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Top 5 hikes around Manchester.

Since the start of the pandemic, a lot of people have been exploring their local areas more. Without foreign travel I’ve been one of them! Along with my friend Amy we managed to get out for 17 weeks in a row until the weather put us on hold until January.

With this in mind I thought I’d share some of our favourites over the last few months. Getting outdoors is proven to improve your mental health as well as the physical aspects of your health. Neither of us had any previous hiking experience really so all of these hikes should be manageable for novices like us!

No.1 Cave Dale – Mam Tor

Number one has to include Mam Tor,this is a popular spot in the heart of the Peak District. Park up in Castleton, a beautiful little village nestled between the hills…the drive down here through Winnats pass is gorgeous!

It’s around a 55 minute drive over to Castleton and there are plenty of parking spots if you get there early. Take a quick detour to check out Peak Cavern (Otherwise known as the Devil’s Arse!) Before following the signs up towards the Castle.

Once you arrive at a small square follow the signs for Cave Dale and you’ll find yourself in a tight gully beneath the castle. Follow this up a gentle incline and once you reach the top make sure you turn around to enjoy the beautiful views.

From here you want to bear right and head towards Mam Tor itself, walking down well established footpaths this walk us great for beginners. If you’re lucky you’ll see paragliders leaping from the top of the surrounding hills.

The ascent up to Mam Tor is steep but quick, so once at the trig point at the top take a breather and enjoy the 360° views. It’s now a lovely ridge walk along paving stones all the way along to lose hill. I recommend stopping about halfway at the top of a cliff face for your perfect picnic spot. I had made a nice herby cous-cous salad for us to enjoy while we looked down over Edale and the transpennine train track.

Once you reach lose hill you can choose to climb up to the top or skip this and make your way down to Hope, the next village along from Castleton. If short on time you can skip this and take one of the paths which take you closer to Castleton.

Stop for a pint in one of the pubs in Hope before walking the 30 minutes or so back to Castleton. You can do a little local shopping here with lots of fresh produce before heading back over to Manchester.

No.2 The Roaches and Lud’s Church.

This was one of our favourite walks we did for a long time, you get some really diverse landscapes which we loved. The Roaches are just over an hour away from Manchester, on google maps head for the Roaches tea room and park up on the side of the road.

The walk starts with a steep ascent up Hen Cloud, this is also a popular climbing spot so look out for people clambering up the steep rock faces. Once you reach the top stop and enjoy the views over the Cheshire plains and try and spot Jodrell bank! Head North and enjoy the interesting rock formations along the way look out for kestrels, we saw several as we wandered along.

You’ll come to Doxey pool, set high up on the hilltop apparently you can swim here, but it was pretty cold and wet when we were there and it didn’t look so inviting, I would love to hear what its like on a sunnier day! Continue along here, we stopped at the Trig point for lunch, having to eat salad with our hands because I forgot the cutlery…a regular occurence on our hikes.

Once you reach Bearstone rock (Easily found on google maps) cross the road and turn right heading downhill into some woods, now enjoy a change of scenery as you go through ancient British woodland, following the signs for Lud’s church. Despite the name, don’t look for a building along here, but rather a deep chasm which was once an ancient religious site. Descend down into Lud’s church and enjoy the amazing green moss hanging over the edges, it was even better post rainfall as water cascaded down the side.

Walk to the end and head back up, follow the path around the hill and now head back towards the road from before, now you’ll be walking through some lovely heathland. Upon reaching the road you can either head back the same way you came or take the road back towards the car park. As we like a loop trail we took the road turning our walk into a figure 8 and were glad we did as we saw a mountain hare on the way!

If you want you can now stop at the tea rooms and reward yourselves with a huge slice of cake! A great way to end the walk.

No.3 Gordale Scar and Malham Cove

I think Amy and I can agree this is our favourite walk so far, we felt so good doing it, saw plenty of interesting scenery along the way and Malham itself is a wonderful little village that seems to cater well for the adventurous types.

This walk is a little further away at an hour and a half’s drive, but it’s definitely worth it. Head to Malham and park up near the visitor centre, grab a map and a guide for more walking inspiration. The people working there were so friendly too. You start by crossing the river over a small bridge and doubling back on yourself, before wandering through some fields along an easily identifiable path.

You’ll enter some typical British woodlands, and follow the river up to Janet’s Foss, a wonderful waterfall with rumours of a fairy queen and a pool that you can take a dip in. Once you’re done here follow the path at the side of the waterfall. Now follow the path along to the road. Don’t take the first path tov the left, instead carry on past the bridge and refreshments stand and follow the path into the field ahead of you.This part of the walk is magical as you head into the scar, following a beautiful river full of rich greenery. You’ll turn a corner and suddenly Gordale scar will be in front of you and you suddenly feel very small. You now have a choice, you can either attempt the climb up the waterfall, or turn back and take the path you skipped earlier. As we were feeling adventurous and confident up the waterfall we went! I think it looks more difficult than it actually is, and it’s only the beginning where you need to climb up a little, once up there it’s just a steep ascent. However we were rewarded for our efforts with another amazing waterfall pouring out of a hole in the cliffside.

At the top we had some more incredible views of the countryside, and headed straight on, keeping the gorge to our right. At the top are some amazing limestone rock formations, follow these along until you hit a wall.Follow the obvious track from here to a crossroads where you’ll take a left towards Malham Tarn, a glacial lake that’s the highest marl lake in the UK. Once you get to the lake you have two options again. Either take a left at the entrance and head towards Malham Cove or you can complete a circuit of the lake. We went for the latter and after exploring some marshland towards the far end of the lake we spotted some deer! We also stopped at the lake to enjoy our lunch, Amy had made a delicious goat cheese pasta!
We got a little bit off track from here, we should have followed the road around and back to the lake to get onto the same path but I tried to take a shortcut which probably added to the walk. It was fine however and we got back onto the path to the Cove easily.

You’ll start to descend down into another gorge, following its natural path to the famous limestone pavement of Malham. Take a moment to enjoy this cool geological formation and the views down towards Malham before taking the steep descent down to the river. Make sure you look back to appreciate the scale of the cliff and where you’ve just climbed down from. Follow the idyllic river back into Malham where there are plenty of nice looking pubs to stop at and have a well earnt rest!

No.4 Kinder Scout

Kinder scout is the highest point in the Peak District so we were excited to do this one. Your starting point is Edale, about an hour drive from Manchester or you can take the train! We parked up near the station and walked up into Edale itself, past the Nag’s Head pub on your right and take the first path on the right. Cross the river here and follow the path to the left, make sure you head straight on here and keep the river to your left. It was about 30 degrees when we went, so make sure you take enough water and have a head covering as there’s not much shade.
The path follows the natural curve of the river and the scenery is beautiful, after a while you’ll meet the river and have to cross it a few times as you follow it upwards. There a plenty of pretty spots to stop and take a break if you need to.
You’ll soon come to a jumble of rocks going steeply up to your left, you’re heading straight up there to the summit! Take a breather and go, it wasn’t as bad as we thought and so rewarding at the top, we had a bit more of a breeze here and it’s pretty flat for the rest of the walk until the descent.

At the top take a left and instead of following the edge of the ravine head across the top of the summit to your right. A short distance along you’ll start to see interesting rock formations that the wind and rain has carved over centuries. We stopped in the shade of one for lunch, a lovely cold noodle salad with a spicy peanut sauce. There were some great views up here and really good spots for a picture of two.

Re-energised from lunch it was back to the walk, it’s truly stunning up here with plenty to look at. After crossing a few little waterfalls/streams you want to go past the Woolpacks, this felt like we were in another world with alien rock shapes dotted about for at least half a mile it was so atmospheric. We wound our way through the rocks and peat bogs, stopping to enjoy the sights and take some pics. Kinder Scout peak is just up to the right past the Woolpacks if you want to head up there.We carried along the path and started to descend, taking a left towards Jacobs ladder, a notoriously steep staircase that leads back down towards Edale. Luckily we were going down and not up so it wasn’t too bad! At the bottom we splashed some water over ourselves to cool down from the little stream and crossed over the cute bridge. From here it’s a pretty straight path back to Edale through a few farmyards and across some fields. At Edale we stopped for a lovely cold beer and pints of lemonade to re-hydrate!

No.5 Stony Cove Pike and High Street

The Lake District, England’s largest National Park and home to it’s highest peak, Scafell Pike. It’s one of the most scenic parts of the country and it’s less than two hours drive from Manchester. This time we were joining up with my sister and her boyfriend to reach some of the Wainwrights, consisting of 214 peaks or locally known as fells, they are described in Alfred Wainwrights ‘Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells written between 1955-66. The ultimate challenge is to visit all of them.
Our walk begins in a tiny hamlet called Hartsop. Park up in the small carpark here and head through the gate at the opposite end. You’ll need to cross the river and then head straight up the hill in front of you. This was a difficult climb as it’s straight up for a good 45 minutes to an hour. Take as many breaks as you need and enjoy the view over one of the lakes. Once you reach the top look for Hartsopp Dodd, the first Wainwright. Follow the wall along the top of the hill to get to Stony Cove Pike, our second Wainwright already!Take a left here and follow the path downhill, you have to do a bit of clambering over rocks but nothing to intense. You’ll reach a cross roads here and unfortunately you’ll be heading straight up again, it was a nice walk here as the rain subsided and the clouds started lifting we began to get glimpses of the landscape around us. At the top you can head straight to the stone tower you can see or bear left and follow the ridge all the way to the end. This is your third Wainwright Gray Crag. Head back the way you came and up towards the tower.
We stopped here for lunch, a joint effort between my sister and I. Then realising that the tower marks the fourth Wainwright, Thornthwaite Crag! The clouds were hurling past at this point so we thought we better get going, as we started walking they suddenly lifted and the sun came bearing down on us! The views we suddenly had were absolutely stunning! You could see for absolute miles. We were following an old Roman highway called the High Street! Along the way we reached a Trig Point and yes, you guessed it, our fifth Wainwright!Keeping the lake in the valley we continued along the High Street path, instead of veering off to the right and following the ridge we took a left over to another Wainwright called The Knott, our sixth and final one! We were now at the descent point of the walk, going straight down to meet the lakes edge.

It looked crystal clear and sure on another day a perfect place to swim. Unfortunately we didn’t have time, so crossed the rover that tumbled down from the lake and followed it back down to the car park.

Unfortunately there’s no pub or cafe at the end of this walk in Hartsop, but there are plenty of beautiful areas nearby that you could go to for a well deserved pint or treat.

I hope you enjoy these walks as much as we have, there are excellent guides on google for each of these routes, we haven’t lost our way once, always reading the instructions carefully. Make sure you’re prepared as the weather can change in an instant, take your time and enjoy the wild natural scenery that England has to offer and keep hydrated!

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