A high-level Dovedale Route

This walk captures many of the highlights of southern Dovedale in the Peak District National Park. Starting from near Thorpe Cloud, the walk takes the high level route, avoiding the crowds and provides dramatic views across the valley to both Derbyshire and Staffordshire.

Technical sheet
No. 292951
A Ilam walk posted on 04/07/16 by Walking Britain. Update : 28/05/18
Calculated time Calculated time: 5h20[?]
Distance Distance : 13.61km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 509m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 501m
Highest point Highest point : 359m
Lowest point Lowest point : 143m
Average Difficulty : Average
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Area Area : Peak District
Location Location : Ilam
Starting point Starting point : N 53.055599° / W 1.782751°
Download : -


(D/A) There is a large car park a few hundred metres south of Thorpe Cloud (grid ref. SK146508) where there are toilets and a cafe. Leave the car park and head north along the lane turning right over the first footbridge with the first objective - the shapely summit of Thorpe Cloud in view. The old path has been diverted to assist with renewal/erosion work and the approach is now from the east over a longer and easier line. The summit of this small top is soon reached and provides a good vantage point for the next stage of the walk.

(1) Head off the summit down the steep path towards the stepping stones over the River Dove. Go through the gate and follow the main path for a few hundred metres north. Then turn right to head up the side of the dale on a clear rising path that takes you to the top of Lover's Leap. The crowds have now been left behind and apart from a short busy section at Milldale you will have the landscape to yourself for much of this round.

(2) After enjoying the view at Lover's Leap turn east. Take the clear path that heads towards Moor Barn and continue on the waymarked route to reach a right of way that goes north (grid ref 160518) to Bostern Grange Farm. Continue through the farm to follow a farm track forking left almost immediately to stay on a northerly course across fields. At a path junction (grid ref 149541) ignore the path heading directly to Milldale instead opting for the slightly more circuitous route over Shining Tor. This offers a very pleasant approach to the hamlet of Milldale providing an excellent taste of the northern half of Dove Dale. Note that Milldale can be very busy especially during holiday weekends, which is in complete contrast to the outward high level section of the route.

(3) In Milldale cross the bridge and take the path (signed but half hidden by the toilets) that leads steeply uphill and south along the western bank of the Dove. There is a warning notice about the path being impassable after heavy rain and this should be heeded if the river is high. The path is muddy in places (but offers a quieter route to the main path on the eastern side of the river) and leads to Hall Dale - an excellent example of a dry valley.

(4) Stay on the west side of the river to reach Ilam Rock where a path climbs steeply up through the woods. An unofficial ( and more attractive) alternative is to head up Hall Dale to reach a signed right of way heading south (grid ref. 132540). Take this path to reach the westernmost corner of Hurt's Wood. Here climb a fence and stay within the wood's boundary following a clear path for most of the way. (Note this alternative route may involve a minor trespass?)

(5) There now follows a pleasant high level walk along the western rim of Dove Dale to reach Air Cottage. Turn west to Ilamtops Farm and south on a signed right of way to reach Bunster Hill. There are many paths in this area but it is best to aim due south to reach a col between Bunster Hill and a small outlying top. From here the onward route to the Izaak Walton Hotel and the car park becomes obvious(D/A).

Waypoints :
D/A : km 0 - alt. 143m
1 : km 1 - alt. 264m - Thorpe Cloud
2 : km 2.3 - alt. 174m - Lover's Leap - Turn east
3 : km 8.02 - alt. 186m - Milldale - Cross the bridge
4 : km 9.63 - alt. 175m - Hall Dale
5 : km 10.32 - alt. 280m - Walk alongside the rim of Dove Dale
D/A : km 13.6 - alt. 143m

Useful Information

Sadly Dove Dale can be overrun with visitors with a constant procession of "walkers" filling the valley floor path especially on the southern section from Thorpe to Milldale. However there are other options! By staying with the high ground on either side of the dale one can enjoy the views in peace and also better appreciate the excellent White Peak scenery en-route.

This walk was last undertaken on a busy August weekend. True there were crowds of people at the Thorpe Stepping Stones and Milldale was bustling with people. Apart from these two short stretched we saw less than a dozen people all day! Not bad for such a busy part of the Peak District National Park?

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

Opinions and comments


Global average : 4.48/5
Number of opinions : 7
Description quality : 4.29/5
Routemap quality : 4.43/5
Walk interest : 4.71/5

on Mon 03 May 2021 09:38:28 CEST

Global average : 4.33 / 5

Date of walk : 30/04/21
Description quality : Good
Routemap quality : Good
Walk interest : Very good

Best to go midweek as the weekends see huge throngs of people on Thorpe Cloud and at the stepping stones.

Once away from the valley floor this is a lovely walk. I would strongly recommend taking the route via Shining Tor. The obvious route leads you straight to the village and you potentially miss out on a glorious section of the walk (head half right at the multi junction path as described).
The return leg gives the option of going high and getting away from the crowds again, or following the river for those with tired legs.
The high route is good but the path can get quite boggy after rain and it does get lost occasionally, especially near the River where it turns into a bit of a stepping stone scramble, but only for a few metres.
Note: I would think twice about using this route after periods of sustained rainfall or if the river is even slightly swollen.

Turning up the hill at Ilam rock is a real thigh burner and can be a bit of a scramble in places, using trees and roots to assist the ascent. It is steep!
Again, if this is too tough, you can cross the footbridge and pick up the riverside trail used by the muggles for an easy walk back.
About 4-5 hrs at slow to steady pace (why rush when you have such spectacular views)?
Plenty of fields for dogs to stretch their legs but be mindful of ground birds and livestock- common sense applies!

on Mon 26 Aug 2019 09:16:43 CEST

Global average : 4.67 / 5

Date of walk : 26/08/19
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Good
Walk interest : Very good

This was a great walk to do. We managed it to do it in just under 5 hours . We stopped often especially at lovers leap. Where we lay and rested to take in the view.
We also found it a great terrain for running.
I would definitely recommend this route for making great memories.

on Mon 11 Mar 2019 09:44:45 CET

Global average : 4.67 / 5

Date of walk : 10/03/19
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Good

A great map, with great instructions. I enjoyed it. The only thing was there were alot of fields, got a bit tedious in the middle stretch as it was alot of open space but all in all very enjoyable. Nice to not have the masses of crowds so a high-level route is a great idea.
Thank you hikideas

on Mon 25 Feb 2019 10:01:43 CET

Global average : 5 / 5

Date of walk : 23/02/19
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

To start with the route is busy but once you leave the trail at lovers leap and head of up the hill then it becomes very quite, we saw no one for nearly an hour and the views are stunning. When you head down to Milldale it becomes very busy again and all along the river is very busy the steppingstones were exceptionally busy with us having to que to get across. All in all a very good walk especially when you leave the main trail at lovers leap.

on Sun 15 Jul 2018 12:02:41 CEST

Global average : 3.67 / 5

Date of walk : 15/07/18
Description quality : Good
Routemap quality : Average
Walk interest : Good

the route is great with some great views until you reach Milldale Village, after that the route is lost in overgrown plants and not one for shorts with nettles everywhere, instead i took the river route back to the starting point which reaches Ilam Rock and crosses the stepping stones.

on Mon 28 May 2018 12:22:29 CEST

Many thanks for your feedback. If you have any suggestions of how we can improve the instructions in the latter stages of the walk, please let us know!

on Mon 28 May 2018 09:24:54 CEST

Global average : 4.33 / 5

Date of walk : 24/05/18
Description quality : Average
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

The walk stated it was 9.5 miles yet my Fitbit recorded 13.5!!

We walked it in gorgeous sunshine after a dry spell had it been wet the section alongside the river would have been impassable as the path at one point vanished and you were left to clam our from rock to rock .
The paths are not well signed a few more instructions would have been useful especially in the latter stages of the walk
It was energetic but the views were great and we didn’t see too many people.

on Mon 07 May 2018 14:32:03 CEST

Global average : 4.67 / 5

Date of walk : 07/05/18
Description quality : Good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

We were not disappointed with this walk. It gave us lots of variety and great views.

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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.