Peace in the Peak District: walking the Limestone Way

Peace in the Peak District: walking the Limestone Way

Immerse yourself in a landscape of ancient tracks on a quiet trail created by locals to show off a gentler side of the region.

If you don’t already know it, the Peak District can be a dauntingly large area to explore. Beginners often gravitate towards familiar names like Edale and Kinder Scout, but I prefer some of the less-well-known areas further south, which may not have the sweep of the moors but isn’t as busy either.

And rather than rely on the more famous Pennine Way, too often an unrelenting if virtuous slog, far better to follow the Limestone Way, created by locals to show off their landscape. Just as the Dark Peak area to the north of the Peak District national park is on gritstone, the White Peak area in the south is so called because it is on paler limestone.

The Limestone Way runs for 46 miles from Castleton down to Tissington and then on into a flatter stretch in Staffordshire, so needs careful selection to find the perfect day’s walk. My favourite, very achievable, outing starts at the pretty village of Youlgreave on the River Bradford, just south of Bakewell, then heads south across a well-waymarked route. After crossing Harthill Moor, you come to the outcrop known as Robin Hood’s Stride, nicknamed locally “The Mock Castle” as Robin was supposed to have scaled its turrets by leaping lightly in his green velveteens from one enormous boulder to another. This is one of the last gritstone outcrops as you head south, an outlier from the Dark Peaks.

From the top of Robin Hood’s Stride, there’s a perfect sightline to a small, prehistoric stone circle in the field below. I can see why our stone-age ancestors felt at home in this area – it has an unusually high concentration of prehistoric remains. There are even traces of a prehistoric road, which the Limestone Way follows. For the route now takes the Portway, one of those ancient tracks where for thousands of years humans, horses and cattle have combined to create a path with momentum that contours intuitively across a landscape.

As Stephen Bailey points out in his excellent short book, The Old Roads Of Derbyshire, the Portway shows that it predates even the establishment of the villages in the area by the Anglo-Saxons as it does not run between them, which it would if it had been created since.

The route follows a timeworn holloway that generations of travellers and their animals hollowed out between the line of ash and oak trees. Part of it is now called Islington Lane, after the lost lead-mining village of Islington, which stood nearby in the 19th century; little remains except traces of spoil heaps in the fields.

When lunchtime beckons I would suggest taking a small detour past Rocking Stone Farm (which also has superb accommodation, from £188 a night, three nights minimum, discounts for longer stays) to reach another fine set of rocks in Birchover behind the friendly Druid Inn, so named because a druid is supposed to have held court sitting on the boulders.


Andy Halliday

Andy is a camping expert with over 20 years of outdoor experience. He shares his expertise through his blog that features on his very own e-commerce camping gear store. He aspires to use his knowledge and experience to help disabled families get the most out of every trip they take.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *