Gorgeous river valleys, dramatic Rock Art, distinct cuisine, stately homes, hidden dales filled with wildflowers…you’ll find it all on the White Peak Way, as our guest blogger Caroline Wood found out this summer. With six YHAs en route, there’s no need to camp on this seven day walking trail, leaving you free to roam the hills and discover the tranquil wildness of the Peak.
Start your journey in Bakewell – famous for markets and tarts – then follow the River Wye before heading over to Stanton Moor. You’ll feel the ancient magic of the place with a visit to the Nine Ladies Stone Circle and the intriguing Cork Stone, before making your way to YHA Youlgreave, a quirky former general store, for the night. Every room is named after one of the products the store used to sell- I was in Ladies Underwear!
From Youlgreave, pass through the hidden passages of Gratton and Biggin Dale to reach the gorgeous scenery of Dovedale. After following the river to the famous stepping stones, the more energetic can have a quick sprint up Thorpe Cloud to catch the view; otherwise, it’s only a short distance to YHA Ilam Hall. And what better way to relax than in the deckchairs on the terrace with afternoon tea, overlooking the rolling parkland below?
The following day, pick up the Manifold Way to reach the impressive Thor’s Cave, where you can take a detour to climb up and imagine the prehistoric beasts and people that once lived there! Pass through the village of Wetton to the charming Wolfscote Dale, then up to the tea shops and YHA Hartington. Although I arrived in a downpour, I quickly warmed up in the cosy library of this 17th century manor house.
For the next leg, head to Wye Dale where you can either stride out up high and through the tunnels along the Monsal Trail or descend to the path which hugs the river– but be prepared to get a little wet and muddy! Spend the night at YHA Ravenstor – a beautiful country house hidden in the forest with fantastic views. The grounds here are truly lovely, and I particularly enjoyed exploring the neighbouring wildflower meadow, which is said to have inspired David Bellamy’s love of nature.
Start the next day with a visit to the aptly named Cathedral of the Peak at Tideswell, then journey through Monk’s Dale and Hay Dale, hotspots for rare wildflowers. Pick up the Limestone Way until you reach Cave Dale, and enjoy the best views of Peveril Castle. Once at Castleton, you can visit one of the famous caves or shop for some Blue John stone before heading to YHA Castleton Losehill Hall for the night. This Victorian gothic mansion is particularly well-suited for large groups – whilst I was there, there was a lively reunion going on, cooking up some pretty awesome food in the self-catering kitchen!
If the sun shines, the next section is a treat: from Castleton, ascend the forbidding Mam Tor and walk the length of the ridge to Lose Hill, with stunning views across the Peak on both sides. Drop down briefly before climbing Win Hill, for the best unrivalled view across Ladybower Reservoir. From here, pick up the river Derwent and follow the Heritage Way to YHA Hathersage.
On the final day, stride out along Froggatt and Curbar edge, admiring the wind-sculpted rock formations, before descending into the elegant grounds of Chatsworth House (an ideal lunch stop!). Pass through the romantic village of Edensor before finally dropping back down into Bakewell, where you can celebrate the end of your journey with some well-earned Bakewell pudding!
The White Peak way isn’t waymarked so you will need to plot the route onto your own maps: together the OS Explorer Maps OL1 (Dark Peak) and OL24 (White Peak) cover the whole route.