Bretton and Bretton Clough

Explore the secretive Bretton Clough tucked between the moors and a dramatic airy ridge.


Bretton Clough


3.25 miles (5.3kms)

440ft (134m)

About the walk

Bretton Clough is a sheltered valley of woodland and open, bracken-covered slopes, a green oasis sandwiched between the harsh, dark upland of Abney Moor and Eyam Moor. A ‘clough’ is a local term for a small, steep-sided valley, typically found in the gritstone moors of the Dark Peak.

From the Barrel Inn

The walk begins at the Barrel Inn, which for over 250 years has been serving weary travellers journeying along the packhorse routes, turnpike road and footpaths that cross Eyam Edge. At 1,247ft high (380m) above sea level, the Barrel Inn is the highest pub in Derbyshire, enjoying superlative views southwards over the heart of the Peak District. (Incidentally, the highest pub in the Peak District is the Cat and Fiddle at 1,683ft/513m, which lies in Cheshire.) It’s said that on a clear day you can see five counties; and for those with exceptional vision the interpretation board outside the pub indicates the direction of London, 142 miles (228km) away.

However, the Barrel’s high and exposed situation has also come at a cost. In the severe winter blizzards of 1947 the pub was completely cut off for over two weeks. When villagers from Eyam finally made it up to Bretton, one described how snow drifts had almost enveloped the entire pub. He said it resembled a giant igloo, and the rescue party were forced to dig a tunnel to locate the front door.

Bretton Clough

You can savour the views for the first few minutes as you stroll along the top of the edge, noting the village of Eyam immediately below and the huge quarries beyond it. The ridge across the horizon about 3 miles (4.8km) to the south is Longstone Edge. Soon you swing north and approach Bretton Clough by skirting its high eastern rim, allowing fabulous views back up the partly wooded defile. You can see how it’s squeezed between the surrounding moorland, the rich greens of its lush vegetation contrasting with the darker and more sombre colours of the land above. This concealment has proved useful in the past. In 1745, local farmers drove their cattle into Bretton Clough to hide them from Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Highland army as they marched south on their way to Derby.

Bretton Clough was once home to several farmsteads, but all that’s left are a few ruined buildings. You pass one of these as you make your way through the valley, now a very peaceful place and rich in birdlife, especially the delightful woods of oak and birch that you climb through on your way back up to the hamlet above.

Walk directions

Facing the front door of the Barrel Inn, turn right and walk up the lane along the top of Eyam Edge. After 550yds (503m), before a small lay-by, take a green-walled track on the left that slants across the fields.

At a crossroads of tracks go straight over, via a high ladder stile, for a wide farm track. Approaching a wall it bends right to reach some buildings. Go straight on and over a wall stile by a gate. Continue on the clear path beside a wall and beyond a second stile turn left, following the wall downhill with a small plantation on your left, to reach a stile.    

Cross the stile and now follow the open and lofty path around the steep eastern edge of Bretton Clough, with the moorland stretching up to the right. Eventually the path begins to descend; follow it all the way down to a path junction, just above Bretton Brook. Turn left and follow the path up the semi-wooded side of the clough. Emerge onto open hillside just below some dilapidated buildings partly hidden by trees.

Continue ahead on the slightly rising grassy track, away from the old buildings, as it's joined by another coming in from the left. Go across the open and bumpy land for just over 0.25 miles (400m). When you reach woodland, drop down and go over a stile.

Follow the path across a small stream and up the far slope. The path bends sharply left, through a gate, and continues through the trees steadily up the valley, steepening towards the top when it winds round to the right. When you emerge from the trees at another path, near a bench, go left. Turn right, over a stile, for a fenced path uphill. Pass to the right of a house to reach the lane.

Turn right and follow the surfaced lane back to the Barrel Inn, with glorious views of Abney Moor and Bretton Clough over your right shoulder.

Additional information

Lanes, grassy tracks and woodland paths; many stiles

High moorland and sheltered, part-wooded valley

On lead around livestock which graze the valley

OS Explorer OL24 White Peak

Roadside parking near Barrel Inn

None on route; nearest at Eyam

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About the area

Discover Derbyshire

The natural features of this central English county range from the modest heights of the Peak District National Park, where Kinder Scout stands at 2,088 ft (636 m), to the depths of its remarkable underground caverns, floodlit to reveal exquisite Blue John stone. Walkers and cyclists will enjoy the High Peak Trail which extends from the Derwent Valley to the limestone plateau near Buxton, and for many, the spectacular scenery is what draws them to the area.

The county is well endowed with stately homes – most notably Chatsworth, the palatial home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, with its outstanding collections of paintings, statuary and art. Other gems include the well preserved medieval Haddon Hall, the Elizabethan Hardwick Hall, and Kedleston Hall, whose entrance front has been described as the grandest Palladian façade in Britain.

The spa town of Matlock is the county’s administrative centre and other major towns of interest include Derby and the old coal mining town of Chesterfield, with its crooked spire. Around the villages of Derbyshire, look out for the ancient tradition of well dressing, the decorating of springs and wells – the precious sources of life-sustaining water – with pictures formed from flowers.

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