Seen from a distance, there’s something of a fairy tale quality to Peveril Castle – an imposing grey tower, perched atop a rocky outcrop, looking out on the dramatic valley and peaks surrounding it. No sleeping princesses await those who pass this way, but the views from this Norman ruin do reward the brave and bold – or merely curious.
The castle is a more welcoming place today than in 1075, when William Peverel, one of William the Conqueror’s trusted knights, founded the castle to consolidate his power in the region. King Henry II added the keep in 1176, as Peveril became a strategic regional stronghold, and it is this building that stands proud above the Hope Valley today.
The aptly named town of Castleton grew up around the castle, and survived as the commercial centre for the valley after the 15th century, when the castle began to fall into decline. As in its early years, the town continues to thrive as a trading centre, although now as a hub for tourists, rather than the medieval craftsmen it once supported.
Perched on a peak
The small castle visitor centre is worth a visit to see some of the archaeological finds from the peak. From there, a steep path winds back and forth across the hillside – the easiest natural approach to the fortress, which has almost sheer drops on two sides. Take a moment to pause as you climb to get a sense of the strategic position.
At the summit, you are welcomed by the remains of the castle’s once-impressive east gate. To the right, little remains of the curtain wall, and instead you get a striking view across the valley to the steep hills of the Great Ridge. The western edge of this is dominated by the huge bulk of Mam Tor, once a Bronze Age hillfort and now popular with hang gliders, paragliders and walkers heading along the ridge to Back Tor and Lose Hill, both visible on a clear day. Castleton is below you, and with sharp eyes you might be able to spot the original village layout, including medieval bank and ditch.
Within the ruins, stone footings give a clear idea of the location of castle buildings, and a gateway at the base of the keep provides evidence of a bridge that once spanned the ravine to the rocky crag beyond. Visitors with a head for heights may enjoy peering down at the ant-sized walkers setting off through the steep sided confines of Cave Dale far below. The last few steps take you into the Norman keep itself, where elevated walkways have replaced the original floor, leading you into rooms within the walls – and more spectacular views.
Exploration complete, there is plenty of open space to find a quiet spot to sit and relax with a picnic, gazing out at the dramatic landscape as knights of old might once have done.
HOW TO GET THERE
Castleton is 15 miles West of Sheffield, on the A6187. Trains run to Hope, 2.5 miles away.
FIND OUT MORE
Market Place, Castleton
Open 10am-4pm at Saturday and Sunday until 31 March, then 10am-4pm daily from 1 April. Adults £4.60, children £2.80, concession £4.10, family £12.
Yorkshire Bridge Inn
Ashopton Road, Bamford
A warm welcome awaits at this popular inn, serving seasonal menus based on locally sourced ingredients.
Lose Hill Lane, Hope
Tucked away along a leafy lane, this secluded hotel and spa is the perfect spot for walkers to rest weary legs.
Castle Street, Bolsover
Another of King Henry II’s castle projects, Bolsover was later developed into a veritable pleasure palace, perched above the Vale of Scarsdale.