Stanage Edge looms over the Hope Valley, casting a craggy shadow across the moors and hills of the Peak District. This six kilometer (3.7 mile) grit-stone ridge is an iconic part of the district’s landscape, attracting avid hikers all year round. Stanage Edge is a paradise for rock climbers, and you’ll often see daring adventurers attempting challenging routes up and down the sheer face of the ridge.
While most visitors come here for the exceptional views over the Dark Peaks and the Derwent Valley, Stanage Edge is also a region steeped in history, literature and local legend. A visit here feels like a step back in time.
Although it now lies in the United Kingdom’s oldest national park, Stanage Edge once formed one of the major highways in medieval England. The so-called Long Causeway, a medieval packhorse route, starts in the Yorkshire city of Sheffield and descends steeply from Stanage Edge to its final destination in the ancient village of Hathersage. It’s thought the Edge has been an important thoroughfare since Roman times, and people used its well-worn tracks to transport goods like salt, oil, glue, tar, and treacle for centuries.
High on the moors behind the Edge you’ll see Stanage Pole, an enormous timber pillar designed to act as a way-marker for weary travelers. A pole has stood here since the medieval period, and through the actual structure has been replaced several times it still operates as an important gathering point. All around the pole you’ll see scattered and broken stones, a remnant of the once-important millstone industry that dominated the Peaks until the mid-19th century.
The walk up to Stanage Edge takes you past the proud and stately North Lees Hall, built in the 16th century and the ancestral home of the Eyre family. This prominent Catholic family was driven from the area by Protestants in the 17th century, but their name would go on to inspire a British literary icon. It is thought that a visit to the house was the catalyst for Charlotte Bronte’s famous novel, Jane Eyre, and she drew inspiration from the dark and beautiful moors around Stanage Edge.
Stanage Edge also features prominently in the 2005 movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Keira Knightly, as Elizabeth Bennet, is pictured gazing from the top of the windswept ridge, highlighting the drama and majesty of this beautiful part of the Peak District. It’s no surprise that this beautiful region stimulated the literary imaginations of these two important female writers, and the region remains a place of pilgrimage for Austen and Bronte fans to this day.
At the bottom of the ridge, in the village of Hathersage, you’ll find one last piece of local legend. In the parish church of Saint Michael, dating from the 14th century, lies a particularly long grave, thought to be the final resting place of Little John, Robin Hood’s famous companion. Stanage Edge is a place where history and fiction blur together, and where ancient legends spring to life.
Know Before You Go
The historic village of Hathersage makes an excellent base from which to explore Stanage Edge and the surrounding moors. You’ll find plenty of picturesque walks, open swimming pools and quaint shops to keep you occupied during your stay in the Peaks!