The Peak District

Trip Start Apr 01, 2010
Trip End Jul 31, 2010

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We spent 17-18 May hiking in the Peak District National Park.  It's oddly named; the District's peaks aren't nearly as striking as its deeply carved dales, which snake out of the uplands in every direction.  We entered at steep-walled Dovedale, which is understandably a major tourist attraction.  Its burbling river, rock pillars, and caves are the most dramatic topography we'd seen since leaving the West Country.  The Pennine Way should really begin here, not at Edale.  It would add only 30-odd miles of hiking through some extraordinarily lovely terrain, and it would be more consistent with the long-distance path's name (the Pennine range is ill-defined, but by any definition it stretches as far as Dovedale).

Fresh from a restful weekend in Sheffield, on our first day in the Peaks we hiked nearly 18 miles from Ashbourne to the upland town of Monyash -- our longest hike to date (not counting Joel's wanderings on Exmoor in search of our friend L).  The following day, we dropped back down into a chain of dales heading north: Miller's Dale, Monk's Dale, Peter Dale, Hay Dale.  Monk's Dale was a lovely nature reserve, but we don't recommend traversing it with large packs; the narrow, overgrown trails fling themselves up and down and through dense thickets, with lots of clambering over roots and rocks. 

By the time we finally climbed up to Old Moor and looked across to the lump of Mam Tor, we were both tired enough that reaching Edale seemed a bit overenthusiastic.  We headed down to Castleton instead, through a steep dale that winds directly below the picturesque ruin of Peveril Castle.  We'd spent a long weekend in Castleton a couple of years ago, and recommend it as a lovely base for exploring the Peaks.  (Alport Castles, a natural rock tower with craggy "battlements" just west of the Derwent Water reservoir, is a particularly arresting but under-visited site).

This time, though, we didn't stay in Castleton; we needed to get to New York for a friend's wedding.  That little trip took care of the rest of May.  When we returned on 1 June, it was to Edale, to start the Pennine Way.
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