Cheshire walk - Macclesfield Forest and Shutlingsloe
- Credit: David Dunford
A strenuous but hugely rewarding hike in the Cheshire Peak District
Let’s be honest – its 'Cheshire Matterhorn' nickname is an affectionate exaggeration. But once you’ve sweated your way up to the summit of Shutlingsloe, 506 metres above sea level, you’ll be entitled to a sense of achievement.
The rocky sections below the breezy plateau require sure-footedness, so this walk demands sensible footwear as well as warm clothing, especially in poor weather.
The reward is superb views over the Cheshire Plain and the Peak District, including to Shining Tor, the only spot in Cheshire from which you can look down on the Shutlingsloe trigpoint.
The name Shutlingsloe derives from the Old English Scyttel's hlaw. The identity of Scyttel is forgotten, but hlaw or hlaew refers to a man-made burial mound.
The word, Anglicised to 'low', is still used for these prehistoric sites (as at Arbor Low in Derbyshire, for example) but has also been applied to natural hills, particularly rounded or prominent ones such as Shutlingsloe. In Scotland and Northumberland, 'law' is a widespread placename element with the same root and meaning.
The Hanging Gate pub is visited after 1½ miles. Patrons could park and start from there, but, in view of the limited parking and as a courtesy to the proprietors, I have described the walk starting from Macclesfield Forest, where there is ample parking and other facilities (fee payable; check closing time before leaving). Refreshments are also available at the Crag Inn in Wildboarclough, halfway round.
1. From the Trentabank car park, facing the end of the dam, turn left along the roadside path. At a junction after 200 metres, turn left (signposted Wincle) and follow the lane uphill, ignoring paths to left and right. Follow the road around a left-hand bend, again ignoring a path straight ahead, and continue for nearly a mile, ignoring a road on the right after 450 metres.
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Normally such a long section of road walking might be considered undesirable, but the extensive views compensate, and the road is formally designated as a Quiet Lane where cars are encouraged to defer to non-motorised traffic. On meeting a larger road on a bend, take the upper (left) road and climb to the Hanging Gate.
2. Take a path on the left, directly opposite the pub. At the end of the fenced section (360 metres) climb a stile and turn right through a gateway. Bear left, parallel to a wall on your left. When the wall bends left, continue across the rough grazing, heading directly towards Shutlingsloe, to a pond, where the path turns right to a gate at the end of a line of conifers. Walk down to a driveway.
3. Turn right then take a signposted footpath on the left above a pond. This leads over another stile and down into a small valley, meeting a larger stream at a footbridge. Turn right and follow the stream down to Greenway Bridge. Turn left past a house on the right, then fork left by a turning area after 300 metres.
4. Follow this metalled driveway to a bend just before a cattle grid, where you take a signposted footpath on the right. This path leads across a series of fields with views over the valley on your right for ¾ mile then drops through gorse and hawthorn to the road.
5. Turn left past the Crag Inn then, by a passing place, take a driveway on the left, climbing out of the wooded valley. At a fork take the left-hand (upper) road with Shutlingsloe now looming ahead.
The lane swings right to Shutlingsloe Farm at a gateway, but here you leave it for a path on the left which becomes progressively steeper as you climb via a couple of kissing gates to the left-hand end of the rocky summit ridge.
6. Stroll along the flattish hilltop to the trig-point then drop off to the left on a rocky, stepped path that descends to a wall stile. Follow the wall for a while, then turn left through a kissing gate and follow the slabbed path across heather moorland for 500 metres to a gate into Macclesfield Forest.
7. Bear left along an obvious track which shortly meets another. Bear left (signposted Trentabank) then take the right-hand path at a fork, again signposted to Trentabank. Descend through serried conifers to a junction, where you continue straight ahead back to Trentabank Reservoir, just above the car park.
Area of walk: Macclesfield Forest and Higher Sutton
Start point: Trentabank car park, Macclesfield Forest SK11 0NS
Distance: 6½ miles
Time to allow: 3-4 hours
Map: OS Explorer OL24 White Peak area
Refreshments: The Hanging Gate, Meg Lane, Higher Sutton SK11 0NG, www.thehanginggate.com
Crag Inn, Wildboarclough, SK11 0BD, 01260 227239
A traveller's rest
The Hanging Gate
The Hanging Gate is believed to have operated as an inn since 1621 and, with the Cat and Fiddle arguably no longer qualifying, now claims the title of Cheshire’s highest pub.
First-time publicans Hilary Spokes and James Schofield knew they were taking on a tough challenge when they decided to adopt this isolated hostelry, closed since 2017 after struggling to remain viable for several years and earmarked for conversion to residential use.
Then, just as negotiations were concluded at the start of 2020 and they started to look forward to their grand reopening and progress with renovations to put the pub on a sound footing, along came the pandemic to make life even more difficult.
The television tower at Sutton Common and the radio telescope at Jodrell Bank are prominent but it may even be possible to see the buildings of Liverpool on clear days.
Almost inevitably, the building claims a resident ghost – the spectre of a past landlord. We trust he won’t wish to interfere with the efforts of the gallant entrepreneurs to secure the future of this fine old building without losing its historic appeal.