Manifold Valley, Peak District
Take our circular walk from the stone-built village of Wetton in the Peak District National Park. Explore Thor’s Cave and then continue down to Ilam Park, before returning along the opposite side of the River Manifold.
Wetton village, grid ref: SK109555
From the centre of Wetton village, take the small road leading towards Wetton Mill and the Manifold Valley. A few yards out of the village a farm track branches off left and is signed as a concessionary footpath to Thor's cave.
Take the path and follow it down a small dale until it branches. Take the left branch which contours around the hillside towards Thor’s Cave.
You will find it hard to miss Thor’s Cave (non-NT) located above the Manifold Valley. It is a steep walk up, but the magnificent views down into the valley make it well worth the effort. The cave was formed thousands of years ago by underground streams flowing through the limestone rock below the floor of the river. Since then the valley has deepened, exposing these ancient cave systems.
From the cave return the way you came to the fork in the path, but this time take the other branch down to the river and cross over the footbridge.
Follow the old railway track (formerly the Leek and Manifold Light Railway from Waterhouses to Hulme End – now the Manifold Way) down the valley to Weag’s Bridge, then take the farm track which runs parallel to it on the river side and head for Beeston Tor Farm.
From the farm take the track up the hillside away from the river and continue until it turns into a grassy trail. Bear left up the trail to a small wood at the top of the hill. Go over the stile and continue on the path down to Throwley Hall farm.
Follow the small road past the farm towards Rushley. At Rushley the road bends to the left and just past this take the path across the fields to the footbridge. Cross the River Manifold into Ilam Park. From the bridge turn right onto the path which runs along Paradise Walk to Ilam Hall. There is a National Trust tea-room, shop, toilets and visitor centre in the stableblock.
Ilam Park runs along both banks of the River Manifold. Enjoy outstanding views towards Dovedale National Nature Reserve, part of the National Trust Peak District Estate, or use it as a base to explore the beautiful White Peak area. Ilam Hall is a youth hostel, open all year round. If you have time Ilam village is a short walk from Ilam Park with interesting Swiss style houses.
Go around Castern Hall and just behind the hall take a track on the left. Follow this track around the hillside until, at the third field it starts to climb away from the valley. Branch left towards the left-hand corner of the field and go through a gate to a path at the top edge of the cliff leading down to the Manifold.
Cross the head of the dale where you will emerge onto the tiny road which links Weag’s Bridge with Alstonefield. Go over a stile on the far side of the road and follow the path which skirts Wetton Low to return to the village.
About a mile from the village of Wetton is Wetton Mill. The mill house dates back to the 16th century and was used as a corn mill until 1857. Today it is a popular tourist attraction with a tea-room and two National Trust holiday cottages. The tea-room is only open on weekends in winter but is definitely worth a visit.
Wetton village, grid ref: SK109555
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