If you’re heading to the southern Peak District, then embarking on a Thor’s Cave circular walk is an absolute must. You’ll be led through the stunning Manifold Valley before arriving at the impressive 150-foot cavern that provides the perfect frame of the Peak District National Park.
In this guide, you’ll find information about one of the best routes in the area that’s accessible to almost any hiker. We’ll let you know everything you need to know ahead of your trip, including key details of the walk and what to expect on the day. We’ll also give some top tips that we learnt from our trip so that you can get the very best experience.
THOR’S CAVE FAQ
WHAT IS THOR’S CAVE?
Thors Cave is a limestone cavern with two ‘windows’ to the Manifold Valley that is thought to have been inhabited by people during the Iron Age and Roman times. It’s been featured in films, music videos and on album covers, however, today, it is mostly an attraction for those hiking and climbing in the Peak District.
WHERE IS THOR’S CAVE IN THE PEAK DISTRICT?
Thor’s Cave is situated in the south of the Peak District in the beautiful Manifold Valley. The closest well-known villages/towns are Ashbourne, Bakewell and Buxton, which are all within 20-30 minutes of Thors Cave.
Below is an interactive map of the exact location of Thors Cave (green pin) and the aforementioned towns (yellow pins).
HOW TO GET TO THOR’S CAVE WALK TRAILHEAD
The Peak District is made up of small villages and towns that are connected by small country roads. As such, the best way to get to any starting point of a walk that leads to Thor’s Cave is by car.
If you need to rent a car, then we always go for a reputable platform like Expedia that scouts out the best rental deals from reliable companies. It saves heaps of time searching high and low on the internet for a trustworthy rental company and you’re guaranteed to get the best price.
If you don’t drive, then the next best option is to get the bus, and which bus you get will depend on where you’re staying. If you need to get any kind of public transport then we’d recommend using Rome2Rio – you simply need to put in where you’re going to and from, and it will give you the best transport routes alongside their details. This is one of our favourite platforms for getting from A to B if we don’t have a car.
WHERE TO PARK FOR A HIKE TO THOR’S CAVE
To get to the trailhead of this walk, you’ll need to park in Wetton Car Park which is on Carr Lane. For some reason, this isn’t marked on Google Maps, however, the address below will take you to the correct location.
This is a small and free car park that also has some toilets. However, since Thor’s Cave walk is becoming increasingly popular, this car park is often full. If this is the case when you arrive, you’ll need to continue along the road with the car park on your right and you will soon come to a farmer’s field that is offering up their land as overflow space for a small fee.
Thor’s Cave walk car park address: Wetton, Ashbourne DE6 2AF
THOR’S CAVE CIRCULAR WALK KEY DETAILS
DISTANCE OF THE WALK
The Wetton and Manifold Valley loop that includes Thor’s Cave is 7.4 kilometres long. This is a really nice distance for both novice and experienced hikers to explore the southern Peak District for the morning or afternoon.
DIFFICULTY OF THE WALK
There are two sections of the walk that stick out in my mind that make this walk challenging at times. The first is the steps to Thor’s Cave, and the second is a climb through the Manifold Valley. Both of these a fairly steep, but very manageable with a couple of breaks for less-experienced hikers.
Since there is also the opportunity to climb on top of the cave, this is another section that springs to mind that is an optional challenge. We’d definitely recommend doing this to get the most out of the walk!
ELEVATION OF THE WALK
The total elevation of this walk is 344 meters. This is about average for this kind of distance in somewhere like the Peak District National Park where hills can’t really be avoided!
DURATION OF THE WALK
It takes most walkers approximately 2 hours to complete this walk, however, if you’re looking to spend a bit of time in the cave or perhaps stop for a bite to eat, then we’d recommend leaving around 3 hours.
WHAT TO EXPECT ON THOR’S CAVE CIRCULAR WALK
This Thor’s Cave walk is one of the most popular routes that provides an enjoyable yet challenging hike.
Initially, the route leads out of the sleepy village of Wetton and across undulating fields. You’ll be met with some spectacular views and pass plenty of grazing sheep before finding a fairly steep hill at the 2 km mark.
However, with every up there must come a down, and the walk quickly finds a steep descent towards a farm before arriving at Wetton Mill Tea Rooms. It’s here that you can take a break and grab some lunch to eat beside the river. If you head underneath the bridge, you’ll find riverside benches and steps which make the perfect picnic spot.
Once you’ve refuelled, the route leads alongside the River Manifold before reaching another, much smaller, bridge. If you look to the right, you’ll see Thor’s Cave above.
As you continue along the trail, you’ll head through the forest before reaching the first of many steps. After a few minutes of climbing, you’ll reach the cave and likely need to join the queue if you’re looking to venture into the cavern.
You’ll need to bear in mind that even during the summer months, the cave can be slippery and is one that should be entered with caution.
Once you’ve exited the cave, it’s possible to climb on top by continuing along the route and veering right up the side of the hill. Here, you’ll get even better views over the Manifold Valley. It’s worth mentioning that once you’ve reached the summit, the edge of the hill can be dangerous. This is something to be mindful of if you have children or dogs.
Once you leave the cave, the route will continue ascending along a muddy path before reaching a gate. From the gate onwards, the route is completely flat and it won’t be long before you arrive back at the car park in Wetton.
THOR’S CAVE WALK ROUTE MAP
We always use Alltrails when it comes to navigating our way around walks. If you search for Wetton, Manifold Valley and Thor’s Cave Circular walk, then it should appear. We’d recommend downloading the map ahead of the walk to ensure that you always have a trail to follow should you lose your phone signal – something that is very common in the Peaks!
TIPS FOR THE THOR’S CAVE WALK
AVOID HIKING TO THOR’S CAVE DURING BUSY PERIODS
Since Thor’s Cave has become such a popular place to visit in the Peak District, it gets super busy during the summer months and at the weekend. And, whilst the trail you’re on to get there may not seem too busy, the actual cave itself is the main attraction of many routes.
We’ve hiked to the cave in the middle of winter when it’s cold and foggy with absolutely no views of the Manifold Valley and still found ourselves sharing the cave with others – granted, it was a weekend.
If you want to beat the crowds then we suggest heading out on your hike fairly early in the morning and on a weekday.
CONSIDER DOING THOR’S CAVE WALK IN REVERSE
Another tip is to do this walk in reverse. Whilst this will mean you won’t have to work too hard to find the prize, it will mean that you’ll reach the cave much earlier on in your walk and you’ll beat the crowds.
CLIMB ON TOP OF THE CAVE
As already mentioned, it’s worth pushing yourself up the hill above the cave. Whilst this may mean a slight diversion from the route, it will be a detour that costs no more than 15 minutes and will be well worth it for panoramic views over the Peak District.
To get to the top of Thor’s Cave you’ll need to go left at the top of the steps that lead to the cave. If you continue along the path you’ll reach a gate. Before this gate, you’ll need to walk up the steep hill on your right. After a few intense minutes of climbing, you’ll be rewarded with some pretty epic views!
AVOID TAKING DOGS INTO THE CAVE
Regardless of what time of year you’re visiting the Peak District National Park, the limestone inside will be slippery. Even for a hiker with grippy walking boots, it’s no mean feat. A dog with claws will find it very difficult to grip onto anything and will be sliding around left, right and centre!
If you do take your dog on this walk, then it’s worth doing it with someone else who can stay on the ground with the dog while you clamber into the cave.
STOP BY WETTON TEA ROOMS…
Along the trail, there are a few different places to stop for something to eat and drink. However, Wetton Tea Rooms is the perfect location. It’s situated around the halfway mark and resides by the River Manifold. There are also multiple picnic benches dotted around, which make it super idyllic.
…OR THE ROYAL OAK
Alternatively, if you’re somebody who prefers to hike without stopping, then The Royal Oak is a pub which is located just before the end of the trail. This is your typical Peak District pub, with a warm fire burning on a cold day and plenty of outdoor seating during the summer.
WHERE TO STAY NEAR THOR’S CAVE WALK IN THE MANIFOLD VALLEY
Buxton is not strictly in the Peak District, but rather just on the edge. It has all of the similarities of a Peak District village, but it’s much larger since it’s a town. There is a big high street with plenty of shops and places to eat, and during the summer there is a pretty good atmosphere. If you prefer to stay in an area where you can go out for drinks and enjoy having lots of people around the town, then Buxton is the place to stay.
Bakewell is a small riverside village that is known for one thing in particular – it’s Bakewell tarts and cakes! Once you’ve tasted one of the bakes from here, it’ll be hard to ever go back to the super-market version! Although quite a small village, Bakewell is bustling all year round. It’s one of the most popular places to visit in the Peak District and once you arrive, it’ll be easy to see why. It’s picturesque and filled with independent shops, restaurants and cafes – all of which charge extortionate rates – but the quality makes up for it!
Ashbourne is situated just outside of the Peak District, on the southernmost edge. Its size is in between Buxton and Bakewell and it offers a nice mix of independent and main steam shops and restaurants. It’s got a great atmosphere to it and comes at a fraction of the price of Bakewell, yet it still has great access to many walks in the southern Peaks district.
EXPLORE BEYOND THOR’S CAVE
Without a question of doubt, Thor’s Cave circular walk is one of the greatest walks in the Manifold Valley. However, if you’re heading to the Peak District for a weekend break or longer, then it’s certainly worth squeezing in some more great walks in the area. Below are some guides to our other favourite walks in the area.
- Dovedale Stepping Stones / an easy walk to the famous Dovedale Stepping Stones in the Peak District
- Lud’s Church / an easy walk to an awe-inspiring chasm that’s steeped in history
- Padley Gorge walk / a gentle walk through a magical gorge with plenty of wild swimming spots
- Mam Tor / a breathtaking Mam Tor walk that leads through Winnats Pass & Castleton
- Shining Tor walk / a diverse walk through the stunning Goyt Valley
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