Day out: The Trinnacle, Greater Manchester

This three-pronged gritstone stack, perched above the hills of Saddleworth Moor, demonstrates the power of Britain’s glacial past

The Trinnacle is a unique three pronged Gritstone Tor on Saddleworth Moor in the Peak National park

Disagreements among academics continue regarding the ending of the last widespread glaciation in Britain, some 14,000 years ago. What’s not in doubt is the remarkable suite of landforms bequeathed by the reversal of this natural deep-freezer in the uplands of Northern England.

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All along the Pennines the effect of ice is evident; from the awesome High Cup Nick near Appleby to the great trenches of Cliviger and Longdendale in the South Pennines.

Raven
Ravens scavenge on the moors ©Getty

The edge of Saddleworth Moor, east of Oldham, is a formidable landscape of deep valleys, shattered cliffs and towering bluffs created by vast ice sheets and erosive glaciers that melted away as the climate warmed. The Tame Valley is at the heart of the area: a canyon excavated by meltwaters surging south from the plateau-top Pennine icefield to flood today’s Manchester basin and Cheshire. 

Above the town of Greenfield, Dove Stone RSPB Nature Reserve – home to peregrine falcons, mountain hares and red grouse – is the ideal place to appreciate the power of this glaciation. To its south is the vast trough of Chew Valley; over-deepened and whittled by the river of ice. In the valley, the hauntingly beautiful serrated edges at Wimberry Stones stand high above Dove Stone Reservoir, on the very edge of the Peak District National Park.

Peregrine falcon ©Alamy
Peregrine falcon brave the cold climes of the Pennines ©Alamy

The line of stone edges strikes north as Dove Stone Rocks; splintered cliffs and gullies where ravens and peregrines scavenge and hunt above lakes secluded in the gouge of Greenfield Brook. Here at Raven Stones Brow, spectacular crags challenge climbers, none more so than the unique, three-pronged Trinnacle, a monolith that wouldn’t seem out of place in the iconic Monument Valley in Utah, USA.

Splintered cliffs and gullies where ravens and peregrines scavenge and hunt

To the trinnacle 

The soaring, isolated skyscraper of stone we see today – fractured from the main ice-sculpted cliff after millennia of frost-shattering and weathering – is the star turn in a series of sheer, eye-catching formations. Getting the best view involves a vigorous seven-mile circular walk. 

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Head into Chew Valley from Dove Stone dam before veering left uphill. The path then runs along the crimped edge framing the reservoirs to pass above the detached pillar of The Trinnacle. Advance into the nearby waterfall-strewn Birchen Clough and then beside the reservoirs to complete this challenging loop walk through magnificent glacier-honed countryside.