The Gritstone Trail is a ridge hike that explores beautiful landscapes, historic sites, and hill summits with awe-inspiring panoramic views.
Starting from Disley, the trail travels 35 miles (56 km) along a romantically-rugged gritstone ridge above the Peak District and Cheshire Plain to finish in Kidsgrove.
As much of the walking is above 1,000 feet (305 m), you are treated to magnificent views for much of the way, which stretch as far as the Welsh hills.
Along the way, you experience some of Cheshire’s finest walking and explore many wonderful places, including: White Nancy, a famous landmark on Kerridge Hill; Tegg's Nose, a hilltop with breathtaking views and Bronze Age history; Macclesfield Forest; the spellbinding and folklore-rich summit of the Cloud; and Mow Cop, a place renowned for perfect panoramas, castle ruins, and a quirky gritstone column shaped like an old man.
The Gritstone Trail might not tackle mountains, but there are some long climbs and plenty of short-and-sharp ascents and descents. The trail can be very rugged in places too — boggy, rocky, slippery, and steep — and you need a good level of ability, as well as a reasonable level of fitness to tackle the trail.
Similarly, whilst the trail does not head too far off the beaten track, it does lead through some very remote countryside. Carrying a map, compass, and mobile device is recommended, as well as a first aid kit, enough food and water, and clothing for the weather conditions.
The Trail is well waymarked throughout using a mixture of fingerposts and yellow discs with a ‘G’ in a footprint.
In this Collection, I split the route into three stages; 12.9 miles (20.8 km), 14.6 miles (23.5 km), and 9.9 miles (15.9 km), respectively. Of course, you can divide the Collection into as many days as you are comfortable with. You can also walk any single stage.
Every stage ends close to some accommodation. However, places to stay can be limited so it is worth planning in advance and scheduling any rest days accordingly.
Both Disley and Kidsgove have train stations and good public transport links, which makes accessing the trail easy.
For more information about the Gritstone Trail, visit: cheshireeast.gov.uk/leisure,_culture_and_tourism/ranger_service/countryside_sites/the_gritstone_trail/gritstone-trail.aspx.
For train timetables and tickets, visit: thetrainline.com.
On this first stage, you experience Anglo Saxon remains, a beautiful cascading waterfall, and breathtaking views.With 12.9 miles (20.8 km) of distance and 1,850 feet (564 m) of uphill, this is a challenging hike which sets the tone of the trail right from the start. From Disley, you hike along Green Lane before rising onto the moors past Lyme Hall, a 16th-century manor house.A sharp climb onto the aptly named Higher Moor follows, where you find the remains of two Anglo Saxon crosses, known as the Bowstones, The trail descends rapidly into Bonnington, which is a good midpoint to stop for refreshment, and then makes a brief detour to Ingersley Vale Waterfall.Next, a short-but-steep climb leads you to White Nancy, a famous landmark on Kerridge Hill which affords spellbinding views.You then follow the narrow Kerridge ridge and cross many small meadows before rising to Tegg’s Nose, where you experience more wonderful views from a place with a history that stretches back to the Bronze Age.At the finish, your best bet is to hike onto Macclesfield, which has a good range of accommodation, places for food and drink, as well as shops and other attractions. The best route is to continue to Langley, cross the River Bollin and follow footpaths into town, which adds 3 miles (4.8 km). A shorter option is to save Tegg’s Nose for the following stage and head right on Buxton Old Road into Macclesfield, which adds 1 mile (1.6 km).
This stage explores the wildlife-rich Macclesfield Forest and its reservoirs before rising up onto the Cloud, where more enchanting views await. With 14.6 miles (23.5 km) of distance and 2,025 feet (617 m) of climbing, this is a challenging hike and you will need a good level of fitness and stamina. From Tegg’s Nose Reservoir, the trail passes Bottoms Reservoir and then makes a short loop into Macclesfield Forest to visit the stunning Trentabank Reservoir.After crossing Hollin Lane, you make a sharp ascent of Croker Hill, which is the highest point on this stage and is topped with a distinctive telecoms tower. This section is particularly exposedYou then make a long and gradual descent to the River Dane, cross via Barleigh Ford Bridge and follow the canal feeder. The final climb of the day takes you through Ravens Clough to the summit of the Cloud, which affords wonderful views over Congleton, Macclesfield, Holmes Chapel, and Greater Manchester. You then descend to finish in Timbersbrook. Whilst there is not much in the village, there are options for accommodation and food and drink nearby, most notably in Mossley.
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The final stage is a leisurely hike that explores stunning countryside and the magnificent Mow Cop.With 9.9 miles (15.9 km) of distance and 725 feet (221 m) of uphill, this is a short-and-sweet route which makes for a perfect finish after two tough previous stages. The trail starts at Timbersbrook Picnic Area, once the site of a large silk mill, and crosses fields to the Biddulph Valley Way, which you follow for 1.5 miles (2.4 km).You then climb Nick i’th’Hill, a dip in the ridge that is thought to have been a melt water drainage channel in the last ice age.You hike through Willocks Wood, a pretty woodland composed of Oak and Silver Birch, and continue the gradual ascent to Mow Cop.Situated on a moorland ridge, Mow Cop is a village and hilltop summit which are both dominated by the striking remains of an old castle folly. Here, you get a spellbinding panoramic view of the Staffordshire moorlands and the Cheshire Plain.It is a long and gradual descent to the Trent and Mersey Canal and the Macclesfield Canal, followed by a short step to Kidsgrove, where this stage finishes. There is not a great deal of accommodation in Kidsgrove but the town has good public transport links, including a train station, so you can reach better-served towns.