Peckforton Hills Walk 17-09-19
A nice 9km amble through the Cheshire countryside
Ever since I was a kid I've been fascinated by Beeston and Peckforton castles in Cheshire. You can see both long before you get near them due to the flatness of the land surrounding the hills they are perched upon. Beeston was built in the 1200s by the Earl of Chester and was seized not long after his death by Henry III. It came under a year long siege during the Civil War and then surrendered by Royalists and then partly demolished which gives its rugged appearance jutting out on the hill. It became a tourist attraction back in the 19th century and even had kangaroos as part of its lure!
As a kid, I imagined battles between the two castles, launching trebuchets of flaming pitch at one another for days on end. Alas, Peckforton came along much much later in the day, being built in the 1840s by which time Beeston was already taking in visitors to its ruins. There are no battle scars to be seen, and its pristine turrets topped with flags can be seen for many a mile. Its now a venue for weddings, business conferences and you can even sleep over there.
've visited both, and regularly visit Beeston due to the views out across several counties from the top (which I previously mentioned being one of my favourite views in the North West HERE) but I've never actually explored the area around it. Which is criminal as the countryside surrounding these hills is beautiful. So I sketched out a route and set off.
To get there the A49 is your friend. I never knew how long it was until driving home from the Hay Festival earlier this year. It got me from Ross-On-Wye right back up to St Helens and carries on to Bamber Bridge just outside Preston. On this route you skirt round the edge of Beeston and you'll see signs pointing you towards the castle.
TIP: Once you turn off the A49 the lanes are super narrow. Satnav will probably take you up Dean Bank. When you come to a fork in the road it will more than likely tell you to take the right fork on to an unmarked road for a mile. This is the most direct route, but also very narrow with very few passing points. A nightmare during busy periods. Instead, keep following the road round and go through the village, taking a right at Chapel Lane. The crudely drawn crosses and ticks below indicates where to go.
The start and end for this walk is the car park at Beeston Castle. £3.00 pay and display gets you all day parking. Car park is open from around 9 and closes at about 6. Beeston Castle opens its doors at around 10am. Post code for the Castle is CW6 9TX which will bring you right outside the entrance gate. The car park is directly opposite across the road.
The route takes in part of the Sandstone Trail, a 34 mile path running from Frodsham to Whitchurch. Coming out of the car park, you're immediately on the trail. From here take a left, keeping the castle entrance gates to your right.
When the road bends away to the left, cut up the right hand side of the Sandstone Cafe, down a very narrow path alongside the castle wall. This will bring you out in a small wooded area and lead you down on to the Tattenhall Lane. Caution is advised here as there is a blind bend and drivers familiar with the roads round here can often hurtle past. Take a left, crossing the road, passing the farm house on your right. You'll then see a footpath sign going across fields to the side of this farm house. Follow this and you can see Peckforton Hill in front of you with the castle at the top.
Across the field you'll then have a small tree line to your right, follow this and then when it drops away you'll see a path cutting diagonally across the field towards a house (it will flag up as Moathouse Farm on OS Explorer/Landranger maps). Head towards this and you'll join Gorsey Lane at the foot of the hill. Keeping the farm to your right, head down the lane for a short while and you'll see a path emerge to your left, signposting the Sandstone Trail again. You'll head into the woods that shrouds Peckforton Hill. The castle is way up above you to your left. To your right are views out across Cheshire.
As the path curves round you'll eventually come to a crossroads. Don't make the mistake I did here. To the left you can take a path that takes you between the Castle and Stanner Nab. There is indeed signs that tell you to keep to the path, and it does take you through and brings you out just north of Peckforton Village on Stone House Lane. However, if you're looking to go up Stanner Nab, which I was to find a viewpoint to launch the drone, you'll be disappointed. Peckforton Estate have gated this off and it now makes up part of the route for their Off Road Driving course.
There's lots of debate online regarding rights of way here, with many believing the estate to be in the wrong with their signs. I didn't fancy my chances against a 4x4 so made a retreat back down the hill. I passed an elderly couple on the way who told me it never used to be fenced off and the chap used to run to the top of Stanner Nab with an 80lb pack to train for fell runs. He seemed quite dismayed that so much of this area was now fenced off.
I picked up the path again at the cross roads following signs for Bulkeley Hill. Further down the path you'll come to a fork. Signs point towards the Pheasant Inn (an amazing place for food or a swift drink) or a trail leading up the hill for Bulkeley Hill. Its a short walk from here to the Pheasant if you wanted a stop off and then swing back and pick up the path. If you're wanting to just plough on however then take the trail up the hill.
At the top there's a path leading straight ahead, and one off to your right. They'll both bring you out on to Hill Lane, but I'd urge taking the right hand path as it brings you out into a clearing with a bench to take a breather and admire the views looking out to Chester and Wales beyond it.
At the edge of this field you take a left onto the lane and it is here you leave the Sandstone Trail behind and cut right through between Waste Hill and Peckforton Point. If you wanted to extend your elevated stay, then you can keep on the Sandstone and head south and take in Peckforton Point, Bulkeley Hill and Bickerton Hill to completely encompass this entire ridge. If not, head on up the lane and pass through the gate at the end.
You've now got the fields of Waste Hill to your left. Caution is advised here as this now makes up part of the Peckforton Estate and the Off Road Driving track (as you'll note by the huge tyre tracks on the trail). Thankfully you're not on it too long though. You'll come to a stone bridge, or as its otherwise known, The Haunted Bridge (gulp).
The bridge carries the old carriageway leading up to Peckforton Castle. There are various stories as to why its called Haunted Bridge. One is that a ghostly horse and carriage can be seen riding across it, another is that a woman, believed to be a servant of the castle appears from the woodland to the side of the bridge. Some stories have her as headless, carrying it under her arm. So you need to pass under this bridge (sorry). If you hear hooves overhead, or a scream to your left or right, leg it until you see a sign for a footpath to the right of the track taking you across a field. Make a quick exit off the lane on to this path.
As you leave the headless spectres and horsey ghouls behind, as you emerge on to the field. You'll see a well stamped track running right alongside the woods here. This used to be Baws Lane and leads on down to Stonehouse Lane if you carry on down it. There used to be cottages here, with a large stone carving of an Elephant and Castle (now relocated into Peckforton village). The views out to the east from here are spectacular. You can see right out across the Plain, and even as far as the Peak District on the horizon. I sent the drone up here, and flew uninterrupted right across the fields (see video below).
Once you've taken in the views, take the grassy path which slopes away left down the hill and into the village of Peckforton coming out on to Stonehouse Lane. Turn left on to the lane. When you see a road sign indicating Peckforton and Beeston village hall up a small road named Quarrybank, be sure to look left. Here you'll see the relocated Elephant and Castle statue.
Keep on along Stone House Lane until you start to leave the village behind, and pass two small cottages on your right. Past these there will be a signpost leading down the side of a field. Cut through the gate here and onto this path, stopping before you reach a small foot bridge. Instead, turn left at the corner of the field you've just walked down the side of. I missed this initially as the path is so overgrown, so do watch your step (this will be a frequent warning for the next couple of paragraphs!).
At the end of the field keep on across the lane into the next field towards a small bridge which takes you over the River Gowy. You're now right by Peckforton Mere. If the weather has been wet, be careful where you tread here. The ground is very boggy near the mere. Even on the path you are at risk of going ankle deep, so proceed with caution.
Depending on what time of year you go, the next fields you walk through might be waist high in wheat and head high in maize. The maize is grown to feed cattle in winter months, as will the wheat with the hay being baled for bedding for the livestock owned by Peckforton Farm Dairy. Whilst this was interesting to note, I couldn't help but think of every horror film I've ever watched where cornfields have featured heavily in the demise of characters (Children of the Corn anyone?).
The maize is harvested in September/October so August time the maize will be at its peak. Any time after October and the fields will be quite bare preparing for next year's crop. The path is very obvious, a well flattened strip right through the field, so will be visible whether crops are there or not (except if it snows!).
As you go through these fields, Beeston Crag is visible out to your left, and the tops of the turrets for Peckforton. You're walking almost parallel to the Sandstone Trail that guided you up into the hills.
Once across the lengthy maize field, you'll come to a patch of woodland. You need to walk around the edge of this, keeping it to your left at all times walking between it, and the huge cornfield of Beeston Moss. At the end of the woodland you'll reach a stile. Another caution of watching your footing here. I'd been after a few days of rain and the whole area around the stile was almost swamp like. God bless the Salomon 4D 3 GTX boots. I ended up ankle deep in seriously sloppy mud. Not the first time I've done so in these boots and they still don't seem to need reproofing.
Over the stile and the maize was towering even higher over the top of me and a lot thicker. Once through its a stile out on to another dirt track lane. Here I made a complete boo boo. If you swing right here and follow the lane down to the road, you'll have to either hop over a gate or squeeze under the string tethering it to a gatepost. This wasn't my intended route to this point. What I was meant to do was hope the stile into the next field, and find the path through to the stile which arrives at the same point. However, I missed the path entirely, ended up in a field of cows and a dead end blocked by an electric fence to keep said cows in. If you do hop the stile, look for the blue breaker in the electric fence that puts you on the right path, and go diagonally across the field exiting (correctly) via the stile. Not disturbing any cows or bemusing a farmer in a digger in a neighbouring field.
Once out, you'll be at Peckforton Road and the home strait. Turn left on to the road, and this takes you into Beeston village. There's no pavements, so please be mindful of drivers and find suitable places to step in to let them past (these are narrow lanes). When you reach the black and white cottage with red doors the road forks in front of it, take the right hand fork and then shortly after turn on to Chapel Lane. This will lead you right round to back where you started at the car park.
All in, just shy of 9km, so a little over 5 miles for this and an elevation of 440ft at its highest point cutting between the hills. It should take around 2hrs and aside from that mix up towards the end, is well signposted and paths well visible along the whole route.
GPX download for the route can be acquired HERE. Please do let me know if you use this, or follow the walk and let me know what you think (or if the link is ever broken!). Quick video showing some of the route is also below.
If you're still looking for things to do in the area after the walk there's plenty nearby. Here are just a few but there is much more:
1. Cheshire Workshops - A cafe, shop and various workshops including candle dipping!
2. The Ice Cream Farm - Pretty self explanatory, but damn fine ice cream (I recommend the mint choc chip!)
3. Delamere Forest - Just in case 9km wasn't enough, there's plenty of trails (and a Go Ape) to be had here.
4. Chester - You're not that far at all from the city when you're at Beeston. With walks along the walls, the River Dee and loads of places to eat and drink, its a good place to finish off the day.
And that's it!
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