Thor’s Cave is an impressive natural cavern in the Manifold Valley of the Peak District, and I’m going to show you two different ways to walk to it. The short easy route, and the longer route through the Manifold Valley, which is where you get the view of the black hole of Thor’s Cave.
Fun fact: Bears used to live in there. That’s right. Bears. A long long time ago though. Thor’s Cave is thousands of years old.
Another fun fact: This whole area used to be south of the equator, and would have been under the sea. The hillside was once a tropical reef, kind of like Winnats Pass.
What I’m going to do in this guide, is show you how to walk to Thor’s Cave, first in a small circular, and then in a bigger circular, if you want to stretch your legs a bit more. I will start off by giving you a bit of an overview of both routes, with full logistics, maps, and useful tips. Then I will go on to describe each Thor’s Cave walking route, step by step with lots of photos. At the end, I will provide some ideas for similar walks you could try.
How long is the walk to Thor’s Cave?
From Wetton, the walk to Thor’s Cave is under 1 mile. The short walk takes you to Thor’s Cave and back in a small circular. The longer walk takes you past Thor’s Cave, and on a 5 mile circular route through the Manifold Valley.
Is Thor’s cave hard to climb?
To get to Thor’s Cave, there are two main trail options. One is mostly level, the other involves uphill steps and lots of mud. Thor’s Cave itself is quite tricky to climb into. You will need good grip shoes, and might have to get back out by sliding on your bum.
Is the walk dog friendly?
The short circular walk to Thor’s Cave has no stiles, and I didn’t see any livestock about, so it seem’s pretty dog friendly. Note, I did see some animal feeding troughs in the fields, so they might be lurking somewhere. The longer walk has two stiles, and there are a bunch of sheep and cows.
Tips for walking to Thor’s Cave
- Go early. Preferably on a weekday. I have read that the place can get crazy busy on weekends, even late morning is too late, and parking is scarce. I did this walk on a Monday morning, and for one of the routes there was only a couple of people there, then when I went back for the second route, I had the place to myself.
- If you can’t find parking in Wetton, start the walk from Wetton Mill.
- If you want to keep the whole walk easy, then walk to Thor’s Cave and back along the left trail at the start (photo of it will be further down).
- For the circular short route, walk anticlockwise. For the circular long route, walk clockwise (if you have got here early to avoid the crowds). Here is why:
- If you walk clockwise on the longer route, Thor’s Cave is right at the start. You want to get to the cave before the crowds arrive. If you do the route the other way, you might be too late.
- For the short circular route to Thor’s Cave, you will have to do the muddy section with steps regardless, so you just need to decide whether you want to finish with it or start with it. If you walk anticlockwise, you walk downhill through the mud, and up the steps, then finish with a relatively level trail back. If you walk in the other direction, you will get to walk down the steps, however, you will have a long slog uphill to finish. For this reason, I recommend walking anticlockwise. I think the steps are the lesser of two evils.
- When walking to Thor’s Cave at the start of the longer route, you have two trail options. The easy way, and the steep and muddy way with steps up. For the longer route, I recommend taking the easier way (it’s the way I will describe the route below).
- If you want to see the view of the cave from afar, do the longer route.
Logistics for the short walk to Thor’s Cave
- Start/finish: Wetton
- Where is it: Located in the Staffordshire area of the Peak District. The main local town is Ashbourne, which is actually in Derbyshire.
- Distance: 1.3 miles
- Time: 30min
- Difficulty: Easy
- Terrain: Mud, grass, steps, more mud, dirt track, some more mud.
- Amenities: Wetton has a tea room at the village which seems to only be open from 10am-3pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. There is the Royal Oak Inn, in Wetton, which requires booking.
Logistics for the longer walk through the Manifold Valley
- Start/finish: Wetton
- Distance: 5 miles
- Time: 2h
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Terrain: Dirt track, mud, steps, dirt trail, grass, some extra mud
- Amenities: Just over half way through the walk is the Wetton Mill which has a cafe, public toilets and parking. See Thor’s Cave short walk logistics for amenities in Wetton.
Parking for the Thor’s Cave Walk
There are no car parks in Wetton, it’s just roadside parking (free). If you have any trouble finding space, then Wetton Mill has parking, which the longer circular Thor’s Cave route takes you past.
Map for the short circular walk to Thor’s Cave
Map for the longer Thor’s Cave walking route
You can find my more detailed route map for the Thor’s Cave circular walk through the Manifold Valley on AllTrails.
For more walks in the Peak District, you can see everything I recommend here.
A guide to walking to Thor’s Cave
From Wetton, there are signs about pointing the way to walk to Thor’s Cave. Follow them to reach the big metal gate and junctions. The left trail takes you to the cave along the easier route. This is the way I suggest, if you are doing the longer route, or if you are just planning to walk to Thor’s Cave and back the easy way, without doing a circular.
Through the gate and down the hill takes you along the muddy route with steps (they way I suggest if you are doing the short circular route).
-I will now describe the short circular route. Scroll further down to see the description for the longer route-
The short circular walk to Thor’s Cave
I did actually ponder for a while which route to take to get there. The deep valley below called out to me. It felt a bit like a vortex sucking me in. So I went with it.
There isn’t an obvious trail, you just walk down the grass hill, through the dip. The big cliff you can see ahead to the left is where Thor’s Cave is, although you don’t get a good view of the hole from here.
I found the grass to be a bit wet, and slightly muddy. But it’s nothing compared to what is to come.
The woods, the mud, and the steps
At the bottom, you will go through the woods which is where the mud madness happens. You will continue to go downhill, which, for obvious reasons can be a little slippy.
When you reach the junction with steps to the left, go up them.
From here, it’s a mix between steps, undulating rugged dirt trail, and more steps. I didn’t find it too challenging, as the steps are broken up a bit, giving your legs a rest.
You will start to see Thor’s Cave as you near the top of the steps. If you want to get into the cave, you are going to have to work a bit for it. There is no easy path in, but rather, you have to climb up the rock, which can be wet and slippy. Even when you are in there, the place is on a slant, which gets more challenging the further in you go.
Getting in is one thing, getting out requires a different tactic. I found the safest way was to slide out on my bum. Carefully though. You don’t want too much momentum, as there is a steep drop just ahead.
Walk back to Wetton
If you are standing facing away from Thor’s Cave, walk along the trail to the right. This will take you slightly uphill, with a few more steps. At the gate on the left, go through it.
You will see an obvious rugged dirt trail cutting across the hill in front. Follow that, and then in the next field, continue straight across the grass to reach the gate.
Through the gate turn left, and follow this track all the way back to the start…maybe with some more mud to navigate.
The longer walk to Thor’s Cave
One thing I didn’t tell you, is I had just arrived here from London. I had to go back there quite suddenly for the weekend, and on my way back up to Yorkshire, I had stopped off here to break up the journey. Fresh off 3.5h of driving, I first did the short circular route to Thor’s Cave. I wasn’t quite ready to continue on my journey, so decided to give the longer route a try….
I decided to start this one by taking the easier route to the cave for a couple of reasons. One, why would I subject myself to all that mud and steps again. Two…actually, number one is a good enough reason. So let’s stick with that.
So, to start, take the trail to the left of the metal gate, and keep going. It’s very muddy in parts, but not as bad as the mud from the other way. You do get a moment of seeing the big cave hole from here. However, the view gets way better later on.
When you reach the wooden trail sign post on the right, follow it into the field and keep walking in the direction of the big cliff ahead, which is where Thor’s Cave is.
When you reach the gate, go through it and turn right. You will walk down a few steps, and then Thor’s Cave will be just there on the left. There was no one around this time. Just the way I like it.
I also decided not to go in. It was hard enough the first time. I didn’t need to subject myself to that again.
Go down the steps
Once you have finished with Thor’s Cave, walk down the steps, through the woods, with a bit of a tree obstacle. Love a good tree obstacle.
At the bottom, turn left, following the sign for Manifold Valley. You have a little bit more woodland walking downhill to reach the bridge.
Just over the bridge to the left, you get your first good view of the big black cave hole. But the best is still to come.
Walk up the hill for the best views of Thor’s Cave
Go across the main path and through the gate into Ladyside. From here, follow the rugged, muddy, dirt trail up the hill. It’s a little steep in parts, with some steps thrown in. The higher you walk, the better the view of Thor’s Cave.
At the top of the main steps, go through the little wooden gate, and continue straight up the grass hill. If you have come with a dog, this is the first field I found sheep.
Near the top of the field, there will be a wooden gate to the left. Go through it, and now along a very narrow dirt trail surround by trees.
Cut through the hills
A short way, through another wooden gate, you will be on a dirt trail on the hillside. When you see a wooden trail signpost on the right, ignore it and keep straight, through a tiny gap in the moss covered stone wall, and up the bank to the next trail signpost. This one you follow straight.
You will be walking on the grass now, on an undulating hillside, heading towards the church spire, which you should be able to see ahead on the right.
Keep going, and when you hit the stream, turn to follow it to the right, through the hills.
I found it to be incredibly peaceful here, with the sound of the water flowing to the left. I also hadn’t seen anyone else for a while. With all the small undulating hills around me, I felt like I was in my own world.
Go up the hill (not over the bridge)
You should reach a small wooden gate, which will lead you onto the hillside with a bridge at the bottom, and the church spire visible ahead again. You do not need to go over the bridge. I went over it by mistake, and up the hill over the stile. This is the wrong way.
Instead, turn right here, and someway along is a stile on the right, leading you into a big field.
Note for dog walkers, there are sheep here, and more in the big field.
More views of Thor’s Cave
The first thing I saw when I entered this field, was a cows with calfs sign. I had a feeling this was outdated, and my feelings were confirmed when I saw all the sheep and lambs. Much better.
Over the stile, you need to follow the arrow straight across the field. You will get another view of Thor’s Cave to the right, when walking across this field.
At the end of the field, at the road, don’t follow the sign to Thor’s Cave (I mean, you can take that route if you want). Instead, turn left through the next gate into the field.
A bin man drove past on this road and waved, so I waved back.
Walk down the hill
In this next field, you want to head in a rough right diagonal direction. If you squint a bit, you should be able to see the markings of a grass trail.
You will now be walking downhill for a good while. There are a few more gates as you make your way down, all the way to reach the little stream of water and bridge.
Over the bridge turn right, to walk alongside the water. This the Hoo Brook. Love that name.
It was along here that I saw the cows. These ones had slightly grown up calfs. I wasn’t sure if the mothers would be as protective, now that their children were teenagers. So I made sure to stick right to the water edge, ready to jump in and over to the other side if necessary.
Luckily, they ignored me, and once I was safely past, I faced another problem….
The next section of the trail is where the serious mud happened. I thought I was done with mud. But clearly not. It was the sticky, squelchy kind that sucks you in. I wasn’t going anywhere fast, so hoped that the cows didn’t decide to come and chase me, as they would probably win.
Someway along, you will reach a wooden gate with a sign for the Manifold Valley. It’s all very lovely, as you make your way through the bottom of the valley. I still hadn’t passed another sole since Thor’s Cave.
It was also around here that my mood changed. I felt all alone, but not in a good way.
You see, the reason I had gone back to London very suddenly was because my grandmother was very ill. In hospital and at the end kind of ill. That was probably the last time I would see her. The sadness comes in waves, and another one just hit me.
I felt such guilt that I wasn’t there still, but I needed to come back to Yorkshire for work, and she was at the stage where she didn’t know who I was.
But still, I felt like that’s where I wanted to be. Not here.
As you continue through the valley, the grass will turn to proper trail, and through a couple of gates to reach the road junction.
Now go over the nice stone bridge, and will be Wetton Mill will be on the right.
Walk to the buildings, and look out for the footpath sign on one of the walls. Follow the arrow, which will take you around the back of the building and up a hill, along a rugged dirt trail.
Keep going up, to reach the wooden trail signpost on the top.
Walk through the valley again
At the trail sign, turn left to walk down the hill, through the bushes, the wooden gate, and then along a narrow trail surrounded by trees.
At the bottom, turn left to now walk along a wide grass trail through the valley. This whole section is pretty cool. It reminded me a little of Cave Dale, (which you can see here on this Mam Tor route) just a bit less grand.
Walk up the last hill
At the end, go through the wooden gate, and a short way along is a wooden trail signpost pointing right. Follow this, through the gap for thin people, and the up the hill.
You will now have a solid bit of uphill walking. Keep to the trail that runs alongside the wall all the way up. I stopped a few times to ‘look at the view’.
When you reach the small wooden gate, go through it, and continue straight across the next field, towards the trail over the next hill (there is another stile coming up).
Once over the stile, and up the little trail, you will be on a wide grass type trail along the hillside.
When walking along here, you will get one last view over to Thor’s Cave. Or rather, the big hill that it’s in. You can’t see the cave hole from here.
The grass trail will lead you to another wooden gate. Once you are through there, you should see a path straight ahead over the little hill. Head over to that, and though one last gap for thin people.
When you reach the gravel road, turn right to walk back into Wetton.
What happened next
What happened next is so ridiculous, that I have to share it with the world. It cant just stay in my head….
After walking to Thor’s Cave, it was still morning. To get back to my Yorkshire home would be another 1h 45min drive. I didn’t feel ready to go back. I would have the rest of the day there alone. So I had a brilliant idea to do another little walk out here, but a little further along to break up my journey home a bit more.
I decided Castleton would be good. I like it there, and it has a few lovely places to walk. It was about 50min drive from here. Then from Castleton, it would be a bit over an hour back home.
So off I went
By the time I got to Castleton I was not feeling good. I had been up driving since 5am. For a total of around 4.5h now. With both the Thor’s Cave routes combined, I had walked nearly 7 miles. I was exhausted, and that sadness was still with me.
After sitting in the car for about 30min trying to conjure up the motivation to get out and walk, I decided to call it a day and just head back. Driving to Castleton was a waste, but at least it was only about an hour left to drive….
I opened Google Maps, which told me it was not 1h. It was 1.5h. I did not like that, so tried Waze. Waze told me 50min. Much better.
Following Waze, once I had about 20min left of my journey, I realised something was off. Waze was telling me it’s just 20min left to get home, however, I was still very much in the Peak District. Then I recognised something and pulled over immediately.
I had accidentally told Waze to take me back to Thor’s Cave. From my exact location, in either direction, it was now over 2h to get back home.
More walks to try if you like Thor’s Cave
There are a few walks out here that aren’t too tough, which give you lovely gorge vibes.
First I would suggest Padley Gorge. This takes you through a woodland of wonderful, mystical straggly trees. It also has both short and long circular walk options, like with Thor’s Cave, with the longer route giving you the views.
Chee Dale is also lovely. This is another type of gorge, with fun stepping stones. The route I took, also takes you out of the gorge for some views.
Keeping to shorter walks, you could try out Winnats Pass. This route includes Mam Tor, so you get mix of valley gorge vibes and views.
I can’t not mention Lud’s Church. This short route takes you through the woods to reach it, where you will have the most mystical fantasy vibes of all the walks. If you want to do a longer walk with views, you can see it as part of The Roaches.
A cool walk, is this one along the Dragon’s Back. It’s not for the faint hearted though, and involves a precarious scramble. It involves two hills, that look like the a Draqgon’s Back from the side.
If you want to explore other types of walks in the Peak District, including tough ones, you might find something you like on my guide on all the ones I recommend here.
Pin it for later: A guide to two circular routes to walk to Thor’s Cave
For more things to do in the area, you can check out the Visit Peak District Website.