Mam Tor 7 mile walk
The Mam Tor-Lose Hill ridge is now generally known as “the Great Ridge,” and it is a classic, four-mile promenade along the shale and grit ridge which stands on the borders of the Dark and White Peaks, and looks into the heart of both...
Mam Tor & The Great Ridge
The Mam Tor-Lose Hill ridge is now generally known as “the Great Ridge,” and it is a classic, four-mile promenade along the shale and grit ridge which stands on the borders of the Dark and White Peaks, and looks into the heart of both.
Take the steps which lead up from the back of the Mam Nick car park and follow the path rising gradually through the trees to emerge at a stile which leads to more urban-looking stone-paved steps, complete with inset Iron Age icons, which pass through the ramparts defending the western spur of Mam Tor.
Mam Tor, at 517m/1,695ft high and 6ha/16 acres in area, is one of the highest, largest and most easily attained hill forts in the Pennines, and certainly the most impressively situated. The name may be Celtic and mean “Mother Mountain,” and the bald, windswept summit certainly dominates the head of the Hope Valley above Castleton.
Originally thought to date, like most hill forts, from the Iron Age, exacavations at Mam Tor have found pottery which indicated a much earlier, late Bronze Age date for the substantial double ramparts and the numerous hut circles which pit the interior. Archaeologists now doubt that such “forts” had a purely military purpose. They may have have been used as meeting places or summer sheilings from where stock could be watched as it grazed the neighbouring hills. The much-eroded tumulus (burial mound) which marked the summit has been completely encased by the National Trust in stone cobbles, which many visitors take for the real thing.
The other popular name for Mam Tor is “the Shivering Mountain,” a reference to the unstable layers of shale and grit which have slipped away from the east face, creating a layered, chocolate-cake appearance when viewed from Castleton. These shales are still slipping, and looking down from the summit, the huge mass of landslipped debris which has fallen from the face can be seen spreading down towards Castleton in a huge fan. Hang gliders and parascenders use Mam Tor as a launch point in the right conditions, adding more colourful interest to the summit.
The views from Mam Tor are justly famous, extending along the sinuous line of the Great Ridge to Back Tor and Lose Hill, east down the length of the Hope Valley, with Castleton and its castle prominent in the foreground, and west towards the moorland heights of Lord’s Seat and Brown Knoll. Kinder Scout, and the booths of Edale, fill the northern view, with Grindslow Knoll prominent above Grindsbrook.
Take the broad, flag-stoned path which leads north through the ramparts of Mam Tor and down to the memorial topograph at the col of Hollins Cross. This was a stopping place on the “coffin route” for the deceased of Edale being taken to Castleton for burial. (You can shorten the route by returning from Castleton from here, but you will face the long climb up The Winnats to return to the car park).
Now climb up the badly-eroded and loose path to the summit of Back Tor, which is a kind of Mam Tor in reverse, for in this case the landslipped face points north-west. It is an impressive, but terribly lose, crag, with the scraggy remains of Brockett Booth Plantation climbing its smooth southern slopes.
From Back Tor, the path descends again before the final climb, again on paving slabs, to the graceful summit of Lose Hill.
The 476m/1,563ft summit of Lose (pronounced “Loose”) Hill is more properly known as Ward’s Piece, in honour of G.H.B. “Bert” Ward, the so-called “King of the Clarion Ramblers.” This remarkable Sheffielder was a great trespasser and campaigner for open access to the then-forbidden moors of the Dark Peak, and almost singly-handedly wrote and published the meticulous little Sheffield Clarion Ramblers Handbooks for more than 50 years until his death in 1957.
The view from Lose Hill looks east across the valley of the Noe to its neighbour, Win Hill and north across Edale to Jagger’s Clough and Crookstone Knoll at the eastern end of the Kinder plateau. To the south, Castleton and the white exclamation mark of the chimney of the Hope Valley Cement Works are the most prominent landmarks.
Retrace your steps from Lose Hill for a return route of entirely different views from those you met on the outward trip. Cross Back Tor and Hollins Cross to Mam Tor and then down to the Mam Nick car park.
Start/finish: Mam Nick Car Park, off the A625 west of Castleton
Distance: 11km/7 miles
Approximate time: Allow 3-4 hours
Highest point: Mam Tor, 517m/1,695ft
Maps: OS Explorer Sheet 24, The Dark Peak; Harveys, Dark Peak North and South
Refreshments: At Mam Nick (mobile) or pubs and cafes in Castleton
Terrain: Easy paths, paved for much of for the, then field paths and lanes
These walks have been adapted from Roly Smith’s Rambler’s Guide to the Peak District, published by HarperCollins in 2000.
Copyright Let's Stay Peak District 2010
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015