We made the most of the first real snowfall of the winter to get out into the Burbage Valley, taking in the edge, Higger Tor and Carl Wark. It’s our first original route for the site, and it’s a cracker (if we say so ourselves) – fairly easy on the legs, but with some fantastic views. It’s great for families, with lots of places for kids to explore.
Distance – 5 miles
OS Map – OL1 Dark Peak and OL24 White Peak
Head to the Northern edge of the National Trust car park, where you’ll find a footpath heading through the trees. This leads shortly to a gate out onto the A6187 at the Fox House Inn. Cross here, passing by the pub, keeping to the left-hand verge. Take the stile in the wall to your left, just after the pub, taking in the views over the moor to the plateau of Higger Tor in the distance.
Follow the wall to your left, and keep heading straight towards Higger Tor after the wall ends – there is a fairly distinct path that
leads all the way to the beginning of the path along the top Burbage Rocks. When you reach this, turn right to head along the top of the edge. Burbage Rocks (or Burbage Edge) is popular with climbers, and offers great views down the valley towards Longshaw. The valley is currently the subject of a landscape restoration project, removing a non-native conifer plantation to bring back native moorland and woodlands to the area. There are several small abandoned quarries cut into the rockface. Keep an eye out too for carvings in the rock, like the one picture here
There are opportunities along the edge to drop to the lower path running along the foot of the cliffs, where you can see the climbers tackling the gritstone. Neither route is very strenuous, so we’ve kept this route to the top, to make the most of the great views. Whichever path you take you will come to Burbage Bridge at the top of the valley. Cross the stream here, before heading back through any of the gates/stiles onto the other side of the valley. Again, you can take any of the routes leading to the left, as all will lead you eventually up to Higger Tor – our route map takes the upper footpath, from the top of the car park, labelled Fiddler’s Elbow on OS maps.
The route climbs gently to the top of Higger Tor. At 434m in height, the tor gives a commanding view of both the Burbage Valley and across the hills to Hathersage and, in the distance, Mam Tor, the Great Ridge and away to Kinder. To the South-East of the tor the ancient hill fort of Carl Wark sits proud in the landscape, the ancient defensive wall clearly visible. Explore the views from Higger Tor before finding a route down to the footpath leading over to Carl Wark – these routes range from fairly gentle to full on scrambles, so take care!
Arriving at Carl Wark the defenses look even more impressive, constructed from large boulders on this Western side, the only point without the natural defenses of the cliff edges. The builders of the hillfort, its age and purpose all still remain a mystery to be unraveled. However, the two acre site enclosed by the defenses show no evidence found of permanent habitation, so it is suspected it was used as either an emergency refuge, a ceremonial location, or potentially even a market place (similar theories have been proposed for the nearby late Iron age / Bronze age enclosure at Gardom’s Edge). The cliff edges capped with defensive walls give a glimpse into the effort it would have taken to construct the site.
After exploring the top of Carl Wark, head back out of one of the ancient exits to the hillfort, and follow the distinct path as it heads gently down the valley towards the Toad’s Mouth – the rock itself sits a touch down the (very busy!) road, but it’s not hard to see how it got it’s name! It is possible to find yourself breaking away from the main path, heading down towards the brook. In dry weather the brook is easily crossed, but after rain, and especially with smaller children, we’d recommend keeping to the Toad’s Mouth side, rather than a risk failed hop across the stream!
After reaching Hathersage Road, turn left and walk round the bend, crossing with care to take the public footpath on the right-hand side. This will soon come to a fork – take the left-hand path, and follow this through the woods. This section has great views through the trees of the Longshaw Estate. When reaching the road, cross over, past the gate house and down the drive towards the Longshaw Lodge, once a grand shooting lodge for the Duke of Rutland’s hunts, the estate was take over by the National Trust in the 1930s. It was used as a hospital during the Second World War, before being converted into what is now a hugely popular visitor destination. The lodge has a cafe, shop, and toilet facilities. The route back up to the car park is signposted from the lodge.
Map Credit – Base map for the route above is from Open Street Map.