We hadn't tackled the Dark Peak before because of all the peat and the lack of paths, but
mainly because our version of the OL1 map only covered half of it. So we were very pleased to
see a later version (our new one is dated 2015). And we realised that two railway lines could be very useful: Sheffield to Huddersfield, which goes near the Peak at Penistone; and Manchester to Sheffield, which goes right through the Hope Valley.
It is true about the peat and paths but you only need one good one, and it is Dukes Path - very well maintained, and often paved.
Similarly, the justly popular path along the summits of the Hope Valley is very well maintained and easy to follow.
Is this a 'mini-adventure' then? Yes... I would be wary of setting out across the Dark Peak in poor visibility, no matter how good the path. Getting to Hope by train would be safer!
1. Walking days
We took three days - 6 miles on the first afternoon, 12 miles on the middle day and 11 miles on the third day. In fact we didn't complete this day - the visibility was terrible so there didn't seem any point - but bailed out down to Edale and took the train home from there.
2. Getting there & away
Train from London (St Pancras) to Penistone via Sheffield, about 3 hours.
Return from Chinley to London (St Pancras) via Sheffield, about 4 hours (a slower train, but cheaper).
3. Leaflet, Maps
The 1:25000 map is OS Explorer OL1, Dark Peak, absolutely essential. As is a compass (try not to drop it, as I did just after Back Tor. Luckily navigation was easier by then.)
4. The Route
This is where we went:
Day 1: Penistone to Broomhead Farm (6 miles)
The purpose of this day was to get to the edge of the moor.
Broomhead Farm, a B&B marked as 'Broomhead Hall' on the map directly left of the Broomhead Reservoir, is more expensive than most, but if we had known how good it was we would have caught an earlier train to spend more time there. They took us to a pub for supper. We know of no other equally convenient B&Bs;
Ye Olde Mustard Pot at Midhopestones would be cheaper, but would add three miles to day 2.
From Penistone station we went round the Penistone Boundary Walk, moderately well signed (we got lost once). When it goes west on Hartcliffe Hill Road, we carried on south to cross the A616. The road is now Mortimer Road, same as the B&B, so we stayed on it; had we been earlier, and the day brighter, we might have tried a more creative route.
Day 2: Broomhead Farm to Hope (12 miles).
The Dukes Road path starts about a mile down the road, but the B&B suggested a better way:
on to Mortimer Road, turn left, and soon take the path going north west. This is a wide trail
that soon turns south west to the (marked) shooting lodge, with lovely views of the Ewden
valley. At the lodge we turned south on Grouse Butts; when it stopped being a 4WD trail we
carried on to a winding path, general direction east of south; not quite where we wanted to go, but soon we met the wide, sandy, Dukes Road.
We stayed on this trail (easy walking) as it went west, then to the west of south. Always
staying on the main path, we saw on the horizon what we later realised were the rocks of Back Tor;
the path (by now paved) went all the way.
We then took another paved path north of west to Lost Lad (not as prominant as the OS map
would have you believe) and followed the main trail, turning south west at a choice point.
Soon after we saw a 'footpath to Ladybower' sign, which we followed down to the reservoir at Wellhead.
Turning left, the path goes all the way down to the A57; we followed this and the A6103 all
the way to the dam (better than it sounds because there is a special part of the road for walkers and cyclists).
Crossing the dam and going south, we soon took a slight right turn on to the Derwent Valley Heritage Way, (signposted 'Thornhill Trail, I think)
and then the second path on the right, a path sloping uphill. At the top (marked Thornhill Carrs)
the path onwards was signed 'To Hope'. Our B&B, Round Meadow Barn,
was on this path, three fields before the marked Hallum Barn. We walked to the pub on the
A6187 at Brough for supper. (There are lots of B&B choices around this area.)
Day 3: Hope to Chinley (11 miles).
We walked to Hope (there's a Spar shop for provisions), then went north west up to Lose Hill. By this time we could see nothing, but the path along the top to Hollins Cross and Mam Tor and down to the road is easy to follow.
With no visibility, we turned right, took the little shortcut path back to the road, then the next path to the right which takes you down through Harden Clough to Edale.
Our intention had been to continue over the road and up to Lord's Seat, then follow the path slowly down until it meets the Pennine Bridleway. Turn right and eventually take one of the several possible paths left down to Chinley.