In August 2023, I dragged my long-suffering wife, Jo, on a seven-day walking holiday in the Peak District. To be fair, she did not need that much dragging as she loves walking and has her own memories of previous visits to the Peak District.
Inspired by Earlier Youth Hostelling Trips
For me, this trip was inspired by previous youth hostelling trips in the Peak District in the sixties and seventies. I made at least three such trips with my late father, Royle Drew. Two of these, in 1968 and 1969, also involved my sister, Tricia, see Chapter 92, while one, in 1970, involved my brother, Alan, see Chapter 106. I also made a youth hostelling trip with two school friends, Gary Wood and Simon Lefevre in May 1975. In addition, I went on my own on a similar trip in August 1976. I have my diary entries for the 1976 trip but, apart from that, I have no other records except for very brief entries in mum’s and grandad’s diaries. I don’t have any photos but I have since collected various items of relevance to youth hostelling, in general, and youth hostels in the Peak District, in particular.
Staying at Youth Hostels in Cornwall
As a family, we also stayed in youth hostels on a trip to Cornwall in 1972, see Chapter 106.
I do have mum’s notes and scrapbook of this trip although these are somewhat impersonal as mum does not specifically mention other family members. I do not count this holiday among those that inspired the recent trip.
Perhaps, most obviously, this is because the trip was not to the Peak District. But, also we did not walk from hostel to hostel. Rather, we drove between hostels and I recall this being a bone of contention between my parents. Dad had always drilled it into us that you had to get between hostels under your own steam and, indeed, this was a rule for using youth hostels until at least the 1960s. In addition, mum had a much more structured approach to planning the holiday, in general, and meal-times, in particular, as compared to dad’s somewhat chaotic approach, see Chapter 92. I recall there being a lot of conflict. Mum noted that we came home one day earlier than planned. Within a year, mum and dad had split up, see Chapter 99.
Principles and Rules
I guess in planning this trip, I followed several principles or rules.
The previous trips mentioned were in the so-called White Peak area of the Peak District so this is the area we went back to. I confess to having a bit of an irrational fear of the Dark Peak, in general, and Kinder Scout, in particular. I blame my father for this! He talked about Kinder Scout a lot but in a way which was quite intimidating, i.e. if you went there, there was a serious risk of getting lost or being shot and not coming back!
There were certain places I wanted to include, such as Eyam, Castleton and Edale. I did not really have specific routes in mind with the exception of the route from Castleton to Edale over Hollins Cross which I wanted to include. I had walked from Eyam to Castleton in 1976 so was interested in following a similar route if possible.
Where possible, we stayed in youth hostels. However, this only made sense where the youth hostel was one in which I had stayed previously. So, in the case where a youth hostel was now in a new location, e.g. Castleton, I did not have any strong desire to stay there, particularly, as the place where we did stay in Castleton, Haddock’s Hideaway, is part of the former youth hostel. Of the five places we stayed, two were current youth hostels, Ravenstor and Edale. Two were former youth hostels, Castleton and Sleep Lodge in Bakewell. The other, Innisfree Cottage B&B in Eyam had no specific connection to youth hostelling.
A key difference from more recent holidays we had taken was that I was committed to carrying our stuff from A to B rather than basing ourselves at one place and doing circular walks then driving to another place and doing the same. This was probably the part of the trip over which I had most anxiety ahead of time! But, it was fine although I think we probably both agreed that, despite our attempts to minimise what we had with us, we could probably have taken less.
One difference with my recollections of earlier holidays was that we did not see many other backpackers. We did see a lot of walkers but most only had small rucksacks or day sacks. In fact, the only people we saw truly backpacking in the White Peak area were groups of Scouts or young people doing Duke of Edinburgh awards. We did see a few others in the Dark Peak area but the sort of holiday I took with dad in the sixties or on my own or in friends in the seventies would seem to be uncommon now.
We did have to make some adaptations from those previous trips.
Shorter Time Frame
We only had a week whereas I think those earlier trips tended to be longer, say 9-14 days. For this reason, the route we took had to be scaled back quite a bit.
I have put together the 1968 route, see Chapter 92, largely from memory. All I got from the diaries was the dates of when we started in Ilam and finished in Matlock. I recalled the starting and ending points anyway. I think our route was Ilam to Hartington to Buxton to Ravenstor to Castleton to Edale to Leam Hall to Bakewell to Matlock.
In many ways, the 1976 route was similar. I started and finished in the same places, Ilam and Matlock. But, I was only booking hostels a day or two before so, on occasions, I had to make adjustments, for example, not going to Edale as it was only taking people who had pre-booked. I also stayed more than one night in some places, something we also did on the 2023 trip. In 1976, I started in Ilam and went to Hartington as we had in 1968. But from there, I went to Ravenstor rather than to Buxton. I spent two nights at Ravenstor. From there, I went to Eyam. The youth hostel there had not been open in 1968. From there, I went to Castleton where I spent three nights before going on to Hathersage. I then went back to Eyam and Hartington before finishing off in Matlock.
For the 2023 trip, we started in Buxton and went to Ravenstor. From there, we went to Bakewell, then to Eyam and then to Castleton, where we spent two nights. Finally, we walked from Castleton to Edale.
63 not 16
I also made some concessions to the fact that I was now 63 and not 16! These concessions included keeping each day’s walking relatively short as I was not sure how we would manage carrying our bags. Also, we opted to have a private room at our overnight stops figuring that our days of dormitory sleeping were over!
In planning the trip, I came across my 1976 kit list in the back of one of my diaries.
A Cape and an Anorak
I am not entirely sure what the cape was but I think it was a long waterproof affair. I vaguely recall my dad having one on our walking trip and presumably this is what inspired me. Anyway, I did not take one in 2023 but we did take waterproof jackets, which we no longer call anoraks even thought they are similar! Neither of us took waterproof trousers as we have a love-hate relationship with them! We did both have waterproof covers for our rucksack and we packed everything in our rucksacks inside plastic bags which I think my dad had taught me to do.
A Handkerchief, Vest and Swimming Trunks
I am not entirely sure who puts a handkerchief on such a list but I suspect this was my mother’s influence as was probably the vest! Also, I am not sure where I expected to be able to swim. I did not take a handkerchief, a vest or swimming trunks in 2023!
Sheet Sleeping Bag
Mention of these brings back lots of memories, see Chapter 92. As stated in the 1968 YHA Handbook, it was mandatory at that time to use such a bag to protect the blankets and pillows provided. I am not sure if mum was inspired by YHA or came to this conclusion herself. But, she decided that these would also be good to protect sleeping bags. This meant that I was required to use one with my sleeping bag when I went on school camping trips. While it might seem sensible, to protect the main sleeping bag, I was the only one required to do this which was not a comfortable position to be in!
Anyway, there was no mention of sheet sleeping bags in 2023 and we did not take them. We did not take a groundsheet either. I am not sure what this was for in 1976 as I was not camping!
Of course boots were essential both then and now. For the 2023 trip, I had a pair of boots that were already a few years old. The good side of them is that they are very comfortable. The down side is that they leak badly! This was not particularly an issue on this trip but I probably do need new boots! Jo had relatively new boots and she suffered to some extent with blisters. Thankfully, another of the items I had carried was a first aid kit which proved useful.
The only other shoes I took in 2023 were a pair of canvas shoes which I could wear inside and for walking in and around towns. So, no trainers!
Now, as then, youth hostels do not supply towels but they advertise that you can rent them. As we were only staying in current youth hostels for two nights, and in an attempt to minimise weight carried, we decided not to carry towels.
In 2023, we did carry two O/S Explorer maps with us. We needed two as, while most of our route was on the White Peak map, Castleton and Edale were on the Dark Peak map. Part way through the trip, I was advised by friends, to download the Outdooractive software which I did. This meant we used the maps less. It shows footpaths and where you are. It is also easier to consult on a windy hillside than a map especially if you have forgotten your plastic map holder!
Of course, one thing we had in 2023 which we did not have in the sixties and seventies was our mobile phones. However, I am still not sure if I would make such a trip without a paper map. It is something that has been drilled into me! I also had an old compass and whistle with me! At one point, we did try to use the compass to orientate the map but found that it was not working properly! I am not sure why but it does not seem to point north consistently.
YHA Card and Handbook
Then, in order to use youth hostels, you had to be a member. You had a membership card. When you arrived, the warden stamped your card. Now, you don’t have to be a member to stay but, if you are, you pay a discounted rate. While you don’t have to be a member, you do have to show photographic ID to stay at a YHA hostel.
Along with boots, a rucksack is perhaps the most important piece of equipment for a trip of this nature. I think I recall the rucksack I had for the 1976 trip as a green Karrimor bag with aluminium frame. I know I had such a bag and used it a lot when I was at university from 1978 to 1983, taking it to India for my medical elective in 1981.
Also, I remember the type of bag I had for the trips I made with dad. Naturally, it was much smaller and I particularly remember the horribly thin straps!
Anyway, for this trip I bought a new rucksack, an Osprey Rook 65. I was expecting something similar to what I’d had previously. But, I found it sat higher on your back and that its moulded shape almost hugged you in. As a result, I found it much more comfortable than I recall my previous rucksacks.
Tin Opener, Knives, Matches, Food etc
Largely, we decided not to take such things. Partly, this was because we were trying to reduce what we had to carry, partly because we thought we could find these things if we needed them and partly because we thought we would manage if we didn’t find them.
We did carry food for lunch most days. Also, because I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes about four years ago, I had to take my insulin and related paraphernalia. I also needed to make sure that I had sufficient snacks to avoid hypos. In addition to my usual jelly babies, this meant carrying Kendal mint cake. I think the first time I tried this was on a walking trip with dad.
Get Washed Clothes
In the top righthand corner of the kit list is a note which I think says “Get Washed Clothes“. I think this is a reminder that, when packing, I also needed to get clothes that had recently been washed. My daughter read it as “get wasted” clothes, presumably clothes in which to get wasted!! However, although this expression was first used in the fifties and sixties, I am not sure it was a phrase I would have used in my teens.
Starting in Buxton
We started on Sunday 20 August 2023 in Buxton. We had stayed the previous night with our son, Stephen, in Tamworth. He kindly agreed to drop us in Buxton. We left later than originally planned in order to accommodate the women’s World Cup Final between England and Spain which was that day.
We started at Dukes Drive in Buxton at the start of a footpath close to the former youth hostel on Harpur Hill Road.
Buxton Youth Hostel
The youth hostel in Buxton is now no longer in existence. It opened in 1940 and was closed in 2003. Apparently, it was sold for £360,000 in the aftermath of the foot and mouth epidemic. Shortly afterwards, it was demolished. It was located at the bottom of Harpur Hill Road. It was known as Sherbrook Lodge . In 2007, there was a planning application to build 14 houses on the site. I stayed here on at least one of the trips with dad, see Chapter 92, but not when I came on my own in 1976.
No Time to Explore
Initially, I had thought we might have time to explore the area including Shirebrook Wood. However, because I had delayed us to watch the football, we did not have time and decided to press on to walk to Ravenstor.
We followed the Midshires Way east through Staden and Cowdale. Our intention had been then to turn north at Deep Dale and follow this until we reached and crossed the A6. However, when we got there, we found signs saying that paths through the dale were closed. This meant we had to cross Deep Dale which is, according to Wikipedia, a “steep-sided gorge” As we crossed, we saw a fox and, shortly afterwards, a startled pheasant.
Topley Pike Quarry
Once across Deep Dale, we continued on the Midshires Way a little further and then turned north. We skirted Topley Pike Quarry and came to the A6.
This path became the Monsal Trail which is the old railway line and which runs to Bakewell. We followed this to Millers Dale. It was fairly quiet as it was quite late on Sunday evening although it was still light and the weather was good. I was surprised that I did not remember the Monsal Trail at all but Jo thought that I might have just forgotten about it over time. However, when I checked the details, e.g. in the leaflet featured above, I discovered that the railway only closed in 1968 and the Monsal Trail itself only opened in 1981. The tunnels only fully re-opened in 2011. Interestingly, although it is a vehicle-free trail, there are images of the Monsal Trail available through Google StreetView.
Ravenstor Youth Hostel
Getting There via the Road (B6049)
To get to the youth hostel, we walked up the road from Miller’s Dale largely because I recalled that this was the way to get in and my 1976 diary noted that I had had problems getting back to the hostel. I noted “I got to a point from where I could see the hostel but after a little rest I tried to get there. I was confronted by construction work, a sheer drop, a river & a woman who gave me instructions which had me waist high in nettles“.
This Was a Mistake
However, going along the road turned out to be a mistake as it was busy and we learned later that there was a footpath direct from the hostel to the Monsal Trail. We used that the next day when continuing our journey to Bakewell.
We Arrived at About 7pm
We arrived at Ravenstor youth hostel about 7pm and this was in time to eat as they served food until around 8pm. However, as I mentioned, you need photographic ID to check in to a youth hostel and we discovered that Jo did not have her driving licence with her. The staff member said he would let her in as she “did not look like an ax murderer“! He asked us to get a copy of it sent to us which we did. Also, although the staff member agreed that they should have had towels available to rent, they did not. So, we had to make do!
Great Food and Accommodation
The evening meal was good. We had exclusive use of a six-bedded dormitory. This was great as it gave us space to fully open our map! The grounds and general location of the hostel are stunning. We only saw two other people in the hostel but we understand there were five of us that night and it was an unusually quiet night. Breakfast was a lavish affair with a huge cold buffet. The staff told us that because there were few guests, hot breakfast items would be cooked individually.
The hostel staff kindly advised us how to get back to the Monsal Trail by footpath. So, the next morning, Monday 21 August 2023, we took that footpath which brought us out on the small road that runs alongside the River Wye. It is known as Litton Mill Approach and it runs back to Millers Dale past the Anglers Rest. They had also advised us that the pedestrian bridge at Cressbrook was closed.
Walking by the River
So, we walked back to Millers Dale along this road by the side of the river. The Monsal Trail leaflet noted that this was a good place to see dippers. We saw a dipper and a heron in a tree.
Millers Dale Station
We then rejoined the Monsal Trail and walked along this for a bit including a brief stop at the former Millers Dale Station.
However, we were keen to see more of the river so we branched off again and walked through Litton Mill and alongside the river. However, there were signs warning us that the bridge at Cressbrook was closed. In addition, we got talking to a fellow walker who had turned back because of impassable mud. While the allure of supposedly impassable mud was undeniable, we decided that discretion was the better part of valour, not least because we were trying to meet friends in Monsal Head at 12 and we were keen to go through all six Monsal Trail tunnels. So, we retraced our steps to the Monsal Trail.
Following the Monsal Trail
We then followed the Monsal Trail as were due to meet our friends, Dave and Janet Brown, in Monsal Head at 12. This took us past Cressbrook Mill and through two more tunnels. We met up with Dave and Janet at Monsal Dale Viaduct. We walked with them to Monsal Head where we ate our lunch and filled our water bottles. The Monsal Trail was really busy, particularly with cyclists, but there were a good number of walkers too.
After lunch, we left Monsal Head with Dave and Janet. We came almost immediately to Headstone Tunnel. We went as far as Hassop Station but then retraced our steps to follow a footpath into Bakewell.
Once in Bakewell, Jo and I went to check in while Dave and Janet found a cafe. As we were setting off to meet them, I got a phone call from an Amazon Prime delivery driver who was having trouble finding Sleep Lodge. I agreed to wait for him and joined the others later. I had had to replace my mobile phone before the trip and had not managed to buy a case for it. So, to this point, I had been carrying it in a sock. As I knew where we could be staying, I thought I would order a cover and have it delivered to me. Not only was this something that would not have been available to me in the 1970s, I imagine my 16-year old self would not have even dreamed of such a thing!
Sleep Lodge operates as part of Bagshaw Hall which provides high-quality self-catering accommodation. The reason I chose it was because it is based in the former youth hostel. We ate out in the evening, at Rajas Indian restaurant. We bought items for a self-catered breakfast the next day.
Bakewell Youth Hostel
Bakewell youth hostel was purpose-built and opened in 1965. So, when dad, Tricia and I stayed there in 1968, see Chapter 92, it would have just opened. I did not stay there in 1976 but I recall staying there with Simon and Gary the previous year. It closed in 2007.
On Tuesday 22 August 2023, we made breakfast at Sleep Lodge and headed out of Bakewell the way we came in. We crossed the Monsal Trail and headed up Longstone Edge. Once there, we managed to take a wrong turn and we got quite lost. That is when we tried to use the compass but later found out that it had not been pointing north. It was this experience that convinced me to give Outdooractive a try and I am pretty sure we would not have got lost had we been using it. I also managed to lose my cap and, although I went back to look for it, I could not find it. We did eventually find our way using the traditional means of asking other walkers! We reached Eyam by following Black Harry Lane.
We arrived in Eyam too early to check in so had a look around St Lawrence’s church including the 1985 “Plague Window” which I think I saw for the first time. We then walked through the village and had a drink in the Courtyard at Eyam Hall. From there we walked to Innisfree Cottage B&B where we were staying. Around 5pm, we walked past the museum and youth hostel before coming down the hill where we sat on a bench for a bit. Then, we went to eat at the Miners Arms. We had phoned but could not book as the restaurant was full and they did not take bookings in the bar. We had thought that they only opened at 6pm but they were in fact open all day. 6pm was the time they started serving food.
St Lawrence’s Church, Eyam
Innisfree Cottage B&B
Eyam Youth Hostel
I don’t think I ever stayed at the youth hostel at Eyam with my dad as it did not open until 1971. However, I may have stayed there with my friends in 1975 and I stayed there twice on my 1976 solo trip.
I am fairly confident that I stayed at this hostel with dad in the late 1960s. It was a youth hostel between 1939 and 1970 when it was replaced by the hostel in Eyam.
Royal Oak Pub
One of the places mentioned in my 1976 diary was the Royal Oak public house. This is now closed although the building remains and is in use for residential purposes.
On Wednesday 23 August 2023, we met Dave and Janet Brown in the free car park close to Eyam museum. We walked with them to Highcliffe, Bretton. Abney Grange and Abney Moor. They headed back and we continued on to Bradwell, past the cement works to Castleton. We saw four groups doing gold Duke of Edinburgh awards en route. They were heading in the opposite direction to us.
My Route in 1976
Sir William Hill Road
The Barrel Inn
A Steep Hill
Shoulder of Mutton
Hope Cement Works
We arrived in Castleton about 3pm. We bought ice creams/drinks and sat for a while by the war memorial. I also bought a replacement cap!
Castleton Youth Hostel
Nowadays, the youth hostel in Castleton is at Losehill Hall but it was only acquired by YHA in 2011 and is not the building I recall which was Castleton Hall in the centre of Castleton on Castle Street close to The George pub. This seems to have closed around 2011. YHA records show that this opened in 1943 and, until 1946, was known as Castleton B as there was a Castleton A in Hollowford from 1936 to 1946. The hostel closed at the end of January 2012. In 2013, there was a planning application to repair and alter the hall so that it could be two private residences. This generated a lot of correspondence and documentation and the application was withdrawn in 2015. It was also up for sale at some point but I think this may have been in 2015.
Once it was 4pm, we went and found where we were staying, Upper Styx in Haddock Hideaway. It is part of the old youth hostel. It is a one-bedroomed apartment with a kitchen/diner so we bought food and cooked it there. The welcome pack contained fairly extensive historical details.
Haddock Hideaway is based on the Old Coach House for Castleton Hall. By 1919, the whole site was owned by John Arthur Sellers. At that time, what is now Lower Styx was stabling and the Upper Styx was an ostler’s room. In 1943, the entire building was taken on by YHA. For the remainder of the was, the Old Coach Room accommodated evacuees from Sheffield.
Jon and Emma Haddock are the current owners, hence the name. Emma moved onto the site in 1999 as Deputy Manager for the YHA. In 2003, she and Jon got married on site. They bought the property in 2012.
Treak Cliff Cavern
We stayed here two nights. On the second day, Thursday 24 August 2023, we walked up to and visited Treak Cliff Cavern. I think I have visited all the public show caverns in Castleton. Dad had strong views about their relative merits. He considered Treak Clff the best Speedwell the most over-rated! He considered it a glorified boat ride! I don’t think he ever took us there although I have been there since. He did take us to both Peak and Blue John Caverns. It is worth noting that I was influenced by my father as I chose to visit Treak Cliff cavern in 1976.
We then walked around the hill a bit and returned through Winnats Pass. There was a sheep lying in the road so causing a blockage so, when there were few cars, I chased it off the road! I went here twice in 1976 even thought I seemed to spell it Winnants. At least on my first visit to the pass in 1976, it was closed to cars and I completed a survey related to this. It was very definitely open to traffic when we visited in 2023.
Fish and Chips
Literally across the road from Haddock Hideaway is Castleton Fish and Chips. So, we felt obliged to have lunch there. We bought them there and ate them by the war memorial.
In the afternoon, we went to Peveril Castle. It cost us £8,60 each to get in. Prices vary depending on when you go (peak, standard or off peak), whether or not you book online in advance and whether or not you include a donation. I don’t recall having to pay previously but that is almost 50 years ago! Now, the site is fully enclosed and you have to come back the way you went in. I don’t recall that being the case previously. The information and access, e.g. inside the castle, seems much better than I recall. The site is now managed by National England.
In 1976, I visited on the day I left Castleton to go to Hathersage. I went with Darius and Roena, a brother and sister from Taunton that I had met at the hostel. We found a woman’s purse and met her as we were leaving. I noted, “went up to the remains of Peveril Castle. They’re not very impressive“. While it is not the biggest castle, this assessment feels a bit harsh to me now! The clarity of a 16-year old I guess!
We then walked a little way up Cave Dale and came back cross country. I do not recall Cave Dale from previous visits to Castleton which is surprising as it is particularly picturesque and is a much nicer way of accessing Castleton from the south than along the road as we did.
On our last day, Friday 25 August 2023, we met Dave and Janet in Castleton. In addition to their own dog, Florrie, they also had their daughter’s dog, Coda with them. Coda and Florrie are themselves sisters and I found them pretty indistinguishable!
We walked up to Hollins Cross together. This is the place where we crossed the Great Ridge which runs from Mam Tor, Hollins Cross, Back Tor and Lose Hill. As with the Monsal Trail, the path along the Great Ridge is visible on Google StreetView. From Castleton, we walked to Edale.
The walk from Castleton to Edale over Hollins Cross was (and is) one of my favourite and most memorable walks in the Peak District not least, as a child, because it was so short, barely three miles. On one occasion, I think on this walk, it was pouring with rain and we were soaked. When we got to Edale, dad found some sort of café and they gave us tea in the biggest mugs I had ever seen! I have been back to Hollins Cross a few times since. I went with dad when I was in my twenties, and he must have been in his fifties, and I recall that, on this occasion, he was the one who struggled with the going up part! More recently, I went there with my wife, Jo and two of our children, Emma and Stephen, in 2012, see Chapter 92.
Then, Dave and Janet (and dogs) headed up Lose Hill with the intention of returning to Castleton. We descended to Edale and had a drink in the Penny Pot Café by the station.
Just as we were about to leave for the hostel, it poured with rain. We waited a while and, by the time we walked to the hostel, it had eased off a lot. We walked up Marys Lane past The Rambler Inn and Edale Parish Church to the Old Nag’s Head which is where the Pennine Way starts. Then, we followed a footpath to the hostel.
Edale Youth Hostel
The hostel was much busier than Ravenstor had been with various groups staying there. We ate dinner and breakfast here. As it was our last night, we did not bother asking about towels but made do as we had at Ravenstor.
At the end of the week, we were heading to Sheffield to join our daughter, Sarah, and her family who had booked a cottage there for a week. We had been planning to go there by train but those plans were scuppered as there were no trains on Saturday 26 August 2023 because of a strike. We were not able to make plans on the Friday night as Edale hostel had no wifi or phone signal. So, on the Saturday morning, we walked back to the cafe at the railway station and made plans from there. In the end, Sarah picked us up.
At the end of my trip in 1976, dad picked me up from Matlock. The previous year, Simon Lefevre’s parents had picked us up. In 1968, Edna Bust picked us up in Matlock and, in 1969, mum picked us up near Edale, see Chapter 92.