Peak District walk - Dovedale to Hall Dale

A Hall Dale bridge talked about in Isaac Walton's famed The Compleat Angler

A Hall Dale bridge talked about in Isaac Walton's famed The Compleat Angler - Credit: Helen Moat

Escape into a tranquil Hall Dale, diverging from the ever-popular Dovedale in the Peak District

There’s no denying the drama and beauty of Dovedale but as a honeypot there’s a price to pay: lower Dovedale is usually thronging with people.  

This ramble begins at Milldale, taking in a quieter stretch of Dovedale before heading into the even more peaceful Hall Dale. 

It may not have the soaring pinnacles or the striking ravine squeeze of the lower Dove valley but it’s altogether more agreeable to the rambler who seeks solitude in nature.  

Enjoy the quiet beauty of this verdant valley of pale limestone outcrops and rocky scree slopes. At the top, in the basin of the dale head, the handsome hamlet of Stanshope comes into view, a scene of bucolic loveliness.  

Dropping back down to Milldale, the views open out to reveal the craggy tops of Dovedale as it cuts through the White Peak.  

Beautiful Milldale

Beautiful Milldale - Credit: Helen Moat

1. Starting out from Milldale Car Park in the dale west of the hamlet, head downhill to the settlement – one of the White Peak’s prettiest corners.  

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Quaint stone-built cottages tumble to the Dove, its shallow waters tripping over the riverbed.

The grassy verges, ducks and charming humpback bridge tempts the rambler to linger, take photographs and enjoy a snack and hot drink bought over the stable door from a nearby cottage.  

Call into the National Trust Information Barn to find out about the history, geology and nature of the Dove before crossing the footbridge over the river.  

The 17th century author Isaac Walton wrote in The Compleat Angler, ‘What’s here, the sign of a bridge? Do you travel in wheelbarrows in this country? This bridge was made for nothing else – why a mouse can hardly go over it, ’tis not two fingers broad.’  

He may have been indulging in a little hyperbole but the bridge is charmingly narrow.   

2. Going through the wooden gate into the National Nature Reserve, follow the River Dove as it winds its way southward.  

Enjoy the flow of aqua-blue water, traipsing over weirs, continuing past two yawning cavern mouths to the soaring pinnacles of Ilam Rock and Pickering Tor.   

Yawning cavern mouths and the soaring pinnacles of Ilam Rock and Pickering Tor await ramblers

Yawning cavern mouths and the soaring pinnacles of Ilam Rock and Pickering Tor await ramblers - Credit: Helen Moat

3. Cross the wooden pedestrian bridge here, looping back along the west bank of the river. Ignoring the left turn signposted for Ilam, continue on to follow the path as it sweeps west up Hall Dale (signposted).  

Most casual day-trippers stick with Dovedale, the peace and quiet of Hall Dale is left to the committed hiker.  

The rough and stony path gives way to a runway of grass. If you are lucky, as I was, you might catch a kestrel on the drystone wall close to the path.  

Head out of the National Trust managed dale, the valley opening out to reveal Stanshope with the handsome 17th century Stanshope Hall at its centre.  

Continue along the drystone wall until you come to an elbow of wall on your right.  

4. Keeping the boundary on your left, follow it uphill to meet a farm track. Ignoring Pasture Lane, veering off to the right, continue straight downhill through fields with the stone wall now on your right.  

Hall Dale offers a tranquil release from more heavily populated spots

Hall Dale offers a tranquil release from more heavily populated spots - Credit: Helen Moat

Big skies and the expanse of the Peak uplands cut through by Dovedale will surely lift your heart, along with the pretty church of Alstonefield on the hillside.  

Drop down steeply through woodland back to Sunny Bank and Milldale. 

COMPASS POINTS 

Start point: SK 1361 5476 

Parking: Milldale Car Park 

Map: Ordinance Survey Explorer OL 24 

Terrain: Easy riverside rambling; gentle climb up Hall Dale 

Distance: 3.2 miles 

Refreshments: Kiosk at Milldale