Updated on July 15th, 2021
Mam Tor is one of the most popular hikes in the Peak District & was recently placed in the Top 10 for Britain’s favourite walks. After experiencing the epic panoramic views from the length of the Great Ridge, I would certainly not argue! This is a hike not to be missed, even if, like me, you discover an incompetence for following instructions ;). As a result, here is my ultimate guide to Mam Tor walks.”
Mam Tor, Peak District, UK
While we can’t travel overseas currently from the UK, I have made a pact with myself to explore more of the beautiful country I live in. For my first escape, I opted for a road trip around the Peak District which totally blew me away. Over 5 days I cycled over viaducts & through railway tunnels, explored vast caves and wondered at medieval castles & stately homes. I visited a village that quarantined in the Great Plague, crossed a river over stepping stones & was dwarfed by a dam that had a very important place in British history.
This was something I hadn’t been quite so aware of before. I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, so how can I be rubbish at hiking?
…Oh, I had a guide to help me. And I was with my friend whose back I had in my sights the entire time.
I hiked the Inca Trail?… Oh, guide again & lots of amazing friends & porters to follow.
Do as I say, not as I do!
In the Peak District, I hiked alone the entire time & I pretty much got lost on everyone! When I say lost, obviously there were lots of people to ask. And I asked many people. And I followed their instructions. However, I also got distracted by another peak to head to, a tree which looked interesting, another path which could lead somewhere better…& hence by the time I got to check my instructions again, they never seemed to make sense anymore!
But I was still never lost. As I’ve always said…it’s about the journey, not the destination!”
As my first hike, Mam Tor was spectacular every step of the way. I didn’t do the 4-hour circular walk I was planning. I didn’t even do the alternative 2-hour Mam Tor circular walk I had researched just in case. But I did walk along the Great Ridge, in both directions. And I chatted to a lot of people before realising that everyone was on a different Mam Tor walking route to me, with an alternative starting point, or another end.
So, rather than put all my research to waste, I thought I’d share a few different routes for you to choose how you would like to tackle this gorgeous walk. But before I do, a few points to entice you to go there.
Where is the Peak District?
The Peak District covers 555 miles2 & sits across four counties in England – Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire & Yorkshire. It was the first National Park created in the UK. Nowadays it receives over 10 million visitors a year & is the busiest National Park in Europe.
What makes the Peak District unique is its geology. The area is separated by valleys between the ‘Dark Peak’ which is characterised by exposed moorland and gritstone edges. Here you find peaks & ridges with exposed rocky outcrops & tors. Lying alongside are the limestone dales of the ‘White Peak’ with its undulating hills & fascinating caves.
Mam Tor is one of the most popular walks in the Peak District for good reason. The panoramic views from along the top of the Great Ridge are spectacular, hence it was recently rated top 10 in an ITV poll on Britain’s favourite walks. The peak stands at 517m above sea level & takes in views across the Hope Valley, down into the pretty village of Castleton & across to the highest peak in the National Park at Kinder Scout.
It is also termed “Shivering Mountain” & “Mother Hill” due to the frequent landslides which have created a number of mini hills below. In one part these have caused a road to literally melt away & be abandoned.”
Mam Tor is also an important archaeological site. Finds in the area have included tools made of flint & a Neolithic stone axe dating back to the Bronze Age. It is believed to have been the sight of one of the largest & highest hill forts in Britain.
The joy of Mam Tor is that you can choose to take as short or as long a hike as you like. Reaching the summit takes less than 20 minutes. For this reason, it’s popular with families. I think that’s why I loved this walk. It is an almost instant reward for everyone & sustained joy to those who chose to walk further.
Therefore, if you want to do as I say & researched…as opposed to what I actually did, then here are a few walks that could suit your time & distance needs.”
The Ultimate Guide to Mam Tor Walks
- If there has been a lot of rain, then the route can get muddy. At other times there may be loose rocks so appropriate footwear e.g., hiking boots are recommended.
- Stick to the paths which are well marked & often paved. The area is prone to landslides, so this is for your safety as much as to prevent further erosion.
- Even in good weather, it can be incredibly windy. Take plenty of layers, including a rain jacket. When I visited it felt like four seasons in one day & even though it was warm, at the top there was a strong & icy wind.
- There are no facilities on the route so bring plenty of water & snacks.
- The nearest toilets are at Castleton Visitors Centre.
The views are spectacular so whatever you do, bring your camera with plenty of space & battery power.”
The first thing to choose is your start & end point. That will depend on how you’re getting there.
The closest stations are Hope & Edale.
If you’re staying in Castleton then as you will see, the route goes directly to & from the Visitors Centre in the village.
If like me you are travelling by car, the 2 main parking choices are to either head to Mam Nick Car Park or Castleton Visitors Centre.
Mam Nick costs £3.50 for 4 hours (pay by phone) or free for National Trust members. The car park is busy so I would advise you to arrive early, especially at weekends. There are also a few extra places in laybys along the road. At Mam Nick, there are no toilets (but there is a very nice coffee van if you time your visit right).
Castleton has a lot of parking & even the Visitors Centre is cash only (£4 for 2-4 hours). The overflow car parks may be up to £5 (unlimited time). Castleton Visitors Centre has free public toilets.
(Mam Nick, Postcode S33 8WA)
Route 1 – Mam Tor (Non-Circular)
- Head up from the steps at the back of the car park & follow the path along the road, through the gate & up the hill to the Mam Tor trig point.
- Follow the Great Ridge for as long as you like as far as Lose Hill & then retrace your steps. It is as spectacular in either direction.
- Alternatively, you can go down from Lose Hill as I did & over the style before heading right & into the wood. You will still see the ridge above you all the way.
- You can then re-join the ridge & finish back the way you started.
Route 2 – Mam Tor Circular Walk
Distance: 3 miles (4.8km)
Time: 2 hours
- Start at the steps from the car park & follow the path. Bear left after you go through the gate & climb the steps up to the summit of Mam Tor.
- Once you’ve savoured the views from the trig point, continue along the path across the ridge until you reach a dip with a small monument.
- From here, turn right & head downhill, back towards Mam Tor. When you reach a fork, just before the trees take the right-hand path around the woods. Continue until you hit the road.
- Follow the road, through the gate until you reach the broken road (the break was caused by a landslide which led to the road being abandoned).
- Follow the broken road, through a gate & car park then turn left down the track towards Blue John Cavern.
- Walk past the café & shop building & through the small gate. From here, head up the grassy path to the top of the hill. Once there, bear right & go through another gate. Cross the field & the road before taking the left fork uphill to the entrance of Windy Knoll cave.
- Then head over this field to another small gate by the road. Cross the road & walk along the verge to the car park.
It sounds so easy while I’m writing it! ;)”
From Castleton Visitors Centre Car Park
(Postcode S33 8WN)
Distance: 6.5 miles (10.4 km)
Time: 4 hours
- Cross the road in front of the Visitors Centre & walk behind the jewellers to follow the footpath alongside the stream. Cross the bridge & walk up the hill until it becomes a stony path with the wall on your right. Follow this path until it meets the road. Cross the road to take the path to Treak Cliff Cavern.
- Take the steps up to the cavern & follow the path behind the building. Head up the hillside to Blue John Cavern.
- Cross the car park in front of the shop & café & head on the uphill path before veering right to take the gate in the corner of the field. Continue to follow this path across 2 roads before reaching the foot of Mam Tor.
- Take the stepped path up to the summit of Mam Tor & then continue along the top of the ridge.
At Hollins Cross, you could choose to cut the walk short & take the path to the right, all the way back to Castleton.”
- To continue with the route, carry on along the ridge. When you reach a style on the left, take this & climb the steep section to the rocky outcrop of Back Tor. The views from here are stunning! Then continue along the ridge to the final summit of Lose Hill Pike. If you’re lucky with a clear day, you can see right along the ridge back to Mam Tor.
If you don’t fancy a steep climb, take the lower path at the style & you can avoid the 2 summits.”
- From Lose Hill Pike, bear right down the stone path & across 2 styles, then follow the path to the left along the boundary of the field.
- Continue on this path downhill, past the line of trees to your right. The path will veer left towards the village of Hope, you take the right fork & carry on the downhill, which can get steep in places so take care.
- When you reach the farm track, turn right past the farm & take a right turn into Castleton. Continue through several gates until you reach the conference centre.
- Turn left onto the Hollowford Road back into Castleton & take the shortcut before the Ramblers Rest to bring you back to the car park.
After all that walking, no matter where your starting point you may need somewhere to refresh. In Castleton, I ate lunch at the Peak Hotel & couldn’t recommend it enough. Alternatively, try The Castle & The George or Three Roofs Café.
Where to stay
For my whole time in the Peak District, I stayed at the B/W Plus Buxton Lee Wood Hotel. For me, Buxton was perfectly located to explore the area. If you would prefer Castleton then check out Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn, The George Inn or Ye Olde Nags Head. Castleton is a small village, so the choice is limited, therefore book your accommodation ahead.
There is still plenty to discover in the area. How about these?
Go underground in a cave
I highly recommend a trip down into one of the caves. I chose Blue John Cavern based on friends recommendations & wasn’t disappointed. Blue John is a semi-precious mineral used to create jewellery in the area. The only way to see the cave system is on a 45-minute tour, which leaves regularly & costs £15 for adults.
The perfect way to follow Mam Tor is to climb the 350 metres to Peveril Castle from the centre of Castleton. Here you can get a perfect view of Mam Tor, the Great Ridge & down into Castleton & the Hope Valley. Peveril Castle was one of the country’s first to be constructed from stone. It was built in the 1100s as a royal fortress & hunting lodge. The castle is run by English Heritage so members can visit for free. For all others, it costs £8.20 including a donation.
I hope I have given you a taste of the beauty of a climb to the top of Mam Tor. Whichever route you decide to take to explore, I guarantee you will not be disappointed, even if, like me, you are easily distracted!
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