Bleaklow from Old Glossop

Wain Stones on Bleaklow

Bleaklow is a wild and desolate plateau in the Dark Peak. Never ending peat hags and groughs create an often unwelcoming environment but it can also be a beautiful and peaceful place if you walk it on the right day. Clear winter days when the ground is frozen or warm summers days when the ground is tinder dry. Those who enjoy the wilder places on their own will thrive on Bleaklow. The gritstone tors of the Wain Stones and Hern Stones provide not only something to see but are also great navigational tools. The wreckage of the B-29 Boing Superfortress on Higher Shelf Stones is another fascinating and thought provoking feature. This walk is not the longest in the Peak District but is by far one of the hardest due to the pathless, wild and often unforgiving terrain. Navigation skills, map and compass are all vital, as are knowing how to use them. Despite the dark reputation of Bleaklow, it is a unique place that can provide a very different and satisfying days walk, but care and preparations are vital in bad or changeable weather.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts from the end of Shepley Street in Old Glossop at grid reference SK 999 999. To get there follow the A57 out of Glossop towards the Snake Pass. Just before you leave the town and after a small roundabout there is a road on the left called Manor Park Road that is sign posted to Old Glossop and Manor Park. After about half a mile there is a road on the right called Shepley Street, if you continue to the end of this road you'll get to a turning place, parking is allowed here although do bear in mind to stay as far over towards the stream side as possible so lorries can turn in the turning area.
  2. Follow the rough track that is a continuation of the road and follows the banks of the brook. You will pass a few buildings and a farm on the left. After about a kilometre you will reach a stile over the stone wall on the left hand side of the track.
  3. Go over this stile and then turn right following the path uphill for the start of the ascent of the Lightside ridge. The path is very obvious at first and is also steep in places but the terrain itself is easy going underfoot. The terrain as you ascend Lightside will change from grass fields to heather moorland.
  4. When you reach the top of the Lightside ridge the path starts to disappears in places. There is an olf fence line that you can follow. Don't go too far off to the left, instead keep the cliffs above the Yellow Slacks valley close by on your right. Though obviously in bad weather don't get too close to the edge.
  5. After walking along the path for about a kilometre the path heads East towards the top of the Yellow Slacks valley where the Yellowslacks Brook falls from Dowstone Clough into the valley, underneath a famous outcrop called Dog Rock.
  6. The path now follows the left side of Yellowslacks Brook for about a kilometre passing the splendid waterfalls and then disappears into the quagmire of peat hags and groughs and things start to get seriously boggy.
  7. The best thing to do at this point is to climb one of the peat hags and look for the Hern Stones, so you know the general direction you should now be heading. To reach the Hern Stones keep following the stream as it takes you close to the stones. The Hern Stones are around a kilometre East to South East of the Yellowslacks Brook waterfalls.
  8. The Hern Stones are a great place to rest and assess your next move to reach the Wain Stones and Bleaklow Head. On a clear day standing on the Hern Stones and looking directly north you should be able to make out just six hundred metres away, the wooden post at Bleaklow Head and the Wain Stones.
  9. To reach the Wain Stones and Bleaklow Head, from the Hern Stones head north for six hundred metres. This may sound simple but in this boggy terrain of peat hags and groughs it is extremely easy to end up changing direction without realising it. If you are with others it may be beneficial to use the leap frogging navigation technique where one goes ahead to a high point you can see on the line of direction, then the other catches up and passes them to the next high point in view in the line of direction.
  10. If you don't feel comfortable navigating across the bogs you can instead head east from Hern Stones for around two hundred metres and pick up the more obvious Pennine Way path. When you reach it follow it north for six hundred metres to reach Bleaklow Head.
  11. From Bleaklow Head the next objective is the summit of Higher Shelf Stones. Follow the Pennine Way path south for a kilometre. Now head west for seven hundred metres, ascending the slope to reach the summit of Higher Shelf Stones.
  12. The first thing you will reach as you approach the summit area of Higher Shelf Stones is the wreckage of the US Air Forces Boeing B-29 Superfortress 'Overexposed'. This is probably the biggest plane wreckage site in the Peak District. The vast area and amount of debris shows you just how huge the aircraft was. Next to the wreckage is a memorial plaque that reads..

    "IN MEMORY Here lies the wreckage of B-29 Superfortress "Overexposed" of the 16th. photographic reconnaissance squadron USAF which tragically crashed whilst descending through cloud on 3rd November 1948 killing all 13 crew members. The aircraft was on a routine flight from RAF Scampton to American AFB Burtonwood. It is doubtful the crew ever saw the ground."

  13. Once you have taken in the atmosphere at the wreckage head west then south west for only twenty metres to reach the Ordnance Survey trig pillar at the 612M high summit of Higher Shelf Stones.
  14. From Higher Shelf Stones retrace your steps north east then east for twenty metres back to the wreckage site. From the wreckage retrace your steps east for seven hundred metres to rejoin the Pennine Way.
  15. Head south along the Pennine Way. The path climbs away from the top of Hern Clough then descends the Devil's Dyke above Crooked Clough. After a kilometre the path reaches the top of the Doctor's Gate path at Old Woman.
  16. Turn right down the Doctor's Gate path. The rocky path follows Shelf Brook and descends through the winding Doctor's Gate valley below Higher Shelf Stones. This is a great place to be at the end of a summers day as the sun settles in the north west and shines into the valley.
  17. The path gets boggy towards the end of the valley and then turns into a track near a farm building. Follow the track for five hundred metres to reach a junction of tracks by Mossy Lea Farm.
  18. Here turn right and head along the track in a north west direction for just under a kilometre to reach the stile you crossed earlier in the day. Retrace your steps west along the track back to Old Glossop and the start of the walk.
  19. For refreshments after the walk Glossop has an abundance of excellent local pubs with wholesome food and locally brewed ales. Some pubs even sell the aptly named Bleaklow that is brewed by the local Howard Town brewery.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer OL1 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 110 Map Click to buy Collins Ramblers Guide Peak District Click to buy Pathfinder Guides Peak District

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.