Cheshire walk - Beeston and Peckforton

Stone arch on Hill Lane

Stone arch on Hill Lane - Credit: Archant

Not one, but two castles loom over us on this month’s walk - a circuit of Beeston and Peckforton, writes howard bradbury

The entrance to Beeston Castle

The entrance to Beeston Castle - Credit: not Archant

Given a big hill overlooking a plain, mankind will, sooner or later, stick a castle on it.

Hence the hills at Beeston and Peckforton - rising majestically from the surrounding flatness - each boast a castle, one arriving sooner, another later. Beeston Castle was built in the 1220s by Ranulf, 6th Earl of Chester, though it incorporates defences dating back to the Iron Age. Neolithic man may also have clambered up the crag, perhaps surveying the Cheshire Plain for woolly mammoths and the prospect of a large barbecue.

Rising a good 600 years after Beeston, Peckforton Castle is nothing like as old as its turrets and battlements may suggest. John Tollemache came in to 36,000 acres of land, including Peckforton and Beeston, in 1840, and decided to build a home in the style of a medieval castle. And so, while Beeston has crumbled since the English Civil War - when it was occupied by the Royalists under siege - Peckforton is in splendid shape, serving as a hotel, a three AA rosettes restaurant and wedding venue.

Our circuit takes us from Beeston, into the Peckforton Estate and on to one of Cheshire Life’s favourite pubs before coming back around the other side of Peckforton’s hill. Of course, you could also rest your legs and seek refreshment at Peckforton Castle.

Poppies in the corn in a field along the route

Poppies in the corn in a field along the route - Credit: Archant

The Walk

1. There is a large pay and display car park opposite the entrance to Beeston castle (CW6 9TX). It’s £3 for a day. Go out of the car park and turn left along the road for just a few yards then bear right along a fenced footpath beside the entrance to the Sandstone Cafe. The path runs beside the walls to the castle and then emerges into woodland. The path should be quite well-worn and easy to follow. It goes down to a lane opposite a house called Tabernacle Cottage. Turn left up the lane and then, a few yards later, right up steps and onto the Sandstone Trail, crossing a field which has a nice view of Peckforton Castle poking through its surrounding woodland.

The Old Smithy on Stone House Lane

The Old Smithy on Stone House Lane - Credit: Archant

2. The path takes you down some steps, over a footbridge and on to a junction of paths where you go straight on, following the Sandstone Trail along a right hand field edge. Go through a kissing gate and across the next field on a very obvious path. Another kissing gate brings you to Horsley Lane. Go right here, following the lane until you reach Ivy Cottage, at which point go left through a metal gate following the Sandstone Trail into the Peckforton Estate. Stay on this wide track for quite some time as it climbs gently, offering some expansive views over the Cheshire Plain.

3. A waymarker eventually indicates that the Sandstone Trail bears left, but we carry straight on as the path goes downhill to a metal gate beyond which you are on Pennsylvania Lane (there’s surely an interesting explanation for that name). Continue along the lane and you will soon reach The Pheasant Inn at Higher Burwardsley. Refreshed, continue just a few yards further along the lane and, at a T junction, bear left uphill, then go left again into Rock Lane. When the road forks, Rock Lane goes to the left, but you need to stay right as the road becomes Hill Lane, You soon reach a waymarker for the Sandstone Trail. Keep going straight ahead, through a gate, and the lane turns into a wide unmade track through a lightly wooded area. After a few minutes, the path passes beneath a large stone arch and becomes a tarmac lane again.

The Pheasant Inn, Higher Burwardsley

The Pheasant Inn, Higher Burwardsley - Credit: Archant

4. Continue downhill on Hill Lane until it meets Stone House Lane (there’s a very attractive cottage called the Old Smithy just opposite the junction). Bear left up Stone House Lane and in a few minutes, you reach the gatehouse of Peckforton Castle, with a huge tree across the road. But just before you reach this point, look for a footpath to the right, through a metal kissing gate. Go down this path, skirting woodland and keeping to the right hand field edge. Ignore another metal kissing gate to the right and continue to a stile set off to the right in what was a very overgrown area when I passed this way. Cross this stile and go on into the woods, sticking to this path and ignoring several stiles off to the right.

5. The path winds around until you find yourself heading back towards Peckforton Castle, and the path then emerges onto Peckforton Road. Go left here, then first right into a private road for the Peckforton Estate which is also a bridleway. Look for the kissing gate on the right signposted for Beeston Castle and you will soon find yourself retracing your steps back to the car park.

Compass points

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Area of Walk: Beeston and Peckforton

Distance: 4 miles

Time to allow: 2 hours

Map: OS Explorer 257

Refreshments: The Pheasant, Pennsylvania Lane, Higher Burwardsley CH3 9PF; Peckforton Castle, Stone House Lane, Peckforton CW6 9TN; The Sandstone Cafe, Chapel Lane, Beeston CW6 9TX.