Walking, Hiking, and Scrambling route descriptions and reports, mainly focusing on Snowdonia and the Peak District, eg. the Snowdon Horseshoe, Tryfan, the Bochlwyd Horseshoe, and Kinder Scout. GPX files provided for all routes.
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Last year, I decided to make my first walk of the year a long route around the Upper Derwent Reservoirs in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District. It was an enjoyable walk and so I thought I’d do the same thing again this year. The walk started in the small parking area by...
Last year, I decided to make my first walk of the year a long route around the Upper Derwent Reservoirs in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District. It was an enjoyable walk and so I thought I’d do the same thing again this year. The walk started in the small parking area by the side of the lane that passes around the west side of Howden Reservoir. This section of road is closed to motor vehicles on weekends and bank holidays during the summer months, but that wasn’t a problem to me as I tend to do most of my walking midweek.
The route initially follows the path alongside River Westend on its left before eventually crossing via a bridge and continuing to follow the river on the opposite side. After a while, the path begins to ascend before zig-zagging up the hillside towards Ronksley Moor. I left the path just before this happened and continued following the course of the River westend on its right-hand side.
A faint track should become apparent if you look for it although its not shown on the Ordnance Survey Map. The track crossed Grinah Grain, a smaller unnamed brook, and finally Deep Grain before I arrived at an unnamed clough that I’d previously identified as a suitable route up to Bleaklow Stones. So far, the journey was a real treat. I’d never ventured this far up the Westend valley before and found it incredibly picturesque and tranquil. There wasn’t a person to be seen or a sound to be heard aside from the peaceful sound of rushing water in the river below.
I ventured up the unnamed clough. After a short distance, the clough forked and I took the larger left fork which steered me a little more towards Bleaklow Stones. Eventually, the stream forked again and at this point, I left the clough but continued following the line of the left fork from above. By this time, the mist had rolled in and visibility was very poor. As much as it may ruin my photos, I quite enjoy being out on the moors in those conditions. It creates an eerie yet peaceful atmosphere and makes you feel like you’re alone and a million miles away from civilisation.
I continued following the line of the stream (which was a depression rather than a stream at this point) from above, taking the right fork at the next split and making sure I didn’t cross at any point until I reached the plateau. It worked out well and once on the plateau, I was only a very short walk away from Bleaklow Stones to the north-west. After a brief break and grabbing a few photos of the stones – including my favourite, the anvil stone – I continued walking in what I thought was the direction of Grinah Stones.
This was a perfect example of how disorientating mist can be. After a short distance, I had a feeling that I’d gone wrong somewhere. I checked the GPS on my phone and discovered I was actually heading north rather than east. I backtracked to the stones and tried again. Again, after a short distance, my gut was telling me I’d gone wrong again. I rechecked the GPS again and discovered that this time I was actually heading back to the clough that I came here up. Third time lucky… the path felt a lot more familiar and I knew I was on the right track this time – although I did check my GPS a third time just to make sure!
It wasn’t long before I arrived at Grinah Stones – an area of exposed and weathered gritstone, much of which has tumbled down to the next level of moorland below. The views are normally fantastic from here, looking out over the sweeping moors of Ronksley Moor and Ridgewalk Moor below. Unfortunately, due to the mist, the views were non-existent.
I dropped down to Ridgewalk Moor and started walking eastwards across the soggy terrain, crossing the top end of Grinah Grain along the way. Once across, I eventually met the path that heads north towards the Barrow Stones. This path had become extremely waterlogged and so became a good test of the waterproofness of my boots – a test passed with flying colours! I made my way north along this wet and boggy track until I arrived at the slope of Round Hill. From here, I took another very faint track heading north-east across Fair Banks. The track is definitely there but not easy to see at first. I completely missed it at first and was only able to spot it from above once I’d ascended a few metres up the slope of Round Hill.
On the Ordnance Survey map, this track is shown descending the slope down to a sheep pen at the bottom, directly opposite the entrance to Coldwell Clough on the opposite side. In reality, the track vanishes at the top of the slope and so it was a case of simply choosing your own route down. The River Derwent was in full flow due to all the recent wet weather and so any potential stepping stones were submerged. I carefully found a way across the shallowest section using the stones closest to the surface and a walking pole for balance.
At this point, the mist had cleared and the sky was sunny and blue again. Unfortunately, with the low winter sun, the whole of the River Derwent valley was in shadow, ruining any photos that I attempted to take. From here, it was a simple walk back to Howden Reservoir, following the valley and the course of the River Derwent. The path initially heads eastwards beneath Horse Stone Naze before bending southwards and passing Broadhead Clough and Cranberry Clough on the left. Eventually, I arrived at the old packhorse bridge at Slippery Stones where I crossed and made my way back to the car – just in time for darkness to fall.
After seeing that the weather forecast was looking extremely good for the weekend, I decided to get my son, Harry, out for his first walk of the year. He’d been up Higger Tor in the Dark Peak a couple of times before, but both walks involved heading around to Burbage Rocks for the return leg...
After seeing that the weather forecast was looking extremely good for the weekend, I decided to get my son, Harry, out for his first walk of the year. He’d been up Higger Tor in the Dark Peak a couple of times before, but both walks involved heading around to Burbage Rocks for the return leg back to Longshaw. This time I thought I’d vary it by coming back via Over Owler Tor instead.
We parked in the Suprise View car park above Hathersage and crossed the busy road to Owler Tor opposite. I’ve driven past Owler Tor so many times, but never actually stopped to examine them. It was a great bit of early motivation for Harry as he enjoyed clambering over the gritstone. I informed him that there were plenty more climbing opportunities along the route, which had him excited. From Owler Tor, we walked down to Burbage Brook and then followed it north-east. A short while after crossing the wooden bridge, we took a sharp right into the woodland and followed the path for a hundred yards or so before crossing the A6187.
A short way along the main path, where it takes the first bend to the right, we took a footpath on the left that heads towards Carl Wark. On the way, Burbage Brook required crossing again and this time there was no handy wooden bridge in sight. It’s actually quite easy to do in the summer months when the water isn’t so high, but on this occasion, the usual crossing spot was a little too tricky for a 5-year-old with short legs and limited jumping ability. We followed the brook a little while on the very boggy ground until we found an easier place to cross. Once we’d crossed, we made our way back towards the track, crossing more saturated terrain on the way. Luckily, Harry was finding it an adventure rather than a chore.
Once back on the well-used track, it was easy walking up to Cark wark where Harry enjoyed a brief scramble up the gritstone blocks to the top. Carl wark is thought to be the site of an ancient hill fort, although nobody really knows the exact purpose. There’s a lack of any evidence of a settlement within so the site could have been used for other purposes such as a temporary refuge or a ceremonial ground. The fort, along with its rampart on the western side, is thought to date back to the Late Bronze Age, although there’s been much debate about this in the past.
From Carl Wark, we headed north to Higger Tor – an easy stretch of walking with more scrambling opportunities for Harry on the way up. We found a nice flat piece of gritstone on the top to sit down on and eat lunch. Or at least Harry did… I foolishly forgot to bring anything for myself; I was too busy rushing about preparing his in the morning. It was very busy up on the plateau of Higger Tor – something I wasn’t really used to as I normally walk midweek. Being a beautiful sunny day though, I couldn’t grumble.
Rather than use the main track, we decided to come down on the south side near its western corner. It made for a slightly more adventurous descent for him and kept it interesting. Once down, we rejoined the path and followed it south, around the large sheepfold, and over Winyards Nick. I presume that the name Winyards Nick relates to the notch between two gritstone outcrops rather than the outcrops themselves?
Finally, we arrived at an extremely crowded Over Owler Tor – but that didn’t do anything to dampen Harry’s spirits as he doesn’t have the same aversion to crowds as I do! He had a great time climbing the various gritstone formations and wanted to do more but I had to be the spoilsport and say no – he’s not quite as good at climbing as he thinks he is and his balance isn’t great so I can’t let him onto the higher stuff just yet unless I’m satisfied I can sufficiently protect him.
Finally, as we made our way back to the car, we passed the distinctive formation of Mother Cap. Again, this was a little too tricky for him to get to the top of, but he had no difficulties getting to the halfway point. After one final play, we headed down the slope back to the Suprise View car park, passing a few old abandoned millstones on the way.
I designed this route as a way of exploring a couple of ascent (or descent) routes that I hadn’t used before. Also, I desperately needed to get out for a walk. I hadn’t been on enough this year, especially over the last few months. Rowlee Pasture and Alport Castles This route starts from the small...
I designed this route as a way of exploring a couple of ascent (or descent) routes that I hadn’t used before. Also, I desperately needed to get out for a walk. I hadn’t been on enough this year, especially over the last few months.
This route starts from the small car park between the A57 and Fairholmes. Normally it costs £3 for all-day parking but I was in luck as the machine was out of order. Arriving there early, I was greeted by a wintery scene of frosted hillsides and freezing mist. The path up to the tops conveniently starts at this car park and so I proceeded to ascend through the forested slope of Hagg Side until emerging out onto Open Hagg at the edge of Bridge-end Pasture. I followed the track north-west, keeping the treeline to my right until I arrived at a junction of four large paths.
The right path heads past Lockerbrook Outdoor Centre and heads towards Upper Derwent Reservoir. The path straight ahead eventually winds down through Rowlee Farm and to the A57. Between these two paths is the hill that should be directly ascended via a much fainter track in order to obtain Rowlee Pasture. The stretch between here an Alport is usually a lovely stretch of walking as it overlooks Snake Pass and Kinder Scout before eventually bending more to the north above Alport Valley. Unfortunately, due to the mist, those views were not open to us as we plodded over the moors towards Alport Castles.
At Alport Castles, the mist cleared a little – enough to actually take a few decent photos. Another walker had gone down to climb The Tower and so we watched him on his little adventure and attempted to take a good photo as he eventually succeeded and stood on the summit. From Alport Castles, we took a right turn and followed the track downhill alongside a line of grouse butts. The track ran between two cloughs – Fagney Clough and Ditch Clough – before bringing us to the forested area west of Howden Reservoir. The forest was looking quite stunning in its autumn colours, and golden leaves were gently raining down on us as we walked down the path towards the main reservoir path.
We continued north, crossing the old 17th-century packhorse bridge at Slippery Stones on the way to take us to the east side of the River Derwent. Soon we arrived at a junction of footpaths. We took the right branch into the short valley that eventually splits into Bull Clough and Cranberry Clough (the left branch continues to follow the River Derwent as far as Hoar Clough and then up onto the soggy plateau of Featherbed Moss). The Cut Gate bridleway route (an old packhorse route that has possibly been used for centuries) heads up the hill between the two cloughs and then crosses moorland towards Howden Edge. On a clear day, I imagine that the views around would have been good – but unfortunately, the mist had started to thicken and visibility was very poor. All we could see was the hundred or so yards of moorland ahead.
As we neared Howden Edge, I suddenly started to recognise the section of path that we walked, and also the cairns that had suddenly appeared out of the mist. I knew that we were approaching the point where the Derwent Watershed route crosses. It may have been a few years ago that I did the watershed, but I still have an almost photographic memory of it – not surprising due to the combination of pain and pleasure that it bestowed upon me.
The short trek from the path to Margery Hill was interesting, to say the least. With the mist showing no signs of clearing, and water pooled in every dip and hollow, navigation wasn’t easy. The frozen ground did make it much easier than it could have been but care still had to be taken on where to step as some sections of the ground were much more frozen than others. The landscape reminded me of some bogland from a fantasy film. It certainly had an other-worldly feel about it. After about half an hour of carefully navigating around groughs, pools, and bog, we eventually arrived at the Margery Hill trig pillar.
From here onwards, the going was easier. We followed the track around the head of Cranberry Clough and to Howden Edge. As we moved along the edge, the mist suddenly cleared around us and the sky became visible for the first time in what seemed like an age. We could clearly see the mist below us spilling over the top of Howden edge and I tried to capture the effect the best I could with my cheap camera.
We continued over High Stones to the end of the edge and then continued south, gradually descending towards Nether Hey. Behind us on our left, the gritstone formations known as Wet Stones were visible sitting on the edge of Featherbed Moss. The path takes a sharp turn towards the west for a short distance before again heading south on a nice gradually descending track towards the mouth of Abbey Brook and Upper Derwent Reservoir. Cattle were grazing on the moorland of Nether Hey as we crossed. I normally have a fear of walking across cattle fields but these were far enough away for me not to feel too worried.
Once at the reservoir, all that remained was a nice easy stroll back along the main reservoir path. We had timed it just right as the daylight hours were on the verge of running out. Luckily there was just enough left to get a good view of the overflowing dam as we crossed towards Fairholmes. More importantly, there was also just enough time to grab a coffee from the shop at Fairholmes before it closed!
I brought my 4 year old son along for this walk as it’s relatively short but contains lots of interest. We started at Longshaw Estate and, after crossing the B6521, had a brief walk through woodland north west until the path led up to and across the main A6187 road. This section of the route...
I brought my 4 year old son along for this walk as it’s relatively short but contains lots of interest. We started at Longshaw Estate and, after crossing the B6521, had a brief walk through woodland north west until the path led up to and across the main A6187 road. This section of the route is a big well-trodden track and makes up part of the Sheffield Country Walk long distance footpath. Just after the track curved towards the north-east, we left the main path to the left and took a smaller track which I knew led up to Carl Wark.
The first obstacle was the crossing of Burbage Brook which had plenty of water flowing down it at this time of year. Harry was struggling to get across with his short legs so I ended up having to take a leap with him in my arms. Once over the brook, we continued the short journey up to the bottom right of Carl Wark where Harry had a lot of fun scrambling up the rocks. To me, this was just a small rocky tor, but to Harry, it was a mountain!
Once on the top of Carl Wark, we sat down for a bite to eat and to enjoy the great views looking over towards Burbage Rocks. We then continued northwards down the other side of Carl Wark and towards Higger Tor. It’s a solid path between the two and it made for an easy stretch of walking.
Once at the top of the steps that ascend to Higger Tor, Harry again enjoyed a brief scramble on the rocks. It’s always a guaranteed hit with kids and I always try and include a bit of rock play on any walk I devise for him. From the top of Higger Tor, there are great views all around – especially looking back towards Carl Wark and down into the valley where Burbage Brook flows.
We left Higger Tor and made our way around Fiddlers Elbow towards Upper Burbage Bridge. All of a sudden the weather turned – and when I say sudden I mean sudden. Five minutes before, we had been happily walking under sun and blue sky. Now, seemingly out of nowhere, the skies had clouded over and we were stuck in a hail shower! Harry seemed to be enjoying the weather and he described it as a snowstorm. I saw how wet his jacket and wool gloves were getting and made a mental note to buy him something better for next time!
By the time we arrived at Upper Burbage Bridge, the hail had stopped and the sun and blue sky returned. It was almost like it never happened. Harry posed for a few photos under the bridge and then we started to make our way back along the big path that runs under the long edge of Burbage Rocks. A short while later, an omninous dark cloud passed overhead and brought another shower of sleet and hail. Again, it didn’t last long – perhaps luckily as Harrys jacket was getting rather saturated. It was designed to be warm but in no way waterproof. We continued in much bleaker weather until we arrived back at the A6187 road where we headed back to the car at Longshaw.
I had been extremely lazy over the Christmas period and was itching to get out for a good long walk. I put the route together quickly on the OS Maps website, not worrying too much about quality. It was the mileage that mattered more to me on this occasion. Derwent Edge to Howden Edge I...
I had been extremely lazy over the Christmas period and was itching to get out for a good long walk. I put the route together quickly on the OS Maps website, not worrying too much about quality. It was the mileage that mattered more to me on this occasion.
I parked on the A57 by the Ladybower bridge and headed up to Derwent Edge via Whinstone Lee Tor. It was a fresh morning and the wetter areas of the ground were still frozen over. I passed the distinctive landmarks of the Wheel Stones, White Tor, and Dovestone Tor as I continued along Derwent Edge, eventually arriving at Back Tor and the first trig point of the day.
I continued north along Cartledge Ridge for a while before veering off to the west and joining Cartledge Brook. I’d been up the length of this before as part of the Derwent Watershed, and also the Upper Derwent Skyline walk. This time I had different plans. I left the main trunk of the brook via one of the branches to my left. On the Ordnance Survey 1:25k map, it’s the branch lined with grouse butts. There is a track of sorts upon the left-hand side of the branch which eventually becomes indistinct. Shortly after, I arrived at Wet Stones that overlooks Gravy Clough and Abbey Brook to the south, and across to Lost Lad and Back Tor on the other side.
A brief walk west had me onto the distinct Howden Edge track which I proceeded to follow north past High Stones and along Wilfrey Edge. I don’t like to miss a trig pillar so I took the minor detour up to the Margery Hill summit where I decided to take a break and get some food down (chorizo and cheese are current favourites). Unfortunately, this meant taking my gloves off – something I try and avoid when the temperature is so low. It’s only a matter of minutes before they actually hurt with the cold and I struggle to bend my fingers. It’s probably Raynaud’s disease. Once I’d finished eating, I then continued across bleak moorland to the Outer Edge trig point. I was lucky in that the ground had frozen over as I suspect it would have been incredibly wet and boggy otherwise. As it was, I made good progress.
From Outer Edge, I dropped down the slope to the distinctive gritstone formations below. The map lists both the Crow Stones, and Rocking Stones in this area, and I wasn’t sure which was which. The formations were much larger than I was expecting and I was amazed I’d never been here before now. From the rocks, I headed back south-east along Crow Stones edge as far as the head of Broadhead Clough. It was here that I encountered an aircraft crash site. I didn’t realise this was here and hadn’t planned for it so, at the time, I had no information about it. Upon doing a bit of quick research after returning home, I discovered it was the crash site of an aircraft (Airspeed Consul TF-RPM) that was apparently on a delivery flight from Croydon to Iceland when it crashed into the hill. This happened on the morning of the 12th April 1951 killing all three crew members on board at the time. Like many of the crashes reported in the Dark Peak, the pilot is said to have lost sight of the ground in bad visibility and ran into the hill under full power. In one area, a small wooden cross acting as a memorial was stuck in the ground. I’ve read that there’s supposed to be a bunch of them but I only recall seeing the one.
From here, I headed directly downhill, keeping Broadhead Clough on my right, until eventually, I emerged onto the path that runs alongside the River Derwent. The valley is extremely scenic but my cheap camera couldn’t really do it justice due to the overcast skies and poor lighting. I followed the path a while until I arrived at the area labelled Lands Side on the OS Map. I was aiming to cross the river around this point, and the map did actually show a track crossing it. I looked hard but unfortunately couldn’t see any sign of a track, nor did the river look crossable at that point. I backtracked a little, looking for a section of the river that looked a bit narrower – luckily that didn’t take too long although it needed a bit of a run-up for the jump across!
I scrambled up the hillside opposite to a track that made its way up above Lower Small Clough on Ronksley Moor. Here the path became a little more distinct and I followed it along the top of the clough until I eventually arrived at a small shooting cabin. From the cabin, a track had been created along the bottom of a large (man-made?) channel in the peat and led to Ridgewalk Moor where I suddenly recognised my surroundings and regained my bearings. I was now on the track that stretches between River Westend and the Barrow Stones – a track I’d utilised the year before on another walk. Feeling a little more confident and aware of the daylight hours rapidly running out, I upped the pace and made it my mission to get back to Howden Reservoir before darkness fell. As this track is used by vehicles, it made for much easier walking and so I accomplished my little mission without too much difficulty.
I had a choice from here… walk back along the reservoir path, or head on up to Alport Castles in the dark and walk back along Rowlee Pasture. The reservoir option was no doubt easier but also far less adventurous. I decided to finish the walk on a high and made my way up to Alport Castles. I quite like being up on the moors in darkness… the atmosphere is eerie and it’s deathly silent. So much so that you can almost hear yourself think. It’s rare in modern life that you experience that level of silence and I find it’s a great way to unwind and clear the head. I followed the well-trodden route along Rowlee Pasture using my little torch (which I very almost forgot to pack) before descending through the forest at Hagg Side and walking back to the car.
This walk was intended as a final training walk before I attempted the Welsh 3000’s (which I went on to fail). The idea was to have a good look at Elidir Fawr to see if I could see a better (less steep) descent route from the top. I started the walk at the Cae Gwynn...
This walk was intended as a final training walk before I attempted the Welsh 3000’s (which I went on to fail). The idea was to have a good look at Elidir Fawr to see if I could see a better (less steep) descent route from the top. I started the walk at the Cae Gwynn campsite in Nant Peris. I wasn’t camping there but they were charging a reasonable amount for convenient parking.
I headed on up to Cwm Dudodyn, readying myself for the relentless slog that was soon to come. From this angle, Elidir Fawr doesn’t look particularly impressive. It looks more a big grassy hill with sprinkles on top than a mountain proper. It also looks deceptively small. You could easily think to yourself that you’d be up it in half an hour of steady climbing. That is far from the truth though… it’s actually a horrible slog of an ascent that seems to go on forever. The angle of the slope is also fairly constant from top to bottom so there’s little respite once you’ve started climbing. I’d say it’s definitely my least favourite ascent in Snowdonia that I’ve so far attempted.
Not long after starting up the slope via the usual track, I decided to veer off to the left and make my way towards the edge of the quarry. I figured that by following the line of the quarry for a while, I’d eventually be in a position to ascend Elidir Fawr directly up its south-western ridge. On the Ordnance Survey map, this ascent seems like it should be slightly gentler in terms of gradient and it would give me a chance to walk across the entire ridge top.
It didn’t take very long to realise that this was a stupid idea. It seemed to take me a lifetime and what was gained in gradient was lost in terrain. The constant clambering up and over large boulders was far too time consuming and I quickly realised that this would not be a quicker way to descend when it came to doing the 3000’s.
From the summit of Elidir Fawr, the common route choice would be to descend gradually towards Bwlch y Marchlyn. Instead, I continued following the crest of Elidir Fawr north-east before descending down the ridge north towards the Marchlyn Mawr Reservoir. I’d only ever seen this from high up before and so it was nice to actually get down and see it close up.
After circling around the reservoir clockwise via the service road, I followed a track steeply upwards towards Carnedd y Filiast North Top (aka Y Fronllwyd) at the far northern end of the Glyder range. The view overlooked the Penrhyn Slate Quarries to the north (home of Zip World), and Bethesda beyond. The view back towards Elidir Fawr was also impressive from here. From the walks starting point, Elidir Fawr looked like a big grassy hump, but from this angle it looked far more the mountain, standing mighty over the reservoir below.
From here I simply followed the spectacular ridge of the Gyders back south, passing the summits of Carnedd y Filiast, Mynydd Perfedd, and Foel-goch before eventually arriving at the summit of Y Garn. I like Y Garn – it’s home to one of my favourite ascents (the East Ridge scramble), and it’s also one of my favourite viewpoints in Snowdonia as it overlooks the scrambling nirvana of the Glyders
Now it was time for the final descent of the day as I made my way back to the car. I headed down the track towards Llyn y Cwn that sits between Y Garn and Glyder Fawr. From here I took a sharp turn to the right and followed the track west south-west as it headed back towards Gwastadnant alongside Afon Las. The path is a nice gradual descent at first but it dramatically steepens in the lower sections and I had to take care with some sections due to my knee feeling rather weak. Once back on the road, it was a nice easy stroll back to the campsite.
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