DISTANCE: Approximately 7 miles
This walk is quite strenuous as it involves a steep ascent to the summit of Lose Hill.
Nestling at the head of the Hope Valley and surrounded by protective hills whose summits are often shrouded in most, Castleton is a settlement dominated by an ancient castle from whence it took its name. Castleton struggles to maintain a rural appearance whilst endeavouring to cope with the hordes of tourists who descend in multitudes to visit the local attractions.
The main village street in Castleton is a commercial hotspot with gift shops vying for trade. Fortunately some pastureland has been taken over for parking areas to accommodate the vast number of cars and coaches which otherwise would congest the narrow streets. Despite all this enterprise, Castleton maintains its community spirit and age old ceremonies are still carried out.
On 29th May it is Oak Apple Day when the ‘King’ and his lady lead a procession from the Nags Head to the church, stopping at all the inns and hostelries along the way (the original pub crawl!). The King is encased from the waist upwards in a framework bedecked with flowers. On reaching the church this garland is removed and winched to the top of the tower where it is left to wither and die. It is thought that this ceremony has taken place for over 250 years as the Parish Register records in 1749 “paid for an iron rod to hang ye garland in – 8d”.
Peveril Castle, whose remains sit majestically overlooking the village, was at one time an important stronghold. The only remaining building however is the keep which was built in the early 12th century. This impregnable fortress was the seat of William Peveril, illegitimate son of William the Conqueror and his lady friend Maud, the daughter of Ingelric who was a Saxon nobleman related to Edward the Confessor. From here William Peveril ruled over the village and his lead mines, whilst also acting as bailiff to the Royal Forest of the Peak which extended for 60 square miles around him. The castle was then used as a hunting lodge by royalty and noblemen and was visited on occasion by Henry I, Henry III and Edward III.
Peveril Castle lost its attraction in the 15th century and was subsequently used as a prison before being reduced to a ruinous state two centuries later. It was reputed that walled-up remains of prisoners have been discovered in the keep, adding sinister connotations to its character. The castle was also famed through the fictional writing of ‘Peveril of the Peak’ by Sir Walter Scott in 1823.
1. Park in one of the designated car parks around the village, some of which are pay and display and make your way to the church which is dedicated to St Edmund. Although much restored in 1837, the tower is 15th century.
2. From the church head to the main street with gift shops and pubs and walk down past the school which is on your right and continue around the bend, walking past the Cheshire Cheese Inn which is also on your right.
3. As you leave the village you will walk over a bridge crossing the river, shortly afterwards you should turn left up a track which leads straight up and around to the rear of Losehill Hall which is a Victorian mansion now owned by the Peak Park Authority and used as a residential study centre. Behind the hall you will see a sign indicating the way to Lose Hill. Follow the footpath to the right of Riding House Farm. As you ascend you will observe the valley stretching out below.
4. At a stile over a ditch just before Losehill Farm turn left and take the short cut as indicated which crosses a further stile and climbs a bank to a signpost. Turn left and begin your ascent to the summit of Lose Hill up a steep path and series of steps to reach 1563 feet above sea level, the last 100 yards are the worst as you will no doubt find out! At the top there is an interesting viewfinder with a circular bronze plaque, this has been there since 1948.
5. As you look down onto Castleton, behind you is the Vale of Edale whilst over to your right is Mam Tor rising to 1695 feet. It is also known as the ‘Shivering Mountain’, the title being achieved through years of movement, erosion and landslide caused because of the geological structure of the hill which is made up of layers of sandstone and shale. It is not of a firm construction, although during the Iron Age our ancestors built a stronghold on its summit where the remains of the rampart can still be made out. The main road, which until the late 1970’s struggled to keep open, despite bad weather conditions and subsidence, was laid as a turnpike road in 1811 and an alternative route to Winnats Pass
6. From the summit of Lose Hill follow the path along the ridge. You will come to a steep descent at the side of Back Tor which is a sheer drop on your right. BE CAREFUL AND KEEP TO THE PATH. Continue along the ridge to a dip marked by a solid stone cairn. This is in fact an orientation table erected to the memory of Tom Hyett of Long Eaton, by his fellow ramblers. Here are a junction of paths and tracks as this was at one time the main route from Edale to Castleton. Before Edale had a church of its own, all ceremonies and worship took place at Castleton, including burials. The path which crossed the ridge here then earned itself the name ‘the coffin track’.
7. At this point which is known as Hollins Cross, turn down the path on the Castleton side of the ridge, bearing right and following a path heading south-west with Mam Tor directly in front of you. This eventually leads down to a cottage set amongst the trees where you cross a stile onto a lane and turn right, then go around a corner and pass behind another farmhouse.
8. Take a stile on the left just after the farm building and cross a meadow towards a gateway into an area of rough pasture pitted with the debris of mining. Way up to your right at the side of Mam Tor is the Blue John Mine. Blue John was discovered in the 17th century. Its uses as a fashionable ornamental mineral were promoted in the 18th century by the mineralogist Henry Watson who also had links with the Ashford Marble quarry. Amongst the larges most noted objects made of Blue John is the Tazza vase to be found at Chatsworth.
9. You should see a yellow marker to guide the way. Just over to your right are the remains of Odin Mine which is reputed to date back to Roman times, although records from as early as 1280 certainly confirm this to be Derbyshire’s oldest mine. It was extremely rich in ore and was only closed in 1847. Just over a rise and on this side of the road you can find a crushing wheel and circular track which was part of a horse gin. You can make a slight detour to see these by following a path on the right which leads up to the road.
10. From Odin Mine there is a very clear footpath back to Castleton crossing fields and stiles past Knowlegates Farm. On the hill over to your right is Treak Cliff cavern which is a maze of passages and caverns which are renowned for their fossils. It is said that there are over 70 different species of Brachiopod (shellfish) to be found. Nestling at the foot of Winnats Pass is Speedwell Cavern where you travel underground on boats. This unusual canal system of transport was originally used to bring lead to the surface when the passages were flooded and boats installed. Deep in the heart of the cave is a vast cavern known as the bottomless pit which has a drop of 70 feet from the walkway down into an abyss.
11. After walking to the side of Odin Sitch en route for Castleton you will eventually emerge onto a road opposite Goosehill Hall. Behind this is Peak Cavern which is also known as the Devils Arse. The huge entrance was used for the manufacture of ropes for gin winding, sash cords and clothes lines etc. For over 300 years men, women and children were employed in this industry, some of them even lived on site in little huts erected in the entrance to the cavern. The last ropemaker was Herbert Marrison who was still employed at the age of 83. He died toward the end of the 20th century.