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England’s six-day hike that offers you vistas, history and a slice of rural life

Simon Calder’s Travel

Finally, a sign I couldn’t miss or misunderstand.

It read, “Mam Tor via Odin Mine.” As we followed the line of the arrow on the sign, there it was, the popular Mam Tor (Mother Hill), off in the distance, looming above the Hope Valley and beckoning hundreds of hikers to climb to the top on this warm, windy spring day.

“It looks like a bunch of ants walking in a line across the top,” said my sister, Lauren, pointing to the faraway figures moving in a line along the ridge extending east from Mam Tor. Soon enough, we’d join the procession.

This was Day Three of our six-day hike through England’s Peak District National Park. Somehow, despite my protests, I had been appointed lead ant. My wife (Susan), my sister and her husband (Bob) followed my directions, starting the hike at Buxton, then on to Tideswell (13 miles) and Castleton (11 miles), near the base of Mam Tor.

Several cities and towns in the district make good starting points for multi-day hikes of the Peak District and are just a two- or three-hour train ride from London. The nearest train station to Castleton is Hope, only a couple miles away.

The district is known for picturesque landscapes, limestone ridges and mineral waters, (Among those frequenting Buxton’s thermal spas over the centuries was Mary Queen of Scots.) It was England’s first national park, created in 1951, and is a popular hiking and camping destination for U.K. residents. Outside of England, it’s not as well known as the coastal paths in Cornwall, or the Cotswold Way. That’s a shame.

Hikers walk along the Great Ridge in England’s Peak District National Park on May 8, 2024. (Steve Wartenberg via AP)
Hikers walk along the Great Ridge in England’s Peak District National Park on May 8, 2024. (Steve Wartenberg via AP)

On our way to Castleton, we traversed fields full of sheep and edged by limestone walls. We navigated the muddy banks and stepping stones of the winding Wye River, and walked up and down a succession of hills. We went astray three or four times, helped back to the straight and narrow path by helpful farmers, fellow hikers and a bit of luck.

As we neared Castleton, we carefully walked down Cave Dale, a rock-and-boulder-filled gorge created thousands of years ago by melting glaciers. We arrived in the little village and … discovered it was still another kilometer or so to Dunscar Farm, a working sheep farm and our bed-and-breakfast for the next two nights.

While I silently (OK, not so silently) mumbled…

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