen from almost all points throughout the area.
Mam Tor: The Mother Hill
Mam Tor, literally meaning Mother Hill, stands at 517 m high and towers over Castleton. Despite its imposing height, Mam Tor is a relatively easy hill to climb, however, especially from the National Trust car park at Mam Nick (S33 8WA, SK 12384), from where there is a well-paved path to the trig point at the summit.
The views from the top of Mam Tor are simply stunning, taking in the whole of the Hope Valley on one side and the whole of the Edale Valley to Kinder Scout and the Derwent Moors on the other.
Mam Tor is also referred to as the ‘Shivering Mountain’ because of its propensity for landslips caused by unstable lower levels of shale. In 1979 these regular slippages led the local council to abandon the upkeep of the A625 road that ran beneath Mam Tor, and the ‘Broken Road’ is now something of an attraction in its own right. In places the layers of tarmac and gravel are almost 2 metres thick, illustrating the amount of work invested in repairing the surface over the years.
The Great Ridge of Mam Tor
The Great Ridge passes through the area known as Hollins Cross, located at a junction of paths where the route from Mam Tor crosses the traditional route from Edale to Castleton. Coffins from Edale were once carried up and over the Great Ridge via Hollins Cross to Hope Church, before a church was built at Edale. This led to the route being known as ‘Coffin Road’. Hollins Cross is named after a cross that once stood at the junction, although this is no longer in place.
Mam Tor’s Ancient Village
Mam Tor is a place of ancient civilisation, with evidence of occupation from around 1200 BC. The summit is surrounded by two well-preserved ancient hill forts, one dating from the late Bronze Age and the other from the early Iron Age. This makes Mam Tor the site of one of the earliest hill forts in Britain and also one of the largest, covering an area of around 16 acres.
There are also two Bronze Age burial barrows on Mam Tor which have survived well. Significant archaeological remains have been found on excavation of the barrows, including human bones, prehistoric pottery and a bronze flat axe.
There is also evidence that more than a hundred timber round houses were constructed on the hillside close to the summit of Mam Tor, built on flat level platforms, creating an Iron Age village. Excavations of the site have revealed internal hearths, stake holes and storage pits in the huts, as well as fragments of whetstones, shale bracelets and pot shards. The remains of the hut platforms can still be seen cut into the west- and east-facing slopes.
Mam Tor is likely to have remained occupied until around 400 BC, after which it was used for grazing livestock, which is still its primary use today. The ancient constructions are classified as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and the whole of Mam Tor is now owned and managed by the National Trust.