Stanage Edge is for me the king of the Derbyshire gritstone edges. It has a presence unlike any of the other parts of the Derbyshire Peak District towering above the Hope Valley near Hathersage. It is an almost unbroken four mile line of exposed gritstone cliff that stretches from Moscar Moor and runs south east to Cowper Stone at Burbage End. It has something for everyone - great walking, some of the best climbing (over 850 recognised routes) and bouldering in Britain, fantastic and far reaching views down the Derwent Valley, easy access by road (so no long climbs to the top from Hathersage in the valley below), lots of natural history to see and so on. But with magnificence and relatively easy access comes popularity. On a good weekend, when the weather is mild, not raining and there's no major football match, cars are parked along every stretch of road and there's so many people climbing that the cacophony of carabiners is the only sound you will hear! But find a day when you can be on your own or in relatively small numbers the area is just sublime.
(2007-1001582) Stanage Edge from Sheepwash Bank
(2008-1000131) Ideal for climbing... April 2007
In his 1946 book "The Backbone of England", W.A Poucher describes the gritstone Edges as being "like the long broken battlements of an old fortress", a description that I think paints an excellent picture. He continues:
"...and Stanage Edge is probably the most beautiful of them all. Here the moorland plateau suddenly ends and a line of supporting precipitous gritstone cliffs, up to 100 feet high, separates it from the first declivities of the valley which sink down gently to the woods fringing the river that threads its floor."
I couldn't find better prose to describe Stanage.
Whilst it can indeed be a busy area, quieter moments can be enjoyed. The further north the fewer climbers and people visitng for a stroll. At the southern end near Burbage End cars can be parked on the road or in the nearby car park leaving a short walk to the Edge itself. At this end cars are almost at the full height of the rocks so very little effort is needed to access the Edge. The more casual visitors tend to congregate at this end. There are several further car parks but all require a short climb to the Edge and tend to be used by climbers and walkers. Once you get to High Neb (the highest point on Stanage at 458m) and further north the area gets much quieter.
There are plenty of remains of earlier industry and activities all along the escarpment and below on the moors. Abandoned millstones, some clearly close to completion, litter the moors immediately below the cliff. These are more concentrated near Burbage End and near High Neb. There are also the numbered drinking wells carved into the gritstone along the ridge at the behest of gamekeepers. These were to allow grouse to drink rainwater.
What can be said about the views? From almost anywhere on the ridge, the views are just great. At the northern end you can see over Winhill, Lose Hill and the Great Ridge to Mam Tor and Kinder Scout. In the middle you can look down into the Hope Valley and Hathersage, and at the southern end the view down the Derwent Valley to Chatsworth is great. Do be aware, though, that the view from the top over the other side is of moorland that gradually drops away with very little in the way of feature until Sheffield is reached!
The valley below can be quite hazy and the views not as clear as would be liked, but early morning mist or low clouds can be very dramatic. Evening is normaly the best time as the sun sets across the valley and lights up the rock faces beautifully. This is definitely the best time for photography!
Access and Walking
Stanage Edge provides a great choice of walking. You can start at either end and walk to the opposite end and back again. You can start in the middle and do a round trip, or you can combine this with a longer walk that touches other parts, equally worthy of a visit!
There is car parking at either end of Stanage Edge - lots at the southern end along the roadside or near Upper Burbage Bridge. This is closest to the top of the edge and makes for a very easy walk indeed up to the escarpment itself with little climbing or ascent involved. The parking elsewhere requires a good bit of ascent to get to the edge, but nothing too dramatic. The other car parks are at Hooks Carr, Stanage Plantation and Dennis Knoll. The car park at Dennis Knoll is very small and will only cater for a few cars, just as well as this end of the Edge tends to be the quietest. Do be aware, that Stanage does get very busy on warm, dry weekends and during the summer months. On several occasions there have been so many cars along the roadside that it is all but impossible to find a place to park so have gone elsewhere. Early morning is great and much quieter. Evening can also be good but there will inevitably be a good few cars and many cameras and tripods waiting for the sun to set!
A good, relatively easy walk is to walk the length of Stanage Edge and back again. The views are very good but do ensure you take appropriate footwear and clothing. The rocks can be slippy when very wet and there's often mud to walk through! Even if it is warm in the valley, there can be a good breeze as you walk along the edge that can make it feel chilly. And in common with anywhere in the Peak District it can start to rain!
A great alternative walk that takes in Stanage Edge is to walk up from Hathersage to Dennis Knoll, up to High Neb and along Stanage Edge. Keep going to Upper Burbage Bridge and then there's a difficult choice. One option is to walk up and over Higger Tor and Carl Wark . A second option is to walk round and along Burbage rocks. A third option is to walk along the footpath that goes between both of these and through the middle of the valley. All three options end at Burbage Bridge from where it is a short walk to get to the National Trust Longshaw Estate or the Fox House Inn. Then there's another choice - walk down to Grindleford via Padley Gorge or down the fields (via Owler Tor and Surprise View) and road back to Hathersage.
Maps and Guides
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL1 - The Peak District Dark Peak Area