Planning your White to Dark walk

Last updated 14 August 2019

As Britain’s first National Park, the Peak District is a popular destination for those that love the outdoors. It’s split into two distinct parts, each with their own character and identity. The moody, heather topped moorlands of the Dark Peak and the drystone walls and gorges of the White Peak both offer quite contrasting experiences.

Created by Country Walking Magazine to celebrate their 25th birthday, the White to Dark is a walking trail that gives provides a great introduction to both sides of the National Park. A highlights package, as it were. One that provides stunning scenery, and a chance to see how the Peak District changes as you go through it. And all easily walkable in three days. What more could you ask for?

Contents

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What is the walk like

Wind carved rocks on the White to Dark
Gloriously shaped rock at High Neb, on the White to Dark.

If you wanted to create a walk that sums up the Peak District in under thirty miles, you’d get something like the White to Dark.

It starts off with farmland and drystone walls, enjoys gorges and valleys, spends some time on old railway lines, and then sends you over heather topped moorland with splendid views. It’s the Peak in a Nutshell, and no mistake.

The walking is over good paths, the conditions underfoot usually good. The climbs, like many in the National Park, are never particularly difficult. It’s not the easiest walk in the world, but it’s far from being difficult.

Navigation is relatively straightforward, but you will need to use maps. There is some waymarking, but it’s not universal and not good enough to be relied upon. You can also download written instructions from the official website.

The route

You can see the route of the White to Dark using the map above. Using the controls you can scroll around, zoom in and explore the route. Note that this map is a guide only, and should not be used for navigation.

You can also download the GPX file of the route.

Planning an itinerary

Cressbrook Dale, with Peter's Stone on the White to Dark
Cressbrook Dale, with Peter’s Stone

The creators of the White to Dark envisioned it to be a pretty easy going three day walk. But coming in at 27 miles/44km long, it’s doable if you want to speed things up a little. However such is accommodation not a problem to speed things up a little if you wish. There are villages and facilities along the route, and various public transport options too.

Unless otherwise noted, each place listed has a pub and accommodation. Locations with a National Rail station are marked with a 🚂 symbol

The 3 day itinerary

3 Day Itinerary
Stage From To Distance Notes
MilesKm
1 Bakewell Litton 7 11¼ [1]
2 Litton Hathersage 🚂 15
3 Hathersage 🚂 Hope 🚂 11 17¾

Notes

  1. Alternative accommodation can be found in the nearby village of Tideswell.

The 2 day itinerary

One option would be to do the first two stages of the 3 day itinerary (Bakewell to Litton, then Litton to Hathersage) in one single day. However a slightly more balanced version stopping at Eyam is given below.

3 Day Itinerary
Stage From To Distance
MilesKm
1 Bakewell Eyam 12 19¼
2 Eyam Hope 🚂 15½ 25

Breaking the walk up into day hikes

The White to Dark is served by buses and trains on its route. With public transport available at the start and end of each day, it can easily be walked in day hikes if you live reasonably close (e.g. in Greater Manchester or West Yorkshire.)

Public transport connections can be explored in the Derbyshire County Public Transport Map.

Extending your walk

If you’d like to walk a little longer, there’s a couple of options. One is to follow the High Peak Way. Part of the High Peak Way follows a similar route between Hope and Hathersage, but the Chinley to Hope section connects is a great extension at the western end of the White to Dark.

Another option is the Limestone Way. This heads south from Castleton, a short distance from Hope, meaning you’d walk in a horse-shoe shape.

Finding and booking accommodation

Signpost for Stanage Edge
To Stanage Edge! (Except I was going in the opposite direction.)

There is plenty of accommodation to be found along the High Peak Way, although you may need to do some digging to find it. The following may help to find places to stay:

Using a search engine may also yield some results not listed on the above sites.

Accommodation Booking Services and Baggage Transfer

We currently know of no companies offering booking services or baggage transfer for the White to Dark.

Hostels and bunkbarns

There are several hostels on or near the White to Dark route. These include:

Getting to/from the White to Dark

Great Longstone Station on the Monsal Trail
Can you tell that this house was once a railway station?

Both end points of the White to Dark are good sized locations that are well served by public transport. At the north, Hope village is served by buses to Sheffield. The village train station, sitting a short way outside of Hope, has regular services running between Sheffield and Manchester.

Bakewell at the south is not on the railway network, however is well served by public transport. Key bus connections include services to Sheffield, Matlock and Buxton, all of which are on the railway network.

Buses serve all the key villages en-route, and Hathersage is also served by railway services. Public transport connections can be explored in the Derbyshire County Public Transport Map.

Guide books and maps

A tree in a lane near Silly Dale
Silly Dale. Where the White to Dark does not go.

There’s no guide book for the White to Dark, but Country Walking magazine – who created the walk – have a website containing the details of the route. This consists of PDFs of the route. The PDFs include extracts of Ordnance Survey maps of the route. However the quality of those maps in the PDFs aren’t great, especially when printed out.

There is an alternative map, hosted on the TrailZilla website. This shows the route in Ordnance Survey format at the 1:25,000 scale or the 1:50,000 scale. However you need to register to access them. And printing the whole route at a scale that’s useful for navigation… Well if that’s an option, I can’t find it. So you will probably want to plot the route on your own map.

The Ordnance Survey Maps you need are:

And finally

A Bakewell Pudding, from the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop, Bakewell.
A Bakewell Pudding, from the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop, Bakewell.

The Peak District doesn’t have many walking trails, and those that do exist tend to stick to one side of the park. Up in the Dark Peak you’ve got the Pennine Way. In the White, trails like the Limestone Way. So it’s great to have a trail that straddles both.

Yep, if you’re looking for a good introduction to the wonders of both sides of the Peak District, you’d be hard to go wrong with the White to Dark. Take my advice. Do it over three days, gorge on Bakewell puddings, and enjoy the best the Peak District has to offer you.

Planning your own walk? If you find this guide helpful in planning your walk, please consider giving us £4 for a pint of beer to say thank you!

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