Limestone Way: Matlock to Monyash
An undulating walk through the glorious limestone dales of the southern Peak District, with great views but plenty of slopes
Waymarked by signs of the Derbyshire ram, the Limestone Way begins with a sharp pull out of the Derwent Valley from Matlock, after which it settles down to a gentler but always undulating route across the limestone hills of the White Peak. There are several fine villages either on or just off the route, including Bonsall, Elton, Winster and Youlgreave, plus curious rocky outcrops, hidden limestone dales and small pockets of attractive woodland. The area’s long association with lead mining and agriculture is evident in the remains of grassed-over spoil heaps and isolated stone field barns all along the way, as well as the miles of drystone walls that criss-cross this upland pastoral landscape. There are several plunging dales to negotiate and the stage ends at Monyash, where the pub and café overlook the village green.
Matlock Bath, approximately 1.5 miles (2.4km) south of Matlock along the A6, has numerous tourist attractions and, if wished, the route of the Limestone Way can be joined from there instead, by climbing directly up the Heights of Abraham and joining a footpath signposted to Bonsall.
From Matlock Bridge, the route heads up the minor Snitterton road, then soon branches off left to climb steeply and follow a footpath across fields towards Masson Lees Farm. Keeping right along field boundaries over Masson Hill, the route joins a narrow walled lane which leads down into Bonsall, the first of several delightful villages.
Like many Derbyshire villages, Bonsall takes part in an annual well-dressing ceremony during the summer. Believed to be an early Christian custom based on pagan worship of water gods, the ceremony has now become highly specialized, with well-dressings being set in large wooden frames lined with clay and using flowers, foliage, berries, mosses, bark, cones, vegetables, wool and other suitable organic materials. Nothing synthetic is used. The wells are then blessed at a special service, and remain dressed for several days. From Bonsall, the route follows a narrow walled track that leads up through fields to Upper Town. It then goes ahead along a lane and at the bend by Hollies Farm Plant Centre follows a waymarked public footpath across fields, past Bromlea Farm. After dipping gently downhill it crosses a quiet road near Blakelow Farm, then leads over more walled fields across Bonsall Moor, where care is needed in looking out for both stiles and waymarks to find the correct route past Luntor Rocks. This area is renowned for its traditional stone field barns, as well as the grassed-over remains of disused mines.
The official route leads straight on past Wyn’s Tor, but a diversion down the hill through Winster is worthwhile. This attractive village is surrounded by the remains of shafts and tip-heaps and its dark gritstone cottages on the south side were once the homes of lead miners. One of the most interesting buildings is the late 17th-century Market House, open most summer weekend afternoons. To rejoin the Limestone Way, a pleasant footpath leads westwards through the churchyard towards Westhill Farm. Here the route bears north along a track, crossing the Elton road. You can head left here to visit the village of Elton, which has some more fine buildings including the Old Hall, dated 1668 and now luxury self catering accommodation. The route now follows the narrow Dudwood Lane downhill, straight ahead, before bearing left on a track at the bottom just before the B5056. This track bears left uphill, away from Cratcliff Cottages, then climbs up past an eye-catching collection of gritstone rocks called Robin Hood’s Stride.
Beyond the rocks, the route crosses two fields to reach the road, with Harthill Moor Farm ahead. Turn right along the road, then left on to a woodland trail, before rounding the next hillside to resume the northwesterly direction. This leads down across fields to cross Bleakley Dike, reaching the lane ahead on the outskirts of Youlgreave, which sits on the ridge between Bradford and Lathkill Dales. This is another village well known for its well-dressings. Its 15th-century church has one of the best towers in the Peak District.
The Limestone Way does not go into the village, but crosses the River Bradford and then turns along its north bank to follow a pretty route upstream, passing remains of 19th-century weirs. The route crosses to the south bank on a clapper-bridge. It then follows the river to an old stone bridge, where it crosses once again, climbing through the woods on a zig-zag track to join the road by Lomberdale Hall. Another footpath leads uphill across the Hall’s parkland, crossing a road and fields to eventually reach the car park and picnic site at Moor Lane.
From here the route heads northwest on a well-defined track that goes straight across a succession of wide fields. Skirting a patch of woodland, the path leads around the side of Calling Low Farm, then heads downhill, with fine views across the limestone plateau and down to Lathkill Dale over to the right. Follow steps steeply down into the bottom of Cales Dale.
On the far side, a narrow path leads uphill past caves and soon reaches One Ash Grange Farm. Continue along the side of fields and drystone-walled paths to the roadside on the outskirts of Monyash. Turn right for the picturesque village green, overlooked by The Bull’s Head pub. This simple and unpretentious village was chronicled in the Domesday Book, with its market and fair recorded in 1340. It has a pleasing collection of typical White Peak cottages, originally built for the lead-mining community. The area now depends on farming and tourism.
Tracks, lanes and field paths across low but undulating hills, including a few sharp slopes and one steep flight of steps
Rural farmland between villages
Under close control around livestock, though off lead potential on enclosed tracks and in woods
Town centre pay-and-display car parks, Matlock
Matlock, Winster, Youlgreave, Monyash
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
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.