Dovedale via Baley HIll, Thorpe Cloud & Bunster Hill.
Distance: 10 miles / 16 kilometers
Time: 7 hours
Map: OS Explorer OL24 - The Peak District, White Peak Area.
This 10 miles walk around Dovedale starts near the George Pub in Alstonefield, an ideal place for a bit of reflection after the walk, then follows the road passed St Peter’s Church and down to Milldale. In Mildale there is a telephone box and a café. The trail crosses Viators Bridge which is narrow with low walls. This was to facilitate the passage of the pack animals and their burdens. The trail then makes a short ascent over Baley Hill, giving views of Alstonefield and St Peter’s Church. At a cross track junction, the trail turns right passing Hanson Grange, and over The Nabs which involves a steep grassy descent down to the River Dove.
Note - Little ones may struggle down this steep desent down the Nabs, great care should be taken - especially following wet conditions.
Alternatively, miss out Baley Hill and continue along the River Dove to Thorpe Cloud - This won't spoil this great walk.
The trail turns left and follows a manicured gravel path along Dovedale valley for about 1¾ miles or so, to Thorpe Cloud. Dovedale and Thorpe Cloud were used as locations in the 2010 film of Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. This part of the route is level flat tarmac with the exception of the stepped path over Lovers Leap where fossils can be found in the stone. The trail passes various spots of interest - Dove Holes, Pickering Tor a limestone pillar, Dove Dale Caves, Reynard's Cave and Tissington Spires another limestone monument, all worth a little exploration and family photo opportunity.
Ducks, kingfishers, dippers with their white breast and heron can be found along the River Dove, and buzzards soaring over head.
Note this part of the trail is very, very popular and can become congested with walkers, strollers and photographers - especially during public holidays and school holidays.
At the famous stepping stone, it is worth taking a little tour to the top of Thorpe Cloud which stands at 942 feet (290 meters) at the summit - it takes about 30 minutes or 1 hour if having a nibble at the top, but well worth it. The ascent is not too difficult, though little ones may find it tiring. It is another very popular spot, but a nice place to sit for a bite to eat - if you can find a space, and take in the views of the surrounding area. To the west the next port of call can be seen, of Izaak Walton Hotel, Ilam Hall and Bunster Hill.
If the Lin Dale/River Dove stepping stones are a little crowded, continue for about 600 yards and cross at the footbridge. Pass through the car park where there are toilets and an ice cream cabin. From the car park take the trail to the right, a gentle ascent passing the Izaak Walton Hotel, then continues on a level path around the western slope of Bunster Hill and passed St Bertram's Well (a holy well and sacred spring) named in honour of St Bertram. At the stone wall the trail bears right NNE with a short ascent.
At Ilamtops farm the trail bears right to initially follow the western edge of Dovedale Wood some of the oldest woodland in England, before descending through the woodland down to the River Dove. The trail then turns left and follows the River Dove for about 1¼ miles back to Viators Bridge at Milldale, then back up the hill for the last mile to the car park at Alstonefield and the George Pub for some reflection and refeshment.