Cressbrook Peak District Information Website - accommodation, holiday cottages, attractions, towns villages, walking climbing cycling

Peak District Walk down Lathkill Dale, Derbyshire

Lathkill Dale is one of the finest limestone dales and this circuit takes in that and the more discreet charms of Bradford Dale too. Longer than most of the other limestone area walks but with fine scenery.

Lathkill and Bradford Dales


Route Info
walk mapDifficulty level: 3  (1 to 5 scale - 1 is easy)
Distance: 17.00 km    Ascent: 250m
Estimated time: 5:00 hours
Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 map sheet(s): 119
The Outdoor Leisure 24 - White Peak 1:25000 scale
map covers this walk also

The walk down Lathkill Dale is one of the finest and most popular limestone dale walks in the area and this circuit takes in that and the more discreet charms of Bradford Dale too. This is longer than most of the other limestone area walks and has both fine scenery and a chance to view the different aspects of the Lathkill valley as it proceeds from its source to its junction with the Wye.

You can start this walk from a variety of different points - from the spot described, from Monyash, Youlgreave, Over Haddon or even Middleton - and it is also possible to halve the distance by returning to the starting point across the fields from Over Haddon.

Fluorspar mine on Long Rake
Fluorspar mine on Long Rake
The walk described starts from the small car park and picnic site at Moor Lane, near Youlgreave. This is just off the Conksbury - Parsley Hey road, along a small lane which leads to Youlgreave. It also sits almost exactly on Long Rake, which is one of the most intensively worked lead and calcite/fluorspar veins in the area, so the immediate vicinity of the car park is pock-marked with old workings. The picnic site behind the car park has a fine view down Bradford Dale and over to Stanton in the Peak and the Derwent Valley.

From the car park walk 150 metres to the main road and take a footpath which starts just opposite and leads across the fields a little north of west (a bearing of about 290 degrees). It heads directly for Calling Low farm, an isolated spot on a low hill overlooking Lathkill Dale, and is diverted around the rear of the farm before continuing in the same direction to reach Cales Dale, one of the tributary valleys of the Lathkill.

This narrow dale has numerous small cliffs along its edge and the descent into Cales Dale goes down some steep steps. You then climb up the other side a short way to reach a path coming down the dale. Turning right here will take you down the dale to reach Lathkill Dale quite shortly, but that would cut out the top section of the Lathkill, so turn left and climb up the other side, following the path which takes an unlikely looking line through the cliffs on the west side of the dale and then climbs a small side dale to reach One Ash Grange.

This farm is one of the oldest in the area, having been founded in mediaeval times as an outpost of Roche Abbey in Yorkshire, a Cistercian order who made a major contribution to the wool trade during this period. However the modern farm buildings, though old, are nothing like that old, but one wonders about the age of the curious cave shelter which lies alongside the path behind the farm. Note also the ancient pig stys behind the farm.

Continue along the farm track the other side of One Ash Grange, ignoring the path which branches off left. After a while the track passes through a gate and makes a 90 degree right-hand turn towards the Lathkill Valley. Follow it down to the floor of the dale, which it reaches with a long sloping descent.

Upper part of Lathkill Dale in snow
Upper part of Lathkill Dale in snow
If you need refreshment already then Monyash is less than a kilometre away uphill, but our route turns sharp right and follows the dale downhill - in fact it's downhill all the way from here to Alport. The initial section is fairly narrow and partly filled by the spoil from Ricklow Quarry, but after passing Lathkill House Cave (which in winter is the source of the River Lathkill but is usually dry in summer) the valley opens out into a deep wide dale with steep rocky sides and this section down to Cales Dale is probably the most impressive part of the whole dale. The dale is in the care of English Nature and in spring the display of wild flowers is very impressive, with several rare varieties.

If Lathkill House Cave is dry then the river usually appears at some springs just above the junction with Cales Dale and the path follows it along the unwooded north side until after about a kilometre the woods enclose both sides of the dale. It is here that the first evidence of lead mining appears and after another kilometre and half there is further evidence in the columns of an old aqueduct which once crossed the path taking water to the Mandale mine. The water was used to drive a large water wheel which in turn was used to pump water out of the mine workings - a good example of a circular argument perhaps. The mine lies in the woods on your left about 200 metres below the aqueduct columns - part of the engine house still stands and the main entrance to the mine is visible in the hillside behind. In summer it's usually very well hidden by the foliage.

Lathkill Dale near Haddon Grange
Lathkill Dale near Haddon Grange
Another kilometre through the woods leads you to the footbridge which crosses the river below Over Haddon. This is a good place for refreshments if you can face the steep climb up the road to the village! Alternatively, if you want to cut the walk short, you can cross the river and climb the track on the south side to reach Meadow Place Grange (another former monastic outpost) and follow the footpath across the fields to reach the Conksbury - Parsley Hey road not too far from the car park from whence you started.

Continuing down the river, you soon pass the outflow from the sough which drains Mandale mine, and the river widens into a series of ponds formed by weirs constructed at intervals down its course. This is trout-fishing country and the main purpose of the ponds is to rear fish. The valley here belongs to the Haddon Hall estate and fishing is strictly private.

A kilometre below Over Haddon is Conksbury bridge, one of the oldest bridges in the area. On a bluff overlooking it to the south there was once a village, but this was abandoned in mediaeval times, when the bridge was still new. Beyond Conksbury the path is diverted away from the river bank and you must cross the bridge and walk up the road a short distance to reach the continuation of the path which then takes you uneventfully to Alport and the junction with the Bradford river.

Conksbury Bridge
Conksbury Bridge
From here it's uphill all the way. Cross the main road and go through the gateway opposite to take a path which crosses the river almost immediately and follows it upstream to Youlgreave. In summer the river in this section is usually completely dry and it continues this way past Youlgreave until you reach the first weir which is marked by a footbridge and a set of steps coming down from the village above.

Cross the river here and continue up along the south side of the ponds. The dale curves around and at the head of a long bow-shaped pond there is a stone bridge across the stream (if there is one flowing). Cross here and follow the path which climbs the hillside to eventually traverse into the side dale which faces the bridge and emerge on the Middleton - Youlgreave road above.

The continuation of the dale is private, so you must turn right and walk along the road past Lomberdale Hall, the house which Thomas Bateman built for himself in the 1850s. At the next small dale a path leads off up to the left and this cuts off the corner to the next little road. It seems obvious to continues straight on up the dale opposite, but this isn't the quickest way - instead, turn left and take the next path, which climbs diagonally up the hillside past the inevitable lead mine spoil heaps back to the picnic site and the car park.

Fluorspar workings on Long Rake
0 - Fluorspar workings on Long Rake
Lathkill Dale - upper section under snow
1 - Lathkill Dale - upper section under snow
Lathkill Dale
2 - Lathkill Dale
Lathkill Dale - view from Haddon Grove with spring flowers
3 - Lathkill Dale - view from Haddon Grove with spring flowers
Lathkill Dale view
4 - Lathkill Dale view
Lathkill River
5 - Lathkill River
Over Haddon village
6 - Over Haddon village
Conksbury Bridge
7 - Conksbury Bridge
Youlgrave church - exterior view
8 - Youlgrave church - exterior view
Youlgrave public house
9 - Youlgrave public house
Bradford Dale
10 - Bradford Dale