Planning your White to Dark walk

Published 20 October 2019. Last updated 13 February 2022

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

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:

  • YHA Ravenstor, Millers Dale. A mile and a half from Litton village, although local buses run between the two.
  • YHA Eyam. On the edge of the village of Eyam, and not far at all from the White to Dark.
  • YHA Hathersage. A good sized hostel, in the heart of Hathersage.
  • YHA Castleton Losehill Hall. Another large hostel, about two miles from Hope village.

If you plan to stay at multiple YHA hostels, it’s well worth considering becoming a member as this will save you some money.

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. And crazily, Country Walking magazine – who created the walk – deleted their small website containing the details of the route around 2020. No, I don’t understand why either.

Their website did mostly consists of PDFs of the route, and thankfully the Long Distance Walkers Association have saved copies and made them available to download from their website. However the quality of those maps in the PDFs aren’t great, especially when printed out.

Unfortunately we know of no map of the route that you can buy, nor print out. Previously a version was hosted on the Trailzilla webite, but this closed in February 2022. You can use the map at the top of this page to plot your own route, or use the GPX file to import into your favourite mapping software.

Peak District Adventure Atlasby A-Z

If you want to mark it out on a map, one option is to use the A-Z Adventure Atlas for the District Peak. This gives you Ordnance Survey Explorer mapping in a handy book format. We’re big fans of these thanks to their convenience and size.

Alternatively, you can use Ordnance Survey Maps. The maps you need are:

  • Landranger (1:50,000): 110, 119
  • Explorer (1:25,000): OL1, OL24

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.

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