Bakewell, the start and finish of this classic 25 miler
Monsal Head looking across to Brushfield

White Peak Challenge Walk


25 miles. John Merrill’s Peak District Challenge Walk (the original 1983 White Peak version available from good Derbyshire Bookshops) is yet another very good excuse to take a short break in Derbyshire’s Peak District. A few years ago, four forty-somethings did it the easy way and lived to tell the tale. Mike Cummins explains....


The walk......

Boasting a picturesque circuit of around twenty five miles, this delightful walk was designed by the author to be achievable in a single day but softies would probably prefer to take a more leisurely two days and turn what could become a bit of a slog into a memorable short-break. Records show the longest time taken to be in excess of sixteen hours with a fastest recorded circuit of just over four hours (running!); the choice is yours!

But don’t be fooled into thinking this walk is easy; even a two day trip is pretty tough mainly due to the three thousand six hundred feet of ascent to overcome, so you’ll need to be reasonably fit and used to quite serious walking. And a few shorter practice walks beforehand would make good sense too.

Proper footwear and weatherproof clothing are obviously essential as you’ll be out in the elements for somewhere between ten and fifteen hours walking time......our group completed it in twelve and a half hours at a steady, late 40’s pace!

Nevertheless, the walk is hugely enjoyable with many highlights and is a peerless introduction to the Peak District delighting the walker with a diverse, occasionally breathtaking panorama of soft limestone plateaux, hard gritstone moorland and dramatic river valleys. Historic sites, attractive villages and refreshingly original routes all add to the pleasure derived from completing this rewarding walk. And you’ll even get a badge and certificate!

....and suggestions on how to do it the easy way!

Take a three night break arriving on Wednesday evening and relax with a beer or two whilst planning tomorrows start. After a hearty breakfast on Thursday morning set off from Bakewell armed with the book, and head towards the old station then through the golf course climbing up through steep woodland to Ballcross. Enjoy the magnificent view as you stroll over the broad Calton Pastures, down towards Chatsworth Park and onwards to the confluence of the rivers Derwent and Wye at Rowsley where a well earned coffee break should be taken (5 miles completed in approx. 2 hours).

The next stage is a slow attractive climb up to Earl Grey tower and onto the village of Birchover with Derbyshire’s Dining Pub of the Year, the Druid’s, happily en route! The more disciplined of you will pass by (this time!) continuing to a lunch stop atop the impressive Robin Hood’s Stride, by which time you’ll have progressed 9 miles in around 41/2 hours.

The final section of your first day is six miles and three hours long, taking you down into pretty Bradford Dale, on through Youlgreave before climbing steeply to picnic tables at Moor Lane car park where, believe me, you will stop to catch your breath!

A descent into Cales Dale follows before a lovely stroll into Fern Dale (don’t turn right over the stile...follow signs for Manor House Farm) signals the last few steps into the village of Monyash where the Bull’s Head beckons; resistance is useless, so enjoy a glass or two to mark the end of day one before sorting out the short (motorised) trip back to your Bakewell base (we left a second car in Monyash earlier in the day). After fifteen miles in about 71/2 hours, your first day is over!

With just ten miles or so left to navigate, day two begins next morning back at Monyash crossing several ancient field paths on your way over to Flagg and continuing over the limestone plateau to Taddington which offers a number of attractive spots to stop for a break. A descent into a shallow dale leads down eventually over the A6 to the start of a seriously steep but shortish ascent to Brushfield Hough overlooking the famous Monsal Dale....but a break for sandwiches at the top soon repays the effort, with a series of wonderful vistas from way above the beautiful Wye-laced dale. 5 miles have passed in about 21/2 hours.

The final five miles take you past a tiny little beer-gardened pub called the Packhorse at Little Longstone where you might feel you deserve a small, cold sustenance to encourage you up through Cracknowle Wood past which vantage point the steeple of Bakewell’s church comes presently into view. It’s a glorious sight.

Then, as you descend to the pavements of the town, 25 miles achieved, allow yourself a minute or two’s happy reflection on what will have been a most enjoyable and rewarding experience. With that evenings celebrations still to come, there’s little doubt you’ll sleep very well tonight!

On Saturday morning take a leisurely breakfast, read the papers, enjoy a stroll by the river and buy yourself a Bakewell Pudding. Take one last look around the town and head off home, promising only to return to the delightful Peak District. Check the lottery on Saturday evening, curse your luck but make it to your local on Sunday lunchtime where you can boast about your mid-week endeavours. At your desk on Monday morning start planning your next three night trip to Derbyshire.......John Merrill’s Dark Peak Challenge Walk!

Now that’s what you call a walking holiday. For softies, of course! 

Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015