Dove Dale is rightly one of the most popular attractions in the Peak District, famous for its rock scenery and caves. This walk ends with a visit to Dove Dale, but starts by passing through some more typical White Peak scenery, amongst the lime stone walls above the Manifold Valley.
Length: 8 Miles
Map: Explorer 24 White Peak
Last Walked: 1 July 2008
We start in the National Trust car park at Ilam Hall.
1: SK 130 507
Follow the road out of the car park and to the area in front of the hall. Here a path leaves the road, heading towards the church. Take this path and follow it as it runs to the left of the church, then to the right of a small group of buildings, before emerging onto the village street of Ilam.
2: SK 134 508
Turn right onto this street, then just before it reaches the bridge over the River Manifold take the first turn to the left.
3: SK 137 509
Follow this road as it curves around to the right and approaches an outlying spur of Bunster Hill. Just as the road begins to straighten out, a footpath is signposted to the left. Turn onto this path, which climbs diagonally and to the right up the hillside. Our route onwards follows a path that runs across the side of Bunster Hill, just above the level of the road - to reach it either follow the path that runs diagonally up the slope to the right, or simply scramble straight up the slope.
Once on this next path turn left. After a short distance the path splits it two - take the right hand branch and follow it as it runs around the side of Bunster Hill, curving around the right. The path then straightens out to run almost due north, with the open hillside to the right and a series of fields to the left. Paths run on either side of the wall between these areas - our path crosses over into to the fields and runs north through two of the fields, before cross back onto the open hillside and continues to run north, this time to the right of the wall.
4: SK 137 516
Just after our path crosses back to the right of the wall, it begins to climb steeply, before reaching another at a crossroads. Turn left onto this path, which crosses over the wall to the left, and then runs diagonally across the next two fields, climbing gently as it goes. In the first field aim just to the right of a plantation at the far end of the field. In the next field follow the obvious path across the field, passing to the right of a very small quarry. We then cut across the corner of a third field, before reaching a minor road.
5: SK 127 542
Turn right onto this road, and follow it for the next mile and a quarter, passing Damgate Farm, and the upper end of Hall Dale (to the right). Eventually we reach the tiny hamlet of Stanshope. At Stanshope the main road turns to the left, a minor road heads on just to the right, and a track heads off at ninety degrees to the right. Turn right onto this track.
6: SK 132 542
After just over a quarter of a mile, a footpath leaves to the left. Take this path and follow it as it heads across the fields towards Dove Dale. After descending gently through three fields, the path heads steeply down a narrow side valley, and reaches the valley bottom just to the west of the hamlet of Milldale.
7: SK 137 547
Turn right onto the road and head into the centre of Milldale, where refreshments can be purchased (at least in season). Here we finally reach the River Dove, where it flows from Mill Dale (to the north) into Dove Dale (to the south). A bridge crosses the Dove just to the right (south) of the centre of Milldale. Cross this bridge, turn right and follow the path alongside the Dove through the heart of Dove Dale, passing its famous rock scenery
8: SK 151 513
After running generally south for two and a half miles, the Dove reaches the foot of Thorpe Cloud, and turns sharply to the right. Cross the Dove over the well known stepping-stones, and then continue to follow the Dove downstream towards the main car park at the entrance to the valley (refreshments, including very good ice cream can be bought here most of the year).
9: SK 146 509
Leave the car park along the entrance road, taking advantage of the wide grassy verge to the right of the road. After a few feet a footpath leaves to the right, cutting diagonally across the verge, passing through the hedge and entering open fields. Follow this path as it climbs across the hillside, towards the back of the Izaak Walton Hotel. After passing the hotel, our path heads almost due west, heading to the left of the steep southern tip of Bunster Hill. This path brings us back to the path we joined at step three, on the outskirts of Ilam - use the diagonal side-path to return to the road, turn right and retrace you steps through the village, past the church and back to our starting point.