Peak District walk - Sett Valley and Lantern Pike

Spectacular views over the valley

Spectacular views over the valley - Credit: Archant

Enjoy miles of old tracks and myriad views on this fabulous High Peak hike.

The Little Mill Inn

The Little Mill Inn - Credit: Archant

1. Follow the Sett Valley Trail along the trackbed of a former branch railway line from Hayfield to New Mill Central, which opened in 1868 and closed in 1970. The line was purchased from British Rail by Derbyshire County Council in 1973 and is now a popular walking, cycling and horse riding route.

2. At the far end of Birch Vale Reservoir turn right at the footpath sign for Lantern Pike, which crosses the dam wall and river beyond then heads up through a field and walled pathway.

Long ago the River Sett was intensively worked to power numerous mills on its journey to marry the Goyt and then unite with the Mersey. After passing over a wall stile onto a tarmac drive turn left and head uphill to meet Sitch Lane.

The original waterwheel from a long-since defunct mill

The original waterwheel from a long-since defunct mill - Credit: Archant

3. On meeting the terrace of houses at Windy Knowle bear right and then turn left after No 4 to continue ascending on the Pennine Bridleway as indicated by the fingerpost sign. Stupendous views across the Sett Valley will now begin to emerge.

Look for the little white shooting cabin on the heather-clad flanks of Leygatehead Moor, an iconic landmark for miles around. Hayfield appears like a sprawl of dark gritstone properties inching their way towards high ground where it is easy to make out parcels of farmland that long ago have been taken in from the moors. Hayfield’s history is said to date back nearly 2,000 years to when the Roman road between Buxton and Glossop was established. In later years several packhorse routes converged on the village and then a turnpike road was laid, to be followed by the bypass in 1978.

The Crescent

The Crescent - Credit: Archant

4. Arriving at a gate by the National Trust sign for Lantern Pike, turn left to follow the permissive path over the summit for 360-degree views from a circular topography viewfinder. Although many miles away, Manchester appears like a mirage of multi-storey, high-rise towers surrounded by a metropolitan sprawl. Alternatively, continue ahead for a less strenuous route across this area of access land. Lantern Pike was given to the National Trust in 1946 and is thought to be named after being used long ago for a beacon.

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5. Pass through a gate and then cross a stretch of moorland to another gate beside which is a many-fingered footpath sign. Turn left to follow the walled track known as the Monks Way. Head around to the left of Matleymoor Farm and continue, passing between rough moorland pasture up to your right and traditional hay meadows down to your left. Listen for skylarks ascending and the melodic sounds of curlew.

A perfect spot to rest the legs

A perfect spot to rest the legs - Credit: Archant

6. On meeting a road, turn left. Descend to a gateway and path which passes the ruins of an old mill building followed by a ford in Rowarth Brook. To avoid slippery stones, go through gates for an alternative path on your right.

7. Turn left on reaching Goddard Lane and descend into the isolated little village of Rowarth, comprising of outlying farms, a cluster of houses and the terrace of Drinkwater’s buildings constructed in 1812. Anderton House on the left has a pretty date stone for 1797.

A retired Brighton Belle Pullman railway coach

A retired Brighton Belle Pullman railway coach - Credit: Archant

8. Continue ahead past the car park and small recreation ground then turn left at the sign for ‘Little Mill Only’. Hidden away down by the side of the watercourse is the amazing Little Mill Inn with a retired Brighton Belle Pullman railway coach in its back garden. Rather interestingly I found reference to Rowarth being where one of the great train robbers from 1963 held out.

By the side of the pub there used to be a fully functioning candle wick mill dating from the 1780s but this was destroyed by a great flood in 1935. However, the massive original waterwheel can still be seen, now redundant but a roost for resident ducks and geese.

9. Continue on the road heading uphill. Bear right at a fork following the green public footpath sign and then follow the restricted byway uphill on the most divine old holloway, so deep and dark that for a while it feels like having been devoured by the hills.


Company! - Credit: Archant

Walk over slabs and slates of eroded gritstone bedrock with the gnarled roots of oak and sycamore stretching down on either side.

10. Re-emerge onto the moors for another mile or so of fabulous trackway between weathered drystone walls decorated by lichen. In summer there are verges of tall grasses and wild flowers swaying in the breeze, dancing beside the silent trumpets of colourful foxglove.

Continue ahead, with Feeding Hey down to your right, to walk past the buildings of Wethercotes. From this elevated position there are fabulous views down to New Mills.

The open hills

The open hills - Credit: Archant

11. Turn left onto a lane and follow this down to return to the terrace of houses at Windy Knowle. Turn right and retrace your steps as far as the sharp bend. Go straight on here following a bridleway down to emerge by the A6015.

12. Turn left to walk past The Crescent, a most gorgeous curled terrace of characterful properties built in the 1820s for workers at the former Birch Vale Print Works that operated until the 1960s.

Cross over Spinner Bottom Bridge, an ancient crossing of the River Sett, and head up past the Sett Valley Café to re-join the trail on the left for a lovely level walk back to Hayfield.



Aerial views of the Sett Valley and surrounding hills dominate this glorious hike that follows mainly moorland tracks through tranquil countryside. Discover a land of ancient hay meadows, swathes of bilberry bushes and speckles of fluffy white cotton grass. Listen to skylark and curlew as you feast your eyes on big sky views

Parking: Sett Valley Trail Car Park, Hayfield S22 2ES (pay and display) Grid Ref: 033869

Toilets: Sett Valley Trail Car Park

Map: O.S. Explorer OL1 – Dark Peak

Terrain: 10+ gates and stiles. Easy to follow trail, paths and miles of rough stone tracks. Some roadway without pavement. Livestock grazing in fields and on moorland. Ford in Rowarth Brook with detour path

Distance: 7.5 miles

Refreshments: The Little Mill Inn, Rowarth; Sett Valley Café, Birch Vale

Walk highlight: The Little Mill Inn appearing like an oasis in the back of beyond!

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