Our guide to the best walks, cycle trails and climbing routes in the Peak District.Read more...
From the Roaches, the land falls away to the Cheshire Plains © Sponner, Shutterstock
The Roaches rise dramatically out of the moorland like a dragon with its serrated hump.
Along with Hen Cloud, Five Clouds and Ramshaw Rocks, the Roaches provide some of the best climbing and walking to be had in the Peak District.
From Roach Road, the path climbs through bracken to the saddle between the Roaches and Hen Cloud. If you want to bag a peak and have a quick workout, it doesn’t take long to climb Hen Cloud – and the views towards Tittesworth Reservoir and back across to the Roaches are stunning. Alternatively, if you take the first left path you come to, it will bring you to the base of the Roaches and the Don Whillans Memorial Hut, a strange Gothic building with arched windows, mock castellations and an annex that seems to grow out of the rocks. It’s said the old crone Bessy Bowyer lived here, just inside the fallen rocks that had created a cave, from where she assisted smugglers and deserters on the Roaches. Rock Hall was built here as a gamekeeper’s cottage for Swythamley Estate. Nowadays, the building belongs to the British Mountaineering Council and commemorates one of the greatest British climbers of the 20th century, Don Whillans, who forged many technically difficult new routes in Britain, the Alps and the Himalayas with climbing legends like Chris Bonington. Today the hut offers accommodation for individuals during the week and for groups at the weekend.
There’s no better place in the Peak District to try a spot of weaselling and rock-hopping than on the rocks above the Don Whillans Hut. A rocky adventure playground, you can squeeze, crawl and scramble your way through the rock-strewn hillside, and hop from rock to rock. You don’t need any specialist equipment, but care and a good dollop of common sense are required. Otherwise, there are weaselling courses on offer in the Peak District – along with rock climbing.
For non-climbers, a well-defined path runs along the top of the Roaches ridge, where strangely shaped and weathered rocks are twisted into corkscrews and pillars along the edge. Not far along the path, you will come to Doxey Pool, a beautifully rounded tarn on the humpback that catches the sky in its glassy surface on clear days and is said to contain a nymph within its depths.
The ridge path of the Roaches extends for three miles. On a clear day, the views towards the Cheshire Plains and the hills of Wales are extensive. At Roach End, the path reaches the road. Turn left and follow the quiet lane back down to your start point. Alternatively, you can cross the road and continue on into Back Forest and Lud’s Church to extend your hike.