Last week we made our way to the Castleton in the Peak District for our day of adventuring. There are a number of caverns and mines to visit in this pretty little village (details here), as well as Peveril Castle, but as we had the mutts with us, our destination was Cave Dale. Cave Dale is part of the Limestone Way, a long distance footpath that runs 46 miles from Castleton in Derbyshire to Rocester in Staffordshire, taking in the stunning White Peak landscape along the way. We had a much shorter route planned.
It was a little misty as we arrived at the visitor centre but we were looking forward to our
day out in the fresh air, so we paid the parking fee (£5 for 4 – 10 hours), visited the toilets then turned left out of the car park, following the signs for Peveril Castle. After passing a number of shops and cafes, we spotted a sign post indicating we should turn right to Cave Dale and we soon found ourselves at the start of the footpath.
This is an exciting walk right from the off. The valley sides are steep and imposing and a little encouragement was required to keep Rowan heading towards the gate at the start of the track. The cliffs must have seemed huge to him and not being able to see round the corner will only have added to the sense of anticipation. However, once reassured that we were coming with him, Rowan was off into what felt like Middle Earth.
The path up Cave Dale is quite rocky and Rowan spent the first ten minutes or so examining what he could find underfoot. He really enjoys collecting rocks and stones (something that both me and Rick also do) and he often comes home from nursery with pockets stuffed full of pebbles (washing machine nightmare!), so I wasn’t surprised that this track fascinated him.
Once he was ready we continued on our way, and the path and views opened up before us. The photos really don’t do the scenery justice – I’m blaming the mist. I was filled with wonder as much as Rowan was. Peveril Castle, one of the earliest Norman forts in England, stands high on the cliff above Cave Dale, as it is easy to see why. The location commands excellent views up the valley and surrounding areas and you can imagine rocks and arrows raining down on would be attackers of the castle.
There is no doubt as to the route on this walk – the steeps sides of the valley keep you to the path, almost encouraging you along to discover what is round the next corner. It was also really wet underfoot and steep in places. At some points it was like walking up a waterfall, which only excited Rowan even more. Off the path were little caves and hollows which provided even more interest and places to explore.
Soon, we could hear a loud whooing noise and as Rowan nervously investigated we found a gated off cave/tunnel which I can only imagine must link into Peak Cavern, though Rowan decided that it was where the dragon lived. The place really sparked his imagination and no bribery in the form of jelly babies was required. This is also one of those walks where it is important to remember to turn round to have a look at where you have come from, as the views behind are just as stunning.
As we continued on, the path levelled off and we stopped to have a look at Rowan’s map which had been printed off from OS Maps online (to his absolute delight). The premium annual subscription provides 1:25k maps of the UK so we were able to look at the details on the map and refer them to where we were standing, including the walls either side of the path and the trees we had just passed. I have decided he is my map geek padawan.
Further up the route, still with walls either side of the path guiding our way, some rocks provided a great place to stop for our picnic. Rowan was then able to explore amongst them, finding sheep poo and snail shells before we pressed onwards, with the wind becoming stronger as the valley sides levelled off.
By this point, the rocky path had turned to grass and as we reached the two gates we were to pass through, the ground underfoot had become quite muddy. At one point I had to lift Rowan out as he had sunk almost over of laces of his boots, which he found hilarious (mud is good remember) – he was a sticky muddy monster apparently.
The views here really opened up and we were able admire the peak district hills all around us. At this point, rather than continuing on the Limestone Way, we turned right onto a grassy path enclosed by a wall either side and headed towards a tree seemingly pointing the way to the gate we were to pass through.
The going here was easy and as we reached the gate, we found it to be padlocked, with step stile the only way over. I pondered for a while about how I was going to get Rowan and two dogs over, but between us, we managed. The handle on Rowan’s rucksack proved to be very useful to ensure that he got over safely and the steps were wide enough for Rocky and Pebble to go up side by side with me right behind them.
The field was full of sheep so we continued quickly and quietly across, with Rowan reminding us to be quiet so we didn’t scare them and the dogs behaving impeccably. The last section back to Castleton was pretty steep and both Rowan and I slipped a couple of times as we descended across the wet grass. Once down though, feeling tired and happy, it was a short walk past the bottom of the castle and back through the town till we reached the car park. This was a really enjoyable three and a half mile walk, with a climb of 230 metres which took us three and a half hours. We didn’t have time to visit the castle, details of which can be found here – another reason to return again in the future.