It started with a misunderstanding. I had been talking for a few months about going for a week-end to explore the Lake District area, in the UK. Imagine my surprise when unwrapping the paper of my birthday present I discovered a guide of the best hikes in Peak District instead. But it didn’t really matter, I didn’t return the guidebook and instead we book a week-end to celebrate spring and the return of the outdoors season on this maybe less hyped destination. And guess what? Peak District didn’t disappoint me.
For this week-end we choose two hikes that we believe will offer the most dramatic landscapes, they also happen to be among the most popular. But outside of the week-end, you will have the hills for yourself!
Day 1: Kinder Low hike
Distance: 15km | Duration: 4h30/ 5h
Difficulty: moderate to challenging
Expect rocky landscapes, reservoirs, moorland paths for this hike starting at Hayfield (220m) and climbing up to 630m. This is a beautiful hike but be careful in case of mist as the path is not always clearly marked.
From Hayfield, you follow Snake Path onto Mill Hill with a view over a reservoir before climbing up to the Kinder Scout plateau (600m). On a clear day, you will see Manchester and miles around. It is the case for us: strong winds blown away most of the clouds but also made our progression difficult. We find a relative shelter behind a few rocks and stop for a quick lunch before continuing our journey across the plateau. After 3 km of traverse, the path goes down to Kinder Low back to Hayfield, we crossed many field and waves at new born baby sheep!
Day 2: Lord’s seat and Mam Tor hike
Distance: 15-20km | Duration: 4-5h
On humid day two, we opted for Mam Tor hike, a classic that you can easily shorten or extend, making it a really popular option for families. On this hike you will pass numerous stiles, crossing muddy fields and hiking a fairly easy path on the ridge of the hills.
This hike starts from Barber Booth in the hope valley (alternatively you can start in Edale), follows Chapel Gate to reach the southern part of the Kinder plateau. The walk then follows an old wall until the “lord’s seat”, where you can admire the views in all directions (if not cloudy that day!). You will then continue on the ridge, passing on steep descent to Mam Nick where you cross the oad and continue your journey to climb the opposite hill, to the summit of Man Tor, a prehistorical fort and ceremonial site of the Bronze Age. The path is exposed to the elements but not dangerous and as you continue to explore it, you get excellent views of both valley. At Hollins Cross, you can take the path going down to go back to your starting point. If you have a bit more time, you can continue the walk until Back Tor and its rocky cliff or even until Lose Hill. There is no way down from there so you will have to go back to Back Tor or Lose Hill to take the paths down the valley.
Making it happen : a week-end in the Peak District
Given it’s location and ease of access, the Peak District National Park is the perfect micro adventure destination (only 3h from London!). The National Park offers a variety of hikes of different levels, by lakes, forests or to climb hills while being quite populated, meaning you will never be far from civilisation… or a pub!
Where to stay
Peak District is quite populated and there are plenty of places to stay, many B&B and campsites, all around the area. Many campsites open only from April till October so you may be a bit more limited in choices if you go early in season.
We stayed 2 nights at the Farm camping of Upper Booth Farm, located in the Edale Valley on the Pennine Way. It is 40min walk from Edale. You pitch on a big field surrounded by hills, next to the river and the sheep, all really peaceful. I could even ear owls at night! It cost 8 GBP per adult per night. Note as the camping is set on a farm it can get quite muddy (apparently Edale is one of the wettest place in the Peak District!).
If you don’t have a tent or don’t want to camp, the Farm has a barn which can welcome up to 12 people, it’s a good and cheap alternative to camping (10 GBP per person, it can also be privatised for 110 GBP). The barn also has a cooking area and seating table, it can be much appreciated to be able to cook your food in a shelter place.
The campsite has common facilities with washing area, toilets and showers (claimed as “hot” but our experience was more a mix of hot and ice cold water :-)).
Where to eat
Maybe the best part of hill walking is to finish the day by a well deserved beer (and food) at the pub! The Pack Horse in Hayfield didn’t disappoint us, it is a traditional countryside pub with a seasonal menu.
On our way back to London we stopped in Chesterfield at The Market Pub where I ordered the impressive (and delicious) Big Eddie burger.
Taking the car is the most straight forward option. On a day without traffic (if they even exist?) it is a 3h drive from London, 1h from Manchester.
Peak District is also accessible by public transportation. You can take the train from London, depending your connections it will take you between 2h30/4h to reach Edale. Hayfield is also reachable by bus.
What to bring
I used “ Peak District, outstanding circular walks” guide. You could also just buy a map of the area.
In addition to a good rain jacket (it is UK after all!), hiking boots are recommended – not so much because the terrain is challenging, but mainly because of the mud!
For more information, check Peak District website.