Follow my progress as I attempt to walk the length of the UK, from Dover to Cape Wrath, wild camping every night. In this chapter, I intended to follow the Limestone Way from Rocester to Castleton, but ended up making my own route up a bit through Dovedale.
If you’d like to see an overview map of my whole route from Dover to Cape Wrath, it’s here.
Day 14 (continued): Rocester to Hay Dale
From Rocester I left the Staffordshire Way and joined the Limestone Way. It isn’t a named walk on the signs, so I had to follow my GPS and the standard footpath signs. The route was in rural scenery right from the start. It followed the River Dove for a while, then headed north (excellent) at Ellastone towards Thorpe.
At Thorpe, the Limestone Way heads north-east towards Tissington. I realised I was close to Dovedale. This is a lovely valley to walk through and it heads towards Edale more directly than the Limestone Way, so I made my first detour here. I reached Dovedale for the 10am rush, but it wasn’t too bad.
The walk through Dovedale was lovely, but I pushed on fairly quickly as I was hungry. I knew of a hole-in-the-wall snack shop in Milldale.
In Milldale, I had a lovely cup of tea, a warm Shropshire pasty and a chocolate shortbread. Heaven. I sat by the river for an hour or so, and after lunch I carried on following the river north on a nice quiet path. Far fewer people walk this part of the valley (Wolfscote Dale) than Dovedale.
About halfway along Wolfscote Dale I headed north to Heathcote, following Biggin Dale. It was so peaceful and pretty – just as good as Dovedale but without the crowds. I then joined the Pennine Way bridlepath and followed a disused railway line for a while, before re-joining the Limestone Way to Miller’s Dale. I passed a surprise small cafe on the trail, and had a takeaway tea just as they closed. It cost me £2.10 – lucky they weren’t serving food at that price.
It was approaching 8pm as I got near Miller’s Dale. I had definitely had enough by now and found it hard to keep going. It had been too early to stop in the camp spots I had passed. I was really worried that the pub in Miller’s Dale would stop serving food before I got there. I was nearly running down the road and arrived at the Angler’s Rest at 8.10pm, only to discover that they serve food until 9pm. Thank goodness for that.
I had a lovely friendly welcome from the pub, and great surroundings. I have great memories of an evening here with my wife about five years ago, when we walked the Limestone Way. It was like going back in time then – they had 80s music playing and prawn cocktail on the menu. We loved it! The pub has been totally revamped since that visit. The food was delicious and it felt good to be in no rush to leave, as I knew where I could camp from the last time I was here.
I left the pub at about 9pm and filtered some water for coffee, breakfast and a drink tomorrow. As I walked along Monk’s Dale, I decided not to camp after all. Last time I’d camped there, I hadn’t realised that there were woolly mammoth bears (i.e. big cows) in the woods. However, this time I did know, and I didn’t think I’d sleep. So I carried on walking through the woods, back on the Limestone Way again.
Monk’s Dale is a really interesting and remote-feeling valley that could easily be used as a setting for Jurassic Park. Some of it was quite hard going though, and slippery even on a dry day like today. It was also a longer walk than I remembered, although perhaps that was because I had already walked so far today. It seemed to take forever to get to Peter Dale, which I knew opened out into grassy fields. I got my head torch out as it was really getting dark and I’d already had a couple of warning slips. I didn’t want to end my walk to Cape Wrath over a silly mistake here.
Finally I reached Peter Dale and found a lovely grassy field – full of cows. I snuck through without the cows spotting me and came across another field, also showing signs of cows. It was so dark by now that I couldn’t tell if they were still in the field or not. I had to walk on for another hour or so with the hairs on the back of my neck standing up, and my nerves at their limit. I know from previous experience that cows can react badly or even aggressively to head torches.
Very thankfully I arrived at the road at the end of Peter Dale and entered Hay Dale. This was a very nice walk, and I was sorry to complete it in the dark. I then reached a sign stating ‘no camping’. It’s one of my wild camping rules that I will never wild camp if it explicitly says not to, so I kept walking. Finally I found an area of rough ground at the end of the dale, at the junction with the track. I camped at 11pm and fell asleep immediately, having walked over 30 miles today.
Day 15: Hay Dale to Edale (and the start of the Pennine Way)
I woke at about 5am with the dawn, and went back to sleep again, hoping the farmer wouldn’t be passing too early. I finally got up, had some porridge and coffee, and was away by 6.30am.
It was a glorous walk along the Limestone Way to Old Moor, where I then turned off towards Mam Tor. The Limestone Way heads into Castleton, and I really didn’t fancy the climb from Castleton over Hollins Cross into Edale. So I headed north along a track.
It was a lovely walk, and I didn’t see anyone at all for the first hour or so. The views from the top of Mam Tor were lovely, but then I had a wake-up call descent into Edale. After all that canal walking, hills were a bit of a shock!
The path from Mam Tor into Edale was very nice. It was partly wooded and was a path I had never walked before, even though I’ve been walking in this area for decades. I got a phone signal and a message came through from my eldest son, saying he would be in Castleton today. I had already passed the turn-off to Castleton, so we agreed to meet in Edale at lunchtime.
The thought of a cooked breakfast from the cafe at Edale Railway Station was driving me on, but when I got there it had all changed and was just doing take-away. I walked on to the campsite cafe and ordered the biggest thing on the menu – an egg and bacon bun and a cup of tea. It wasn’t quite what I’d been looking forward to, but it was still nice and very friendly service. The same thing happened on my Land’s End to John O’Groats walk – I think I am becoming obsessed with food.
At noon, I headed to the Old Nag’s Head pub, where I had arranged to meet my son. It is also the official start of the next leg of my journey to Cape Wrath: the Pennine Way. Now, for the first time, Scotland really does feel achievable.
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