Thorpe Cloud, Dovedale Stepping Stones, Bunster Hill and Ilam
Dovedale is an area of natural beauty, with limestone cliffs and scenic views. At just over 5.5 miles, this walk includes Thorpe Cloud, the famous Dovedale stepping stones and a scramble up Bunster Hill before a wander around Ilam Country Park. This is a great walk with lots to see in the beautiful White Peak area of the Peak District National Park.
Thorpe Cloud is an iconic hill in the White Peak, with a summit of 287m instantly recognisable because of it’s unique mini-mountain shape. It’s a popular walk with families as you can park quite close by and it’s a short, steep walk to the rocky summit, and you can head down the hillside to the famous Dovedale Stepping Stones across the River Dove. Bunster Hill is higher than Thorpe Cloud at 329m but is much quieter, and it’s summit is hidden in a wooded copse. It’s one of the Peak District 75s, which is a great list of accessible hills taking you all over the Peak District, exploring places you might not visit necessarily (but you’ll be glad you did).
Ilam Country Park is 84 acres of parkland looked after by the National Trust and features beautiful Italianate gardens, views to Thorpe Cloud and walks through a wooded valley which is bursting with wild garlic in Spring. Ilam Hall is managed as a youth hostel by the YHA.
Our walk starts in the National Trust car park at Dovedale and we set off east towards the River Dove. Crossing at the wooden bridge, we started to head up the side of Thorpe Cloud. Due to the amount of people who visit, there are erosion control measures in place and the paths have been diverted. We followed the blue post markers to wind around Thorpe Cloud to the south-east before the final steep climb up to the summit. You might have to use your hands to get to the summit as it’s a bit scrambly, but not too bad.
It is busy though! This walk is very popular with families and it can be very busy on sunny weekends and school holidays. The best time to visit the Dovedale stepping stones would be midweek or very early in the morning before the crowds arrive.
From the summit of Thorpe Cloud we could see across to Bunster Hill, and a view down to the River Dove.
We set off back down Thorpe Cloud, following a path down to the south-east, then turned left and headed towards the River Dove. The path here was very wet in places!
Once at the River Dove we found the Dovedale stepping stones. These are 16 limestone capped stepping stones making a fun way to cross the river. It had been raining and the River Dove was running high, so the stepping stones were only just poking out. We had waterproof boots on so we headed across, but most people were going around to cross the river higher up.
Straight across from the stepping stones is a limestone rock face and we scrambled up this as part of our climb up Bunster Hill. There are handholds and footholds to help you up. If you didn’t want to attempt the scramble you could either miss out Bunster Hill altogether or head back to the car park along the River Dove to pick up a footpath running along the wall near the green sign. Bunster Hill is Open Access Land and there are footpaths running all over it.
Once we had climbed up Bunster Hill, we headed along the ridge (which has a look of the Dragons Back about it) to the summit, which is hidden in a small secluded woodland area. The summit of Bunster Hill couldn’t be more different to that of Thorpe Cloud!
We retraced our steps and headed over the stile to begin the steep descent of Bunster Hill, following the line of the wall as we headed down hill. We were lucky that there were lots of sheep and lambs in the fields. After jumping over another stile, we continued south until we reached Thorpe Road and then we set off into the pretty village of Ilam.
At the roundabout in Ilam is a beautiful ornate structure known as the Ilam Cross (or the Mary Watts-Russell Memorial) built by J W Russell of Ilam Hall as a memorial for his late wife in 1841. We headed past Ilam Church and up towards Ilam Hall, stopping for a bite to eat at the Manifold Tea Rooms.
From here we went downhill, heading west, towards the woodland and the walk along the banks of the River Manifold. We then turned back up the hillside and headed through the country park back to the village centre, before picking up the footpath leading over the fields back to the car park. These fields were exceptionally muddy!
How Long is the Dovedale Stepping Stones Walk?
You can do a short walk to the Dovedale stepping stones along the River Dove, and this will take 20 minutes each way. Adding in Thorpe Cloud is a great way to make more of a day of your adventures, and this walk including Bunster Hill and Ilam Park also extends a day out.
How Do You Get to The Dovedale Stepping Stones?
The best way to get to the stepping stones is to park at the National Trust car park and head along the River Dove for about half a mile.
How Far is The Walk From The Car Park to the Dovedale Stepping Stones?
The shortest walk to the Dovedale stepping stones is about half a mile each way.
Dovedale Stepping Stones Walk:
Dovedale Stepping Stones Car Park:
Dovedale National Trust Car Park, Dovedale, Ilam, Ashbourne DE6 2AY (free for National Trust members, pay and display for everyone else)
Facilities: Pay to use toilets in the National Trust Car Park (20p), snack van
Walk Time: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: ▲▲ (Thorpe Cloud is very steep and rocky at the top, and we scrambled up Bunster Hill)
Distance: 5.59 miles in total
Trig Points Bagged: None.
Peak District Peaks Bagged: Thorpe Cloud, Bunster Hill
Peak District Ethels Bagged: Thorpe Cloud
Dovedale Stepping Stones Walk Map:
You might also like this Dovedale and Thorpe Cloud Walk
For a more secluded stepping stones walk which doesn’t get as busy, you could check out this Chee Dale Stepping Stones Walk.