This is a strenuous walk, not just long in miles, but very up and down, with three main ascents, and few significant sections of level walking. I started from Edale and finished at Surprise View Car Park, but Hope and Bamford, which are passed on the walk, make viable alternatives as start or finish points in order to shorten the walk.
Edale is one of the remotest villages in the Peak District, but offers a good range of accommodation, with several campsites, a youth hostel and an inn. Being the start of the Pennine Way Walk, Edale is popular with walkers, but this walk goes south from Edale, the opposite direction to the Pennine Way. From the station, head south along the road to the junction, then turn right for a short distance before turning left up a farm road, signposted to Mam Tor. Pass the first set of buildings, and at the second set leave the track for a path through a gate on the left, ascending to the right alongside a wall. Follow this for over half a mile as the path rises constantly all the way until the Edale-Castleton road is reached. Follow the road over the crest of the hill, and as it bears right turn left up a pitched path which uses well-made steps to reach the summit of Mam Tor, a fantastic viewpoint for the Peak District.
Mam Tor is also often climbed from Castleton, the popular route ascending via Trek Cliff Cavern and Winnats Head Farm. If you choose to climb from Castleton, the mileage will be less than half a mile more than from Edale, with marginally more ascending to do. From the 515 metre summit descend northwards along a well-made path in the direction of Lose Hill. The Mam Tor-Lose Hill ridge is delightful, with excellent views on both sides, and the well-constructed path ensures that you can keep your eyes on the views and not on your feet. At the depression, Hollins Cross, a junction of paths gives you options – turn left to reach Edale in less than a mile, making a 3 mile round journey, or turn left to reach Castleton in another mile. To reach Lose Hill, carry straight on at Hollins Cross, as the path ascends towards Back Tor. As you reach Back Tor (the large exposed rock face), make sure you go over a stile on the left, which gives access to the Tor and steep stepped path going to it. From its miniature summit, the path levels out, before ascending once more to reach Lose Hill in another half a mile. Although being less elevated than Mam Tor (476 metres), Lose Hill is still a fantastic viewpoint in all directions, giving you a perspective of where you have come from as well as the route ahead. Win Hill, seen eastward across the valley, is our next target.
From the airy summit the path descends almost southwards, starting off paved before becoming just a grassy slope. As it descends, keep all parallel walls on your right, and in about half a mile go through a gate along a very muddy path which continues the descent to a pave road, which in turn leads to the main valley road that takes you into Hope. Being on a bus route, Hope is viable option as a start or finish point for the walk. The section from Edale to Hope is 6 miles.
If you don’t go into Hope, turn left back on yourself on a side road signposted to the cemetery. Follow it until you pass under the railway line, then turn right immediately, before turning left up a farm track. The track is deceptively steep, and by the time you’ve reached Twitchill Farm, which has a self-catering cottage, you are half way up the mountain. Across the yard, a grassy path ascends very steeply further up the hill. At the next fence, level paths going off left and right may seem tempting, but the way to the summit lies straight ahead up more steep terrain. Across the next wall, the surroundings change from grass to heather, and as the path joins the main ridge, turn right along it to the rocky summit of Win Hill. Win Hill, at 463 metres, is lower than Lose Hill, even if the name would suggest otherwise, but is another magnificent viewpoint, as there is a fairly sharp drop on three sides. Ladybower Reservoir comes into view for the first time on the walk, providing a nice balance to the scene looking north. From the summit, descend along a path eastwards, which soon reaches some woods. Not long afterwards, turn right at a crossroad of paths, signposted to Thornhill. After keeping height for about 500 metres, keeping to the left of a wall, head left through a gate, also signposted to Thornhill, and descend along it until you reach some houses. Just before the houses turn left onto a narrow path which eventually leads to a minor road. Cross it onto a path which crosses a trail before reaching another track. Go right along it for a short while before the path crosses a field heading straight towards Bamford Mill. Cross the river, walk around the mill and then turn left along a residential road until you reach the main road in Bamford.
Bamford also has a bus service and can be used as an end point for the walk. From Edale, Bamford is 9 miles, and 3 miles on from Hope. The final section is another 7 miles and takes in Stanage Edge. To continue, take the path directly opposite the lane you’ve come up, which goes between two sets of houses. The path continues parallel to a road before entering a housing estate, then leaving it on the left between another set of houses. After crossing a field, the path meets a road, and another one continues directly on the other side. Take it as it aims towards some trees and ascends through woods to Bamford filters. Squeeze through a kissing gate onto a small road in front of the filters, and turn right onto it. After a short while turn left off of it, passing between a perimeter fence on your left and back gardens on your right. Having spent so much of the walk out in the open, this stage of the walk can feel quite surreal. Turns left when the path then reaches another track, (the only one not blocked by a gate) and follow it as it narrows into a set of steps and descends to a stream. Ascend up the other side to reach another track. Turn right for fifty yards then take the path rising steeply on the left. After crossing three fields the path re-joins the track, then leaves it again, but keeps alongside it. The path re-joins the track by a bench (a useful halting place), before leaving it again. When it re-joins the track for a third time, cross it and take the path opposite over a wooden stile to the left of a large tree. Follow the path through three fields, before taking the right-hand branch when the path forks in the fourth field. Continue through another field until the lane from Hathersage is met. During this section, the route re-emerges from the woodland, and the feeling of being ‘on the tops’ returns.
For tired legs, turn right when the road is met to descend to Hathersage in one and a half miles, making it 13 miles from Edale (7 from Hope or 4 from Bamford). If you’re determined to reach Stanage Edge, turn left instead and follow the road for half a mile until a car park is reached. Whereas the road turns sharp right, continue straight ahead along a wide path that becomes stony, but leads unfailingly to Stanage Edge. When the edge is reached, keep right on the path that follows the edge of the escarpment for the best views over the Hope Valley. Enjoy the airiness as you follow the edge southwards for a mile and a half. Just before the triangulation point is reached, leave the edge via a path on the left, which slowly descends to a road. Take the path directly opposite, which cuts across open moor to the Ringinglow road. From here there is a choice. You could aim for Fox House, where a meal can be bought, and a bus can be caught either towards Hathersage, Grindleford or Sheffield (check in advance the times). If you do, take the signed footpath from the Ringinglow road onto Higger Tor, continue south along the path to Carl Walk, and head in the same direction towards the A6187. Turn right to reach Fox House. The other alternative is to aim for Surprise View Car Park, a useful picking-up point for those with a car. In that case, turn right along Ringinglow road for a short while before going over a wooden stile o the left and following the path to the right around Higger Tor. Keep right at all junctions without reaching the road and follow the road towards Millstone Edge. Follow the path over a small rise, then turn left before the main road is met to reach Surprise View car park.