This short walk takes in the major sights of Stanton Moor and Birchover, an area rich in historical associations and with superb views across the surrounding countryside. It gives an interesting outing for a winter's day, or one when covering a lot of distance doesn't seem important. On the way you can let your imagination wander as you consider the Bronze Age remains and the tales of druids, witches and wizards.
The walk as described starts from a small lay-by on the B5056 opposite the track which leads up to Cratcliff Tor (gr 229619). This spot can be reached by car or by bus. Alternatively, you can save a bit of distance by starting from the bottom end of Birchover village, or you could extend the walk by starting from Elton and walking down Dudwood Lane, the line of the old Portway.
You soon arrive at the fantastic sight of Rowtor Rocks, an irregular jumble of gritstone blocks which have been embellished by the carving out of stone seats and steps. Most of this was done by the first incumbent of the Old Vicarage opposite, the Rev Thomas Eyre. The rocks make an excellent scramble and at the north end there is a rocking stone which can be moved with a firm push.
Descend the north end of the rocks and you emerge almost in the Druid Inn, a distinctive hostelry and an alternative starting point for this walk. From the apex of the bend in the road, almost opposite the inn sign, a path leads up through the trees and takes a wooded ridge behind Birchover village. It's hard to make out whether it's a natural ridge or just quarry spoil - probably a mixture of both.
This leads via a quarry car park onto the small road which links Birchover and Stanton. Turn left towards Stanton and follow it for about 200 metres. Then a cart track branches off to the right onto the moor, but don't take it immediately - continue along the road another 100 metres to admire the Andle or (Aigle) Stone which lies in a field below the road. There is a magnificent view of Youlgreave from here, and another up the valley towards Elton. Though there are druidic legends about these stones, this one is natural in origin and has metal rungs in it to aid ascent, plus an inscription commemorating the Duke of Wellington. It lies on private ground however.
Follow this track for about 1 kilometre. It meanders around the tops of abandoned quarries with fine views of the Wye valley to Bakewell. Eventually it is forced eastwards by a fenced quarry and the track here is marked by gritstone markers in the ground. At the second fenced quarry a small path leads off right through the trees - this leads to the Nine Ladies stone circle. If you miss this path then don't worry - just continue along the track until it meets the main north-south track across the moor and turn right (south) and backtrack for a few hundred metres to the Nine Ladies.
From the Nine Ladies take the main north-south track for a few metres and then branch left (south-east) along a track which leads across the moor to the tower at the eastern edge. This commemorates the Great Reform Act of 1832 but is now bricked up and in quite poor shape.
At the tower turn right along a path which heads about south-south-west across the eastern edge of the moor - to the west of the fence which marks the boundary of the National Trust property. This path skirts the eastern edge, giving good views of the Derwent valley below until it arrives back at the boundary fence at a large natural stone - the Heart Stone. Continue in a south-westerly direction for another 200 metres and exit from the moor onto the minor road between Birchover and Stanton Lees.
Turn right onto the road and after 50 metres cross a stile and follow a path which descends to Barn Farm below. This leads into the farmyard and you must go right around the farmbuildings in a clockwise direction to exit along the farm drive. You shortly arrive back in Birchover and can retrace your steps to the start.