WINNATS PASS WALK GUIDE
Embarking on a Winnats Pass walk is an absolute must if you’re heading to the Peak District National Park. It’s a small slice of the area that feels magical and the history of how it came to be is mind-blowing. Whilst many people head here to admire the awe-inspiring landscape, little put the effort in to go one step further and hike along the two ridges that encapsulate the pass. And, little do they know, this is where the very best views can be found.
After spending weeks exploring the Peaks over the years, we’ve found ourselves going back to Winnats Pass time and time again. Whether it’s for a walk or to simply relax and admire the views, it’s never one that ever disappoints.
In this guide, you’ll discover everything you need to know before heading on this walk – including a map, what to expect on the day, and some top tips to know before you go.
WHAT IS WINNATS PASS
Winnats Pass is a road that leads through the Peak District National Park with huge rugged hillsides on either side. It’s truly spectacular and has an impressive history; over 340 million years ago, the entire area was below the sea – Winnats Pass in particular is thought to have been a coral reef. Once you know this, it’s easy to believe this is true as the surfaces represent exactly that.
WHERE IS WINNATS PASS IN THE PEAK DISTRICT
Winnats Pass is located in what’s known as the ‘High Peak’ area of the Peak District National Park. It’s close to many other great walks in the area and is situated near the popular village of Castleton.
Below is an interactive map so that you can see the exact location.
HOW TO GET TO THE WINNATS PASS WALK TRAILHEAD
The Peak District National Park is made up of country roads, tiny villages and heaps of fields. As such, by far the easiest and quickest way to get around is by car.
The trailhead begins in the nearby village of Castleton where you’ll find the Castleton Car Park. The postcode for this is S33 8WH and it costs £2.50 for 2 hours, however you can park for longer if you need to. There are also facilities such as toilets and a visitor centre.
If If you need to rent a car, then we recommend using a platform such as Expedia which shows all of the best deals on the market.
BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT
If you’re unable to drive or prefer to take public transport, then taking the bus is the best option since there isn’t a train station near the beginning of this walk. You’ll need to the bus to Castleton and from here you can start your hike.
Below are some popular routes alongside the bus number and duration from the location, however we always recommend using Rome2Rio. This platform clearly advises the best way to get from A to B and gives you all of the key details you’ll need to make the right decision.
WINNATS PASS WALK DETAILS
DISTANCE OF THE WALK
The distance of this walk is roughly 6 kilometres.
ELEVATION OF THE WALK
The elevation covers approximately 250 meters. This is below average for a walk in the Peak District, however, this is mostly covered in the first section of the walk.
DURATION OF THE WALK
It should take roughly 2 hours to complete this walk if you don’t stop for a picnic along the way. This may seem longer than what it would usually take you to cover this distance, but the elevation at the start of the walk will almost certainly require a few breaks. You’ll also have countless opportunities to admire the view and take some pictures.
DIFFICULTY OF THE WALK
There are two sections of this walk which are difficult and this is the first and last section. The first section is steep, however, you’ll see plenty of people tackling the hillside – even children. This is short-lived and well worth the effort to enjoy the epic views. The last section is a tough descent with a rope in place to support you. This may sound off-putting to some, but it’s all part of the adventure.
If the above doesn’t sound manageable to you, then this walk is easily adjustable, yet still enjoy the best sections of the walk. You’ll find 2 options when it comes to altering the route and these can be found in the tips section later on in the guide.
WHAT TO EXPECT ON THE DAY OF YOUR WINNATS PASS WALK
Once you’ve parked up in the picturesque village of Castleton, you’ll leave behind the quaint coffee shops and artisan ice-creams to find a long country road. You won’t need to follow this road for long before getting sight of the mystical Winnats Pass. Whilst the road is predominantly used by cars, the number of walkers around the pass quickly drowns out the cars. Once you reach Speedwell Cavern, it’s time to begin the first steep ascent.
THE FIRST ASCENT
As you climb towards the first ridge of this walk, you’ll see many people perched on the hillside admiring the views over Castleton and beyond. This is by far the toughest ascent of the walk, however, there are multiple incredible photo opportunities of the sheer drops down into the pass, which provides the perfect excuse for a break.
WALKING ALONG THE FIRST RIDGE
Once you’ve made it to your first summit, the ridge walk cascades above the road below to your left, and the stunning Mam Tor ridgeline begins to present itself on the right. If you happen to be walking on a good day for paragliding, then you’ll be able to see dozens of people hurtling themselves off of the nearby summit, too.
DESCENDING AND ASCENDING
Before long, it will be time to descend from the first Winnat Pass walk ridge. It’s an incredibly steep descent that would benefit from some hiking poles, however, it’s fairly short and can be managed by most who are sturdy on their feet.
As soon as you reach the bottom of the descent, you’ll need to cross the road before immediately finding a trail that leads toward the second ridgeline. This ascent on the second side of this hike is much more gentle and finds the summit much quicker than the first.
WALKING ALONG THE SECOND RIDGE
The second ridge is much longer than the first and undulates throughout, however, this is nothing strenuous. In our opinion, it also provides better views and has more dynamic and shocking edges which drop toward the road. If you’re only looking to walk across one of the ridges, then we’d recommend it to be this one.
DESCENDING WINNATS PASS AND WALKING BACK TO CASTLETON
Once you’ve spent enough time gawping at the views of Winnats Pass from above, the descent back to Castleton begins. Initially, it’s a gentle descent across a few fields before it quickly finds a significant drop. This drop is arguably the toughest part to navigate down. So much so, that a rope has been put in place for walkers to cling onto as they descend.
Following the short-lived rope descent, the almost completely flattens and drops you back into Castleton, conveniently by the fish and chip shop and ice-cream parlour.
WINNATS PASS WALK ROUTE MAP
We searched high and low for a Winnats Pass circular walk and could not find one anywhere. As such, we ventured off on this walk following nothing more than our bearings. However, below we’ve drawn up a map so that you can retrace our steps and enjoy the magic of Winnats Pass and its breathtaking views too.
*note that the below-drawn trail is the approximate route as there are no official trails that can be marked – which makes sense as to why we couldn’t find one!
Tip: You can bookmark this page so that you can refer back to the map on the day of your walk.
BEST TIME TO WALK UP WINNATS PASS
As long as the weather is nice, people will be along this trail. It’s an unbelievably awesome spot for multiple reasons and attracts all kinds of visitors – not just walkers.
However, since the pass’ primary reason is for cars to travel around the Peak District National Park, we’d recommend avoiding times when traffic is high and could spoil the views. These are typically around 8:30-9:30 in the morning and between 4 and 6 in the evening. On weekends, this road will always be busy, particularly in the summer.
TIPS FOR WALKING UP WINNATS PASS
TWEAK THE ROUTE TO SUIT YOUR NEEDS
Whilst this is the Winnats Pass walk that we chose to do and we think that every steep incline was worth it, we appreciate that others may not be as able but would still like to enjoy the views. Luckily, this is a walk that you can tweak slightly and still benefit from some of the best parts.
Option 1: You can avoid the super steep incline at the beginning of the walk and instead take the same road as the cars do since there is a path alongside the road for walkers. We’ve done both on different occasions and whilst this is certainly an easier option, that doesn’t mean it’s not a little bit tough. The distance will also be roughly the same.
Option 2: If you just want to walk along the second ridge and avoid the steep incline at the beginning of the walk, as well as the challenging rope descent, then you could park in the Mam Tor National Trust car park and walk over to Winnats Pass. This would be an out and back route and would take around an hour and a half to complete. However, the only moderate incline would be at the beginning of the ridge ascent and this is much more gentle than if you were to include both ridges.
FACILITIES ON THE WALK
The facilities along this trail are minimal. There are two opportunities for a toilet break and these are both quite early on in the walk. You’ll find public toilets by the car park at the beginning of the walk and also at the base of Winnats Pass. Both of these places also have somewhere to pick up some drinks and snacks too.
HYDRATION AND HIKING FUEL
Speaking of drinks and snacks, you’ll want to ensure that you’re packing sufficient. This walk has a couple of tricky sections that will exert a lot of effort and sweat! We always recommend making sure that you’ve packed sufficient drinks and snacks for every hike, but you’ll want to be extra prepared for this one.
The main car park for this trail is Castleton Car Park, however, it does get full during peak times. Luckily, there are a few places to park along this trail if you do find that this car park is full. However, bear in mind that parking elsewhere may mean that you add some additional distance to your walk.
Below is a list of alternative car parks to consider:
- Mam Tor National Trust Car Park: S33 8WA
- Peak Cavern All Day Car Park: S33 8WN
- Speedwell Cavern Car Park: S33 8WA
Given the history of this location, there are quite a few caves in the area – two of which are directly on this route: Peak Cavern and Speedwell Cavern. You’ve also got Treak Cliff Cavern nearby and Perivale Castle close to the route.
When you arrive back in the lovely little village of Castleton, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing somewhere to eat. You’ll be inundated with ice-cream options, however, there are some great pubs with excellent beer gardens, too. Alternatively, you can go back to basics and grab some fish and chips and sit by the river. Below are some of the locations we’ve tried and can recommend:
- The George (pub)
- Ye Old Nags Head (pub)
- Rose Cottage (cafe)
- Castleton Fish and Chips
WATCH THE SUNRISE
Whilst we’ve never quite managed to roll out of bed in time for sunrise at Winnats Pass, we’ve seen some epic pictures. It’s meant to be one of the best spots to see the sun come up and is one that’s still on our Peak District bucket list. In the meantime, let us know in the comments below if you make the trip!
WHERE TO STAY NEAR WINNATS PASS
It goes without saying that Castleton is the best location to stay if you’re heading to the Peak District National Park to marvel at Winnats Pass. With the trailhead of this walk right on your doorstep, it makes sense to stop here. In fact, it’s a great base for exploring all the High Peak area, particularly if you’re looking to tick off the likes of Mam Tor, Kinder Scout and Bamford Edge (guides below). It’s a pretty little village with plenty of atmosphere and more than a few places for a bite to eat – it’s unlikely to disappoint.
Hathersage is easily another favourite when it comes to villages in the Peak District. It’s similar to Castleton in the sense that there is always a great atmosphere and plenty of places to drink and eat. It’s roughly 10 minutes away from the start of the route and is a great option if you’re looking to head to the city of Sheffield for the day too.
Alternatively, Edale is 15 minutes north of the trailhead and is yet another great option to consider as a base. There is less going on here, however still enough pubs and cafes to keep you going for a short trip. It’s also a cheaper option for those on a budget.
EXPLORE BEYOND WINNATS PASS WALK IN THE PEAK DISTRICT
This Winnats Pass walk is, without a doubt, one of the best walks in the Peak District that requires a little more sense of adventure than some of the others. Whilst there is no clear path to follow, it’s easy to navigate and get your bearings when you’re looking down from above.
If you’re looking for more great walks in the High Peak area, then you’ll find some more guides below. We’ve got heaps of guides on the whole of the Peak District which can be found using the search bar.
- 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
- Ladybower Reservoir walk / a gentle walk around one of the most impressive reservoirs
- Kinder Scout walk / a challenging walk to the highest peak in the area
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