The Peak’s Best Small Hills

The Great Outdoors Magazine recently published an article looking at the UK’s best small hills. It was, of course, great to see the Peak District well represented, with Shutlinsloe and Mam Tor being two of the 12. There was also plenty of great inspiration for further afield. However… being picky about it (and someone’s got to right?!), most of the hills represented were actually pretty big hills. In the UK a mountain is seen as being over 600m in height (2000ft in old money), and many of TGO’s list were between 500m and 600m. So, we’d say, pretty big hills really.

But look, it is nit-picking, and really just a thinly veiled excuse to list what we think are some of the Peak District’s best actual small hills. We’ve chosen five – but we’d love to hear your suggestions.

Crich Stand – 286m

It’s location outside the National Park means Crich Stand is often overlooked. On days when Mam Tor or Kinder will be crowded with day trippers, and wile the nearby tram museum will be full of tourists, Crich Stand itself will still be quitely looking out over the lowlands of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. It’s a great shame, as the views are second to none. On a clear day you can see over 20 miles to Nottingham, the towers of Ratcliffe Power Station and the distant hills of Leicestershire’s county top at Beacon Hill. The stand itself is the name given to the tower topping the hill, a memorial to the Sherwood Foresters. There’s also a trig point to add to your collection!

Walk it: The best route is to head from the Cromford Canal parking at Lea Mills. Alternatively try the rolling hillside between the stand and South Wingfield with it’s romantic ruins. If you are feeling very sluggish you could drive to the top – but that would be cheating.

Hen Cloud – 410m

In a region of such geological diversity there is nothing quite so dramatic as Hen Cloud and the Roaches. The Edges of the north-eastern fringe present a relatively flat landscape behind their gritstone faces. Not at Hen Cloud. Here the rock has been folded, and prods out of the surrounding landscape at a precipitous angle. Climbing up the rear of Hen Cloud, and looking back on it from the Roaches you really get an impression of the forces at work in twisting and fracturing solid rock in a way even Stanage can’t quite muster.

Walk it: Park along the road below the Roaches for a simple walk up to Hen Cloud – though it gets steep towards the top. For a longer walk park at Tittesworth Reservoir and head up from there – you can’t miss Hen Cloud.

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The dramatic Hen Cloud

Grin Low – 434m

A short walk up through the woods of Buxton Country Park brings you out onto what is essentially a post industrial landscape – but one softened by nature and time. The area of the summit of Grin Low is covered in old limestone quarries, waste heaps and the remains of lime kilns. The woodland below was originally planted to hide what was then an eyesore from the Duke of Devonshire’s home in Buxton! Now its a great natural playground for kids (and grown ups) to clamber on the rocks and admire the views across to the Dark Peak moors and into Buxton. The small tower crowning the very top of the hill is Soloman’s Temple, built as a folly upon the remains of ancient burial mounds.

Walk it: Park at the country park and walk up through the wood – Poole Cavern is also onsite and worth a visit.

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View from Solomon’s Temple

Thorpe Cloud – 287m

What to say about Thorpe Cloud? If there’s a more dramatic, imposing peak standing at under 300m we’d like to know about it! Standing guard over Dovedale and it’s famous stepping stones Thorpe Cloud is another hill ideally suited to family adventures. There are little crags low down the hill to scramble up, then a steep climb up to the summit, where you are rewarded with fine views over Dovedale and across to the rolling countryside of lowland Derbyshire.

Walk it: The western face of the hill has some fun scrambling low down, but is too steep to climb right to the top. Well defined paths head up the edges of this flank, starting from either the bridge by the gauging weir or from the stepping stones (see our route here). For a slightly gentler climb walk from the stepping stones up Lin Dale, and the path doubles back upon itself up the northern flank of the hill.

Wild Bank Hill – 399m

Of all the hills in this short list Wild Bank Hill is the one that’s probably least well known. But it makes for a great short walk, with some amazing and varied views. From the summit each point of the compass holds a different and contrasting views. To the south the view is of the Kinder and Bleaklow range, with Snake Pass visible, along with the towns of Glossop and Hadfield. West is an incredible view over Manchester. North lie the little reservoirs of the Swineshaw Moor. Lastly, looking east is the imposing Woodhead Pass, which looks particularly dramatic and wild from here.

Walk it: Park on Hobson Moor Road for a short walk up to the summit, or for a longer (and much steeper!) walk start in Stalybridge or from the country park by the Swineshaw Reservoirs.

Mighty Eminenses

If anyone is looking for a UK bagging list, how about this?! This great mountain diagram is from the mid-1800s and is pretty stunning. The choice of hills is pretty idiosyncratic, probably as much a depiction of those that worked for the image (graphic design isn’t a new art!), but you could certainly do a whole lot worse for a list of hills covering the whole of these islands. I particularly love the now antiquated names for some of these hills – particularly Kinderscout.

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