Spring brings hope and renewal. New shoots burst through warmed earth; days fill with light. The Hope Pilgrimage offers a three-day, 30-mile hike from Edale’s garden-of-Eden beauty to the now-thriving ‘plague village’ of Eyam, taking in Hope Valley.
Climb to high places and ramble through villages of caramel stone and jitties (narrow passages). Find peace and tranquillity in historic churches and rest up in elegant country houses, now converted to affordable youth hostels.
Hope Pilgrimage walk
31.7 miles/51km | three days | challenging
1. Edale to Losehill Hall
From Edale YHA, where hillside waterfalls and springs tumble to Lady Booth Brook, skirt the base of Kinder Massif to Edale village. Enjoy the stillness of the Holy and Undivided Trinity Church before crossing the valley to ascend the Great Ridge via Hollins Cross. Here, coffin bearers carried the dead to Hope before Edale had its own church, in 1863.
Climb to the summit of Mam Tor and drink in the views of Hope Valley; you might see brightly coloured hang gliders catching thermal uplifts. Drop down through limestone terrain littered with cave systems and show caverns to Castleton. Listen for the skylark and look for the ring ouzel – the ‘mountain blackbird’ on the way. Explore Castleton with its Blue John jewellery shops and cosy cafés and feel gratitude in St Edmund’s Church after completing a challenging seven miles. Spend the night at YHA Losehill Hall.
2. Losehill Hall to Hathersage
From Castleton, head to Bradwell via Pindale. Samuel Fox, inventor of the collapsible ‘Paragon’ umbrella frame, helped pay for Bradwell’s Grade II-listed St Barnabas Church. Breathe in its beauty before climbing Win Hill, then tumble down to Ladybower Reservoir. Walk through forest edging the River Derwent to reach the village of Bamford. Community-owned café The Angler’s Rest provides food for the body while St John the Baptist Church offers spiritual nourishment.
Ascend to Stanage Edge, its ditches and country lanes splashed with wildflowers. Stanedge Pole marks the boundary between the ancient kingdoms of Mercia and Northumberland. Next, tackle the flat-topped Higger Tor thrusting out of the moorland like an altar to the gods.
Drop down to Hathersage’s St Michael’s Church, with its funny gargoyles and the headstone of Robin Hood’s friend Little John. Recover at YHA Hathersage after a gruelling but rewarding 19 miles.
3. Hathersage to Eyam
Half the distance of the previous day, this stage should feel like an easier jaunt. A stiff climb leads to Eyam Moor and Sir William Hill (429 metres) with views back to Kinder, Great Ridge, Win Hill, Higger Tor and Ladybower Reservoir.
From the summit it’s an easy descent off the moors directly to Eyam Church. Inside, a book lists those who died in the 1665–1666 plague. A modern stained-glass window visually tells the story: how flea-ridden cloth carried the plague from London; how the village isolated itself to stop its spread, and how, after two dark winters and many deaths, the plague died out. YHA Eyam can be found just north of the village.
Likewise, the hope of spring arises out of winter darkness, promising rebirth and brighter days ahead.
Hope Pilgrimage map
Helen is the author of Slow Travel The Peak District, Bradt and A Time of Birds, Saraband, a memoir and travelogue describing her journey across Europe to Istanbul on her sit-up-and-beg bike.