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The Limestone Way - a two day adventure in the Peak District National Park

The Limestone Way is a 46 mile, way-marked long-distance walking route in the heart of the Peak District National Park. Starting in the small town of Castleton the route passes through rolling dales, narrow gorges, ancient pre-historic sites and lush open countryside before finishing in Rocester in Staffordshire. 

On 18 July 2020 I set off with my good friend Jo to complete the route over two days. The walk can be enjoyed over several days; it just depends at what pace you fancy going:

Day 1

Firstly, a quick note about logistics for this challenge. The route starts and finishes at different points 46 miles apart so when you get to the end, you need to think about how to get back! We took two cars, leaving one at the end before driving in the other to the start.

We set off from Castleton at just before 10am on the Saturday morning. The official start is marked by a small plaque just beyond the sign post for Cave Dale. 

Our target for day 1 was to get to ‘Robin Hood’s Stride’, an outcrop of rock which lies between Youlgreave and Winster that we had earmarked for our overnight wild camp spot. To get to this point we would have to walk around 20 miles. Whilst this would leave more mileage to do on the second day we figured we would have the benefit of an earlier start on day 2. 

From Castleton the route meanders across hill tops before descending into a natural gorge that runs for a number of kilometres to Millers Dale which makes for a good cafe stop (just off the Monsal Trail). From Millers Dale we pushed on to Monyash where we paused briefly for a pint at the Bulls Head and to shelter from a rain shower. 

The route on day 1 was well signed and I only had to check the map occasionally. Keep your eyes pealed for the ‘limestone way’ wooden signs as well as the ram symbol that marks the way. 

It was approximately 8pm by the time we reached Robin Hood’s Stride and what a brilliant wild camp spot this was! We were able to pitch our tent off the route in a secluded spot under tree cover and then turned our attention to getting the evening meal sorted. 

I always enjoy cooking a boil in the bag meal over a stove; after a full day walking the spag bol (courtesy of decathlon) went down a treat. The good food was accompanied by a fiery sunset on the horizon and life really was sweet. 

Day 2

We both had a surprisingly good sleep in the 2 man tent and we woke to glorious sunshine and clear blue skies! This was something of a contrast to the weather on day 1. Our early morning breakfast was briefly interrupted by an old man who was out with his equally old dog (16 year old) picking wild mushrooms and fungi! You should have seen the size of the parasol mushroom this chap found!

Tent packed up and breakfast finished we hit the trail again. With the sun on our backs spirits were high and we had the small, picturesque town of Bonsall in our sights for our first rest point of the day at mile 25. 

By the time we reached Bonsall we started to feel as though time was running away from us and realised that we were going to have to really push on today and limit our rest stops. From Bonsall we got our heads down and cracked on to Parwich. This section of the trail was however the most up and down and the 8-9 miles took longer than anticipated! After these hard-won miles we reached Tissington and then pressed on to the small village of Thorpe.

At mile 36 (59 kilometres) we were both starting to feel the weight of our rucksacks and one or two blisters on the feet. After the hilly section at the start of the day, the landscape became much more open and undulating with the trail passing through fields. 

Between Thorpe and the end point of Rocester the ‘limestone way’ signs become a lot more few and far between; the trail was now in Staffordshire who’s council clearly is less interested in maintaining the route!

At 8pm we crossed the finish line and the end point Rocester. We had walked 46 miles (74 kilometres) and were both pretty shattered but elated to have finished the trail.

To anyone looking for an accessible, adventurous weekend then the Limestone Way is certainly worth considering. Walking this route reignited my love for the Peak District which is so diverse in its natural beauty. 

Research material: An inexpensive guide to walking the Limestone Way can be purchased from Derbyshire Dales District Council for £3.50: 

https://www.derbyshiredales.gov.uk/things-to-do/visiting-the-dales/outdoor-activities/walking/the-limestone-way

The pamphlet breaks the route down into 12 sections with fairly detailed descriptions of the route/helpful information along with map section images.

I also used Harvey Maps Peak District Central/South Superwalker XT25 maps. 

 

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