Say hello to the Limestone Way. An absolute 46-mile blinder of a walk through the majestic Peak District, a peaky blinder if you will. Ahem!
Walking the Limestone Way means four days of green rolling landscape, dry stone walls galore and several picturesque villages so quaint they feel like they have come straight out of the pages of a Jane Austen novel.
Fortunately, the route wanders around rather than over the peaks that give the UK’s oldest National Park its name. It’s tiring for sure but it’s never taxing. And if you get the weather I guarantee you cannot help to enjoy this hike.
So join me now as I take on the Limestone Way in the company of my good friend Art. An American nonetheless!
Hey reader, I’m going to chat about boring but necessary logistics first but if you just want to read about the hike itself then scroll down to the My Limestone Way Experience section below.
You’ve two main ones 1) North to South or 2) South to North.
The Limestone Way is a waymarked trail managed by the Derbyshire Dales District Council between the villages of Castleton in the heart of the Peak District and Rocester 46 miles to the south in Staffordshire.
Most resources I found tell you to head south, starting in Castleton and ending in Rocester. And I’ve not entirely sure why?!
We opted to do it the other way around because of peak-end theory. The idea that ending on a high will improve your overall impression of an experience.
I’d read that Castleton and the countryside around was stunning but that the Rocester section involved some nondescript housing estates. So I thought we’d get that out of the way at the start and hike with the knowledge it was just going to get prettier and prettier.
Option 3: I learnt post-hike that a lot of people do a 2-day version of the trail. Just the section from Matlock to Castleton or vice versa missing out on the Staffordshire Rocester section completely.
I can see benefits to this but I think it’s a shame to miss the great section between Dovedale and Matlock. I do have a 4th route option for you but you will have to wait for the conclusion for that.
At 46 miles it’s feasible to do in just 2 days of super long hiking but why you’d want to do that I have no notion. 3 days would work but 4 days was ideal.
My multi-day hiking experience so far has led me to believe 10 miles of trail a day is a good goal. As there is usually an extra mile or two added on for detours.
The official Limestone Way distance is 46 miles / 74.02km. Over the four days, we clocked up 56 miles / 91.28km in a moving time of 26 hours and 30 minutes.
This discrepancy is something I’ve started to notice with my long-distance hikes. You should prepare for a few extra miles a day to account for your detours to find food and accommodation. It’s rare to find things that are precisely en route.
Here is our exact itinerary. To give you an idea of what you’re letting yourself in for.
Day 1 – Rocester > Dovedale [10.02 miles / 16.14km – 5 hrs 5 mins walking]
Day 2 – Dovedale > Matlock Bath [15.91 miles / 25.61km – 7 hrs 40 mins walking]
Day 3 – Matlock Bath > Monyash [13.75 miles / 22.14km – 6 hrs 46 mins walking]
Day 4 – Monyash > Castleton [14.67 miles / 23.62km – 6 hrs 2 mins walking]
We then hiked Castleton > Hope station [2.34 miles / 3.77km – 1hr 4mins walking]
There are no train links directly to Rocester or Castleton but they can get you close enough for a bus, taxi or hike.
To get to Rocester we trained it first to Uttoxeter and then hopped in a taxi directly outside the station to the trailhead.
The nearest station from Castleton is in Hope and it’s roughly a 2-mile walk so can easily be tagged on at the end of the beginning.
There also seems to be a pretty decent bus service to and from Rocester/Castleton.
The Derby Dales are awash with places to stay from self-catering accommodation, camping and glamping to inns and guesthouses galore.
That said, I’ve found booking accommodation for long-distance hikes tricky. I’ve yet to find an easy way to work out where the limited accommodation is at certain distances on the trails and on what days they are available.
I usually just end up with 20 tabs open on various booking sites, triangulating these with Google Maps and getting confused.
There has to be an easier way. Maybe there should be something like that on HikerHero. One day!
Now you can always camp but that of course adds to your baggage weight and with the great British weather it often means a few soggy sleepless nights. Even in midsummer.
I personally love the random guesthouses I end up on these trips. Nothing better than a cooked breakfast before 10 hours of hiking.
If you fancy doing our exact route here’s where we stayed
Day 1 – Izaak Walton Hotel, Dovedale
Day 2 – 1 Coach House Mews, Matlock Bath
Day 3 – Sheldon House, Monyash
Snack shops aren’t that common on the trail but we were able to find spots for most main meals only slightly off the route.
I recommend doing a bigger snack shop in your home town before you leave for the hike.
In Rocester I recommend you get dropped off at the Premier Village Store. They have a fine selection of essential calorie-dense snacks like Haribos and NikNaks.
Just across the road from here is the Buttercross Cafe. It has no online presence but it’s there if you want one final pre-hike meal or just a cup of coffee like we did.
We didn’t come across anyway for lunch on the Rocester to Dovedale leg so we just picniced on your snacks.
We stayed the night at the brilliant Izaak Walton which is also a pub, very convenient, so we were able to get some grub and beer here.
Thanks again to Izaak Walton, we had a fabulous full English.
There was an event on in Tissington which had food trucks, but there also looked to be some more permanent establishments there as well.
Fish & chips in Matlock Bath. From what I could tell this may be a contender for the fish ‘n’ chips capital of the UK.
Went for breakfast at the Fig Coffee House in Matlock Bath and highly recommend it.
Took a slight detour to Peak Feast in Youlgreave and did not regret it.
If you stop the night in Monyash there’s a pub there called The Bulls Head. However, it’s closed on Mondays due to staffing shortages. We were kindly given a lift 2 miles down the road to the Royal Oak in Hurdlow. If going here I recommend booking as it gets busy.
Had a great breakfast at our accommodation, Sheldon House.
Get this, Sheldon House also did us a packed lunch. What superstars! But Castleton has a plethora of food spots. We weren’t hungry when we got there but we had a celebratory pint at The Castle. Before the last 3-mile walk to the train station back home.
I’ve been perfecting my packing list over the last few multi-day hikes and I’m getting it close to spot on. Although as you’ll read later I maybe should’ve packed at least one backup pair of shorts!
If you’re a map head, get hold of OS maps (OL1, OL24 and 259).
There’s an out-of-print guide to Walking the Limestone Way by Roy Haddock on Amazon. Although it will cost you a fair penny.
You can also find Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler there. But you’ll have to read on to discover why that’s relevant.
This multi-day hike has been on my list for a while now. I was just waiting for the right companion. So I was beyond delighted when my American buddy Art announced he was coming to the UK and wanted to go for a hike.
You see, Art is the chap who inspired me to get into hiking and therefore start this here blog. So I was excited to have the opportunity to explore a bit of quintessential English countryside with someone I knew loved hiking not just as much as me, but more.
He’s like my hiking Yoda. Not that he is small and green. Just that he is like my hiking master, so I was keen to learn some tricks of the trail from the OG.
The night before the hike. Hikemass eve. As we prepped our bags I was instantly impressed by Art’s choice of hike snacks. He was loaded up with all manner of nuts, teas, brunch bars and even beef junky. Healthy grown-up person snacks. Whereas I had amassed 12 bags of Haribo.
He even had Kendal Mint cake. Something my dad has been banging on about every time I go for a hike but I’ve never actually tried. I know (shock, horror) I run a hiking blog but have never tried the Kendal Mint cake. Well, all that was about to change.
I went to sleep that night content in the knowledge that no matter what happens over the next four days I wasn’t going to starve.
From my crib in Shrewsbury getting to the start line in Rocester was fairly straightforward. Two trains got us to Uttoxeter and then after a short 5-mile taxi ride we were in Rocester.
There is also a fairly frequent Uttoxeter to Rocester bus. You can find the timetable here.
We necked a cup of coffee at the only coffee shop in town, the Buttercross Cafe. Then hopped outside into the sunny sunshine, took the cheesy photo you see below and hit the trail.
I had a good feeling about this one.
The trailhead in Rocester is non-descript. Much like a previous multi-dayer the Sandstone Trail. If you weren’t specifically searching for it, you wouldn’t find it.
I like that. You’re off on your private adventure while the rest of the world passes you by.
The only way to tell you’re on the right route – except for using the AllTrails map – is a small Limestone Way trail arrow. These green and white circles would be our guide for the next 4 days and 46 miles.
That good feeling I had outside the coffee shop faded a little as we wandered through a housing estate and then over a few scraggly fields where not much was happening.
It was all very low-key. And some areas looked like they hadn’t seen the underside of a hiking boot in months.
I was getting a little apprehensive. I’d promised Art some classic English countryside.
Yep, that’s the trail. Real Stig of the Dump territory.
We crossed one field that looked like nobody had ever walked through. The grass came up past our knees and the morning dew gave us an unprompted leg shower.
At this point, I got the Alltrails app out and checked to see if the Limestone Way trail markers were lying to us. They weren’t. I saw that the River Dove was up ahead so all was going to plan.
And just like that, as if all I’d had to do was ask, the scraggly fields faded away and we were roaming through well-trimmed fields and the beautiful English countryside.
All doubt faded away as our first glimpse of the River Dove was a vignette of pure countryside magic. A man and his son wild swimming in the morning sun, having the absolute time of their lives.
Had it not been so early in the day I would’ve suggested a swim. But we had miles to make.
Yep, well done English countryside, I’m sorry I doubted you.
We had a pleasant mile walking alongside the babbling river and spotted a couple of ducks doing ducks things. But all good things come to an end. The river veered east, we said goodbye as we continued northward onto Dove Street.
The route left Dove Road, and took us back into the fields, past Martin’s Pond and through Stonepit Wood. Although wood is a bit of an exaggeration it was just a field with a tree in it.
You then join Ashbourne Road for 300 metres before diving back into the countryside. Don’t worry, this is one of the last times you will find yourself on a main road.
As we entered back into the fields we saw (according to a sign) some rare breed horned sheep.
Say hello to your next addiction. KMC, Trail Crack, Minty Jane, the mighty Kendal Mint Cake.
Yep. So while I am English and I do run a hiking blog I am still relatively new to this game. There’s a lot I still don’t know. For example, I’d never tried Kendal Mint Cake. Art the American knew all about the stuff but I had no clue.
Probably because he’s a pro and buys his snacks in hiking shops and not from the petrol stations like me.
Well after the excitement of seeing the rare sheep we stopped for a food sit, and after chewing on some very tasty beef jerk Art cracked out the KMC and yep, it’s awesome.
I mean it’s basically pure minty sugar but who can argue with that? I’m fully in. This stuff shall be making many appearances from now on.
Fuelled up for the afternoon we hit the trail again which involved cows, horses, stiles, more cows, more stiles and gates, and of course a rooster or two.
Art, international man of mystery and horse whisperer.
Some cows. You will see a lot of these so I hope you’re not a Bovinophobe.
Styling it out. Get used to these, there’s going to be a lot.
After just a 100-metre stretch along the side of the A52, you’ll turn left onto Marten Lane which is a slight incline and gives you a nice viewpoint at the top. We rested up for a while and popped on a pair of fresh socks to replace the ones that crotch-high grassy field had sogged up way back in Rocester.
There’s no better feeling than slipping into a nice fluffy pair of dry socks after your feet have been damp for multiple hours. I’ve no idea why we didn’t do this two hours ago. Our toes were right little wrinkly brains by this point.
Day 1, enjoying a victory meal in the mighty Izaak Walton beer garden.
From here it was a short walk over some more fields until we said hello to our old friend the River Dove again. The official route carries on northeast to Thorpe here but we took a left and followed the river for 15 mins to our accommodation for the evening—the Izaak Walton Hotel.
Somewhere on the short hike to the hotel we officially entered the Peak District National Park. Today had been beautiful but it was nice knowing that for the next three days, the prettiness was going to be cranked up a notch.
The Izaak Walton is an awesome hotel, with a brilliant restaurant. I highly recommend anyone taking on the Limestone Way spend a night here. Or if you’re coming to visit Dovedale pop in for a pint and some food.
The afternoon sun was shining, we took off our boots, stuck our feet in the grass, enjoyed a merry bunch of pints in the beer garden, played a little semi-drunken game of frisbee, had a massive burger and chips and called it a day.
Day 1 completed. Day 2 promised to be glorious.
I can’t stay in a place named after someone and not write about who they were, can I?!
Izaak Walton was a 17th-century author who wrote a book called The Compleat Angler. On the face of it, it was a story about fishermen having chats while fishing, but throughout the book, Walton’s characters imparted a worldview of caring for the environment that was revolutionary for the time.
His influence was such that in 1922, 54 outdoorsmen formed the Izaak Walton League in the states. Which now has 40,000 members who work to promote conservation and sustainable environmental policies.
What a legend. Maybe one day there will be a HikerHero League, protecting trails around the world.
Breakfast feast with a view. Does it get better than this?
After our beers, we woke up with slightly fuzzy heads but the sun was blazing, we could see the peaks of the Peak District out of the window and we had a fabulous breakfast waiting for us.
The Izaak Walton’s full English did not disappoint in any way. I was happy to introduce Art to a bit of English tradition.
However as I’ve noted on previous trials, the Hiking Gods like to keep a universal balance. All good things must be balanced by a fall. And after such an amazing breakfast, they had to bring me back down to earth.
Post breakfast as I was back in the room pulling on my hiking shorts I heard a tragic ripping noise. Looking down I see my white leg meat peering back at me where the material should’ve been!
Maybe those six pints last night and those six extra breakfast sausages were a mistake!
Foolishly I’d only packed one pair of hiking shorts. And it was way too hot to put on my trousers. So I had a bit of an issue on my hand.
After panicking and flapping around the room for a while, I realised I could Mcgyver my keyring to attach the bottom two ends of the rip together. It was a mild improvement but I was still showing more leg meat than appropriate.
I had to wear these things for the next 3 days! Although I have to admit I did like the extra airflow they provided.
Enough faffing. We set off. Day 1 had been gently beautiful but we were now officially in the Peak District. And the scenery was instantly a step up from yesterday.
We made our way past Thorpe and through Hollington End Farm where we were treated to a farmer herding sheep with his beautiful Collie dog. Can you get anything more quintessentially English than that?!
The answer is yes. We were about to find it in Tissington.
If you can dream it, you can do it. I completely agree Mr Disney.
As we entered the quaint hamlet of Tissington, home to Tissington Hall. We were met with a sign stating “well dressing”. Genuinely confused we wandered on until we saw that the actual wells in the village had been “dressed”.
The village green was buzzing, there was some kind of fair/fete going on. It was all very quaint and all very British. The town was festooned in bunting. There were marquees, ice cream vans and a variety of food trucks galore.
Now for those of you who don’t arrive in Tissington on fete day, there were also some permanent food places you could fuel up at such as Herbert’s Fine English Tea Rooms.
We grabbed a takeaway coffee and cake from a truck and continued on our merry way to the hamlet of Parwich about 2 miles further along.
Parwich way to go?
There was a pub in Parwich, the Sycamore Inn but we didn’t spy any shops for snacking up. We found a spot under a tree with a fine view of the rolling hills and cracked out some of the jerky we’d been carrying since the beginning.
Here will do for a nice Haribo stop.
We strolled past a nice church at Ballidon. Onward between the villages of Longcliffe and Bassington. Out of the two Bassington looks like the better bet to get fed and watered should you need it.
The Ye Olde Gate Inn gets good reviews but it was a little off-route for us and we still had a lot of ground to cover.
A few steps further on you will pass close to the giant Grange Mill Quarry. After that, you will find the Hollybrush Inn another potential food spot. After this, you have just under a mile on a quiet road, Grange Lane, before going cross country again until you reach Bonsall.
The Limestone Way continues northwest at Bonsali here but we veered eastward toward Matlock Bath and our accommodation for the night.
The entire afternoon had been full of beautiful scenery and rolling hills. We strolled through field after field, along hedgerows and drystone walls. Stopping occasionally for Haribos and photos, such as this world-famous mini-world shot in a daisy field.
Art was so impressed by my camera magic he keeled over.
The descent into Derwent Valley where Matlock Bath sits is not kind on the knees, so take it steady.
As we were making our steady way down I was already dreading the fact we’d have to walk back up this way in the morning to rejoin the Limestone Way. But our accommodation was in Matlock Bath so this way we had to come.
Now, Matlock Bath is a wacky place. Every weekend hundreds of leather-clad motorbikers arrive in town. I’m assuming because of the windy roads nearby. But also possibly because it has the highest concentration of chip shops I’ve ever seen.
On a short stretch of road taking 3mins to walk there were over 10 fish and chip shops. In addition to 4 or 5 ice cream and sweet shops and a few arcades. It’s like Blackpool but 100 miles from the sea.
It was a shock to the system to go from the idyllic countryside to hundreds of bikers, chip shops and flashing arcade lights. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it, I’m just saying I didn’t expect it.
We leaned into it in the only way we knew, by having a massive portion of fish and chips each.
Today had been a good day but the sun had been a killer. So sunburnt & with my hungover from the previous day still lording it over me I instantly fell asleep the moment my head hit the pillow.
We started the day at a great cafe just around the corner from where we stayed called the Fig Coffee House.
After breakfast, we shopped around a little for some sun cream and a hat for Art as we both got burnt to a crisp the day before. If you’ve read many of my articles already this is somewhat of a running theme.
Shopping down we tackled Mount Matlock with gusto. This being the hill out of Matlock Bath we’d descended yesterday afternoon. It was tough but we did well. Here’s a picture below of us at the top looking pleased with ourselves.
Sadly Art took off his lucky new hat for this snap. Don’t worry I’ll include a picture of it later for you all to see.
Chuffed to bits with ourselves here.
Before long we’d passed through Bonsall again and found ourselves back deep into the Peak District National Park and back on track on the Limestone Way.
Jumping over stiles once again and high-fiving sheep.
A little after the lane to the village of Elton we should’ve taken a left but there were big signs saying it was closed for forestry work.
We didn’t realise it then but looking back at the map this was a shame as it meant we missed Robin Hood’s Stride and Cratcliffe Rocks, a pair of funky-looking natural rock formations well worth checking out. Next time! So we strode on.
There’s that lucky hat of his. Oh and a nice view.
Shortly after Robin Hood’s Stride, the route passes near Youlgrave, it’s just a five min detour off the main route and well worth it. Youlgrave is the reason you don’t have to worry about snacks on Day 3, it’s got you covered.
The village has a shop and a great little cafe called Peak Feast. My advice is to do the pie and tart combo. Get a Homity Pie for mains and if you’re feeling peckish still treat yourself to a Bakewell Tart.
Sure you’re in Derbyshire you can’t go home without trying the majestic Bakewell Tart.
One of my favourite things about long-distance hiking is the guilt-free feasting you can do!
When I went to pay for our feast the smiley cashier pointed out my leg-meat-exposing-shorts-rip and declared “Very vogue indeed”. To which I immediately struck a pose and took my leave, dignity firmly intact.
Peak Feast your eyes on this.
After Youlgreave we continued along the beautiful River Bradford for half a mile or so, first crossing one way and then back over a pair of bridges.
Following the second bridge the path veers north and you head towards Low Moor Wood. According to a little plaque, the Peak District National Park Authority purchased the wood in 2001 to celebrate its 50th Birthday.
This seems appropriate a point to mention that the Peak District was the first designated national park in the United Kingdom.
Can you hear the babbling water from there?
Just as we were emerging out of the beautiful Lathkill Dale we passed through a farm and there commanding the path was a mighty peacock. I was genuinely flabbergasted. I’d only ever seen them in the zoo before now and here was one sauntering around like he owned the joint.
Brave fella too, he barely moved a muscle or flicked a feather as we walked around him. He just minded his own business and let us go on our merry way.
After the peacock sighting it was just minutes until we were in sight of The Sheldon. Our accommodation for the night and the first that was directly on the Limestone Way route.
After a warm welcome, the friendly owners of The Sheldon alerted us that the one pub in their village, The Bulls Head was shut on Mondays. Which was worrying as that was our dinner gone!
But they followed this bombshell with a kindly offer to give us a lift down the road to the Royal Oak in neighbouring Hurdlow. A bustling pub with great food, booking a table in advance might be wise as it was packed.
There’s no better sight at the end of a long day hiking than a chunky chip.
We devoured a mound of burgers and chips. Followed that up with a massive cookie ice cream dessert thing. And then grabbed a lift back to our accommodation where we both crashed out for the night.
The Full English, a thing of beauty.
After another massive full English breakfast cooked up by the good people at The Sheldon, we packed up our stuff for one last time and hit the path for the final day.
We had a huge 17-mile day ahead of us but I already had that “we did it!” feeling. The last of multi-day hikes always feels a bit like a victory lap.
Due to the distance, we had to cover and the train we very much had to catch at 4.40 pm we couldn’t do much dilly-dallying today. Which was a bit of a shame as Day 4 arguably had the most spectacular scenery of the entire hike.
I was so happy we decided to flip the direction and do the south-to-north version. Don’t get me wrong Day 1 leaving Rocester was pretty but Day 4 arriving into Castleton was proper beautiful.
After the village of Flagg, there was a fair climb up and over Taddington Moor to get the blood pumping just before we crossed the A6 and continued through Blackwell Dale.
Despite the clock ticking we still managed to get a stop for refueling at The Refreshment Room in the pretty little village of Miller’s Dale, home to the beautiful Millers Dale Viaduct.
The Refreshment Room also caters for those taking on the Monsal Trail, a popular hiking route between Blackwell Mill and Bakewell that follows the River Wye and makes use of an old railway line across viaducts and through tunnels.
It’s very popular for cycling and walking. And has been added to my list of future hikes.
One of the friendly faces we met along the way.
Out of Miller’s Dale, the route takes you up over Monks Dale, through Peter Dale and then Hay Dale. Monks and Hay are part of the Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve. I’m not sure why they left Pete out?! Poor Pete.
I’m skipping through names and miles quite quickly here but every time I mention the word “Dale” please think “stupidly pretty valley with dry stone walls, limestone rocks and friendly cows”. Each one is a reason to visit the Peak District National Park alone.
We swung right before Peak Forest and up onto Bradwell Moor which at 471 metres above sea level was the highest point on the hike. This required a little celebration as it meant the finish line was within sight, and that the final last 2 miles were all downhill!
Peaking at the right time. Bradwell Moor, the literal high point of the hike.
We were on the final stretch, the route runs through one last dale, Cave Dale.
It was downhill all the way so we moved fast and reminisced on how much we’d both enjoyed this trip. Sometimes a walk in the sunshine with a buddy is all you need to reset and make you appreciate how good life on earth actually is.
As you exit Cave Dale at Castleton there’s a gate which has an A4-sized wooden Limestone Way sign on it. That’s it, the finish line. Or the start line.
Here we are looking very pleased with ourselves and rightfully so!
Limestone Way, check! Onward to the Pennine Way.
From here we strode the short distance into Castleton Village and had a very swift victory pint at the Castle Pub before walking the final few miles to the train station in Hope.
As we sat on the platform chatting away and looking at maps, I discovered the Pennine Way starts in Edale just a few miles away from where we were sitting.
We could miss this train and just carry on hiking. Sure why not?! It’s only 268 miles and 16 days of hiking to the Scottish Border. Easy!
But alas, Art had a plane to catch. And I had a new pair of shorts to buy. Next time!
Just two normal chaps waiting for a train. Who would know that secretly they are Hiking Heroes?
I had set off hoping to introduce Art to some of the finest English countryside and boy, the Derby Dales did not disappoint. It had it all.
Four days of endless rolling hills and dales, streams, rivers, bunting, village fetes, sheepdogs and more stiles and dry stone walls than you can swing a hiking stick at.
Would I do it again? I would! In a heartbeat. Although I’d maybe do a little bit of route editing. I think I’d skip Day 1, it was beautiful but didn’t compare to days 2,3 and 4.
I’d skip Day 1, start instead at the Izaak Walton at Dovedale, and keep the rest of the route the same but use Day 4 to enjoy Castleton, visit Peveril Castle and scale nearby Mam Tor, the National Park’s most famous peak.
And there we have it, thanks for sticking with me on this one. It was quite the journey. But what a trek, and with the person who inspired me to start HikerHero.
Thank you dramatic Dales, thanks to Art and thanks to you HikerHero readers. I love each and every one of you like the bikers of Matlock Bath clearly love fish ‘n’ chips.
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
This reflects the Hike Hero difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.