Day 4 – Youlgrave to Tideswell – 16 miles (25.5 km) – 8 hours
I had worried during the night about an infection in one particular blister and went to see a nurse to check it out. If it was indeed infected, I might have to cancel the rest of the hike, but it turned out to be just a painful, annoyingly located, blister nothing more. So, I packed my gear and set out from the hostel, ignoring the pain.
I headed down the very steep roads of Youlgrave to the river, and followed it on a dirt path, past a small footbridge and several fields.
I eventually came to a vehicle bridge across to Alport but did not cross. I continued alongside the River Lathkill crossing fields, for about a mile before coming to the Conksbury Bridge. I stopped and looked down the river where masses of flies buzzed about. In the water, a single fish preyed on those that got too close.
I crossed the bridge and entered Lathkill Dale, a three-mile stretch of trail along the river. I passed many other walkers, most who had come only to walk the dale. I walked with the thin river to my left, with views of weirs along the way.
To my right side for much of the dale was a rocky bank often covered with bush, but from time to time a small path would lead to a cave entrance in the rock. While I had a head torch with me, there were too many to investigate and my day was set to be long enough. About halfway along the dale, a wooden bridge crossed the river to a ruined house.
I decided to investigate and found a large hole behind the building with a ladder leading down. So, I climbed down for a look and found a short tunnel leading to a five-metre deep rocky hole beneath the house itself. Beside it a small hand generator to turn on the lights.
Back up along the river, I continued my walk along a mixture of concrete paths, dirt trail and rocky path. Towards the end of the dale, it forked, with the trail heading along the other fork from the river. The trail led up between two ridges, crossing rough rocky ground until it emerged near a road.
I stopped for lunch before continuing around into Monyash, a small village. Then my trail led up a road and across grazing fields before coming to the Magpie lead mine, which has not been used for many decades.
After a brief look around, I continued on to the small town of Sheldon. I then crossed more fields for more than half a mile before heading downhill in Great Shacklow Wood.
I rarely use my hiking poles, but I pulled one out to help my stability on the steepest descent so far of the hike.
At the base, I forded a river and followed a dirt trail through the forest for near a mile around a right bend to a weir, which I crossed at a metal bridge. The path then ran up the side of the hill, while not steep, it was a constant climb to emerge at Monsal Head and great views along the valley.
The trail headed down steeply again on the other side, to the old Monsal rail line, where the railway has now been all but removed.
The trail followed a hard road for a couple of miles, and through two old train tunnels, the Cressbrook and Litton tunnels.
After the second tunnel, I crossed the river at Litton Mill.
I made my way around and up Tideswell Dale for a mile and a half before coming to a road. The trail crossed and pushed me up a hill. With only a few hundred metres to go on a long day’s hike, who’s idea was it to climb a steep hill behind a farm? I eventually came into the Tideswell, exhausted, and began looking for my Airbnb.
Footsore and with the painful blisters, I did not feel like wandering too far for food, so I found a local chippy around the corner and a Co-op to get some cider, before settling in for a long sleep.
Day 5 – Tideswell to Castleton – 14 miles (22.5 km) – 6.5 hours
After a 10 hour sleep, and an excellent breakfast at my Airbnb, I headed out of Tideswell along Church Lane which headed over a hill. It was nothing too extreme and got my blood going as the wind was a little chilly.
I made it into Litton, just another tiny village dotted on the landscape. I found the trail on the far side and cut across a field with a group of seven people stopped ahead of me. They were all teenage girls; I wished them a good morning and continued walking. A few minutes later, I came upon a group of seven teenage boys and wished them the same. I headed quickly downhill into a gully called Tansley Dale, following a dirt path.
With the boys following behind, I walked on quickly towards the bottom. The gully was part of Cressbrook Dale I had walked beside yesterday. At the bottom, I turned left and headed along the base of the dale between two ridges. I followed it around to the right and began to rise. The lads likely went the other direction, but I could hear the girls, who were walking at the top of the left-hand ridge.
The gully eventually rose out of the dale to a road near a village, Wardlow Mires. I walked through and found the path headed between farm buildings, the smell was just foul, I don’t know how farmers do it. I then headed up the hill across grazing fields towards a Manor House.
I passed the manor and walked along a lane for a couple of hundred metres before crossing a grazing field with sheep and lambs. I crossed many more fields until I came to Foolow, apparently the Peak District’s prettiest village, where I stopped outside the pub for a five-minute sit-down.
After crossing a further 17 fields, mostly empty, but some with the obligatory sheep and lambs, I came to Eyam. This village has a sombre story behind it. It was struck by the plague in the 17th century but quarantined itself so as not to spread the disease. 260 died, but the plague did not get out.
After Eyam, the trail climbed a very steep road, through a less steep field and into a small wood where the even steeper path finally levelled out. As I emerged from the wood, I discovered the sun had come out, and it would stay out for the rest of the day.
I crossed several more fields before the landscape changed from grassy paddocks to scraggy moors. I climbed to the summit of a short hill and then down the other side following a winding trail that cut around the edge of a steep hill following a stone wall. It eventually dove down into a gully, across a stream and into a clough – a small gorge – where I followed a trail to the end, climbing out of it to the village of Abney.
From Abney, I followed a thin concrete road for half a mile to a sandy, gravel road for a further two miles to the village of Brough.
From here I followed the trail across many grazing fields, containing cows and their calves, sheep and their lambs, a goat and even llama! I passed the village of Hope before arriving at Castleton, the end point of the day.