Mam Tor via Winnats Pass

Mam Tor above Winnats Pass

If ever there was a hill in the Peak District National Park that deserved the title of mountain it would be Mam Tor. This iconic mountain's summit was once home to bronze age and iron age settlers who built an impressive hill fort on its summit, the burial grounds and walls of which are still visible. However despite appearing invincible from its summit, when seen from its southern aspect you see Mam Tor's Achilles heal. The mountain is made of unstable layers of gritstone boulders intersected by crumbling loose layers of shale. This unstable environment causes the mountain to move and erode causing landslides. In the late seventies a landslide caused the main A625 road beneath Mam Tor to collapse and buckle. The main road to the Hope Valley now passes through the stunning limestone ravine of the Winnats Pass. This walk takes you right through the incredible story of the aptly named Shivering Mountain. You will start by walking over and looking into the stunning Winnats Pass. After that you will make your way up to the southern face of Mam Tor. Here you will see for yourself the collapsed road and get up close to the fragile south face. The walk will then take you up to Hollins Cross on the Great Ridge then over the summit of the historic Mam Tor before descending back to Mam Nick. This is only a short route but I have rated it as moderate as the descent to Speedwell Cavern is fairly steep and the paths are fairly rough and muddy in places, though often avoidable with road walking alternatives.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts from the National Trust's Mam Nick car park. The car park is situated on Sheffield Road between the A6 at Chapel-en-le-Frith and the Winnats Pass above Castleton at grid reference SK 123 831.
  2. From the car park head east along the main road for around two hundred metres then cross the road to the Windy Knoll footpath. Head south along the path for only a few metres. Before the footpath reaches an old quarry pit turn left and head east again.
  3. This path descends the field and reaches a gate to the road. Head through the gate and cross the road to another gate. Head through the gate and cross the farm field in an east to south east direction to reach the back of Winnats Head farm.
  4. The path crosses a very muddy field as it skirts the wall at the back of the farm. Follow the path round the back of the farm then turn right and head down to a narrow gate in the wall to the Winnats Pass road just beyond the cattle grid.
  5. Cross the road to its south side then start to climb up its steep grassy bank. You will reach a flat area above the road where there is an old quarry cave. Continue the steep ascent beyond this area. It is steep at first but soon you will find yourself above Winnats Pass where there is a defined and flat path.
  6. Follow the path in a south east direction. The path is fairly obvious now, you will have a stone wall on your right and the sheer drops over the cliffs to Winnats Pass on your left.
  7. The views from above Winnats Pass are pretty awesome. This limestone ravine is impressive enough when you drive through it, but standing above looking down into it gives you an appreciation of its size. Cars passing through it look like ants from high above. It is certainly well worth walking out to the edge of the crags at times, though do take care as a fall here could be fatal.
  8. The path follows the natural turn of the ravine and heads north towards Castleton. When you get to the far end the path turns right with the stone wall and heads to Castleton. Here you need to descend a steep grassy hill to reach Speedwell Cavern. If you are uncomfortable on the descent I would recommend zig zagging to make the slope easier.
  9. After descending the steep grassy slope head over to the road at the bottom of the Winnats Pass. At Speedwell Cavern cross the road to pick up the muddy path sign posted to Treak Cliff Cavern. Head north west along this path for half a kilometre to reach Treak Cliff Cavern.
  10. When reach Treak Cliff Cavern keep on the path up to the buildings. Behind the buildings take the path that ascends to Blue John Cavern. The path will ascend to a quiet clough then turn left to reach the top of it. At the top there is a gate. Head through the gate and then head towards the building at Blue John Cavern.
  11. From Blue John Cavern head along the road to reach the parking area. Turn right at the parking area then pass through another parking area, at the end of which the road suddenly ends. The reason the road suddenly ends becomes apparent as you get closer, this is the scene of the collapsed road.
  12. You can safely walk along the collapsed road to reach the Hollins Cross path at the sharp bend. However I would also recommend walking over the grassy area to the left and heading towards Mam Tor's southern face.
  13. You end up in a bowl similar to that of a corrie in the Scottish Highlands, though this hasn't been shaped by glaciers, this bowl has been shaped by modern erosion. You can get right up close to the fragile south face of Mam Tor and see for yourself and even touch the unstable layers of shale and gritstone boulders. Sitting on a boulder admiring the grandeur is a perfect place for lunch.
  14. From the collapsed road or from Mam Tor's southern face head north towards the sharp bend in the collapsed road. Here head north away from the road and start the short steep ascent to Hollins Cross on the Great Ridge above.
  15. When you reach Hollins Cross on the Great Ridge turn left and head west then south west along the wide paved ridge path in the direction of Mam Tor. The views from Hollins Cross are fantastic, it is right in the middle of the Great Ridge and gives views along both directions of the ridge.
  16. The path will rise steadily to Mam Tor's summit. The summit of Mam Tor is surrounded by a complete and extensive ditch and rampart of a historic and grand fort, thought to have been of the late Bronze or early Iron Age. Little is known of the actual dates of the fort or the people who either lived in it or protected it.
  17. It is the second highest such fort in Britain and could well be one of the oldest. The oldest remaining features on the summit are two Bronze Age burial mounds - one is just before the summit, the other is under the actual summit itself where you will also find a stone trig pillar.
  18. To descend from Mam Tor summit head south west down the well laid path to the road. Head south along the road for a few metres then follow a path to the left of the road that heads down steps to the back of the Mam Nick car park.
  19. Before returning home I would highly recommend driving through the stunning Winnats Pass and experiencing the many warm and friendly outdoor shops, cafe's, restaurants and pubs in the picturesque Castleton villages.

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

Mam Tor via Winnats Pass

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.