Peak District walk - Lathkill Dale and Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve
- Credit: Gary Wallis
Five dales make up Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve: Cressbrook, Hay, Lathkill, Long and Monk’s dales – all within ten miles of Bakewell.
Lathkill is arguably the most beautiful with its spectacular gorge and flower-rich slopes – home to the rare Jacob’s Ladder and crammed with orchids and cowslips in spring and summer.
As you walk through, the dale is constantly changing in character – from open grassland to rocky gorge and wooded river valley.
At first it feels remote and untouched but as you duck into woodlands the signs of a once lucrative quarrying industry are still very much in evidence.
Take time to explore the ruins but be careful of the mineshafts that line the path.
1. From the small car park east of Monyash, head through the gate and down through the wide grassy runway that leads into the dale.
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The path becomes rougher underfoot as the valley narrows. Continue between soaring limestone cliffs and rock heaps.
In summer, thick vegetation and nettles can make the going challenging. In winter the river first makes an appearance at Lathkill Head Cave but in dry periods the river dries out in the upper section of the dale.
The reason for this becomes apparent as you enter the wooded section of the dale; the mineshafts that riddle this part of the valley drain the water underground.
2. As you enter Palmerston Wood along the concessionary path (closed on Wednesday between October and February) the dale softens.
A series of weirs have created languid pools, home to ducks, coots, moorhens, kingfishers and dippers. It’s a truly magical place.
Look out for a Monet-esque bridge that leads to the ruins of Bateman’s House, built in 1830 by the Lathkill Dale Mining Company to house a water-powered pump that was used to drain the nearby lead mines.
A little further along this side path a metal ladder drops down into the shaft. Look out for the crank on the right. Wind it up and lo and behold the mineshaft lights up to reveal a precipitous drop.
Back on the main path, a left turn leads up to the ruins of Mandale Engine House and sough. After the old mill (where the road winds up to Over Haddon) woodland gives way to wide grassy slopes – a great spot for a picnic.
3. Above Conkesbury Bridge, on the elbow of the road, backtrack along the top of the dale before climbing through fields to Lathkil Hotel – more of a characterful pub with accommodation than ‘hotel’.
The views from the beer garden over the dale and White Peak are superb. Fuel up, then head west out of the village along School Road and Main Street to Monyash Road. Veer left onto a minor road leading to Haddon Grove.
4. At Haddon Grove Farm you have a choice. You can drop through fields (via a squeeze gap in the farm’s second camping field) to the top of Lathkill with a birds-eye view of the dale.
The path skirts the top of the valley before meeting Ricklow Dale where a fingerpost on the left points the way back to Monyash. The overgrown path, however, makes the going tough, particularly in wet weather, and it’s not one for anyone suffering from vertigo.
Better to follow the path from the farm across a series of fields, eventually emerging at Monyash Road. Turn left to reach your starting point at the car park.
Compass point: SK 157 664
Parking: Lathkill Dale Car Park, Monyash
Map: OS Explorer Map OL24 Peak District
Terrain: Mostly easy underfoot with a tricky section in the gorge.
Distance: 8 miles
Refreshments: The Garden Tea Room (on the lane leading up to Over Haddon from the old mill house) and Lathkil Hotel both have superb views over the Peak District.
The former offers delightful garden seating, hot beverages, soft drinks and scrumptious cakes, the latter decent pub grub and alcohol.