If like me you’ve done a little walking around Mam Tor, perhaps visited some of the caverns but never fully explored this beautiful area (until last weekend), you HAVE to make time to do the Great Ridge starting at Castleton and working up to Losehill before walking the ridge on a fair day. It really does reward you with some of the most beautiful scenery you could possibly wish for.
The total hike is about 7 miles, or a fair bit longer if like myself you print off an old set of instructions and get totally lost trying to find the path. In fact, I would have done far better without a map or directions as once you know where the path is, it’s pretty easy all the way. So the walk time should be around 3 or 4 hours with a total ascent of 1,755 ft.
I parked in Castleton – you will find parking at the visitor centre but it is pretty busy on weekends. Fortunately there are plenty of fields that open up for about £4 a car, so don’t stress if the Centre is full. If you park elsewhere, you can pop to the visitor centre for the toilets and drinks/snacks. Head towards the YHA from there and be sure to drop in at the fudge shop at the way which is currently cash only.
Walk up the YHA drive. On a side note, it’s a beautiful spot! Very peaceful with a nice big field for camping, picnic benches and very well kept toilets (it is also a hostel with private rooms from just £29 and there is a camping barn). On the YHA site I walked past Losehill Hall, around a little bend to the right and through a car park on the right, out a gate onto a narrow lane and to the right, where I found a signpost pointing across the fields to Losehill.
Follow the signpost through the field, keeping to the right-hand side, then you’ll come to some steps down where you cross a small wooden bridge. Follow the path round, up a track then across another field to another stile. The path goes to the right at one point – just keep following it, crossing any stiles / gates as you go. Eventually you’ll find yourself in a field with a signpost that points up Losehill. Go up the hill, taking in the views, and enjoy a rest at the top. This is the hardest bit done!
The rather beautiful detailed trig point at the top of Losehill
After that you’ll simply follow the ridge right the way to Mam Tor. Stick to the flagstone path and you won’t get lost! The route isn’t too busy around Losehill but gets progressively more busy as you go on.
The path towards Mam Tor from Losehill.
You’ll go across and past plenty of other interesting spots – Back Tor in particular is really impressive. The views are just stunning from the top which is only a gentle ascent from the ridge. Coming down from Back Tor, you need to go steady as it’s quite steep.
View back up the ridge towards Back Tor
You come along to Hollins Cross, the lowest point on the ridge. It is so named because there used to be an actual cross here, but this had disappeared by 1905. Now, you’ll see a memorial to avid walker Tom Hyett.
Hollins Cross, Tom Hyett memorial
View ahead towards Mam Tor
Next on the ridge is a little bit of a walk uphill to the Mam Tor peak and it will have gotten considerably more busy by this point. Still, on a good day you’ll see paragliders swooping over your head. Despite the crowd, it’s my favourite place to stop for a picnic – it’s not too hard to have a wander and find a quiet spot.
View back along the ridge from Mam Tor
Mam Tor trig point
View on the descent from Mam Tor with paragliders in the distance
Once you’re ready, walk down Mam Tor’s main tourist path, grinning at everyone puffing their way to the top. From here, go through the gate and down the bank. Cross the road, go through the gate and take the footpath, cross another road, take the footpath and so on. Just keep going, don’t deviate.
The view back up to Mam Tor from the field below
Keep going – you’ll see Blue John Cavern off at the end of a path to the left – don’t turn off though – and you’ll see a farm on your right. Keep walking long next to it and you’ll see the road through Winnat’s Pass on your right past a stone wall. You can stay inside the wall and walk on the grass. Eventually you’ll go through a gate and be walking next to the road.
Winnats pass itself is a stunning limestone valley with huge rocks either side and grassy banks. The name Winnats comes from ‘Windy Gates’ as one of the windier entrances into Castleton and the Hope Valley.
You can walk along the grass next to the road, right the way through the gorge, often accompanied by a few sheep who couldn’t care less that you’re there. Probably they’re used to walkers by now.
After you come out the other side you can simply follow the road back into Castleton village. There are alternative routes that take you past Treaks cavern, depending on how your feet are feeling.
There are a few caverns in the area as you’ve probably seen: Peak (“The Devil’s Arse!”), Speedwell, Blue John and Treak Cliff. Peak Cavern has an open area at the entrance where they tell you about rope making. Speedwell has a 450m boat tour to reach further caves. Blue John has many steps down to some impressive caverns. Treak Cliff has the really impressive stalactites and stalagmites. All of them are very well presented and guided, and all worth visiting.
I hope you get chance to do this beautiful walk – I really do think it has some of the best views that the UK has to offer.