Hartington to Millers Dale Back to White Peak Way index Castleton to Edale

The Walk

This is a superb little expedition, packed with interest, and set among lively limestone scenery. It either follows or parallels a marked trail called the Limestone Way, which might be followed strictly if you prefer. Most of the route is obvious though in the vicinity of Old Moor you do need to refer to the map to keep track of where you are. The tiny depression that develops into Cave Dale is easy to miss. From Millers Dale the route makes use of four successive limestone dales - Monks Dale, Peter Dale, Hay Dale and Dam Dale. Monks Dale will brink back memories of Dovedale to some extent, being quite deep and holding plenty of tree cover. Each succeeding dale is shallower and more open than the last and gradually you reach the flatter country around Peak Forest. From here the route climbs the track of Oxlow Rake onto the plateau of Old Moor, an area of upland pasture pretty much identical to the country around Monyash yesterday. From here the dark skyline of Kinder, the first stage of the Pennine Way, begins to loom large. Cave Dale, which you follow down into Castleton, is an absolute delight; it starts as a shallow depression but steadily develops into a limestone ravine of high scenic value, particularly with Peveril Castle perched on its lip. Almost without warning, a gate at the foot of the dale deposits you into the village of Castleton. The village is a noted tourist honeypot and has four show caves open to the public as well as Peveril Castle - it's described fully under tomorrow's walk. Its status as a tourist centre ensures that it has excellent public transport connections.

Walk Statistics:
Length: 8.22 miles / 13.2 km
Total ascent: 1285 ft / 392 m
Total descent: 1295 ft / 395 m
Estimated time: 3 hrs 02 mins

Maps: OS Outdoor Leisure 24 (White Peak), Outdoor Leisure 1 (Dark Peak)

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Millers Dale

Millers Dale

    Stagecoach East Midland service 65, Sheffield - Tideswell - Millers Dale - Buxton
    Stagecoach East Midland service 66, Chesterfield - Tideswell - Millers Dale - Buxton
    Ravenstor Youth Hostel

Millers Dale lays on the B6049 Buxton - Tideswell road about 8km east of Buxton, and is secreted deep within a wooded valley whose river is not named on the OS map. The valley carries the trackbed of the former Buxton - Bakewell - Matlock - Derby railway, part of which we followed yesterday and which forms the Monsal Trail hereabouts.

The walk begins at the west end of the little village, adjacent to the chapel seen in the third photo above, where you need to find the footpath that leads into the dry valley of Monks Dale to the northwest. The footpath leaves directly from the main road and ascends a flight of steps to a little pasture. Head to your right and descend to Monks Dale.

Leaving Millers Dale for Monks Dale

Monks Dale

Scenes in Monks Dale

The scene changes almost directly you enter Monks Dale. The village falls behind quickly and there is an initial screen of trees, after which you come out into the shallow limestone ravine that comprises the dale. The scenery is superficially similar to that of Dovedale, though less dramatic, and of course there is no accompanying river. There are no crowds either, thankfully.

The open section of Monk's Dale

The dale runs for some 2km, firstly northwestwards and then more generally northwards, though it does twist and turn somewhat. Through the first major bend to the left the path climbs to the right and follows a course some way above the dale bottom, and allows easy progress. The series of curves and bends provides a series of ever changing vistas during the first half mile, but after that the path enters extensive tree cover once more and you find yourself in a very pleasant woodland setting.

Monk's Dale, the woodland section

The woodland section of Monks Dale can be hard gowing, as the vegetation becomes dense in mid to late summer and the going underfoot is a mixture of tree roots and rough, uneven stone. You will also encounter wet areas. It's probably for this reason that the Limestone Way follows the motor road to the east rather than Monks Dale itself. The path eventually emerges from the trees onto a lonely back road between Tideswell and Hargatewall.

Woodland cover, Monks Dale

Peter Dale

First steps in Peter Dale

Follow the road to the left (west) for about 150m as far as a sharp left-hand bend, at which you take a footpath heading straight on by a small patch of woodland. This path leads into the second of our sequence of limestone ravines, Peter Dale.

Peter Dale

The Limestone Way rejoins our route from the east  and follows Peter Dale. The dale is shallower than Monks Dale and is more open, though it does feature some more interesting limestone scenery. Like Monks Dale, Peter Dale tends generally northwest but does meander to quite a degree. There is significantly less tree cover.

Scenes in Peter Dale

The dale runs for around a mile before emerging onto a little-used motor road leading from Tideswell in the east to the Hargatewall - Peak Forest road to the west. Almost opposite is another footpath, leading into Hay Dale.

Hay Dale

Hay Dale

Hay Dale is really just the continuation of Peter Dale by another name but, as Peter Dale was shallower and more open than Monks Dale, Hay Dale is in turn shallower and more open still. The path starts off heading north but curves around to the northwest on a precise radius of which any Victorian railway engineer would be proud.

Hay Dale

There is a straight stretch, running between shallow limestone slopes edged by lush green pastures, before a right-hand curve comes out onto another lonely road at a sharp corner. Follow the road NNE for 300m then leave it for a footpath to the left into Dam Dale.

Dam Dale

Dam Dale

Dam Dale is, once again, shallower and more open than its predecessors, and as you progress it more or less loses its valley profile altogether and becomes pastureland instead. It's a wide open landscape, a world of green pastures and stone walls, a landscape that you will meet again - but on a much bigger scale - in the Yorkshire Dales National Park seven days' walk hence.

Dam Dale

You pass Loosehill Farm up to your left, and then go round a slight left-hand curve to come to Dam Dale Farm. Just before the farm a prominent track diverges to the right - this is the route of the Limestone way and is an alternative route bypassing Peak Forest and Oxlow rake.

Approaching Dam Dale farm

The route from the farm is a little confusing - keep an eye on the map and the maze of stone walls hereabouts. Pass the farm buildings depicted on the third image above. Just beyond them is a shallow depression, on the north side of which is an earth bank (possibly the dam from which the farm and dale are named). Cross this to reach a track and turn right onto it, passing a row of cottages. Continue along the track, past Damside farm, out to the village of Peak Forest about 300m to the north.

Dam Dale farm;  pasture and wall scenery;  arriving at Peak Forest

Peak Forest

Your arrival in Peak Forest is something of a shock, as you emerge onto the busy A623 Baslow - Chapel-en-le-Frith road. Watch the traffic. There are two possible variations here - you can either go 100m to the right to gain access to a footpath that bypasses Peak Forest to the east, or you can turn left and walk through the village, then turn right for Old Dam. My preference is to go through the village

Arrival at Peak Forest

Peak Forest is a lovely village, with many old stone houses. Walk to the west along the main road then turn right. You reach the locality of Old Dam, a "suburb" of Peak Forest.

Peak Forest

At thegreen in Old Dam (first image below) turn right and follow the lane out of the village. Now it's necessary to keep an eye on the map, for you're looking for a footpath alongside a stone wall to the north. One of the field boundaries shown on the map no longer exists, but look out for the point at which another path comes over from the left; at this point go half right and cross the pasture on the diagonal for the northeast corner.

Old Dam greenlane in Old Damoutside the village

Looking back at Peak Forestfootpath alongside wall;  footpath across pasture

At the field corner go half right again alongside the stone wall to the east, as far as a farm track. Go left along the track for a short distance then head right, for the Oxlow Rake track.

The farm track and a final look back at Peak Forest

Oxlow Rake

The Oxlow Rake path

Oxlow Rake is a splendid little right of way, a substantial farm vehicle track that runs initially along the north side of a ribbon of woodland and then past a semi open stand of trees to the left of the path, climbing steadily all the while.

Oxlow Rake

About 500m along the rake stop to change maps - you run off the top of the White Peak map and on to the Dark Peak map, which was the Ordnance Survey's first 1:25000 large format walkers' map. It covers all the ground between here and Standedge Cutting, the end of day 3 of the Pennine Way and also the northern boundary of the Peak District National Park.

Oxlow Rake

Oxlow Rake climbs onto a plateau of high pasture, similar to those on either side of Monyash but wilder, stonier and more extensive. You converge with a substantial track coming in from the right, which carries the Limestone Way and is a continuation of the track that diverged to the east just short of Dam Dale Farm.

Arriving onto Old Moor

Old Moor

Follow the map carefully now, for you are in a world of vast open spaces and few waymarks. After the Limestone Way converges with Oxlow Rake the route strikes out across the plateau of Old Moor. You will see from the map that there are several abandoned mine workings hereabouts. Follow the track alongside a stone wall, heading for a prominent small hill about a mile ahead..

The wide open spaces of Old Moor

Well before you reach the hill you will see a discrete sign to Castleton pointing half right. Go that way, heading across the shoulder of a hill up to your right. At the highest point you will see several stone walls converging in a triangle pattern ahead of you (first image below). You're more or less at the highest point of the day's walk, 412m above sea level (about 1360ft). A view to the north opens up and you will see the shapely top of Mam Tor, with the dark, brooding skyline of the Kinder plateau beyond.

Stone walls and fork in track

The track forks where the first of the three stone walls bends to the left, just ahead of you; follow the right fork into the dip, where a substantial track appears.

Entering Cave Dale

Keeping your eye on the map and the pattern of stone walls, follow the track and then take the shallow depression going half left about 300m further on, which over the next 2km will develop into the spectacular limestone valley of Cave Dale.

Cave Dale

The top end of Cave Dale

Cave Dale is amazing - there is no other word for it. Starting as a simple moorland depression, the dale steadily deepens and the slopes become ever more steep, until it evolves into a first class limestone ravine. And like most good ravines, it twists and turns, never revealing more than a couple of hundred meters of its length, affording ever changing views as you progress along it.

The steep middle section of the dale

After about 600m you go through a stile, after which the dale narrows and steepens into its lively middle section. Here the path is quite rough and the ravine walls are at their most rocky. As you round a long left-hand curve Peveril castle comes into view on the lip of the ravine's west wall.

Peveril Castle and the lower third of Cave Dale

Cave Dale near the castle

The dale starts to open out into a bowl or amphitheatre as it passes below the walls of the castle, clumps of trees grow on the slopes and the path itself improves, but the dale hasn't done with surprises yet - it squeezes through a couple of limestone portals to reveal a lower, broader and shallower bowl beneath.

Cave dale forming a bowl just below the castle walls

Scenery in the lower reaches of the dale

The dale keeps its finest surprise for the last possible moment, however. As you reach the foot of the dale the walls crowd in again and the path runs towards a gate at the far end. Go through the gate - and you will find yourself in the village of Castleton.

The exit from the dale into Castleton


Castleton is a tourist honeypot, a village of stone-built cottages surrounded by limestone slopes. Apart from Peveril Castle it boats no less than four show caves open to the public. Castleton is pictured and described in detail at the start of the next walk, Castleton to Edale. Castleton has exceptional public transport links, and Hope (two miles away) is on the Sheffield - Manchester railway line.

    Countrybus service 173, Castleton - Bakewell
    Countrybus service 202 (Sundays / Bank Holidays), Derby - Ashbourne - Dovedale - Buxton - Castleton
    Stagecoach East Midlands service 260, Castleton - Caves - Edale
    Stagecoach East Midlands service 272, Castleton - Hope - Hathersage - Sheffield
    Countrybus service 273/274, Castleton - Hope - Derwent Valley - Sheffield
    Stagecoach East Midlands service 279 (Sundays / Bank Holidays), Castleton - Hope - Hathersage - Chesterfield
    First Pennine / Maynes service 373 (Weekends / bank holidays), Castleton, Hope, Derwent Valley, Snake Pass - Glossop - Manchester
    Bowers service 403 (Sundays / Bank Holidays), Castleton - Chapel-en-le-Frith - New Mills
    Rossendale service 473 (Sundays / Bank Holidays), Matlock - Bakewell - Castleton - Glossop - Oldham - Rochdale
    Manchester - Edale - Hope - Sheffield


  The Peak District National Park
  Derbyshire County Council's Peak District website
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Hartington to Millers Dale Back to White Peak Way index Castleton to Edale

This page last updated 24th December 2005