ALPORTS CASTLES HIKE, THE PEAK DISTRICT

A hidden gem somewhere in the Peaks, by Victoria Cook

The hike starts as most walks in the peaks do, next to an old farm which could date back to medieval times.

Finding a place to park near Alport Castles on a sunny day is a challenge in itself. We eventually left the car roadside on Snakes Pass but soon realised that parking so far up would involve a fifteen minute pathless, vehicle dodge to the nearest track. Most of the motorbikes on Snakes Pass seem to have confused Sheffield for the Daytona supercross and the noise as they pass is similar to a foghorn being blown directly into your ears. I’d only walk up that road again if I decided my time on this mortal coil had come to an end and I fancied jazzing things up a bit before shooting off to my maker. If you’re planning on taking this hike I’d recommend parking near Ladybower reservoir or the visitors centre for the Derwent Dams (They do exceptionally nice cake too).

Thankfully, five minutes on the track towards Alport Castles you can forget the motorway is there at all. The sweeping ridges and valleys, clear blue rivers and more greens than a Dulux colour chart could make you believe you’re on a hike through Switzerland (and I say this with the confidence of somebody that’s never actually been there.)

The sky played ball during our visit allowing for some great looming shadows of the castle like rock formations, you can see why it’s called Alports Castles.

We stopped near the river Alport for a bite to eat and to celebrate not being run over before ploughing forward to the famous Gritstone stack ‘The Tower.’ It’s name is due to the fact it’s unusual shape and size resembles…you guessed it…a tower. And not just any tower. A huge, looming, broody tower. The kind you could envision the evil wizardy bloke from Lord Of The Rings hanging about on.

The hike to the hill is beautiful and if you’re lucky (or unlucky if you’re not a reptile fan) you could spot a lizard or two darting about on the rocks as we did. The treck through the ferns and upwards is slightly challenging but the pay off is pretty spectacular when The Tower comes into view. It really is an incredible structure to witness. Especially if you’ve got a white beard and you’re into role play.

The Ordnance survey map does’t mark the track down through the valley, so you have to find you own way down if you fancy scrambling up the small peak.

If you’re up to the scramble then climbing The Tower is easier than it looks but not suitable for kids and good boots and grip are essential. Once you’re up there the scenery on a clear day is stunning and the scramble down isn’t too rough either. We chose to loop back up again and walk the ridge which felt like a tough choice at the time as the hike back up the hill is smooth but very tough on the thighs. Once up there however, the view is breath-taking and even though we looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger at the end of Predator, it was worth it.

The view down through the valley is thought to be the largest landslip in the UK and it’s debated how it formed over 300 million years ago.