Peak District Walk - Castleton
PUBLISHED: 00:00 21 December 2016 | UPDATED: 15:20 03 May 2020
A Peak District walk around the pretty village of Castleton which goes to town at Christmas! Sally Mosley explores
DESCRIPTION: Castleton delights in December with traditional Christmas cheer, be it with decorated trees in St Edmund’s Church, shops ablaze with festive lights or the chance to sing carols deep underground in a cavern. This walk ascends Cave Dale to high ground for distant views of a truly spectacular landscape before descending to the upper end of the Hope Valley down an ‘earthquake movie’ road.
DISTANCE: 6 miles
PARKING: Public car park (pay & display) behind Castleton Visitor Centre S33 8WN Grid Ref: 151831
TERRAIN: 10+ gates and stiles. Moderately strenuous walk with many trip hazards. Slippery stones when ascending Cave Dale. Livestock grazing. Roadway without pavement. Close proximity at times to sheer drops and old mine shafts, mainly capped.
REFRESHMENTS: Various pubs and tearooms in Castleton. Blue John Cavern Café (open from spring, weather permitting), hot drinks and tuck shop at the Cavern open all year round.
TOILETS: Public toilets in the car park at start of walk
MAP O.S. Explorer: OL1 (Dark Peak)
WALK HIGHLIGHT: Castleton decorated for Christmas
1. Leave the car park, turning left at the mini-roundabout, and walk up Cross Street towards the shops, many selling items made from Blue John for which Castleton is famous. Turn right after The Castle Inn and head up Castle Street, perhaps calling in to the Church which dates back to at least the 12th century.
2. Turn left at the top of Castle Street into the Market Place and walk to the right of the tiny triangular village green. Walk approximately 250 yards up Pindale Road to a fingerpost sign for Cave Dale. Follow the path between old cottages on the right to a dark passageway between high banks of limestone to enter Cave Dale. Initially formed by glacial meltwater carving a deep narrow valley through porous limestone, the watercourse then found its way underground to emerge from Peak Cavern as Peakshole Water. This left behind a steep dry valley, apart from a tumbling trickle of surface water in wet weather.
3. Ascend Cave Dale with the keep of Peveril Castle (English Heritage), atop a promontory rock on your right. This now ruined 11th century fortress was constructed to protect the Royal Forest of the Peak but never saw battle. You will pass a gated adit (no admittance) leading into workings which act as ventilation to Peak Cavern below. Also known as the Devil’s Arse, this show cave with rope walk entrance leads to a system of tunnels and shafts said to be the longest in Britain. The official entrance into Peak Cavern is down in the village. The whole hillside on this side of the Hope Valley contains numerous entirely natural caverns and shafts, the deepest and most remote being Titan at 464 feet which was only discovered on 1st January 1999.
Follow the natural progression of Cave Dale as it ascends as a rough stone track eroded by water and the passage of people and time. This path also forms part of the famous Limestone Way, a 46-mile long walking route from Castleton to Rocester in Staffordshire. After passing through a gate the path levels out somewhat and becomes grassy. Beyond another gate is a fingerpost sign. Continue ahead on the bridlepath crossing a further field to a gate where you emerge onto a junction of paths.
4. Turn right through a gate and follow a gravel track. After approximately 200 yards keep on the track as it bends around to the right. You will now be aiming ahead towards Mam Tor, a distinctive high, rounded landmark hill with trig point summit. Beyond Rowter Farm on your right the track becomes tarmacked.
5. On reaching the road from Sparrowpit cross diagonally right and go through a small gate by a fingerpost sign. Continue straight ahead along the path past Windy Knoll.
6. Cross the next road diagonally left to a small gate with fingerpost sign and head uphill on the well-defined path leading towards Mam Nick where the Edale road passes through a gap in the ridge between Rushup Edge and Mam Tor.
7. Just before steps leading up to the Mam Nick road turn right and follow a path downhill on the flank of Mam Tor, emerging near the junction of roads at a hairpin bend.
8. Turn left and walk down the road past the Blue John Mine on your right. It is reputed that during excavations at Pompeii two vases made from Blue John were discovered. As this mineral is found only in Castleton and nowhere else in the world, they provided evidence that the Romans, who were known to mine hereabouts, not only discovered this semi-precious form of coloured fluorite but also appreciated its value for ornamental use.
9. Continue to the turning circle beyond which the road is closed to motorised vehicles. Now appearing like the set of an earthquake movie, until the late 1970s this was part of the main road from Sheffield to Chapel-en-le-Frith. In places it is still possible to see the remains of white lines and cat’s eyes. Be very careful of steep drops where the ever-shifting bands of shale and sandstone that make up the geology of Mam Tor (also known as the Shivering Mountain), have slipped away, taking the road too.
10. After passing through a gate, turn right and continue down the former turnpike road which from this point provides private access for Mam Farm. Before a metal gate and the lower turning circle, look for a white metal milepost on the right dating from 1819 when this old turnpike road was created.
11. Just beyond the turning circle and bus stop, notice the old iron tyre around a gritstone wheel and circular iron track which long ago was a crushing circle for lead ore (galena) extracted from Odin Mine. Operated by a horse-powered gin, lumps of rock containing ore would have been placed on the metal band for crushing. This was then picked over by children who would throw waste stone onto spoil heaps and put the ore in panniers to be carried away by pack ponies to smelt works where the ore was heated until molten and poured into dishes to set as ingots known as pigs of lead.
12. Follow the quiet road and pavement back to Castleton for easy walking, allowing you to take in the wondrous views.