Planning your Sandstone Trail walk

Published 20 November 2022. Last updated 6 November 2023

A Sandstone Trail waymark.

For many, thinking of Cheshire conjurers up images of the historic city of Chester, and of the rather flat landscape of the Cheshire Plains. But the reality is that Cheshire’s also got a lot of hills. And a lot of stone. And that’s where the Sandstone Trail comes in.

This 34 mile/55km trail takes you through Cheshire’s sandstone country. A ridge of sandstone can be round in the county, and that’s what the Sandstone Trail seeks to take you along. And that’s not all. There’s castles, ruined tramways, and a lot more.

For good measure, a few years ago it was named one of Britain’s Top 100 Walks by an ITV television programme; one of only a few long distance trails to make the list.

It’s a beautiful route, with great scenery, and is an ideal walk for a long weekend.

In this guide

  1. What is the walk like?
  2. The route
  3. Planning an itinerary
  4. Finding and booking accommodation
  5. Getting to/from the Sandstone Trail
  6. Guide books and maps
  7. And finally, and any questions

What is the walk like?

Red sandstone rocks on Bickerton Hill, on the Sandstone Trail.

The Sandstone Trail is a walk through Cheshire’s sandstone hills. Starting near the Mersey Estuary, with views looking out to the Irish Sea, it wanders happily through the countryside, over hills, and through fields. Along the way, you’ll find historical monuments like castles, and the ruins of old hill tramways. There’s picturesque villages, and panoramic views.

The route is well signposted, and the paths are easy to walk. Whilst it takes you over several hills, the climbs are rarely steep and easily manageable. It can be walked in either direction. Most directions assume you’ll be walking north to south, and this is the way we present it. But arguably, walking from south to north gives you a better ending.

As a relatively short walk, the Sandstone Trail is ideal for a long weekend, and whilst there’s no denying it will be at its best in summer, it can be easily walked any time of the year.

The route

The Sandstone Trail runs from Frodsham right at the north of Cheshire, to Whitchurch, just over the county boundary in Staffordshire. You can view the route in the map above, and download the GPX file if you wish.

Planning an itinerary

Cottages at the foot of Peckforton Hill.

At 34 miles/55km long, the Sandstone Trail can be walked in either two long days, or three shorter ones. Two days is doable, but it’s well worth spending the time and having an extra day. This gives you time to relax and see some of the tourist sights on the way.

Itineraries for both are available. Locations with a railway station nearby are marked with a 🚂. Everywhere listed below has accommodation, as well as a pub and a shop, unless otherwise noted.

Two day itinerary

Tarpoley is the most obvious place to stop when walking two days as it offers pubs, accommodation and shops. However it does give a far longer second day. To make a more balanced itinerary, there is some accommodation further along in the forms of hotels and pubs that offer B&B.

2 Day Itinerary
Stage From To Distance
1 Frodsham 🚂 Tarpoley 1 13 21¼
2 Tarpoley 1 Whitchurch 🚂 21 33¾

1 Distance is to Back Lanes, near Tarpoley, which is the easiest access point for the village. Tarpoley is a ¾miles/1km walk off the trail.

Three day itinerary

3 Day Itinerary
Stage From To Distance
1 Frodsham 🚂 Kelsall 1 9 14½
2 Kelsall 1 Gallantry Bank 2 12¼ 19½
3 Gallantry Bank 2 Whitchurch 🚂 13 21

1 Distance is from Kings Gate, near Kelsall. Kelsall village is a ¾miles/1km walk off the trail. You can also get to Kelsall by following the road from the Gresty’s Waste car park and walking down the road, but going further on to Kings Gate is a far nicer walk.

2 Nearest accommodation is at Bulkeley, 1mile/1½km off route. Bulkeley can be reached by walking down the A534. However there’s no pavements for most of the walk. Far better is to use the footpaths across fields that run nearby. There’s no shop in Bulkeley.

When to walk?

With mostly good paths, and clear navigation, the Sandstone Trail is suitable to be walked all year round. However in wet conditions some parts may be muddy.

Extending your walk

If you’re looking for a longer walk, the southern end of the Sandstone Trail connects with the Shropshire Way. This 200mile/322km long walk grew out of a far smaller one that was designed to be an extension to the Sandstone Trail.

Finding and booking accommodation

Houses near Beeston Castle.

There’s a wide variety of accommodation on the Sandstone Trail, although some of it is spread out. An accommodation guide can be found on, a website created by Sandstone Trail guide book publisher, Northern Eye Books.

Accommodation Booking Services and Baggage Transfer

Byways Breaks offer organised Sandstone Trail holidays, complete with baggage transfer. We’re not aware of any companies offering only baggage transfer.

Hostels and bunkhouses

As far as we know, there are no hostels or bunkhouses near the route.


Likewise, we were unable to find any camping facilities near the Sandstone Trail.

Getting to/from the Sandstone Trail

Wharton’s Lock on the Shropshire Union Canal – passed by the Sandstone Trail.

Both of the Sandstone Trail’s trailheads are close to railway services, and both have regular services. Frodsham is served by regular trains running between Chester and Manchester. Whitchurch is served by services from Shrewsbury and Crewe, with some services to Manchester and Cardiff.

There are no other particularly useful stations on the route.

Guide books and maps

Looking out to the Mersey Estuary and beyond from the Sandstone Trail.

Smaller walks rarely have their own guidebook. However local publisher Northern Eye Books has two publications useful for the Sandstone Trail walker.

Walking Cheshire's Sandstone Trailby Tony Bowerman

Tony Bowerman’s guide book splits the Sandstone Trail into seven small sections, mostly around half a day long. The route’s split up with a view to walking the route in day walks, using two cars. However you can combine sections to create day walks.

Providing historical and geological information aplenty, the book also contains Ordnance Survey maps of the whole route, at the Explorer scale of 1:25,000, meaning you don’t necessarily need to take any other maps with you.

Walking Cheshire's Sandstone Trail: OS Map Bookby Northern Eye

If you’d like a full map of the route, Northern Eye also have you covered. The book contains Ordnance Survey mapping of the whole route, at the Explorer scale of 1:25,000. The maps have also been enhanced with additional information like where you’ll find tea shops and car parking.

Alternatively if you’d like Ordnance Survey maps, the route is covered on the following:

  • Landranger (1:50,000): 117
  • Explorer (1:25,000): 257, 267

And finally, and any questions

A place to stop and rest on Bickerton Hill, on the Sandstone Trail.

Compared to nearby Derbyshire and its famous Peak District National Park, the delights of walking in Cheshire are far less well known. But it’s no less a good place for walking. Over its short distance, the Sandstone Trail takes you on a walk through geology and of views. It’s a stunning walk, and one well deserving of its accolade in the list of Britain’s Top 100 Walks.


Fred Hollier

18 August 2023 at 4:38 pm

Hello, We are a senior walking group, next April we are intending to do a walk along the Sandstone Trail starting from Forest Hills Hotel and finishing at The Ridgeway or a bit further. We can see that it is best to take The Baker’s Dozen steps down into Dunsdale Hollow, but wish to establish how safe it is to walk up Abraham’s Leap. Is it at all possible to avoid going into the hollow? Is it possible to carry on along the ridge at the top avoiding the Hollow. Also, please advise whether there are stiles along this route or whether just kissing gates? We’d be grateful for your help please. Thanking you.
Fred and Jean Hollier

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

22 August 2023 at 9:13 am

Hello Fred and Jean – the path from memory is nice and wide, and safe. The path continues on along the ridge for most of the way. I don’t remember coming across any stiles on this section (or gates for that matter) but I have to say I wasn’t really paying attention.

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