Lud’s Church Walk is set in the southern part of the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire. Whilst most people assume that it’s an actual church, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Lud’s Church is actually a huge chasm that has been created by a landslip and is, without a doubt, the star of the walk.
After a recent trip to the Peaks with a friend, this was one of the best walks we went on in the area.
In this guide, we’ll share a bit about the history of the chasm, details of the walk we chose (including a map), as well as some alternative routes which may be better suited to your fitness levels. We’ll also give you a bunch of information that you’ll need ahead of your walk – like top tips, and some recommendations of where to stay if you haven’t already decided.
HISTORY OF LUD’S CHURCH
Between the 14th and 16th centuries, a proto-protestant Christian religious movement existed called Lollardism. It was led by a man named John Wycliffe who, among many things, was a scholastic philosopher whose followers were named Lollards. During the 15th century, Lollards used the chasm as their secret place of worship before a follower of the religion – Walter de Ludank – was captured here. As such, this is where the name Lud’s Church comes from.
Another interesting piece of history about the chasm comes from the medieval poem: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which has since been turned into a film named The Green Knight. A key point in both the poem and the film is The Green Chapel, which is thought to have been written about in relation to Lud’s Church.
LUD’S CHURCH WALK
Time: 3-4 hours
Route type: Loop
The best place to park ahead of the walk is at Gradbach Car Park which you can find by putting in the postcode: SK17 0SU.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a big car park and often gets full very quickly – even if you’re visiting out of season. If you continue on down the road, you’ll spot a sign for a farmhouse offering car parking spaces at a hefty £10 price tag. However, rightly or wrongly, we parked up in the scout camp car park and didn’t have any issues, so it might be worth trying there first!
DETAILS OF THE WALK
The route begins along the road before reaching the gates of a farmhouse, which you’ll need to enter before heading towards the forest. After a short amount of time, you’ll reach a small bridge that spans over the river Dane, before crossing the road and heading up the path into even more forest.
From here, you’ll walk along an undulating woodland path above the river Dane for quite some time. Although it undulates, the ultimate trajectory is up, albeit very gradual with even the lowest of fitness levels being capable.
Eventually, you’ll exit the forest to find open fields with a trail that hugs the outskirts. You’ll need to climb over small stone-built walls to enter each field as the route transcends down into yet another forest.
With every down, there must be an up, and the route will soon find a set of stairs that is quite steep. This is perhaps the steepest part of the route, however it doesn’t last long. Following the steps, there is an uphill stretch toward the top of the well-known rugged ridge in the Peak District – The Roaches.
This particular route leads mostly leads below The Roaches, before a short section along the top. It’s here that the views over the Peak District are spectacular, and on a nice day, it’s a great spot for a mid-walk bite to eat.
As you continue along the ridge, you’ll soon drop down between two edges that provide some much-needed shelter from the wind during the colder months.
Moments later, you’ll reach a woodland path, which is the sign you’re almost at Lud’s Church. You’ll find a sharp right turn that leads toward the chasm and you’ll instantly feel the air turn cold. They’ll be steps that lead further down into the chasm and you’ll quickly become enclosed by two very tall stone walls. After you’ve finished poking your head into all nooks and crannies of the chasm, you’ll have a steep scramble in order to get out of the other side.
Once you’ve left the main attraction of the walk, the route continues through woodland for most of the way back.
You’ll follow the pathway through the undulating woodland, with another pathway that is hidden just below. Through the trees, you’ll spot the numerous fields with the small village of Gradbach in the distance.
Before long, you’ll do a u-turn back on yourself and find that you’ll be following the trail that was previously below you. This can be quite steep at times, however, it quickly reaches the river Dane once again.
You’ll eventually reach a point where you’ll need to cross the river in order to continue along your route. Whilst there is no bridge, you’ll find some protruding stones which act as a great alternative to hop from one side to the next.
You’ll now be on the final stretch back to the car park, which comes with an unwelcoming incline for your achy legs. However, once that is out of the way, you’ll be heading on the straight and narrow back to the car park.
MAP OF LUD’S CHURCH WALK
Below you’ll find an interactive map of the route. If you’ve got an Alltrails account then you can save this to your favourites and refer back to it later. I’d also recommend upgrading to the pro version so that you can download the map offline. If you don’t have an Alltrails account then I’d highly recommend creating one – out of all of the hiking apps, this is the one we find the easiest and best to use.
TIPS FOR WALKING LUD’S CHURCH CIRCULAR ROUTE
- Download the map for offline use
Most of the time during the walk, you’ll be in fairly thick forest and will unlikely have any signal. It’s worth downloading the map for offline use ahead of your trip, or taking a paper copy.
- Wear the correct hiking gear
This is not a walk that you can get away with wearing an old pair of trainers and a hoody. This is a proper hike, even though it isn’t that steep. The trails can be super muddy, and you’ll be fluctuating from hot to cold, depending on which section of the walk you’re on.
- Don’t park on the roads if the car parks are full
Whilst you may think it is a good idea to park up on one of the small country roads close to the walk, quite a few people have reported being fined for this. Plus, the roads are so small round there that this would make it really difficult for drivers and cyclists using the roads.
- Carry some cash
As mentioned earlier, you may end up having to park in the farm house field if the Gradbach car park is full and you can’t park in the scout camp like we did. As such, be sure to carry some cash to hand over to the owners of the farm house, should you need to park here.
- Take some lunch/snacks/water
The only place to eat on this walk is near to the start/finish of the hike at Gradbach Mill Cafe. Unfortunately, this cafe is only open from Easter until October, so be sure to pack some lunch, snacks and some water for the walk.
- Allow extra time
Although the Lud’s Church walk should take around 3 hours, you should allow some extra time. We ended up spending quite a bit of time at chasm and taking pictures of the lovely views which added an extra hour onto our walk and we only just made it back before dark.
- The perfect walk for a rainy day
Whils this walk – and indeed any walk – is undoubdetly more enjoyable when the sky is blue and the sun is shining, this walk is actually one that can be enjoyed even if its raining, as roughly 80% of the walk is sheltered by woodland.
ALTERNATIVE WALKING ROUTES
Whilst we believe that the route we chose to discover Lud’s Church was the best one, we appreciate that many people may prefer a shorter or longer hike than this. Below you’ll find a couple of different alternatives that may suit your preferences better and get great reviews on our favourite hiking app – Alltrails. These range from 6km to 18km.
GRADBACH AND LUD’S CHURCH CIRCULAR
Time: 3-4 hours
Route type: Loop
You can either do the full 10.3km or shorten this walk to 6km if you just want to visit Lud’s Church. You’ll need to follow the route for 3.3km before arriving at the point of interest, before turning back on yourself and returning to the car park.
LUD’S CHURCH, THE ROACHES, AND RIVER DANE
Time: 8-9 hours
Route type: Loop
- Why is is called Lud’s Church?
The reason for the ‘Lud’ in Lud’s church is thought to be linked to a man named Walter de Ludank who was captured here back in the 1800’s, and the ‘church’ is linked to the Lollards who used the chasm as a place of worship all those years ago.
- How was Lud’s Church formed?
The chasm was formed following a landslip which occured on a hillside in the small village of Gradbach. Subsequently, the slip caused two huge walls of rock that are over 100 meters long and 18 meters wide. Today, the rock is covered is moss and is frequently very wet and cold. Yet, it’s history of occurance is incredibly unique and feels other-worldly.
- Is there a pub or restaurant along the route?
Unfortunately there are no pubs or restaurant along the hike, however Gradbach Mill Cafe is available for a small bite to eat during the summer months. If you’re looking for something hearty after a big walk, then less than 10 minutes drive away is The Knights Table – a great pub with very apt decor and even better food!
- Is there any public transport to the start of the walk?
Unfortunately there is no public transport that will get you to the start of this walk as it’s in a tiny village in the peak district. As such, your only options are to drive or take a taxi.
- Can you go rock climbing at the chasm?
Whilst you previously were able to go rock climbing here many years go, it has since been stopped in order to preserve the area and flora which grows on the sides of the chasm.
WHAT TO PACK FOR A HIKE TO LUD’S CHURCH
What to pack for a hike in the Peaks will depend on the time of year, but more often than not, your packing list should include gear for all weather eventualities as English weather can be temperamental – even at the best of times!
Below is a packing list that includes everything I wear on a hike. In the essence of transparency, these will include affiliate links, however, every single item is something I genuinely use and love. If you purchase anything through these links, then I will receive a tiny bit of commission at no extra cost to you, so thanks so much if you use any of these – it helps support our blog massively!
- Base layer
I’m absolutely loving this Helly Hansen Base Layer at the moment – it’s merino wool, which is honestly like magic. It’s a special kind of material that manages to keep you warm when you’re cold and cool when you’re hot. Plus, it’s got anti-bacterial properties which mean you can wear it more than once without washing it.
I’m a huge fan of The North Face as I think they balance practicialities and fashion perfectly. I particularly love this jumper, as it does just that, all while keep me nice and warm when it gets chilly.
Depending on the weather, you’ll either need just like this The North Face one, or a warmer one, just like this Patagonia one. Both are great and do exactly what they’re meant to do.
- Hiking trousers
It wasn’t until recently that I invested in a good pair of hiking trousers. I chose the Raab hiking trousers and they have been one of my best investments to date. I’m not usually one to splurge, but I have to admit that I am so glad I did with these. They’re super comfortable and keep me dry when the English weather fails me – which, lets be honest, is quite regularly.
For ages I would carry around a tatty old hiking bag and it wasn’t until I was gifted the Osprey Daylite Backpack that I realised what I had been missing out on. It’s got tonnes of compartments, space for a water bladder, great support straps and is the perfect size for a small human like me.
- Hiking Boots
I personally very rarely wear full on hiking boots anywhere anymore as I am just loving the hybrid version which Tom bought me – the adidas terrex hiking shoe. They’re much lighter on my feet, whilst providing a great amount of cussion and support for my ankles. I would 100% recommend these shoes if you’re sick of wearing a bulky pair of boots.
WHERE TO STAY NEAR LUD’S CHURCH
Gradbach is very cute and pretty, with little more going on than some moo-ing cows and baa-ing sheep. If this is right up your street, then you have two options – Gradbach Mill B&B, and The Farmhouse at Gradbach. Gradbach Mill B&B is perfect for solo travellers and couples, however The Farmhouse at Gradbach is better suited to large groups, since it has 7 bedrooms.
If you’re looking for somewhere thats a bit more upbeat with a great atmosphere, then Buxton is the place to stay. There are plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants in this bustling town in the Peak District. It also comes with a wealth of choice of where to stay, such as the Roseleigh hotel or a cute cottage such as The Grooms House.
Although Bakewell is roughly 30 minutes away from the starting point of Lud’s Church walk, it’s probably the most well-known and nicest place to stay of the three. It’s size is somewhere in between Buxton and Gradbach, and serves as the perfect base to reach many other walks in the Peak District. And, most importantly, it’s home to heaps of bakewell tarts. Whilst there is a long list of places to stay in Bakewell, there is one stand out choice: The Rutland Arms Hotel.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON LUD’S CHURCH CIRCULAR WALK
To summarise, Lud’s Church walk is one of kind; it includes a great mix of woodland paths, running streams, fantastic views, and of course, heaps of history when it comes to Lud’s Church itself. This true hidden gem in the Peak District is well worth uncovering, regardless of what the weather may throw at you.
We hope you have an awesome time on this hike, and as always, if you have any further questions about the walk then feel free to drop a comment down below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
If you loved this post, then you may also like the below posts too:
- Dovedale Stepping Stones Circular walk / an easy walk to the famous Dovedale Stepping Stones in the Peak District
- Thor’s Cave walk / an incredible 150-foot cave with the perfect window to the Peak District
- Padley Gorge walk / a gentle walk through a magical gorge with plenty of wild swimming spots
- Mam Tor walk / a breathtaking Mam Tor walk that leads through Winnats Pass & Castleton
- Bamford Edge walk / a phenomenal walk with some of the best picture spots in the Peaks
- Chee Dale Circular walk / a hidden gem gorge walk with two sets of incredible stepping stones
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