Ilam, Derbyshire – 31st July 2022


Strenuous: Carole & John                                                                                          Distance : 10 miles

Leaving Ilam Hall we start with a twiddle along R. Manifold and make our way back to Ilam, then we climb over Bunsters Hill to Ilam Tops, through Dovedale Wood to check out Ilam Rock, along Hall Dale and across fields to Milldale for another opportunity for an ice-cream from Poppy’s. Then over the Nabs descending into Dove Dale and following the R. Dove to the Stepping Stones from where we climb Thorpe Cloud and descend to the coach on Dovedale Car Park.

Many thanks to Jimmy as this is based on his walk from 2012.


Moderate Leader :  Dave                                                                                 Distance : 7 miles

We leave the hall and head through Ilam Park, and field paths to Rushley. From here there is a mostly easy ascent which lifts us 600 feet over two and a half miles through Musden Wood to Calton, then eastwards to a point near Musden Low hill from where we can see right over to Thorpe Cloud and Dovedale. Then it’s downhill to Blore and Coldwell Bridge, and finally following the river for the last 1.5 miles back to Ilam. The walk is mostly on field and woodland paths which could, of course, be muddy.

Easy Leader : Pam

From Ilam Hall we will walk through the attractive estate village of Ilam and pick up the Manifold Trail near the river and cross Coldwell Bridge and circle around the village of Thorpe. We will climb part of Hamston Hill and head towards Lin Dale and the stepping stones. The paths will lead us back to Dovedale where we will change footwear if needed and head back into Ilam for refreshments. 


Now a model village of great charm, Ilam was originally an important settlement belonging to Burton Abbey. Following the Reformation in the 16th century, the estate was broken up and Ilam came into the hands of the Port family. In the early 19thcentury the family sold the property to Jesse Watts Russell, a wealthy industrialist. As well as building a fine mansion (Ilam Hall) for himself, Russell also spent a great deal of money refurbishing the attractive cottages. Obviously devoted to his wife, he had the hall built in a romantic Gothic style and, in the centre of the village, we had the Eleanor Cross erected in her memory. Now no longer a family home, Ilam Hall is one of the largest Youth Hostels in the country.

Many places in the Peak District have provided the inspiration for writers over the years, and Ilam is no exception. The peace and quiet found here helped William Congreve create his bawdy play The Old Batchelor, whilst Dr Johnson wrote Rasselas whilst staying at the Hall.

In the valley of the River Manifold, is a much used starting point for walks along this beautiful stretch of river. In summer the Manifold disappears underground north of the village, to reappear below Ilam Hall. The village is also the place where the River Manifold and the River Dove merge. Though Dovedale is, probably deservedly, the most scenic of the Peak District valleys, the Manifold Valley is very similar and whilst being marginally less beautiful, it is often much less crowded. The two rivers rise close together, on Axe Edge moor, and, for much of their courses follow a parallel path.

Dove Dale was formed by the Dove carving its way down through fissures in the limestone. The dale is bounded on either side by more fissured rocks, weathered by frost and rain into fantastic shapes, such as the isolated column of Ilam Rock and Lion’s Head Rock, whose profile is very obvious from certain angles. Among the best known geological features are Dove Holes, shallow caves which were formed when the river ran at a higher level than it does today. Another example of nature’s handiwork is the natural arch in the rock, 40ft high, at the entrance to Reynard’s Cave. Towards the end of the Dale are pinnacled rock formations known as Tissington Spires and Lover’s Leap, with Dovedale Castle on the opposite side of the river. Thorpe Cloud and Bunster Hill, outcrops of limestone at the end of the Dale, are noted for fossils of marine animals which lived more than 320 million years ago. On Thorpe Cloud, Roman coins and pottery have been brought to the surface by burrowing rabbits. The caves are the home of numerous bats.