This walk in the Peak District takes you on a short circular route up to Mam Tor, and through Winnats Pass. You will go from grand views into the valleys and across the hills, to deep gorge vibes.
I knew I wanted to walk Winnats Pass, however, I wasn’t sure it would actually be that great going through it, seeing as the trail is right next to the road. Plus, having driven through Winnats Pass a few times now, I wondered if it would be actually be any better walking it.
I also decided to walk through it, as opposed to along the ridge above it, as I had read that it’s pretty hairy up there. After my Parkhouse Hill* experience, I wasn’t ready to face death again.
*A couple of days earlier, I had attempted Parkhouse Hill after fresh rain, and thought I might die.
I also chose to keep this walk short, as I only had a couple of hours to spare before needing to leave for Newcastle for a wedding.
In this guide, I’m going to tell you a bit about what to expect on the walk through Winnats Pass, with full logistics, a map, tips, and a full description of the circular route, with photos.
Is the walk through Winnats Pass any good?
I have to say, I actually quite enjoyed it. You definitely get a better feel for the grandeur of Winnats Pass by walking it, as opposed to driving. Saying that, I do think Cave Dale is better, which is just over the other side of the hill. Both have a cavernous gorge vibe to them, except, Cave Dale isn’t next to the road.
If you want to see what Cave Dale is like, and a map of where it is, you can find that on my guide on the Mam Tor Great Ridge walk here.
If you like gorges, then I highly recommend making a trip over to Lud’s Church. It’s a moss covered chasm, deep in the woods. It’s a short route, but you can make it longer by including the Roaches. Another two for the price of one kind of walk.
When I describe the Winnats Pass route below, I will show you which way too turn if you do want to walk to Cave Dale.
BTW, I’m not discouraging you walking to Winnats Pass, it’s still pretty cool. But please go check out Cave Dale at some point.
Another cool place in the Peak District is Thor’s Cave. This circular walk takes you right into it, and then through the Manifold Valley.
Read more: All the best walks I recommend in the area
What to expect on this Winnats Pass Walk
The walk to Winnats Pass starts off up a steep hill to reach Mam Tor, where you will get fantastic views all around of the Peak District National Park.
From there, it’s a bit of field walking, amongst the sheep, before descending through the magnificent Winnats Pass. The loop then finishes next to the Treak Cliff Cavern, if you want to explore some caves.
Although the walk is short, that first hill climb is a lung buster. After this, it’s downhill for the rest of the walk around and through Winnats Pass.
I usually prefer longer walks, but this one is perfect if you are short on time, or don’t fancy a big walk, and you want to get in two big sights in the Peak District.
Another great walk, that isn’t too long, is this route through Padley Gorge. After walking through the gorge, you will walk up high for a fantastic view all around.
What is Winnats Pass?
It is a limestone gorge, with a road running through the middle of it.
Fun Fact: It was once under tropical sea, and the limestone is full of fossilised sea creatures. Because of this, it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
It is one of the entrances to Castleton and the Hope Valley, and is a bit of a wind tunnel, which is where the name Winnats comes from. ‘Windy gates’.
If you want more limestone gorge goodness, then check out this route through Chee Dale. It has fun stepping stones, is family friendly, and isn’t too tough (apart from the slippy rocks).
Where to park to walk through Winnats Pass
You have a number of options for parking, some paid and some free. For this walk, you park on Old Mam Tor road. It’s a long side road, and most of it has free parking. Try to park near the end of it, to get you straight onto the trail.
It’s a great place to start this walk, as it leads you straight to the trail leading up to Mam Tor, and is a short distance to reach Winnats Pass. So you simply just want to walk Winnats Pass without the other stuff, then it’s close enough. Plus it’s free. Always a win.
Alternatively, just at the bottom of Winnats Pass, on the main road, there is a pay carpark. Or further uphill along the main road, there are a couple of places to park near Mam Tor.
- Start/Finish: Old Mam Tor Road (try to park near the end of the road). Peak District, Derbyshire.
- How to get there: If coming from Castleton, turn right off the main road just before you reach Winnats Pass. If coming from the other direction, after driving through Winnats Pass, it’s the first left after the main car park.
- Distance: 3.5miles circular
- Time: 1h 30min
- Difficulty: Challenging start, then easy the rest of the way
- Time of year: I did this in Autumn
- Amenities: Nothing along the route. Castleton is just around the corner which has various food establishments (cafes/tea rooms/pubs/restaurants and fudge), public toilets, and more car parking.
- Dog friendly: There is lots of wild stock around. No stiles. Signs about saying your dog will be shot if found amongst the sheep. Don’t panic, just make sure your dog is on a lead.
Tips for the Winnats Pass Walk
- If you have come with a car, start where I started. It’s free parking and you get the monster hill out of the way first.
- Take a windproof jacket. It can get really windy up at Mam Tor, and through Winnats Pass.
- Walk in the same direction I did, anticlockwise. The way up to Mam Tor is steep in parts, and can be slippy if it’s been raining…which is most of the time. It will be easier to walk up it, rather than down.
- After the walk, pop into Castleton just down the road, for a good pub lunch.
- The walk is short, so you can tie it in with some cave exploring at the Treak Cliff Cavern at the end.
- If you can avoid it, don’t do this walk on a weekend. Mam Tor is super popular, so can be crowded. Plus the road through Winnats Pass will be more car heavy.
- If you really don’t like the idea of the road noise through Winnats Pass, takes some headphones and listen to bird sounds for this bit…or wind noise for accuracy.
- Don’t make the mistake I did. Takes some layers off for the first hill climb, then layer up once you get to the top.
- For the start of the walk, feel free to freestyle. You are basically walking from the bottom to the top of the hill, and there are a number of trails up. You will see what I mean when you are there.
Map for the Winnats Pass circular walk route in the Peak District
You can find my more detailed walk route map for Winnats Pass on AllTrails.
A Guide To The Winnats Pass Walk in the Peak District
Starting on Old Mam Tor road, walk to the end where you will see a cave to your left. I didn’t have a look in it, because that’s where spiders live, but feel free to go check it out. After the cave, continue up the road and through the gate.
It’s a short bit of road walking once through the gate, but to mix it up, you can go through a gate onto a dirt trail, a little further up to the left.
I you decided to stay on the road, keep going and I will meet you in a minute. If you took this dirt trail, when you reach the road again, you have a number of options….
Straight up you can see the tip of the hill which is the Mam Tor viewpoint. This is where you are heading. You should be able to see some grassy trails going straight up. It’s very steep though. I considered it, however chickened out, on account it had been raining that morning, so would have been quite slippy. The easier way up, is to turn right on the road, then just past the corner, you should see a a wooden gate on the left leading to a friendlier trail.
You will also reach this gate if you stayed on the road at the start.
Walk up to the Great Ridge
From here, make you way up to the top. Again, there will be a few trail options, so you can pick and choose at will.
I stayed on the big grassy trail, as it lead up then curved to the left, then right, at which point the trail becomes more dirt like and rugged.
At the junction, I took a right to reach a wooden gate. If you look up, you will see some of the hills along the Great Ridge. This walk doesn’t take you along them, but you can see what that part of the Great Ridge is like on my Mam Tor walk guide.
From the wooden gate, you can go through it and continue along the trail up to the top. I opted to instead take the trail straight up (without going through the gate). It’s steep, but not scary looking steep like the grassy trail to the top from earlier.
Once you reach the top, you will be on a stone paved trail which is the Great Ridge. From here, turn left.
The Great Ridge to Mam Tor Viewpoint
Continue along the Great Ridge, and you will reach the viewpoint top. It’s a cool walk along here, with great views down both sides of the ridge into the valleys.
I must also say, I was super sweaty at this point, after walking up the hill. I was feeling particularly gross as I hadn’t washed in a few days. That’s van life for you. I really want to de-layer, but now that I was on the ridge, it didn’t seem wise, as this is where the cold and wind can attack….
And that it did. I was safe at first, but a little into the ridge walk, the wind god arrived in full force. I really should have walked up that hill without all my layers on, and put them on up at the top. My mistake meant I had to live with the sweaty grossness until I got to Newcastle later.
One thing I found fascinating on the walk along here and up the Mam Tor viewpoint, is knowing that nearby is the magnificent gorge of Winnats Pass. You can see the gorge like opening in the hills where it’s located. Like a little surprise just waiting hidden for you.
Start the descent to walk to Winnats Pass
Now you walk to Winnats Pass. After the top, follow the paved trail downhill. You will have a lovely view to the bumpy hills ahead.
When you reach the road, the trail takes you left. At the next corner, instead of following the road to the right, continue straight through the gates and into the field.
Once in the field, you need to stay straight on the obvious wide grassy trail, to reach the stone wall and gate on the other side.I mistakingly didn’t do this and turned left, which meant I had to do an unnecessary loop to get back to the gate on the wall. If you are following my Winnats pass route map, then please ignore the loop at this point, and stay straight.
I have to say though, I ended up not being too mad that I got this wrong, as once I looped back, I saw some cows on the bit I was supposed to walk. If you don’t know me, I will tell you that I have a phobia of cows in fields. Google ‘killer cows’ and you will see.
Walk across the fields
Once through the gate, cross the road and go through the gate just opposite, leading you into the next field. Continue along the trail, then turn left at the cave.
– To see Cave Dale instead, this is where you would continue straight, instead if turning left at the cave. It is a little bit of a walk, with some trail junctions, so best look at my map for Mam Tor to see the trail directions from here –
After turning left at the cave, keep going to reach the gate and road again. Cross the road, and go through the gate into the next field. Yes there are a few road crossings, but they aren’t bad at all.
Walk across the field, and through another gate, where you now walk with a stone wall to your right. If you stay walking alongside this wall, you will be lead to Winnats Pass.
Walk through Winnats Pass
Along the stone wall, continue past (not through) the gate. There is a small section here which is quite rocky as you squeeze through the gap. Through the gap, the trail is grassy again, and this will lead you to another gate in the wall. This one you go through.
The next section of the trail route is next to the road, as you walk down and through Winnats Pass. As I mentioned earlier, I got a much better sense of the grandeur of it compared to driving through in the car.
The walk down through Winnats Pass can be a little slippy in parts, if it’s been raining. I did have a couple of slippages, nearer the top. It’s was also very windy through here. Like a wind vortex.
Things did calm down though, near the bottom. Both the wind and strangely, the cars.
Now that there were randomly no cars, and the wind had stopped, it was sort of magical. Standing below the deep jagged hill sides, looking straight ahead to the light shining down beyond Winnats Pass.
Walk from Winnats Pass back to the start (or the Treak Cliff Cavern)
Near the bottom, to the left you should see a small cave up the hill. My map told me this is called suicide Cave. I haven’t looked much more into it. I’m not sure that I want to.
You can also a see a small trail going up the side of the hill. I stood there for a moment considering it, however, I didn’t know what was up there and was a little scared, after my Parkhouse Hill experience (I will write about that at some point). So I stayed walking alongside the road.
Just past the car park, there is a trail gate and sign to the left. Walk along here, on a dirt and grass trail, then through the next little gate. Now you just keep going, and the trail will lead you to the path leading up to the Treak Cliff Cavern.
Once on the path leading to the Treak Cliff Cavern, to get back to your car, turn right in the path and you will reach the road you will be parked on (if you started the walk from here).