The iconic Great Ridge in the peak district separates the vales of Edale and Castleton in Derbyshire, England. It extends for approximately 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) from Mam Tor at the western end of the ridge through to Lose Hill at the eastern end, the lowest point along the ridge is Hollins Cross.
The path runs along the full length of the ridge from end to end and is paved with heavy-duty slabs through a large section of the route to avoid more erosion damage.
It is a very popular location and has a heavy footfall which does make the path quite susceptible to erosion and has in many parts especially through the winter, some very wet muddy walking areas.
It’s inevitable that this open and rugged landscape is going to be weathered and muddy no matter what. Walking boots and walking clothing is definitely needed here if you don’t want a twisted ankle or a drenching from the Derbyshire weather.
I have seen so many people walking past who were wearing just white fashion trainers and the most basic of clothes as though they’re going to be walking in town.
They tip toe through the mud, slip over, and shiver in the high winds on top of the ridge. Just a word of warning, dress for the occasion, the weather is unpredictable and the ground can be thick with mud, and slippery, it’s not a fashion parade. (Rant over.)
Lose hill and what is a toposcope?
Lose Hill at the Eastern end of the ridge has an Elevation of 476 m. It doesn’t in fact have a trig point as such but a toposcope. It has compass points engraved on it, along with the names of all the peaks that you can see in the various directions.
A toposcope, topograph, or an orientation table is a kind of graphic display which is erected at certain viewing points on hills, mountains or other high places that indicate the direction, and usually the distance, to notable landscape features that can be seen from that point.
During our walk from Hope village to Lose hill and along the ridge to Mam Tor, the Lose hill topograph point wasn’t possible to photograph due to the large number of people surrounding it unfortunately. But better luck next time.
Trig point facts
Trig points are points of triangulation. A trig pillar, in a field in Cold Ashby, Northamptonshire, was the very first one used for the retriangulation of Great Britain.
Over 6,500 trig pillars were built across the country and used for the retriangulation between April 18, 1936, and June 4, 1962, when the trig pillar at Thorney Gale, Westmorland, was used for the final calculation.
Triangulation is basically a mathematical process that makes accurate map-making possible. It works by determining the location of a point by measuring angles to it from known points at either end of a fixed baseline and, in this case, 6,500 trig pillars.
Some people use the term ‘Trig Bagging’ to walk up to as many of these trig points as possible, they spot and record as many as they can.
They’re great beacons while out walking or cycling through the countryside although they are no longer used for their original purpose, to map the UK. They are no longer needed due to our modern technology and satellite systems.
There are different versions of trig points, the main classic one is cast concrete and painted white for visibility but some are made from local stone and cemented together.
The lowest recorded trig point is at Little Ouse and is just at 1 metre. The highest is at the top of Ben Nevis the summit of which is 1,345 metres.
Hollins Cross is the lowest point along the ridge. It makes a good cross road point between Edale and Castleton and can be a great way to join the ridge path to access Mam tor or Lose hill.
A little factoid about the Hollins Cross route; Back in the day, coffins from Edale village were taken over Hollins Cross to Hope village church until a church was constructed in Edale, this led to the nickname of the “coffin road” for this route.
Hollins Cross is named because of an actual cross that was raised here, but had disappeared by 1905. It was a memorial to Tom Hyett (formerly surmounted by a topograph) was erected by the Long Eaton and District Group of the Ramblers Association in 1964.
From the lowest point at Hollins Cross, you can walk the ridge to the East up to Back Tor, which is part of the rugged section towards Lose hill and in my opinion has the most stunning views. It is however very popular and lots of people taking photos on the rocky slabs and the path gets congestion! But so worth it for the views.
Mam Tor facts
The elevation of Mam Tor is 517 m (1,696 ft) and has a trig point that is relatively easy to access due to the proximity to the main Mam Tor car park and well paved pathway leading up to the trig and for a while beyond it.
Mam Tor is crowned by a late Bronze Age and early Iron Age univallate hill fort, and two Bronze Age bowl barrows. At the base of the Tor and close by are four tourist caves, the Blue John Cavern, Speedwell Cavern, Peak Cavern and the Treak Cliff Cavern where lead, Blue John, fluorspar and other minerals were once mined.
Mam Tor was declared to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Peak by Thomas Hobbes in his 1636 book De Mirabilibus Pecci.
It has been known by other names, such as the shivering mountain due to the number of landslips over the years. Another name for it is the Mother Hill, because of the mini hills it has created over the years.
Until 1979 there was a through road along the base of the hill called the A625 which was the Sheffield to Chapel en le Frith Road. The frequent landslips on the eastern side of Mam Tor eventually destroyed the road and made future work to repair the road and keep it open, impossible and unsafe.
The Fox House to Castleton section of the road was re-designated as the A6187. The old road is now walkable albeit rugged. This can be a great route to use when walking to the ridge from Castleton and one I’ve used many times.
The Great Ridge is such an icon in the Derbyshire peak district that it becomes very busy at times.
The views are wonderful and the air up there is so refreshing, a walk up to and along the ridge is well worth it but please dress for the place, not only for your sake but to avoid unnecessary call out for the emergency services such as the mountain rescue team.
There are lots of different ways to access the ridge and whether you are going for a medium length circuit or a longer circular it is a wonderful place to explore.
We walked up from Hope village and up Lose hill and along the ridge to Mam tor, followed by a walk back towards the Limestone Way and past the Hope cement factory and back to the car park which was a 20km walk.
Again, more advice on parking in the area. Always use a car park when you can. There are lots of parking problems in the area and double yellow lines have had to be applied on lots of the roads. More car restrictions are possibly on the way in the future for the peak district too.
I hope this has been an insight into the Great Ridge and what to expect from the experience. My family has enjoyed walking here for years and always creates lovely memories.