Slap bang in the centre of our first national park, Castleton is nestled between the Peak District’s highest places and (arguably) it’s finest hillwalking. It may well be the Peak District’s worst kept secret. Surrounded by picture-postcard scenes beloved by landscape photographers, this village sits pretty in the embrace of the hillwalking high points of our first national park. Locals may roll their eyes at its packed pavements and populated pub beer gardens, especially during school holidays, but it’s easy to explain its mass appeal.
Main image: Camp above Peveril Castle in the Peak village of Castleton. | Credit: Francesca Donovan
From the town – a quintessentially English collection of quaint stone cottages and cafes – footpaths will take you directly up into the rolling hills, steep gorges and expansive moorland plateaus. From here, you may glimpse a mountain hare – the only UK population outside the Scottish highlands – a red deer, perhaps a ring ouzel or a peregrine.
It doesn’t take long for you to reach those big sky wildlife habitats and scenic vistas. Part of the beauty of the Peak is the compact proximity of some of its finest views, making many of the walking routes family-friendly. In fact, all you need to do is raise your eyes from your morning coffee and from pretty much any place in the village, your gaze will be drawn to a new trail.
It’s just a stone’s throw from the start of the Pennine Way – one of the most gruelling long distance walks in England – which begins over in neighbouring Edale. Yet, from Castleton, you can enjoy the hillwalking high life in cushy comfort with plenty of well signposted circulars which will deliver you back within spitting distance of a gift shop in a matter of hours. The accessibility of Castleton is only compounded by the fact that an estimated 20 million people live within an hour’s travel time of the Peak District. Indeed, the Peak District welcomes more than 13 million people each year. But this is a living landscape where community and cultural traditions like the well dressing live on. Come and join us for the weekend and see how much adventure you can pack in.
Your weekend in Castleton, sorted
- Your itinerary
- More great walks in the Peak District
- Food and drink
- Guides and activity providers
- Getting there
Take in the skyline on a full-day challenge or simply stroll along The Great Ridge, catching some culture in the evening.
From Castleton, you can hop over to the valley next door and take on one of the Peak District’s longest walking challenges: the Edale skyline. This circular offers Peak vantage points and picturesque walking. You’ll tackle some ascent to get high (if you’re staying in Castleton, cheat a bit and head up to Mam Tor to pick up the circular there) but will remain so as you follow the easily navigable 20-mile route around the Edale valley. You’ll pass grotesque and comical gritstone formations along Kinder edge, sweeping vistas over Ladybower from Win Hill and bag three trigs along the way.
Simply amble along the Great Ridge from Mam Tor to Losehill Pike for a shorter option. Mam Tor gets crowded so arrive pre-9am. It’s also a scenic place to watch the sun dip below the horizon but again, it can feel very crowded. Try Kinder Low instead. Perhaps you want to put your feet up? Or get some air? Mam Tor – or ‘Mother Hill’ – is also an ideal place to paraglide for its wide summit and sloping curves.
Spend Saturday night absorbing some culture at the snigger-inducing Devil’s Arse in the Peak Cavern which plays host to music and cinema.
Slog your way up the short but sweet Winnat’s Pass for sunrise or sleep in then take it easy with a walk through history to Castleton’s namesake, Peveril Castle.
A visit to Castleton would be incomplete without watching the sunrise over Winnat’s Pass. One of the most photographed places in Britain, this road winds through a steep, 340 million-year-old gorge. Local legend says it’s also the site of the grisly murder of two young lovers planning to elope and escape the judgement of disapproving families. Otherwise known as ‘Windy Gates’, it is an excellent place to watch the fog above Castleton ebb and flow through the landscape. If the conditions spell cloud inversion, you’d regret missing it. Either way, it’s a lovely perch from which to watch Castleton wake up.
If you’ve had a lie in, you could head up through Castleton – home to an oft-photographed riverside cottage – in the other direction to reach Cave Dale. This spectacular little dale is looked down upon by Peveril Castle which perches precariously on its east slopes over the cave systems – good for exploring – below. It’s owned by English Heritage but it’s free to appreciate from afar on a short (if steep) walk. These two walks can be combined in a fantastic circular doable in half a day.
Otherwise, in arduous walking conditions, retreat to explore one of the many cavern and cave systems in Castleton famed for local Blue John stone.
Other walks in the Peak District
Chrome Hill, White Peak
Distance: 5 miles / 7km | Ascent: 418m / 1371ft | Duration: 3 hours
Popularised by order of the Peaky Blinders, Chrome and Parkhouse Hill are still topographical marvels you should add to your Peak District ‘To Do’ list. The pairing are often referred to as “The Dragon’s Back” for their likeness to a sleeping mythological serpent. Believer or not, there’s no doubt this short but picturesque walk through the White Peak’s limestone will leave you with burning leg muscles if you take the simple but steep almost-scramble up Parkhouse.
The Peak District Edges Challenge
Distance: 37km / 23 miles | Ascent: 1266m / 4154ft | Duration: 11 hours
For easy ambling along gritstone with ample opportunity for bouldering, caving, weaselling and, of course, climbing, head to one of the edges in the east. Stanage Edge – look out for the discarded millstones, a Peak District icon – and Higger Tor can be enjoyed in a circular climber’s paradise. For something more genteel, head to Baslow and Curbar Edges for views down to Chatsworth. Don’t forget to say hello to the resident Highland Cows. None of these alone are particularly strenuous so my advice is to combine all nine edges of the Peak into one epic linear walk.
Accommodation in Castleton
YHA Castleton Losehill Hall – a gothic mansion restored and renovated into an affordable rest stop for weary ramblers from £10/night – is just a 10-minute walk into the centre of Castleton. If you’re looking for something more plush, the iconic Peak Hotel provides a perfectly-positioned place to lay your head while the town is crammed full of pubs with rooms, guesthouses and BnBs if a cooked breakfast is a deal breaker.
On the other hand, there are some excellent wild camp spots from which to watch the sun set and rise. Please pitch wisely, off the beaten path, and follow leave no trace principles. Also, be mindful that much of the land around Castleton is privately owned farmland and wild camping here, as with much of England, is not permitted. Dogs should also be kept on lead.
Food and drink
There’s ample choice in Castleton, from quaint cafes (Three Roofs has a good selection of veggie and vegan delights) and pubs a-plenty. Travel further afield for something more fancy (a la the Michelin starred Fischer’s Baslow Hall or Lovage by Lee Smith, both down the road in Bakewell) or head to 1530, a modern but elegant Italian-British restaurant in the centre of Castleton.
Personally, I would always pop in to Ye Olde Nags Head for their mix-and-match sausage and mash in a Yorkshire pudding. Delicious, local, and affordably filling, it’s the perfect post-hike dinner for a carnivore.
Guides and activity providers
- Pure Outdoor: award-winning activities and training provider with plenty of choice for all and eco credentials
- Twin Peak Outdoor Activities: family-friendly Derbyshire adventure guides that also cater for groups and special events
- Peak Mountaineering: long established provider of high quality mountain training and outdoor adventures
- Lost Earth Adventures: specialists in mountain adventures on the water, underground and in the hills of the Peak District
Castleton is covered by Cicerone’s guidebooks to both the Dark Peak (Dark Peak Walks, £12.95) and the White Peak (Walking in the Peak District – White Peak West, £12.95). The Peak District National Park have also published a 32-page guide (Walks Around Castleton, £2.80) compiled by National Park Rangers & Visitor Service teams.
Ordnance Survey have compiled 28 Peak District circulars into a guidebook (Walks in Peak District – Pathfinder guidebook 63, £12.99) while The BMC’s Wired Guide (Peak District Grit, £34.95) shows you around the best gritstone climbing routes if lofty views are on your agenda.
Getting to Castleton
The best-connected train station is Hope – a 2-mile road walk from Castleton centre – which is served by hourly (if often delayed) Northern Line trains between Manchester and Sheffield. To get to Castleton by bus from Sheffield, First South Yorkshire’s Sheffield Peak Link service number 272 can take you all the way. It also stops in Hope for train travellers.
Discover more walks in the Peak District – including its last remaining ‘hidden gems‘, the family-friendly spots, some romantic rambles and Peak waterfall walks – as well as more of the UK towns and villages that make great weekend adventure bases.