Here's a good pub quiz question: What links Charlotte Bronte's masterpiece Jane Eyre, and the classic pill-popping rave movie 24-Hour Party People? Answer: both have crucial scenes set on walks in the Peak District.
The stunning area of rolling hills that separates Manchester and Sheffield has long been a favourite place for citizens of both to escape to. Its craggy cliffs (known as 'edges') and dramatic 'tops', or summits, are the site of some of Britain's most famous walking paths, as well as legendary rock climbing routes and fell-running trails.
The Peak District was also the site of the most famous right to roam protest in England - the Kinder Scout Trespass. It's small wonder then that the Peak District National Park, one of the oldest in Britain, is also one of its most popular.
Peak District Walks - What to Expect:
Three main landscapes make up the Peak District; the wild, rugged Dark Peak, the limestone dales and meadows of White Peak, and the South West Peak's moorland, pastures, and farmland. Some of the longer distance Peak District hiking routes will take it all three, but there are lots of classic walks that are concentrated in a single area or single Peak District village.
However long or short you're aiming for, if you're planning a walk in the Peak District, make sure to take a good pair of walking boots and a waterproof jacket – the ground can be uneven and the weather in England is... well, the wet weather of England.
We'd also recommend a decent hiking backpack, a first aid kit, plenty of water, and a snack. The Peak District is not short of lovely pubs or cafés — and in fact many of the best Peak District walks are planned with a refreshment stop in mind — but the National Park includes some pretty serious terrain, and the weather is famously changeable. So it's always best to be prepared.
- The Best Peak District Walks - Mam Tor Circular Walk
- The Best Peak District Walks - The Vale of Edale and the Pennine Way
- The Best Peak District Walks - Derwent Valley
- The Best Peak District Walks - Grindleford Station Walk
- The Best Peak District Walks - Monsal Trail
- The Best Peak District Walks - Hathersage to Stanage Edge
The Best Peak District Walks - Mam Tor Circular Walk
4.8km / 2 hours
The hike up Mam Tor is the one of the most popular Peak District hikes. Its name means 'mother hill', inspired by the frequent landslips that made a series of mini hills beneath the tor. It's easy to see why the impressive Peak District views have inspired so many photographers and artists; the lush green of the hills in summer are a dramatic contrast to the cold, wild winter winds that can howl through the peaks, but whichever season you choose to climb Mam Tor, it's stunning.
This circular walk around the hill offers some of the best views across the Peak District. The steady climb to the top is made easier by the addition of stone steps. Keen eyes might spot special stones in the steps, which hint at the iron age settlers who lived here years ago.
Once you've had your fill of the stunning scenery across the Edale Valley from the top of the tor, the walk continues past a series of caves and mines. The Blue John show cavern here has a fascinating history; it is named after the famous mineral known as Blue John, one of Britain's rarest, that was particularly coveted by the Romans, who excavated here over 2,000 years ago.
Although a relatively short walk, it deserves its status as one of the best Peak District walks for the views alone. More details are available in our full walking guide for the Mam Tor.
The Best Peak District Walks - The Vale of Edale and the Pennine Way
5.4km / 1.5 - 2 hours
This gentle, easy walk begins and ends a short distance from the Penny Pot Café (which is easy to find on Google Maps). Winding through the dramatic hills of the Dark Peak, this takes you through livestock grazing land, so take care when walking here with dogs.
Part of this route follows the Pennine Way, which was the first national trail in England. It runs from Edale to Kirk Yetholm in Scotland. When following the route in Edale, you'll head uphill for a few miles, following a little stream, before leaving the trail to explore open fields and crossing a series of footbridges, then heading back to the cafe for a well-deserved cup of tea.
Assuming you're not only concerned with walking while in the Peak District, we'd recommend a couple of site stop offs along this route: Edale Church and the fascinating Moorland Centre are both well worth a visit. Both are architecturally interesting - the Moorland Centre building was designed to look like part of the landscape, with a living turf roof that doubles as an eco-friendly insulator. It also has facilities for walkers, including fresh drinking water and toilets.
Check out our full Vale of Edale walking guide for more details about this route.
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The Best Peak District Walks - Derwent Valley
6.4km / 1.5 - 2 hours
This is one of the most interesting Peak District walking routes; it is rich with nature, from the rare bats that roost near the Howden dam to some of England's only mountain hares at Pike Low. But even if you're not lucky enough to see one of these adorable creatures, which turn white in the winter, this is a lovely outing that shows you much of what's best about Peak District walks in the space of just a couple of hours.
When following this route, you'll be taken along Ladybower Reservoir, which sits right at the heart of the Peak District National Park. The reservoir was built between 1935 and 1943, and during construction two villages were flooded to provide water for the thirsty industrial towns surrounding the Peak District. The countryside around the reservoir has grand views of the water, moors and woodland, making it a truly wonderful place to walk.
This Peak District walking route runs through all kinds of terrain, including farmland, moors, and a stunning heavily wooded clough. At the highest point of this valley walk, you'll be rewarded with panoramic views of Derwent Water and much of the Dark Peak area. The beautiful valley landscape scenery certainly make this a competitor for one of the best walks in the Peak District.
More details about the start and endpoints of this nature-rich walk are available in our full guide to the Derwent Valley walk.
The Best Peak District Walks - Grindleford Station Walk
7.2km / 2 - 2.5 hours
Starting in Padley Gorge, the Grindleford Station walk explores ancient woodlands and wild areas of moorland. The views on offer here are arguably some of the best in Derbyshire, despite the fact that this is among the more moderate of the Peak District walks listed here.
The walk starts at Padley Gorge. It's the perfect place for children to explore in the summer months with shallow streams, pretty footbridges, and plenty of large flat rocks that act as makeshift stepping stones. This area of the Peak District is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of the flourishing oak-birch woodland that is rarer in other parts of the UK. It's also home to beautiful endangered species of birds like the Pied Flycatcher and Wood Warbler.
Despite being a moderate walk with very few steep inclines, this route takes three to four hours to complete - depending, of course, on how often you stop to photograph wildlife or splash around in the streams.
Find out more about this walk in the Padley Gorge area with our Grindleford Station walking guide.
The Best Peak District Walks - Monsal Trail
13.7km / 3 - 4 hours
This trail is one of the best traffic-free leisure trails in the UK, accessible for walkers, runners, and cyclists of all abilities. The path is paved and has ramps at various points along the way, making it accessible for wheelchair users. The trail runs between the village of Buxton and Bakewell, but you can choose to walk just a small part of it.
The route follows that of the Midland Railway, which was pushed through these mountains in 1863, despite local opposition. At the time, cutting through the limestone cliffs was seen as an awful idea, but today the vegetation has grown over the man-made embankments, softening them and allowing the banks to gently blend into the landscape. Near these paths is an old cotton mill, the Cressbrook Mill. In the early 1800s, the power of the River Wye turned the water wheels, but now the building has been converted into apartments.
The Monsal Trail itself is steeped in history and only became accessible after the railway was closed and the path opened to the public. Enjoy views of Water-Cum-Jolly Dale, a stroll through the well-lit tunnels, or a cup of tea at the ticket office cafe at Millers Dale.
The long tunnels provide plenty of shelter so if you've got a wet day during your visit to the Peak District National Park, this is a good route to try. Just remember your waterproof jacket.
Get to know this walking route with our full Monsal Trail walking guide.
The Best Peak District Walks - Hathersage to Stanage Edge
14.5km / 4 - 4.5 hours
This classic is undoubtedly one of the all time best Peak District walks. Explore the gritstone escarpment of Stanage and enjoy views over Kinder Scout with this classic nine-miler. The route starts in the village of Hathersage, and takes you up past North Lees Hall, a building which inspired the home of Mr Rochester in Charlotte Brontë's famous novel, Jane Eyre.
The more adventurous walkers may want to explore Robin Hood's Cave, a cavern carved out of the cliff of Stanage Edge which offers amazing views over a large swathe of the Peak District. A short crawl/scramble will bring you to the cave, hidden halfway up the cliff face. It opens up to reward you with beautiful views of the landscape. This cave has no signposts, but it is marked on Google Maps. Just make sure you tread carefully.
The best thing about this classic Peak District walk is that you can do a longer or a shorter version. If you're or have little ones in tow, or don't want to spend your whole day out and about in the Peaks, this easy walk is just two miles long, perfect to complete in a few hours.
Find out more about the Hathersage to Stanage Edge walk with our full route guide.
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