I was chatting to a reader the other week who fancied planning a hiking tour based on some of the routes mentioned in my books. I offered to put a guide together whenever I got the chance, so here we go!
Jacob’s Ladder circular onto Kinder Scout from Edale village
Kate and Sam head up Jacob’s Ladder, an old packhorse trail, right at the end of Snowbound, with Sam none too happy to realise there are about three false summits before you actually hit the top.
The path is a lovely, well-trodden route onto the southern edge of Kinder Scout, the highest of the Peak District’s many hills (still quite low at 636m). Some of the route follows the Pennine Way – a long-distance footpath that starts in Edale and finishes 268 miles later in Kirk Yetholm, just over the Scottish border – so it’s easy to find and navigate, and not too rough underfoot. Highlights include the fabulous Woolpack stones, Noe Stool, and Pym Chair. Somewhat ironically (don’t tell Sam!) the low path towards Jacob’s ladder also takes you past the barn that was the inspiration for the hostage barn in Snowbound 🙂
View from the path to Jacob’s with the Great Ridge in the background.
The Woolpack rocks
Hit this link for an excellent pictorial guide to the most popular circular route, which ascends via Jacob’s Ladder and descends and returns to Edale via Grindsbrook Clough. We tend to stay on the summit for longer and head down via Ringing Roger, which takes you onto a far quieter and quite spectacular bit of Kinder, and avoids the scramble down Grindsbrook, which can be tricky if the stream is in spate.
Ross Lake to Desolation Peak, Cascade Mountains, Washington State, USA
Sadly, I’ve never been to the Cascades and hiked up Desolation Peak, but I did a load of research on the route Sarah takes, and you should basically be able to follow the book to the summit! Sarah parks by milepost 138 and follows the East Bank trail, which adds another day onto the hike, but there are options to boat out to Ross Lake and start from there. As far as I know, the Jack Kerouac lookout post is still at the summit 🙂
Go here for a good overview, trail updates, and map.
No Good Reason
Crowden circular via Laddow Rocks and Black Hill
Although I changed the names of most of the landmarks along Sanne’s fell-running route in No Good Reason, it’s based on a route we’ve regularly hiked, and I always wave to the rocks I chucked her down when we go past.
Starting at the Crowden car park just off the Woodhead Pass, you follow the Pennine Way up onto Laddow Ridge and Black Hill, and then, if you’re feeling brave, follow a rather vague and VERY soggy route across an unmarked no-man’s-land onto White Low to complete the circle. If you’re not feeling brave and would rather keep your feet dry (assuming you’ve not fallen into the river whilst attempting to zigzag across it three bloody times) you can touch the trig point on Black Hill and come back the same way – recommended in poor visibility or after wet weather, because the top is very tricky to navigate in low cloud and is seriously boggy underfoot.
Laddow Rocks in deep snow with cloud inversion in the valley.
The path to the trig point on Black Hill , cutting through the cotton grass.
There’s another excellent guide with photos and map here.
A Quiet Death
Blackden Brook onto the northern edge of Kinder Scout, descending via Fairbrook
Meg and Sanne go up Blackden onto Kinder right at the end of A Quiet Death (egg butties mandatory!)
The Blackden route is recommended for people with a sense of adventure only; you have to scramble in places, particularly near the top. Every time we go, new sections of the path seem to have fallen away, and there are some reasonably steep drops along very narrow sections. Can’t lie, it is fun, though.
At the summit, follow the obvious ridge path to the right to head towards Fairbrook, passing loads of good scrambling rocks and viewpoints on the way, and then descend via Fairbrook Clough. The only caveat is that you have to cross Fairbrook’s stream at the bottom to return to the Blackden layby, and there’s no bridge. If the stream is low, it’s easy to rock-hop. If it’s high, you’re best taking your boots off and just wading.
Top of Fairbrook Clough on a snow day!
To hit the same side of Kinder without risking your neck up Blackden, park in one of the laybys just south of The Snake Inn and walk up Fairbrook Clough instead. Fairbrook Clough is gorgeous, the path is easy to find and navigate, and you can have a wild dip in the stream if it’s a hot day. Fun fact: The Snake Inn is the pub that Sanne is taken to after her escape from the barn and her barefoot run across the moors, though it now seems to be holiday accommodation rather than a pub.
Nb. At the moment, the Snake Pass is completely closed due to recent storm damage.
This link has a really good picture guide to Blackden.
Llyn Idwal, Snowdonia National Park, Wales
If you’re a fan of wild swimming, you can certainly do worse than a visit to Pryce’s skinny-dipping lake, Llyn Idwal in Snowdonia, Wales (I’d recommend a swimming costume or wetsuit, though!) It’s a spectacular spot surrounded by the Glyderau mountain range, with Tryfan looming on his own. You can do a reasonably long walk around the lake itself, but lovers of heights should head up Glyder Fach and Fawr, and/or brave one of the scrambles on Tryfan. I cannot recommend this area enough; it’s absolutely beautiful and one of our favourite places outside the Peak District.
The Glyderau from the summit of Tryfan. The lower of the two lakes is Llyn Idwal.
The Glyders with Tryfan off to the left of the shot.
Find more information, including parking details here.
Llanddwyn Island (Ynys Llanddwyn), Anglesey
About an hour’s drive from the Glyders, Ynys Llanddwyn is the small tidal island from the epilogue of Alias, and it’s another gorgeous spot for a picnic, wander, or dip in the sea. Best accessed from Newborough Forest nature reserve, where there’s parking, ice creams, toilets, and maps of trails. Pryce isn’t fibbing when she tells Alis to time it right or she’ll get her feet wet – the island can be cut off for a couple of hours at high tide. Full of legends and historical ruins, and bursting with wild flowers and sea birds, you can explore at your leisure and have a paddle or a swim. The place does get busy, so try to go off-peak.
Alis and Pryce’s picnic spot on Llanddwyn Island.
Beautiful backdrop for a paddle.
There’s another good overview here.
The monument beside which Jem and Rosie have a picnic (off page) right at the end of Breathe is Hartshead Pike by another name, a folly atop a small hill near Mossley in Tameside. Although I must have driven past it a thousand times, we’ve never actually walked to it, but I’ve chucked it into this guide for the completionists amongst you! This leaflet has a clear trail to follow.
Debdale Park is a real place as well. That’s just off Hyde Road in Gorton. I used to jog around its lakes and remember it fondly, though it’s not somewhere I’d go after dark…
This guide is intended as a jumping-off point for you to research your route. With the exception of a handful of well-marked paths, the Peak District requires sound navigational skills and the ability to use a compass and an Ordnance Survey map (or in my case, to walk with someone who does!) Use OS map OL1 for the Peak District walks listed here, and OL17 for the Snowdonia walks.
Bear in mind that clouds and mist can quickly descend at any time of year, blotting out visual landmarks. You need proper hiking boots, a decent waterproof, and layers of clothing, because the damn weather is always going to try to freeze or boil or drown you. Check this forecast for a reasonably accurate outlook (link takes you straight to the Peak District forecast but will also allow access to a Snowdonia forecast) and then take the layers anyway. Add plenty of water and snacks to your pack, because there’s no handy café on any of the summits (loads of good pubs in the villages, though). Having said all that, people up there are dead friendly and will always help you out with directions, just don’t rely on them being there, because some of these routes can be deserted in places.