The Round Manchester Hiking Trail
A 157 mile walking route that encircles the City of Manchester in 13 stages, each accessible by public transport, and taking in as much as possible of the best scenery on the way.
Highlights include Alderley Edge, The River Bollin, Tatton Park, Glaze Brook, the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Winter Hill, Haslingden Grane, Todmorden Edge, Blackstone Edge, the Laddow Rocks, Kinder Scout, the Limestone Way and Shining Tor.
The average stage length is around 12 miles, but they vary between 10 and 14 miles. However, the amount of ascent on the stages varies a lot, from just 100 metres on the flattest stage out to the west where we cross Chat Moss; to 800 metres on the eastern stage that crosses Kinder Scout. The stages are all designed so that they can be done as a single day’s march by an experienced walker, setting out from home in the morning by train or bus, and returning home by a different train or bus in the evening. The stages also all finish in places with pubs and restaurants nearby, so that you can relax a little after the day’s exertions before undertaking the journey home.
The inspiration behind the Trail is the geography (both human and physical) of Manchester, in so far as it relates to hill-walking. The city is two-thirds surrounded by hills that are within easy day-trip distance and contain some of the best scenery in England. And, unlike many hilly areas, these are criss-crossed by busy railway lines and roads, linking Manchester to the other major centres of population that lie just to the other side of them. This means that public transport from Manchester will enable a day trip to the hills in a way that is quite unusual in England. As the public transport links fan out in all directions from the city, my thought was that it should be possible to devise a route that hops from one arterial line to another (each taking a day’s march) to form a complete loop. The one third of the route that doesn’t have any really high ground would still be interesting, as it contains plenty of points of interest and pretty scenery, as well as providing a pleasing contrast to the upland part of the route.
I developed the route between 2018 and 2021, and my walking club, Manchester Weekend Walkers (see http://www.mwwalkers.org.uk) actually walked all of the completed stages between July 2019 and August 2021. The design philosophy has five criteria: as well as (i) forming a loop (essential); and (ii), being public-transport-accessible (also essential), the more optional desiderata were: (iii) to include as much of the best scenery as possible on each stage; (iv) for the Trail as a whole to have as much variety of scenery as possible; and (v) to keep the stage lengths relatively even. It was not possible (or at least I didn’t manage) to achieve all of these objectives all of the time, but I think the solution I present here does come somewhere close.
Most of the start/finish points for the stages are railway stations (ten of these), while two more are bus stations from which express bus services run to Manchester, and just one (Lymm Cross) is a normal bus stop from which you would have to catch a standard bus service. The trains and buses that you have to catch to do the various stages are themselves quite varied, and I always looked at the journeys to and from the walk start and finish points as part of the experience.
The 13 stages are as follows:
|Stage||Starts From||Finishes At||Miles||Ascent (m)|
And, on the map:
As can be seen from the table, the first five stages have relatively limited amounts of ascent. That is because these stages correspond to the one third of the route that isn’t hilly. When I did the route with my walking club I tried to space out the stages at intervals of four weeks apart so that we would complete the Trail in a 12-month period (Covid-19 interrupted this plan) and, as part of this, I did these five lowland stages in the winter, with stage 1 taking place in November and stage 5 in late February.
Stages 6 thru 9 cover the northern part of the route, covering the West Pennine Moors and the South Pennines. Each of these four stages involves about the same amount of ascent but with the distance gradually increasing, reflecting the idea that these stages are meant for early spring (stage 6) through to summer (stage 9) and that as conditions improve and the amount of daylight increases, it is possible to fit longer walks into a day trip.
The last four stages (10-13) cover the Peak District and include the best scenery on the Trail, but also more climbing. Stage 10 is an outlier in terms of difficulty, being both long and having a lot of ascent – but on the seasonal plan mentioned above this stage would be walked in mid-to-late summer, and so should not be problematic to do. The difficulty level remains high for stages 11 and 12 (but not quite as high as for stage 10) and then eases off a bit more for stage 13, so that you can enjoy the final stage without being exhausted at the end of it. On the seasonal plan discussed here, the final stage (13) would come around in the autumn, and would ideally be done before the clocks go back in October.
The Lowland Stages
The Trail starts in Macclesfield and proceeds clockwise, starting with the five lowland stages, which cover the first 57.5 miles of the 157 mile total of the Trail, forming most of the southern and all of the western part of it. We start off in East Cheshire, where the countryside has lots of gentle undulations; and then as we get further west the scenery gets flatter, before we head north and cross the Ship Canal into what was traditionally Lancashire, where the scenery stays very flat until we pass to the north of Wigan, where it starts rising and falling again.
As well as changes in landscape topology, there are also variations in the human geography, from the prosperous East Cheshire farmsteads and pretty market towns (we have staging points in Wilmslow, Knutsford and Lymm) we pass into flatter territory with fewer, more functional farmsteads, and former mining towns (Leigh, Wigan and Blackrod).
As there is no moorland (or any ground higher than 200m above sea level) in this segment of the Trail, I have sought to find alternatives to hills that would make the route interesting and pleasing to the eye. This has taken the form of various attractions and sites, the main ones being:
- the Alderley Edge escarpment – a popular tourist area with great views and lots of history
- Quarry Bank Mill (although you can’t go inside unless you are a member of the National Trust)
- the River Bollin (a constant companion during stages 1 and 2, but at its most spectacular for the stretch between Quarry Bank and the tunnel under Runway 2 of the Airport)
- Manchester Airport, where we get a ringside view of Runway 2, and also get to walk under the flight path at the end of the runway.
- Tatton Park, where you can see deer roaming most of the year, as well as taking in the huge lakes and landscaped scenery. Also includes the courtyard at Tatton Hall, where there are shops and cafes and lots of outdoor seating.
- St Mary’s Church in the picturesque village of Rostherne.
- The Swan With Two Nicks, a gastro-pub with lots of outdoor seating in the village of Little Bollington.
- The Lymm branch of the Bridgewater Canal.
- Lymm Dam, the Dingle and Lymm Cross in the town of Lymm.
- St Bartholemew’s Church in Warburton
- Warburton Bridge, taking us over the Manchester Ship Canal
- Chat Moss, where we follow the stream Glaze Brook across the two main railway lines and two main roads linking Manchester to Liverpool.
- Pennington Flash – a huge lake made by open cast mining.
- The Leeds and Liverpool Canal, which we follow for a long time, including a spell that takes it uphill from Wigan to the higher ground near Aspull Moor.
- Wigan Flashes Country Park, a large area of wetland formed by former open-cast mines.
Sometimes the route does bob and weave a little in order to fit these things in (for instance when we head north from Alderley Edge at the end of stage 1 to finish in Wilmslow), but I think that is better than having a straighter route across an unvarying landscape of farmland. Also, much of the standard farming territory in Cheshire and Greater Manchester is not always walker-friendly, so sticking to more clearly defined tourist areas does make a lot of sense in terms of accessibility.
You may also have noted that stage 5 is a little longer than the other stages, at 13.4 miles. However, this isn’t as daunting as it sounds, because most of the distance is covered by walking the towpath of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, which is easy terrain and therefore a relatively fast-paced walk.
Toward the end of stage 5 the landscape starts to become undulating again, and just after passing through the village of Haigh a spectacular view opens up of Winter Hill with its TV transmitter pointing straight up into the sky. This view heralds the end of the lowland stages and the beginning of the two thirds of the circle around Manchester that is dominated by uplands.
The Northern Stages
Stages 6, 7, 8 and 9 take us from Blackrod, in the west, to Marsden, at a similar latitude in the east, crossing a swathe of the West Pennine Moors and the South Pennines and covering 48 miles in the process. From now on there will be lots of climbing on each stage, as this is where the hills begin – they will carry on until the end of the Trail in Macclesfield.
Although each of these four stages has similar amounts of climbing, which might appear to suggest that the landscape is quite uniform, this is actually far from the case. The highest peaks that we visit are Winter Hill (450m), Blackstone Edge (472m) and White Hill (466m), but these are at the beginning and end of this segment of the Trail. In between is a jumble of hills, valleys, reservoirs, moors, rivers, roads, towns, pubs, farmland, tourist attractions and walking trails. The path I’ve picked across it tries to reflect this variety whilst also steering clear of areas that are not so tourist-friendly.
The highlights of this segment are:
- Rivington Pike – beautiful wooded area, very popular with visitors, with sculpted gardens and great views from the Tower at the top.
- Winter Hill – we pass right by the TV transmitter – always an impressive sight, with great views of Belmont and its Reservoir to the north.
- The Turton Heights – a flatter area of moorland that gives a real feeling of isolation.
- Turton & Entwistle Reservoir – a very soothing calm site, again popular with visitors.
- Hog Lowe Pike – at 372m a bit smaller than some of the other peaks, but views still go a long way in all directions.
- Haslingden Grane – a wide valley containing three Reservoirs and also several quarries, along with forest, moorland and streams.
- The Haslingden Halo, a metal sculpture on top of a hill which (coincidentally) marks the half-way point of the Trail.
- The Rossendale mill towns of Haslingden, Rawtenstall and Bacup – between them these have an impressive array of really good-looking houses, old mills, parks, forests, rivers, tunnels, town squares, churches and pubs.
- Beater Clough – a steep gorge with a red-coloured stream (made by the oxidisation of iron) at the bottom.
- Todmorden Edge and Centre Vale Park – spectacular views from up on the Edge and a dramatic descent into the main public space at the centre of Todmorden.
- The Pennine Way – takes us across the South Pennines with views out over Rochdale and across East Lancashire.
- Blackstone Edge – a huge outcrop of Gritstone on top of the moors above Littleborough, and the highest point on the Trail outside the Peak District.
- The M62 Crossing – the spectacular footbridge that takes the Pennine Way 100m above the busy trans-Pennine motorway.
- White Hill – in this area and after it up as far as Close Gate Bridge, the moorland gives a real sense of remoteness and isolation for perhaps the first time on the Trail.
- Marsden – everything built out of huge blocks of stone and everything consistent and in keeping with its surroundings.
It has been noted already that these four stages cover steadily increasing distances, from 10.7 miles for stage 6, to 13.6 miles for stage 9. Although the distance for stage 9 may seem a bit daunting, you will be reassured if you bear in mind that most of this length is made up by the Pennine Way, which, as a “National Trail” is a very good path along which progress should be fairly quick.
Marsden is right on the edge of the Peak District – the boundary of the National Park goes right up to the edge of the small town – and that is where the Trail goes next.
The Peak District
The final four stages take us from Marsden in West Yorkshire all the way back (51.5 miles in total) to the starting point of the Trail, Macclesfield in East Cheshire. Each of these four stages spends the majority of its time inside the only National Park on the Trail, the Peak District. On the way we encounter a considerable variety of landscapes: on stage 10 mainly very rugged but spectacular gritstone scenery with a real sense of remoteness; stage 11 gives us the largest amount of climbing but gives the picturesque scenery of Kinder Scout and the Vale of Edale as rewards; stage 12 is dominated by limestone features – the only place this happens in the entire Trail; stage 13 gives us one last taste of moorland (Shining Tor) before finishing the trail with the steeply folded landscape of parish of Kettleshulme in East Cheshire.
This time the highlights are more natural than man made, as most of what we pass through is sparsely populated or unpopulated. The main ones are:
- The Wessenden Valley Reservoirs – which look spectacular in their setting surrounded by Wessenden Moor.
- Black Hill, at 582m above sea level, the highest point on the trail so far, and with great views out towards Huddersfield as well as the more familiar one back towards Manchester.
- The Laddow Rocks – a ridge with a sheer drop down to Great Crowden Brook, which can be quite scary (but spectacular) – just be sure to keep your footing!
- Longendale – possible the most beautiful valley of the lot (or at any rate a photo finish with Edale)
- Glossop – with its mills, parks, market, river, etc. provides a bit of contrast.
- Mill Hill – the long climb from Glossop is worth it when you to the top (544m above sea level)
- Kinder Downfall – always spectacular, and sometimes you will even get the spray blow back at you.
- The Kinder Gates and the moorland crossing – the two huge stones seem like a gateway into the unknown, which indeed the are, as we next head across the strange landscape of the Kinder Scout plateaux until reaching its southern edge. This stretch also sees us reach the highest elevation, 629m, that we get to on the Trail.
- Grindslow Knoll and the descent to Edale – from the top at 601m we have a panoramic view of the landscape for miles around, but in the immediate foreground is the gorgeous Vale of Edale, arguably the most picturesque view on the Trail.
- Castleton – popular with visitors and hugely picturesque small town in the next valley along from Edale.
- Cave Dale – our first bit of limestone scenery – a dry limestone valley with 50m high sides, and a dramatic brooding castle on the top just to add extra atmosphere.
- The Limestone Way – lifts us out of Cave Dale and onto the broad, sunlit uplands of the Derbyshire Dales, with their lush green grass and intricate patterns of dry stone walls.
- Hay Dale – part of the Derbyshre Dales National Nature Reserve and well known as a place to find orchids
- The Tunstead Works – in a slight change of tone, we now pass through one of Europe’s largest cement factories. It always feels eerie and strange owing to the constant background hum and the unnatural landscape covered in white dust.
- Buxton – Spa town in the Hills – plenty of impressive architecture and nicely sculpted paths for us to enjoy as we walk past.
- Burbage Moor and Shining Tor – the last bit of moorland on the Trail, up near the source of the River Goyt. Shining Tor is also the highest point in Cheshire at 559m above sea level.
- Kettleshulme – the eastern-most part of Cheshire is a bit like the rest of Cheshire, with its green grass, prosperous farmhouses and winding country lanes – only with the ground squashed together to make steep folds instead of the normal gentle undulations.
- Macclesfield – we get good views of the town as we descend along Cliffe Lane – and with a huge variety of pubs and restaurants it is the ideal place to celebrate finishing the Trail.
So, the Trail generally speaking saves the best to last (although of the earlier stages, numbers 2 and 6 also have some excellent scenery). Before giving a bit more detail on the individual stages, I will just address one question that might have occurred to you if you have looked at the map of the Trail. The trail is roughly circular for most of its length, with a few diversions this way and that. However, a big exception to this occurs in the south-eastern corner of the route covered by stages 11-13, where he Trail wanders a long way out from Manchester before heading back in again to get back in line with the circle formed by the other stages at Macclesfield.
The reason for this is that, whereas forming a near-circle wasn’t one of the five criteria I tried to satisfy (see above) maximising the variety of scenery on the Trail was. The more strictly “circular” alternative route would have New Mills as a staging point – replacing both Edale and Buxton – and reducing the number of stages to 12. However, this alternative route contains no limestone scenery at all, and would also have to miss out such treats as Kinder Scout, the Vale of Edale, and Shining Tor. As these omissions would seriously diminish the amount of variety on the Trail as a whole, I have stuck with the 13-stage version.
Stage 1: Macclesfield to Wilmslow via Alderley Edge
Description: Starting from Macclesfield Railway Station, we head through an urban landscape for the first few minutes, before entering the River Bollin Country Park and following the river for approximately an hour along a path popular with families and dog walkers, before reaching the pictaresque village of Prestbury. After this we cross the Bollin and follow some good paths through rolling Cheshire farmland before joining the North Cheshire Way at Legh Hall. After the (quite tricky) crossing of the A58, the NCW takes us towards higher, wooded, ground before we leave it temporarily to take in the highlights of the Alderley Edge escarpment – the Armada Beacon, Castle Rock and Squirrel’s Jump. We then cut through Alderley Edge town on back lanes and paths to re-join the NCW, which then takes us through more farmland all the way to Wilmslow, where we cross the A34 on a footbridge and head back to the Railway Station on a pleasant footpath beside the sports centre. All in all this is a fairly flat route with the exception of one steep descent at Wizards Well. It can also get quite muddy in winter, and is also notable for having a lot of stiles.
Waypoints: Macclesfield Railway Station – The Middlewood Way – Summerlea Close – Macclesfield Riverside Park – then alongside the River Bollin to Prestbury, Bridge Green – Prestbury CE Primary School – Spittle House – Woodend Farm – Legh Hall – then following the North Cheshire Way via Daniel Hill – Edge House Farm – the Armada Beacon – Wizard’s Well – Squirrel’s Jump – Moss Lane – Hayes Lane – then following the North Cheshire Way back to Wilmslow – path over the A34 and the railway line and then past the Cricket Club to the Railway Station.
Stage 2: Wilmslow to Knutsford via Giant’s Castle
Description: Starting from Wilmslow Railway Station, we follow the North Cheshire Way through the Carrs Park and then along the River Bollin until we reach Quarry Bank Mill near Styal. The Mill and the river are make impressive scenery, although you can’t actually go inside without paying a fee.
We then follow the very leafy valley of the Bollin through various twists and turns, including at one point an Ox-bow Lake, which may remind you of geography lessons at school. There are numerous flights of steps that take us up and down at points where the river bank is very steep, and these take across Giant’s Castle Bridge and through the Wood of the same name.
Next, we come to Runway 2 of Manchester Airport, from where we can see the planes taking off every few minutes. We stay with the Bollin as it is carried under the runway by a tunnel (this is a good place to stop for lunch if it is raining – but if it isn’t raining there are some granite blocks you can sit on on the north side of the runway shortly after the tunnel that would also make a good lunch stop.
We now head through some more typical Cheshire flat countryside, before encountering the Runway again, this time going under the flight path and also getting close up to the landing system approach radio navigation transmitters. After this we go past the Kodak factory and then through the village of Mobberley. We then head along Pavement Lane, before cutting through the sleepy suburbs of Knutsford to the town centre and finally the Railway Station.
Waypoints: Wilmslow Railway Station – North Cheshire Way – Quarry Bank Mill – Giant’s Castle – Manchester Airport Runway 2 – Wood Lane – Hobcroft Lane – Smith Lane – Mobberley Village – Pavement Lane – Longridge – Brookdale Avenue – Higher Downs – Sparrow Lane – A537 – Knutsford Railway Station
Stage 3: Knutsford to Lymm via Little Bollington
Description: Starting from Knutsford Railway Station, we head through a pretty part of the town to reach Tatton Park, where you should be able to see deer roaming around in the grounds. Our route takes us past Tatton Mere and Melchett Mere to Tatton Hall, where in the Courtyard there are shops and facilities for an elevenses break. We then head out of the park and northward to the charming village of Rostherne with its 16th century church and graveyard, and cross the A556 dual carriageway on our way to the tiny hamlet of Booth Bank. We then head under the M56 (a handy place to stop for lunch if it is raining) before some gently rolling farmland then takes us to Little Bollington, where we may (time permitting) stop for a quick pint at the Swan With Two Nicks. Next, we head across more farmland to Agden Bridge, where we join the Bridgewater Canal for most of the remaining distance to Lymm. In Lymm we take in Spud Wood; St Peters Church in Oughtrington; a housing estate; the May Field; Lymm Dam; The Dingle; and finally, the weir at Eagle Brow on the way back to the bus stop at Lymm Cross.
Waypoints: Knutsford Railway Station – Moorside Park – Tatton Park Main Entrance – Tatton Hall – Rostherne – Newhall Farm – Booth Bank – Reddy Lane – Little Bollington – Woolstencroft Farm – Bridgewater Canal – Spud Wood – St Peter’s Church, Oughtrington – Lymm Dam (A56) – The Dingle – Lymm Cross
Link to Outdoor Active: https://www.outdooractive.com/en/route/hiking-route/rmht-stage-03-knutsford-to-lymm/211688307/
Stage 4: Lymm to Leigh via Woolden
Description: Starting from Lymm Cross, we head across the Trans Pennine Trail, Reddish Lane and Townfield Lane through the flat Cheshire plane to the Toll Bridge over the ship canal at Warburton, pausing first to take in St Bartholemew’s Church in Warburton Village. There is a lot of road walking in this section, but with good quality pavements and decent views this isn’t too much of a problem. The crown of the Bridge is the highest point of this whole walk, at just 31m above sea level. North of the Ship Canal, we pass through fields before joining the Glazebrook Trail at Cadishead, and then follow this across the M62 and the two railway lines to Liverpool. The countryside continues to be very flat, which on a sunny day can give an impressive sense of being in a very large space. Glaze Brook makes a charming companion on the way, and one possible lunch stop involves sitting down on the Brook’s left bank. After passing through the hamlet of Glazebury (where there is a possible pub stop at the George & Dragon) the route crosses the East Lancs Road before heading towards Leigh town centre along Pennington Brook and up to Christ Church (Pennington) before heading back the short distance to the Bus Station on the A572.
Waypoints: Lymm Cross – Trans Pennine Trail – Reddish Lane – Townfield Lane – Warburton Bridge – Hollingreave – Glazebrook Post Office – The Glazebrook Trail – Great Woolden Hall – Little Woolden Hall – Moss House Farm – Light Oak Bridge – The George & Dragon, Glazebury – Duckinfield Farm – Old Field Farm – Pennington Brook – Christ Church, Pennington – Leigh Bus Station
Link to Outdoor Active: https://www.outdooractive.com/en/route/hiking-route/rmht-stage-04-lymm-to-leigh/213365494/
Stage 5: Leigh to Blackrod via the Leeds and Liverpool Canal
Description: Starting from Leigh Bus Station, we head out on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal towards Wigan, detouring to the south for a bit get a better view of Pennington Flash. This canal walk gives us extensive views of the countryside across Lancashire, until we get to the Wigan Flashes, when the landscape takes a watery turn, and birdwatchers will have plenty to see. After passing through Wigan near the town centre, we walk up through 21 locks before leaving the Canal shortly after the aptly named Top Lock. Then we follow footpaths and minor roads to the village of Haigh, where the view opens out spectacularly to Winter Hill, which is where we are going on Stage 6. We then follow footpaths via Freezeland Farm to get us back to the town of Blackrod, where we pass the Heroes Bar on the route about 10 minutes before the Railway Station. At the Station itself is only the Rivington Arms, which does great food but is likely to need an advance booking.
Waypoints: Leigh Bus Station – Leeds & Liverpool Canal (southern side) – Pennington Flash Country Park – then back on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal (southern side) at Plank Lane Lift Bridge (near Pennington Wharf) – cross the canal to follow it along the northern side when it crosses the A58 – cross back agin to the southern side at Sctosman’s Flash – go past Top Lock, then leave the canal at the B5238 – then follow footpaths to Higher Lane – Bridleway past Holly Nook – Haigh village – Toddington Farm – Freezeland Farm – Vicarage Road – B5048 – Path adjacent to Blackrod Cemetry – Station Road – Blackrod Railway Station
Link to Outdoor Active: https://www.outdooractive.com/en/route/hiking-route/rmht-stage-05-leigh-to-blackrod/211691028/
Stage 6: Blackrod to Entwistle via Winter Hill
Description: Starting from Blackrod Station, we head out north-eastwards and under the M61 into Horwich. After passing some terraced housing we cross a field to reach the River Douglas, which we follow past a waterfall before crossing the main road to head for Rivington Country Park, a popular area with day visitors. On reaching the park we head steeply uphill through some woods, and then uphill again along Roynton Road (where we get great views of the Reservoir below). Next we climb past the Japanese Gardens before climbing several more flights of steps to finally reach The Tower at Rivington Pike, 363m above sea level.
After taking a break at The Tower to enjoy the view we head across a boggy moor to reach the summit of Winter Hill – just head towards the TV transmitter. After passing the very impressive transmitter (at an altitude of 450m) we pass to the northern side of the moor, from which there are great views of Belmont Reservoir with its Island (this spot can suffice for an early-ish lunch break if the weather is good). At Belmont we pass the Black Dog, a Holt’s pub that could make a good lunch stop in bad weather. From there, we head east towards Dimple, along roads and paths that take us uphill again before entering wooded territory again around Stones Bank Brook, before crossing the A666 at Dimple.
We now head northeast and upwards again, to reach the flattish moorland known as the Turton Heights, from where you have a great sensation of isolation because the flatness cuts you off from any immediate surroundings. From here we drop down towards Turton & Entwistle Reservoir, but on the way we have to pass through a logging area, which is interesting and may involve getting a little muddy. The Reservoir is a very serene way to end the walk, and the Rail Station is also right beside the Strawbury Duck, which is mainly a gastro-pub inside but normally has plenty of space outside.
Waypoints: Blackrod Railway Station – the B5238 (Crown Lane) – paths to the River Douglas – Squirrel Lane – Jepson’s Bridge – Roynton Road – the Japanese Garden – Rivington Tower – Winter Hill TV Transmitter – The Black Dog, Belmont – Lower Whittaker – Broad Hill – Dimple – the Turton Heights – Green’s Arms Road – Turton & Entwistle Reservoir – Entwistle Railway Station
Stage 7: Entwistle to Rawtenstall via Hog Lowe Pike and the Haslingden Halo
Description: Starting from Entwistle, we pass through some picturesque woodland alongside a stream heading north to Wayoh. After this we pass into more open countryside with views to the right of big farmhouses and country houses. After about 2.5 miles in to the walk we have to pass through some scruffy territory for about half a mile before things get better again on the way uphill through Uglow Farm. We then climb Hog Lowe Pike – at 383m above sea level, the triangulation pillar marks the highest point of this walk.
We then head downhill through some very green woods and then between two reservoirs before reaching the lunch stop at the visitor centre, where there is a cafe and some seating and toilet facilities. After this we head past various quarries on the Rossendale Way before switching to the higher ground on Haslingden Moor. After this we drop down steeply in to Haslingden, before passing an old mill on the way up to the Halo (a metal lattice sculpture you can walk around). From the Halo it is all downhill into Rawtenstall, past the Rossendale Ski Slope, through the gorgeous Whitaker Park and then past St Mary’s Church before reaching the bus station.
Waypoints: Entwistle Railway Station – Wayoh Farm – The Naze – Longshoot – Broadhead – Uglow Farm – Hog Lowe Pike – Calf Hey Reservoir – Clough Head Visitor Centre – The Rossendale Way – Haslingden Moor – Cob Castle Road – Hutch Bank – Charles Road – Deardengate – Hargreaves Mill – The Haslingden Halo – Height End – Whitaker Park – St Mary’s Church – Rawtenstall Bus Station
Stage 8: Rawtenstall to Todmorden via Beater Clough
Description: Starting from the bus station, we cross the main road to head along the River Irwell for a bit before heading back across the road to a playing field. This takes us to a flight of stairs up into Rawtenstall Wood, which we stay in for over a mile, enjoying some shade from the deciduous trees. We then cross the road again to reach the Newchurch Tunnels, a former railway line route that was opened to the public in 2019. Heading northwards of the main road again, we now cross farmland and moorland to reach the pretty town of Bacup, about half-way along our route.
From Bacup’s town centre, we head north along a good track the used to be the main road to Todmorden. The after a brief stretch on the new main road (the A681) we head along a gravel track that takes us easily over moor moors and then leads us along the edge of a deep river valley called Beater Clough. We then descend through some impressive scenery to the possible pub stop on the A646 at The Roebuck (the first pub on the Yorkshire side of the Yorks/Lancs boundary), before turning south-eastward to head up towards the moors again.
We follow at first a tarmacced road, and then a good gravel path that takes us to Height Top Farm. From there the quality of the path takes a big nosedive, but fortunately this rough period only lasts for about 30 minutes – after which time the path emerges as very good again, taking us across some tranquil moorland until we reach the spectacular Todmorden Edge and begin our (steep) descent into the town. We go through dense woods at first, before emerging through Centre Vale Park right into the heart of Todmorden.
Waypoints: Rawtenstall Bus Station – River Irwell – Clough Foot – Rawtenstall Wood – Waterfoot – The Newchurch Tunnels – Brandwood – Tunstead – Whitegate Farm – Bacup Golf Club – Lane Head – Todmorden Old Road – Slate Pit Hill – Green’s Clough – Beater Clough – The Roebuck PH – Carr Road – Height Top – Roundfield – New Towneley – West End – Sourhall Cottages – Todmorden Edge Farm – Sigget Lane – Lovers Lane – Centre Vale Park – the A646 – Todmorden Railway Station
Stage 9: Todmorden to Marsden via Blackstone Edge
Description: Starting from the railway station, we head southwards and upwards through the suburb of Salford and the Unitarian Church, and then up through wooded territory up to the moors. We then keep climbing steadily (most of the climb is in this early part of the walk) until we reach Gaddings Dam, at which point things flatten out. We then join the Pennine Way, which is well maintained, so that progress should be relatively soooth till we get to the lunch break at the White House.
After this we reach the highest point of the walk, 472m above sea level, at the dramatic rocks at Blackstone Edge overlooking Littleborough. After this the Pennine Way takes the spectacular footbridge across the M62, before (gently) ascending White Hill, in the borough of Oldham. After this we cross another main road and the path then forks, and we are directed by a wonderfully robust signpost to turn left for Marsden, which we then do. After descending the moors and exiting the open countryside at Close Gate Bridge we then have a gentle stroll back to Marsden for about 1.25 miles along Waters Road, parallel to the railway line.
Waypoints: Todmorden Railway Station – Salford – Rake End – Gaddings Dam – Warland Drain – The Pennine Way, via the White House, Blackstone Edge, the M62 footbridge crossing and White Hill – Bridleway towards Marsden – Close Gate Bridge – Waters Road – Tunnel End – Marsden Railway Station
Stage 10: Marsden to Hadfield via Black Hill
Description: Starting from Marsden Station we head southwards through the town before picking up the Kirklees Way, which takes us past impressive mills and then up a long flight of steps to Butterley Reservoir. We then just continue on the KW until its junction with the Pennine Way, which should come about 45 minutes in to the walk. We take the left fork to head towards Wessenden Reservoir, and then stay on the PW all the way, across the A635 and across Dean Clough to the summit of Black Hill, where the edge of the plateaux makes a good place to stop for lunch just short of 6 miles in to the walk.
Progress is relatively easy up to this point because of the stone flagging of the PW, which continues till just after the 7 mile mark before giving out to broken stones and gravel making for slower progress towards the Laddow Rocks, which afford spectacular views but also come with the hazard of a sheer drop to the left of the path that continues for about ¾ of a mile. Continue following the PW till it reaches the floor of the Longendale Valley and crosses the A628.
We finally leave the Pennine Way at The Hollins in order to stay on the northern side of Rhodeswood Reservoir before crossing the dam to the southern side of the valley between Rhodeswood and Valehouse. We then follow the road to the right to Deepclough Farm and then Valehouse Farm. The road then passes under the Longendale Trail (a disused railway line that is now a walkway), and immediately after this we turn right through a narrow gap in the dry stone wall to follow a footpath that runs parallel to the LT for half a mile, before we turn right onto a path that will let you join the Longendale Trail for the last half-mile back to Hadfield.
Waypoints: Marsden Railway Station – Kirklees Way – Pennine Way via Black Hill and the Laddow Rocks to The Hollins – Rhodeswood Dam – Deepclough Farm – footpath parallel to the Longendale Trail for ½ mile – The Longedale Trail – Hadfield Railway Station
Link to Outdoor Active: https://www.outdooractive.com/en/route/hiking-route/rmht-stage-10-marsden-to-hadfield/211963820/
Stage 11: Hadfield to Edale via Kinder Downfall
Description: From Hadfield, we head out across open countryside for a short stretch before passing through Glossop, where we experience a variety of fields, old mills, streams and terraced streets, and where we can also stop at the Outdoor Market for a loo break. From Glossop, we now start a long stretch of climbing that takes us high up into the moors. For a long stretch the path is boggy, but eventually we reach a stone flagged path at right angles to the path we climbed up on, and we turn left to follow it all the way to the summit of Mill Hill, 544m above sea level.
At this point we join the Pennine Way, and follow it up on to the plateaux of Kinder Scout, staying on the southern edge till we get to the spectaluar Kinder Downfall (a good point to rest for lunch). Next, we leave the comfort of the Pennine Way to head in to the interior of the plateaux, along the banks of the River Kinder. The landscape becomes strange and quiet, especially after we pass the Kinder Gates and the path becomes more and more threadbare, before eventually giving up altogether. We have got about ¾ to go without any real path before we emerge on the other side of the plateaux at Crowden Head, and during this stretch we attain the highest altitude anywhere on the 13 stages of the Trail, at 629m above seal level. This area can get wet and boggy, so be prepared to take an alternative route if necessary (I would suggest: Pennine Way via Kinder Low and Jacob’s Ladder to Upper Booth; then the road to Barber Booth; then the permitted path to Edale Train Station).
Once we reach the far southern edge of the plateaux at Crowden Head, we are rewarded with views of the lovely Vale of Edale, and also a nice easy path towards Grindslow Knoll, which we climb to the top of (601m) before descending all the way down into the valley and back to Edale.
Waypoints: Hadfield Railway Station – Castlehill Wood – Hilltop Farm – Higher Dinting – Surrey Street – Shrewsbury Street – Harehills Park – Glossop Market – Gladstone Street – Cliffe Road – Brownhill Farm – Bray Clough – Shooting Cabin – Mill Hill (where we join the Pennine Way) – Sandy Heys – Kinder Downfall (where we leave the Pennine Way) – Kinder Gates – across the moors to Crowden Head – Grindslow Knoll – Grindsbrook Booth – Edale Railway Station
Link to Outdoor Active: https://www.outdooractive.com/en/route/hiking-route/rmht-stage-11-hadfield-to-edale/211965200/
Stage 12: Edale to Buxton via Hay Dale
Description: Starting from the car park opposite Edale Railway Station, we head south-eastward over the Great Ridge at Hollins Cross, a busy interchange that nevertheless affords great views of the Vale of Edale and the surrounding areas of Derbyshire. We then continue to the small town of Castleton, with its many picturesque cafes and shops.
Our exit from Castleton is along the Limestone Way through Cave Dale, a spectacular gorge with a castle overlooking it from the top. There is now a long continuous climb up along slippery limestone paths, which demand quite a lot of concentration. The Limestone Way then continues for several miles, over the uplands of Old Moor and then across the A623 before finally ending up in Hay Dale. The scenery in this part of the walk is mainly rolling green farmland criss-crossed with a network of white dry-stone walls.
Hay Dale is part of a National Nature Reserve because of its collection of rare wild flowers, including orchids. When we reach its southern end we leave the Limestone Way and head long lower-grade footpaths through the pretty hamlets of Hargatewall and Tunstead. Next there is a strange interlude in the shape of the Tunstead Works – a large cement factory surrounded by a quarry. Everything feels quite eerie and strange as we pass closer and closer to it and eventually cross the railway line and start ascending the other side.
The final two miles back to Buxton is mostly along a quiet country tacks and lanes. The first pub that we come to is the Wye Bridge Inn, about 10 minutes before the Railway Station, but there is also a Holt’s pub right opposite the station for those who can wait.
Waypoints: Edale Railway Station – Hollins Cross – Castleton – Cave Dave – the Limestone Way – Hay Dale – Hargatewall – the Tunstead Works – Green Lane – Waterswallows Road – the A6 – Buxton Railway Station
Link to Outdoor Active: https://www.outdooractive.com/en/route/hiking-route/rmht-stage-12-edale-to-buxton/211986466/
Stage 13: Buxton to Macclesfield via Shining Tor
Description: Starting from Buxton Railway Station, we head south-west through the impressive architecture of the town centre and then the charming Pavillion Gardens and Serpentine Park, before joining the A53 for a bit. To get off the main road, we then duck down a slightly run-down and winding path that comes out onto Burbage Lane, which we now start climbing towards the moors. We keep climbing for a long time, reaching an altitude of 485m before dropping down again to follow Berry Clough to its confluence with the River Goyt, down at 345m. The scenery on this part of the walk is mostly rocks, bracken and heather.
After crossing the Goyt, we start heading up again, a long climb though wooded territory with occasional views of Errwood Reservoir to the right, all the way up to the summit of Shining Tor, at 559m above sea level the highest point in modern-day Cheshire (and also a handy spot for lunch).
After leaving the summit, we head downwards to an area called Andrews Edge, and bend round to the north a bit before Lamaload Reservoir come in to view, at which point we start making directly for it downhill. After a brief stretch on Hooleyhey Lane, we head further down hill to the water works beneath Lamaload Dam. After this we head on a tarmacced road back uphill – the scenery is now green and rolling as you would associate with Cheshire, but just more hilly. The road takes us past Snipe House to a place with lovely views out across the twon of Rainow and the Parish of Kettleshulme, before we reach a footpath that takes us uphill to the Gritstone Trail.
We follow the Trail for about ½ mile and across the A537 as far as Grove Wood, which we leave the Trail to go through (not on the footpath, which is overgrown, but beside it through the wood). We then cross back across the A537 to head downwards along Cliff Lane, before taking a footpath across fields to Higher Hurdsfield, where we join the Maccesfield Canal. After ½ mile on the canal we follow the A537 back to Macclesfield Station.
Waypoints: Buxton Railway Station – Pavillion Gardens – the Serpentine – Bridge Farm – Burbage Lane – Berry Clough – Deep Clough – Stake Clough – Shining Tor – Lamaload Reservoir – Snipe House – the Gritstone Trail – Grove Wood – Cliff Lane – the Macclesfield Canal – the A537 – Macclesfield Railway Station