When the sun is shining, is there a better place to be in the world than Good Ol’ Blighty? This was the thought percolating in my head as we wove our way out of the Caravan and Motorhome Club in Castleton via the dog walking path on site.
Castleton is an extremely charming little village nestled under a range of picturesque hills in the Northern Peak District. It’s situated roughly halfway between Macclesfield and Sheffield and is close to some other gorgeous honeypots like Edale and Hope. Definitely an area ripe for camping with great walks and pubs in abundance (my two favourite things – ummm after my family of course….!)
On that summer’s day in scorching heat we made sure our flasks were full to the brim with as much cool water as we could carry. Having run out when climbing Tryfan in Snowdonia in similar conditions, we had learnt our lesson well. We had looked at the OS map and had decided on a route from Lose Hill to Mam Tor in order to get our daily fix of spectacular Derbyshire views.
Out of the campsite gate we took care in crossing the main Hope to Castleton road (the A6187) which often has boy racers speeding along it and turned right towards Castleton itself. Luckily, we only had to endure this road for approximately 100 yards because our route was a right turn into the Youth Hostel grounds of Losehill Hall – sadly this involved re-crossing the road!
Now we were getting somewhere. Luscious trees provided some shade as the lane wound up past the rather handsome Gothic mansion Losehill Hall. Built in 1882 it now acts as cheap accommodation for thousands of teenagers each year and boasts 27 acres of attarctive grounds. Tents were dotted around as we trudged up around the back of the main building.
On to a rough little track we made a right turn and then a sharp left over a style onto a footpath heading North up to Lose Hill itself.
The path hugged a strip of trees with exceptional views of the ridge up above us stretching between Lose Hill and Mam Tor, our route for the day. I often dislike seeing what is to come from a walk as I prefer the sense of suspense and surprise from the unknown. However, there was no denying it looked spectacular.
Just before Riding House Farm we crossed a little brook hidden in the shade and carried on northbound. The path was getting steeper now and pretty much followed the stream which was bubbling away downhill in the opposite direction to us. “Lucky stream!” said my 10 year old daughter Loz.
The path abruptly turned east and the trees became much sparser. The views were panoramic and jaw dropping – in particular, the huge Bradwell Quarry to the south looked impressive. Our eyes were mainly focussed upwards though and Loz was starting to complain a bit about the heat and the gradient. The flasks of water were getting rapidly depleted, but as they say – many a person has died in the Sahara desert with water still left in their canteen….
Lose Hill – or rather giving up on it
With Loz taking ever longer to put one foot in front of the other, we had some important decisions to make – namely the achievement or our sanity!
The steep path up to the summit of Lose Hill seemed fairly crowded with people, and would take ages to ascend at our current rate of progress. I decided it might be easier to head due West towards a glade of trees on a fairly flat route across fields. This proved to be a masterstroke!
The glade of trees was the Brocker Booth plantation, nestled underneath Back Tor and it was a real delight. Even better was the fact that it seemed to kick-start Loz who made a show of heading off on a solo expedition in front of us. Blissful – no more moaning!
The walk through the plantation was highly memorable and put me in mind of Alpine adventures in Switzerland – there was the same clarity of air and sharpness of aspect. Truly sublime.
Through a small gate and we were now back out in the open countryside, walking a delicious path to the 390m summit of Hollins Cross and then on to the higher Mam Tor in the distance. Fantastic views were abundant – to the Northwest we could see Jacob’s Ladder and Kinder Scout in the distance. It looked beautiful and must rate in my top ten accessible climbs in the UK.
Lose Hill to Mam Tor – Beautiful Views
After more water and a sandwich from my backpack we continued the climb to Mam Tor having finally caught up with Loz. She was now humming away and I could tell that she was enjoying herself. We passed three men wearing wetsuits and flipflops who were raising money for the NHS. I had to donate – climbing Mam Tor in scorching heat in flipflops is seriously nuts!
The walk was taking more out of me than I had expected – perhaps because I’m now approaching 50, I was relieved when we got to the top of Mam Tor. At 517m tall, it’s a grand viewpoint of the surrounding area and a real high point (in more ways than one) of this route.
Mam Tor descent and Ice Cream
The southwest route down from Mam Tor was simple to follow, but not so easy to keep away from people. The Covid-19 fear seemed to be receding as most people were obviously vaccinated or at least acting like they were. At the bottom of the hill close to Edale road and the Mam Tor National Trust car park we climbed over a style heading abruptly east down to Old Mam Tor Rd and a cafe near Blue John Cavern.
My god, that ice cool ice cream tasted delicious and put a spring in our step as we moved on from Blue John Cavern on an eastbound crosscountry path towards Treak Cliff Cavern. The views were still amazing, with Castleton stretching out below.
We ambled the rest of the way To Treak Cliff Cavern and then down some steep steps back on to Old Mam Tor Road and on to Castleton.
The pubs were kicking into life, but we wanted to get back to the campsite for showers and a change of clothes. They would still be there for us in the evening…..