Introduction to the Limestone Way

Published 12 April 2012

A snowy start to the Limestone Way

As I gingerly made my way along a narrow lane of 90% ice, I pondered how it had seemed like a good idea at the time. Why not pop to the Peak District to walk half of the Limestone Way? Would be good to get out of London and do something. After all, it had been one of the mildest winters in many recent years. What could go wrong? Hey, it was even a bridleway and that would be much easier to cope with if conditions turned a little.

And with that, the tickets were booked, the accommodation found. And then the cold snap arrived.

The snow came in a massive flurry and, such is the way of these things, the ice came too. Instead of walking around the Peak District on a balmy February Saturday afternoon, I was clutching on to anything I could in order to stop me slipping as I tried to get to the top of an incredibly steep, narrow lane.

Yeah. What could possibly go wrong?

Cave Dale at the start of the Limestone Way, at Castleton

The Peak District National Park is normally split in to two halves. There’s the Northern section, known as the Dark Peak. It’s full of large limestone boulders and moorland; bogs and peat. It features hills with suitably gloomy names such as Bleaklow and Black Hill. The Pennine Way goes through it and to anyone who walked it before huge paving stones were laid down, the words “quagmire” and “morass” will probably spring to mind.

In contrast, the southern half is known as the White Peak. There’s plenty of limestone, but in contrast to its dark brother, there are caves and dry rivers.

Having grown up on the eastern flanks of Manchester, not far from the northern borders of the National Park, I’d been in the Peak District loads of times but I’d never walked in the White Peak – only in the Dark Peak. And it was something I thought I should rectify.

So when my partner Catherine suggested we head out of London one weekend, the Limestone Way seemed like an obvious choice to tackle. Starting in the village of Castleton in Derbyshire, its 50 mile long journey heads right through the White Peak and heads off all the way down to Rocester just over the border in Staffordshire.

It was also ideal for splitting up over two weekends thanks to its history. Created by West Derbyshire District Council (now called Derbyshire Dales), the route originally ran between Castleton and the town of Matlock, but was later extended south in 1992. With a railway connection in the middle at Matlock, it was clearly an easy one to split up over two fun packed walking wonderfulness weekends.

Or even for scrambling around on very icy lanes too.

Next time we set off from Castleton, making our way along those icy paths.

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