Distance: 7.5 miles
Time: 5-6 hours
Terrain: Hill trails, grassy footpaths, country lanes
Accessibility: Challenging, steep ascents, stiles, uneven terrain on hill trails
Start and end grid reference: SK 12312
There’s no question that this circular walk is challenging in places, but it shows off some of the most spectacular views in the Peak District and definitely repays the effort. For a true countryside day out that gives you a real taste of this part of the world, it’s hard to beat.
You follow the Pennine Way out of the pretty village of Edale, with stunning views all across the Edale Valley to Mam Tor, and then follow farm trails to the lovely hamlet of Upper Booth. From Upper Booth you climb up on to Rushup Edge and along the ridge to the summit of Mam Tor, all the time with the most amazing views to both sides of you, of the Hope Valley in one direction and back across the Edale Valley in the other. From Mam Tor you walk along the iconic Great Ridge to Hollins Cross, and then down on hill trails and country lanes back to Edale.
The walk starts and ends at Edale train station (S33 7ZP, SK 12312) so it’s easily accessible by public transport.
This is a walk of just over 8 miles. The terrain is rocky and very uneven in places, and there are a few steep ascents. There are stiles, squeeze stiles and narrow footbridges. There are two wonderful pubs and two great cafés in Edale at the start or end of the walk, but no other refreshment stops on the way, unless you’re lucky enough to catch the local Hope Valley ice creams for sale when you reach Upper Booth Farm. There are public toilets opposite the train station in Edale. Allow 5-6 hours to complete this walk at a moderate pace, allowing for rest stops to take in the views.
1. Walking out of Edale train station through the car park, turn left to walk down the lane that leads past the Penny Pot Café, perfect for tea and cake to set you up for the day. Just past the café turn left again to walk into Edale village. You will soon pass the Rambler Inn on your left, which serves good pub food and real ales and has a great pub garden. It is dog- and child-friendly. Continuing on, you will walk past the Moorland Visitor Information Centre which is on your right. This is a useful information centre and has a small gift shop.
2. Continuing on the same road into Edale, you will pass the pretty church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity on your left, and then a further café, Coopers Café. Finally, before leaving the village behind, the Old Nag’s Head pub will appear in front of you to the right. This is another fabulous country pub, friendly for children, dogs and muddy boots.
3. As you draw level with the Old Nag’s Head pub, turn left to walk between two stone walls at the very start of the Pennine Way, also signposted for Upper Booth. The Pennine Way is one of Britain’s best known long distance footpaths, stretching for 268 miles from Edale to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders. Fortunately we’re only doing a very small section of it today!
4. Follow the path gently up as it passes beneath trees with a small stream running to the right. At the top of the path, go through a gate and then bear left through another gate into open moorland, still following the Pennine Way. The path is partly paved across the fields and very easy to follow. It passes through a succession of small gates. To your left the Edale Valley stretches out impressively, with (L-R) Lose Hill, Back Tor, the Great Ridge, Mam Tor and Rushup Edge towering above the valley floor. To your right you can see the beginnings of the vast slopes of Kinder Scout.
5. Keep following the path onwards. Where you reach a fork in the path, take the left hand track and follow as it descends gently down. You will pass through a series of further gates and eventually track alongside a stone wall on your left before reaching a farm, Upper Booth Farm. If you’re lucky they might be open for sales of local ice creams when you reach them.
6. Walk through the farmyard and emerge on to the quiet lane, with a red telephone box in front of you. Cross over the lane and the route continues straight on, walking to the right of the telephone box and along a narrow path into woodland. After a short while the route crosses a little brook, actually the River Noe, by way of a narrow footbridge. After the footbridge the path bears left and quite steeply up.
7. Emerging once more into open fields, follow the footpath signposted for Chapel Gate and Rushup via Dalehead. This path is well marked for Dalehead and goes straight on across the fields, over a stone stile and through a cluster of farm buildings, some disused. Again, the views along the Edale Valley to the left are magnificent.
8. Leaving the last of the farm buildings behind, the path continues with a stone wall to the left, which gradually gives way to a fence. As the fence curves off to the left, note that you should turn right and slightly uphill to follow the path. The path goes over the top of the railway line here and you can see a stone building housing a vent.
9. Continuing on, the path bears left and crosses another stream by way of a footbridge, coming out by the National Trust’s Dalehead Bunk House. Turn right on the lane, signposted to Whitemoor Clough, to walk in front of the Bunk House, and then turn left over a stile before a wide gate and cattle grid, immediately after the end of the building. The path crosses fields and goes over a stile beside a small area of woodland. It then heads up quite steeply to Rushup Edge, the ridge you can see above you.
10. When you reach the ridge, the hill path is joined by the Chapel Gate Track. Continue straight on, now following the broad track, signposted to Chapel en le Frith. Continue on this same track, ignoring a paved path off to the right. You will shortly reach a further T-junction of paths, at which you should follow the track as it bears left and runs alongside a stone wall on the right. You are now on Rushup Edge.
11. As you walk along the ridge, look out for a fenced tumulus close to Lord’s Seat on your left. Lord’s Seat is the highest point on Rushup Edge, at 550m. The tumulus is a roughly circular bowl barrow standing 15m high, a funerary mound dating from the Bronze Age. It has never been excavated and is believed to contain rare intact archaeological remains.
12. Continuing on, you will soon see the vast sweep of the Edale Valley, through which you walked earlier, to your left, and the Hope Valley stretching out to your right. Ahead, you will see the path snaking up Mam Tor to the summit trig point. As you near Mam Tor you will reach a fork in the path. You can take either route, but we recommend taking the lower track to the right, which has more even terrain. Go through a gate at the bottom of the track and cross the road carefully to begin your ascent up Mam Tor.
13. Go through the gate at the bottom of the path up to Mam Tor, and follow the well-laid path as it turns right and heads up a series of steps to the trig point at the top. Mam Tor literally means Mother Hill. Standing at 517m high, it is the site of a late Bronze Age hill fort, one of the earliest in Britain and also one of the largest, covering an area of around 16 acres. It’s also the site of an Iron Age village, when more than a hundred timber round houses were built on flat level platforms on the hillside. These days Mam Tor is a very popular visitor spot so you may have to queue to take a photograph at the trig point, but you’ll find that the hordes disappear quite quickly as you continue on the walk.
14. To continue, carry on along the same well-laid path, leaving the trig point behind you. You are now on the Great Ridge, with wonderful views on both sides. To your right you can see down on to the curving ‘Broken Road’, once the A625, which was closed in 1979 when its upkeep became too costly because of the regular landslips from Mam Tor.
15. Walk through a couple of gates until you reach a squat, round stone marker at a crossroads of paths. This is known as Hollins Cross. Coffins from Edale were once carried up and over the Great Ridge via Hollins Cross to Hope Church, before the church at Edale was consecrated. At Hollins Cross you are faced with a number of different paths, but you need to turn sharp left and follow the route that almost doubles back on the way you have just come from, lower down the hill. This path is uneven and rocky in places, so do take care.
16. At a fork in the path, take the left path that continues to run along the hillside. This path is clear and easy to follow, continuing through a series of gates and into a beautiful little hawthorn woodland. Continue along the path until it reaches a lane in front of a farmhouse. At this point walk through a gate on to the lane and turn right to follow the lane down the hill, signposted to Edale. It is a beautiful, tree-lined route, eventually emerging out into open countryside with a stone wall to your left and a hedge to your right.
17. The lane eventually ends and meets up with a road. Turn right on the road and walk for approx 100 metres. Be aware that there is no footpath. When you see a road that leads off to the left, cross over the road and take the left hand turn. This will lead you back to Edale train station and your starting point on your left.