Thor’s Cave Walker’s Guide: The Easiest Walk

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Tucked away in a sleepy pocket of the Peak District is a distinct and striking rocky outcrop gazing out on the Manifold Valley. Carved into its craggy face is a gaping hole which has an enchanting aura about it.

This is Thor’s Cave, a limestone structure which attracts thousands of walkers per year.

Reaching Thor’s cave does require a bit of walking but the walk need not be long. By taking the shortest route you can visit Thor’s Cave in under an hour.

In this guide I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about visiting Thor’s Cave.

You may also be interested in my other White Peak guides on the famous Dovedale Stepping Stones which sit below Thorpe Cloud and the beautiful stone hamlet of Milldale. All are just a short drive from Thor’s Cave.

Thor’s Cave Map

Thor’s Cave Quick Facts

Elevation: 265 m (870 ft)

Coordinates: 53°05’30.2″N 1°51’16.0″W

Walk difficulty: Moderate

Shortest walk length (return): 1 hour

Operated by: Staffordshire Council

Dog-friendly: Yes

Child-friendly: Yes

Best time of year to visit: Spring or summer. Avoid periods of heavy rain when the path may be slippy.

Best time of day to visit: To avoid crowds, visit early in the morning or late evening.

Entry costs: Free

Car park costs: Free

Opening times: 24/7

Food: Wetton Village Hall and Tea Rooms or Wetton Mill, both around a 15-20 minute walk from Thor’s Cave.

Top Tip: There’s no phone signal or internet so make sure you have offline maps downloaded on your phone before your walk

Me inside one of Thor’s Cave’s dark tunnels

What is Thor’s Cave in The Peak District?

Thor’s Cave, also known as Thor’s House Cavern and Thyrsis’s Cave, is an attractive and distinctive beauty spot in the Manifold Valley in Staffordshire, northern England. It’s covered within the White Peaks locality of the Peak District National Park.

Thor’s Cave is a natural cavern carved within a steep limestone crag, 80 metres high. The entrance is via a symmetrical arch measuring 7.5 metres wide and 10 metres high.

The gorgeous cave can be viewed from the Manifold Way, a gravel trail that runs through the Manifold Valley. This used to be a railway line, the Leek and Manifold Light Railway, which was popular with locals and tourists alike.

There is in fact a second entrance to the cave known as the ‘West Window.’ Exiting or entering via this route is not recommended due to safety concerns. However, just below the West Window is a second cave known as Thor’s Fissure Cavern.

Important! Please keep Thor’s Cave exactly how you found it. Take all your rubbish home with you and don’t vandalise the cave by etching or writing on the walls. Thor’s Cave is a place of natural beauty and it’s important we keep it that way.

Inside Thor’s Cave looking out through both windows

Why Is It Called Thor’s Cave?

There are different explanations for the name with no definitive answers. There are however a couple of theories.

The first theory is that ‘Thor’ comes from the word ‘Tor’ which means rocky peak, outcrop or hill. Mam Tor in the Peak District is an example of a hill which has taken ‘Tor’ in its name. This would translate Thor’s Cave to ‘rocky outcrop’s cave’, a literal description of the structure.

A more romantic theory is that the cave was named after the Norse god, Thor or his Anglo-Saxon equivalent, Thunor. Sadly there is no evidence to support this musing. However it is worth noting that evidence has been found of the cave being used in Anglo-Saxon times as Early Mediaeval artefacts have been uncovered there. Therefore this theory cannot be completely discredited.

A final theory is that the name derived from local folklore. It is said that the cave’s old name is Thursehole (shortened to Thur’s), which means the cave of the thurse or fairy. In folklore the Fiddling Hobthurse of Thor’s Cave was said to inhabit the cave and their shrieking would fill the cavern.

Thor’s Cave viewed from the Manifold Way

How was Thor’s Cave Formed? Is it Man-Made?

Thor’s Cave is what is known as a karst cave, a cave formed within a limestone landscape that has been dissolved and eroded over time.

The cave has a very interesting history which dates back to the Lower Carboniferous period, roughly 360 million years ago. The Peak District lay south of the equator, beneath a warm shallow sea, teaming with an abundance of sea creatures. As the creatures died, their skeletal matter built up on the seafloor. The gradual build-up of this calcareous material created limestone.

During this time, the hillside in which Thor’s Cave is found would have been a reef, similar to those found in tropical seas today.

Over the next 50 million years, ice began to build up on the supercontinent, Gondwana. This in turn caused sea levels to drop, exposing the Peak District.

The main entrance to Thor’s Cave, viewed from the back of the cave

Over the next periods in history, new continents formed and split. By 200 million years ago Britain was part of a continent called Laurasia which lay north of the equator.

Fast forward to 2 million years ago and the plateau overlying Thor’s Cave was still largely intact. However, what lay beneath it was not. Surface water was filtering down through the millstone grit and coal measures rocks and into Carboniferous limestone.

Limestone is a soft rock with a high level of chalk and calcium which can be dissolved in water, including rainwater.

The water gradually started to dissolve the softer areas of limestone hollowing out tunnels and caves including Thor’s cave.

Soon rivers which ran atop the plateau began to cut into the rock, exposing Thor’s Cave and the other striking features of the Manifold Valley.

Thor’s Cave in the Dovedale valley
Thor’s Cave towering above the Manifold Way

How High is Thor’s Cave?

The entrance to Thor’s Cave is around 80 metres (260 feet) from ground level and is accessed by a set of steep steps.

What’s it Like Inside Thor’s Cave?

Thor’s Cave is a natural, cool cave with a great deal of light from the different openings in the limestone. The only sections not illuminated are the two deeper tunnels into the cave, which actually link up via a small opening in the tunnel walls.

Because it is inside a Tor, there is a stunning view from the cave entrance across the local countryside.

The ground going into the cave is steep and challenging. The stone on which you will have to scramble is incredibly smooth and uneven. The ground at the rear of the cave however is more comfortable.

There are also deeper tunnels within the cave which you can explore. These are easier to navigate down than getting into the cave itself as the ground is more even and soft. It’s so evocative you won’t be surprised to learn that it’s been both a movie location and a pop video setting in the past.

There is a second, far smaller opening into the cave known as The Window, but it is notoriously challenging to enter or exit via and has caused countless walkers to get stranded and call for emergency services to assist.

Good to Know! You may hear something unusual in the cave. It is said that the sprite known as the ‘Fiddling Hobthurse of Thor’s Cave’ is said to inhabit its deeper recesses, playing a screeching tune on his fiddle.

Me sitting inside Thor’s Cave

Thor’s Cave History: How Old is Thor’s Cave?

The cave itself is thought to have formed around 2 million years ago when water dissolved weak segments of limestone, forming tunnels and caves within the Peak District.

The cave would then have been used for shelter by both animals and humans alike. Bones of giant red deer and bears have been found in similar caves in this area of the Peak District.

Just exactly when the cave became inhabited by humans is unknown although numerous artefacts have been found within Thor’s cave which give us some inclination.

The cave site was excavated in 1864-65 by Samual Carrington, and then again in 1927-35 by GH Wilson. Excavations of the site have uncovered flints, a polished stone axe, Late Neolithic pottery, amber beads, bronze artefacts, and animal bones. A detailed account of Samual Carrington’s excavation of the cave can be found here. Many of the finds in the cave are now in the Buxton Museum

The remains of seven individuals have also been found in Thor’s Cave, leading people to believe that the cave once acted as a burial chamber.

All items excavated from the cave are fascinating but perhaps the most intriguing is a piece of roughly dawn deer antler found in the cave was dated back to the late Palaeolithic period, around 30,000 years ago. This is the oldest artefact that has been found in the cave.

“The most interesting find in Thor’s Cave was a piece of roughly sawn deer antler pierced by two holes, as though for suspension. As this was dug from clay below the breccia, it seems to require a late Palaeolithic date. In view of undoubted late Palaeolithic material from Thor’s Fissure Cave and Elder Bush Cave, this would not be so unlikely.”

– Bramwell (1950)
Inside one of the tunnels in Thor’s Cave

Is it Safe to Visit Thor’s Cave? Thor’s Cave Incidents

Most visits to Thor’s Cave are trouble-free although you do have to be careful.

The walk to Thor’s Cave involves ascending a steep flight of stairs which can be strenuous, especially in hot weather. Once at the entrance to the cave you then have to scramble over the steep, uneven and highly slippery ground to get into the cave itself.

Inside the entire cave floor is uneven and the stone that you scramble upon is incredibly smooth. Grippy shoes are a necessity!

Incidents at Thor’s Cave have occurred. In early 2021 walkers had to be rescued after leaving Thor’s Cave via The Window, a notoriously challenging route. Emergency services were called after another walker heard their screams for help. No one was injured in the incident but the walkers were left ‘shaken, cold and wet’.

This is just one of many incidents which all seem to follow the same pattern. People get ‘cragfast’ when trying to tackle the route down via The Window. There were numerous rescues carried out in 2020, some just days apart.

Another incident occurred in June 2020 when two walkers found themselves stuck in Thor’s Cave, prompting a two hour rescue mission.

Important! It goes without saying, when visiting Thor’s Cave you must wear appropriate clothing and footwear, stick to the designated paths and avoid visiting on rainy days where the trail will be slippery. Due to the vast number of incidents that seem to occur as a result of walkers attempting to leave via The Window I would personally avoid that route.

The notorious Window. Countless people have got stranded trying to leave Thor’s Cave via this route

Planning Your Visit to Thor’s Cave in The Manifold Valley

A visit to Thor’s Cave provides a great day out to one of the most stunning areas of the Peak District. However, it’s a popular beauty spot so planning is essential in order to beat the crowds and get the most out of your trip.

Where is Thor’s Cave Located?

Thor’s Cave is located in the Manifold Valley in the White Peaks area of the Peak District.

The cave is roughly a thirty minute walk from the village of Wetton.

The general address for the area is Manifold Valley, White Peak, Wetton DE6 2AF.

There are a number of parking options for you to choose from including parking in the village of Wetton as well as at Wetton Mill. I will go into more detail on parking options later in the article.

Wetton Village Hall - a great place for some tea and cake after visiting Dovedale Stepping Stones
On-street parking in Wetton Village beside the Village Hall

How do you Get to Thor’s Cave?

Thor’s Cave is best visited via car. Public transport in this remote area of the Peak District is poor. Buses are irregular and don’t take you close to the cave or Wetton village.

Getting to Thor’s Cave by Car

The drive to Thor’s Cave will involve contending with some pretty narrow roads. Thor’s Cave is quite far from any main roads so a large stretch of your drive will be down country lanes.

Below I will detail some of the key routes to Thor’s Cave.

From Ashbourne it is a ten-mile drive of about twenty-five minutes mostly along the A515. You will take a left turn and find yourself navigating down picturesque country roads, passing one of the most beautiful villages in the Peak District, Milldale, before continuing to Wetton.

From Matlock, drive west for a little over forty minutes (eighteen miles) along the picturesque B5057 and B5054 minor roads. Alternatively, you can head south from Matlock and take the A5012 then the B5054, which is about five minutes longer.

The route south from Buxton to Thor’s Cave follows the A515 and then the B5053. It’s about eighteen miles and takes a little over half an hour.

The town of Leek in Staffordshire is around ten miles west of Thor’s Cave. You can make the journey easily in about twenty-five minutes, on the A523 and then the B5053 for the last leg.

The closest bigger cities are Stoke on Trent (fifty minutes driving), Sheffield (an hour and a quarter), Manchester (90 minutes or so), and Birmingham (also roughly 90 minutes).

The road to Thor’s Cave

Is there Parking at Thor’s Cave? 

There are many places to park for your walk to Thor’s Cave.

Parking in Wetton Village

One of the most convenient places to park in the small village of Wetton, which is the nearest habitation. The car park is clearly marked there and the walk between there and the cave takes up to half an hour depending on your pace. The Wetton car park is free and also has toilet facilities.

This is a very popular place to park so be aware that it does fill up quickly, especially during peak times.

This car park means approaching Thor’s Cave from the top so you won’t get any stunning views of the cave from afar.

Address: Wetton car park, Carr Lane, Wetton, Ashbourne, DE6 2AF

Parking Outside Wetton Mill

Alternatively you can park at Wetton Mill which is located just a little further up the Manifold Valley from Thor’s cave, a 10 minute drive out of Wetton village. Wetton Mill is owned by the National Trust. Parking in the car park is for patrons only but there is some roadside parking just outside the mill. Parking is free and there is a café and toilet facilities within Wetton Mill itself.

This is a great place to park if you wish to get that iconic view of Thor’s Cave from ground level, walking on the Manifold Way.

Address: Dale farm, Ashbourne DE6 2AG

Parking for the Shortest Walk to Thor’s Cave

Finally there is some road-side parking between Wetton and Wetton Mill, beside the Manifold Way. 

Like with the Wetton Mill parking, This is a great place to park if you wish to get the stunning  view of Thor’s Cave from the Manifold Way. This spot is that little bit closer to Thor’s Cave than Wetton Mill so makes for a shorter walk.

This is the closest car park to Thor’s Cave so is ideal if you don’t want a strenuous walk.

The drawback of this car park is that there’s no toilet or refreshment facilities nearby.

Address: Ashbourne DE6 2AG

Roadside parking close to Thor’s cave

Thor’s Cave Opening Times 

The cave is open twenty-four hours a day, though visiting during daylight hours is obviously safer and allows you to take in the splendid views.

If you plan on visiting one of the nearby eateries then it’s advisable to time your visit with the opening hours of the eatery. For example Wetton Village Hall And Tea Rooms is only open Thursdays to Sundays between 10am and 3pm.

Is Thor’s Cave Free? Do you Need to Pay to Visit? 

Thor’s cave is absolutely free, and no charge is levied as it is a public space within the Peak District National Park.

Should you Visit Thor’s Cave Independently or via Tour?

If you have access to a car, Thor’s Cave is easy to access, and you should probably do it independently.

Without a car, the public transport connections can be challenging, so you might be best advised to try an organised tour which takes in several locations within the Peak District. These can be arranged from tour companies in Sheffield, Stoke or Manchester, or you can try the visitor information centre in Matlock.

Looking up at Thor’s Cave

What is the Best Time of Year to Visit Thor’s Cave? 

As with most outdoor attractions in the United Kingdom, the warmer summer months are a good time to visit. Days of rain are also less frequent at this time of year and it’s certainly advisable to visit Thor’s Cave on a dry day due to how slippery the rocks can get in wet weather.

Going in the autumn can be stimulating because you are confronted with such a range of colours but always check the weather forecast before your visit to ensure the weather is favourable.

You can view a live weather forecast of Wetton and the surrounding area here.

Visiting in the summer months allows for greater chances of sunny days such as this. This photo was taken in August

What is the Best Time of Day to Visit Thor’s Cave? 

In recent years Thor’s Cave has become a very popular attraction in the Peak District. Therefore it’s not realistic to assume you will have the place to yourself.

In fact when I walked to Thor’s Cave and was unsure if I was on the right path, I asked a walker how far away it was. Their reply was, “You’ll hear the noise of all the people in Thor’s Cave before you see it.”

You stand the best chances of beating the crowds if you visit Thor’s Cave outside of school holidays, between Monday and Friday.

The best time of day to visit to be in with a chance of having some solitude in Thor’s Cave is either early in the morning (around sunrise) or late in the evening (around sunset).

It’s not however advisable to visit in the dark as there is no artificial lighting and the trail is very uneven.

The entrance to Thor’s Cave in the late-morning on a weekend

Thor’s Cave Weather 

Like most of the United Kingdom, you are likely to find the best weather in the summer months: June, July and August. May and September can also be pleasant and may be slightly more favourable in terms of beating the majority of the crowds.

This is a general rule of thumb as it is worth noting that it can rain at any time of year. Thor’s Cave is best avoided after heavy rainfall as the route will be muddy and slippery.

You can view a live weather forecast of Wetton and the surrounding area here.

The trail to Thor’s Cave can get muddy and slippery in wet weather

Thor’s Cave Walks

Walking through the Peak District National Park to visit Thor’s Cave can be an immensely pleasurable experience.

There’s a range of walks for you to complete, from a direct route to and from the cave via the Manifold Way to circular walks which incorporate a climb to the top of Thor’s Hill, yielding a fantastic panorama of the Manifold Valley.

How Long is Thor’s Cave Walk? 

The shortest and quickest walk to Thor’s Cave is a 2.4km round trip (1.2km each way) and takes roughly 1 hour in total (30 minutes each way).

You can opt to complete a slightly longer walk. Walks which incorporate Thor’s Cave range all the way to 6 hours in length.

Walk 1: Easiest and Quickest Walk Route to Thor’s Cave 

The most direct and quickest route to Thor’s Cave is via the Manifold Way, which is a walking and cycling trail.

For this walk you need to park beside the Manifold Way. You can view the exact location on this Google marker (coordinates: 53°05’54.2″N 1°51’16.3″W). The postcode is DE6 2AF.

Route Overview

Walk Type: There and back

Walk Distance:  1.5 miles (2.4 km)

Walk Time: 1 hour

Walk Difficulty: Moderate

Total Ascent: 54m

Highest Point: 249m

Walk Description: A simple walk along the Manifold Way until you reach a wooden bridge which crosses the Manifold River. From here it’s an uphill walk through forest to the mouth of Thor’s Cave. Follow the same route back to the car park.

Terrain Description: A combination of a wide gravel track, an uneven paved trail, an uneven dirt trail ascending a relatively steep slope and stone steps.

Download Maps: GPX Track | KML file for maps.me

Disclaimer: These GPS files are provided free-of-charge for personal use only and may not be uploaded elsewhere. By downloading you acknowledge that walking can be dangerous and this GPS data is provided without any warranty and you absolve this website for any liability.

Stage 1: The Manifold Way

From the roadside car park enter the Manifold Way which is marked with a small blue sticker beside a wide gate. You will immediately find yourself on a wooden bridge which crosses the River Manifold.

Follow the Manifold Way which is a wide travel track which runs alongside the River Manifold.

After around 0.4 km you should see Thor’s Cave on your left, a gaping mouth in a green hillside.

Continue along the Manifold Way for another 0.4 km until you come across a fork in the path. To the left you should see a wooden bridge which crosses the River Manifold and just before that you will find a notice board with information about the famous Thor’s Cave.

The Manifold Way

Stage 2: Climbing Through Forest

Leave the Manifold Way and cross the dainty wooden bridge. You will then find yourself enveloped by dense forest, wandering down an uneven cobbled trail which slopes ever so slightly uphill.

After around 0.1 km you will notice a smaller path forking off from the main trail on your right. Take this trail which will take you on a far steeper gradient towards Thor’s Cave. The path here is narrow and uneven with rocks protruding from the dirt trail in countless places.

The uneven dirt trail is broken up at points by small flights of stone steps.

Towards the end of your climb you will have to contend with around two hundred stone steps which take you to the mouth of Thor’s Cave. The steps are safe but can be slippery after rain, and they are also not evenly spaced so take your time and be sure of your footing. 

Cobbled pathway through the forest

Stage 3: Thor’s Cave

When you reach the mouth of Thor’s cave you will find yourself with superb views of the Manifold Valley and the surrounding hills.

Getting into the cave itself can prove to be a bit of a challenge. You will have to scramble up a smooth and uneven stone incline which is steep in places. The ground is incredibly slippery, even on dry days, as the stone has been polished smooth by its countless visitors.

Eventually the ground evens out a little, although you still need to be prepared for pockets of scrambling.

The back of the main chamber provides some firmer ground as do the tunnels which split off from the main chamber.

There are three main tunnels in the cave, the first of which being a small tunnel which takes you to The Window, the second entrance to the cave. You can wander down this narrow walkway but I wouldn’t recommend attempting to leave the cave via this route due to how challenging it is.

There are two tunnels which open up from the left of the cave. The first tunnel on your left then has an even smaller tunnel linking off from it. The two main tunnels link together by a small window-like gap in the tunnel wall. It can be challenging scrambling through but a fun route to take to explore the very back of the cave.

Inside one of the tunnels in Thor’s Cave

Stage 4: The Return

You will then leave Thor’s Cave by the same main exit. Getting out of the cave may involve scrambling down on your bottom but there’s no shame in being safe! In fact, it’s actually quite fun sliding down the smooth stone which is like a slide in some places.

Follow the same trail which you took to reach Thor’s Cave, climbing back down into the forest and then walking back up the Manifold Way to the roadside car park.

The walk back down through the forest

Route 2: Walk to The Top of Thor’s Cave 

You may wish to extend your walk to Thor’s Cave ever so slightly by including a short hike up to the summit of the hill after you have explored the labyrinth of tunnels within the cave.

This route is 0.4 km longer than the quickest route to Thor’s Cave and back and involves an additional ascent of just 15 metres.

Route Overview

Walk Type: There and back

Walk Distance:  1.7 miles (2.8 km)

Walk Time: 80 minutes

Walk Difficulty: Moderate

Total Ascent: 69m

Highest Point: 264m

Walk Description: A walk along the Manifold Way until you reach a wooden bridge which crosses the Manifold River. From here it’s an uphill walk through forest to the mouth of Thor’s Cave. After exploring Thor’s Cave you will continue upwards on a steep and uneven path to the summit of the hill. Follow the same route back to the car park.

Terrain Description: A combination of a wide gravel track, an uneven paved trail, an uneven dirt trail ascending a relatively steep slope and stone steps.

Download Maps: GPX Track | KML file for maps.me

Disclaimer: These GPS files are provided free-of-charge for personal use only and may not be uploaded elsewhere. By downloading you acknowledge that walking can be dangerous and this GPS data is provided without any warranty and you absolve this website for any liability.

Stage 1: The Manifold Way to Thor’s Cave

Follow stages 1 to 3 in the quickest walk above.

Stage 2: The Climb to The Summit

After you have finished exploring Thor’s Cave, instead of leaving down the stone steps on which you arrived, take the narrow and uneven trail to the right of these steps which journeys uphill.

Follow this path for around 0.1 km being mindful of just how uneven the stones are in the trail.

Then take the path which appears on your right which will take you right to the summit of Thor’s Cave.

You’ll be rewarded with a stunning 360 degree view of the Manifold Valley and surrounding hills.

Stage 3: The Return

You will climb back down from the top of Thor’s Cave, following the same trail on which you climbed, past Thor’s Cave and then back down into the forest before walking back up the Manifold Way to the roadside car park.

Thor’s Cave from the Manifold Way

Route 3: Wetton Car Park to Thor’s Cave Circular 

This circular walk begins and ends in Wetton Car Park (postcode DE6 2AF). This walk includes the hike to Thor’s Cave as well as a lovely walk along the River Manifold, taking in the striking scenery of the Manifold Valley.

Route Overview

Walk Type: Circular

Walk Distance:  3.1 miles (5 km)

Walk Time: 2 hours

Walk Difficulty: Moderate

Total Ascent: 125m

Highest Point: 303m

Walk Description: From Wetton head to Thor’s Lane, following the lane down towards Thor’s Cave. This lane will end in a footpath which will take you to the summit of the hill. From there continue walking down to Thor’s Cave. You will then follow the trail down through the forest and cross the bridge over the Manifold River, following the river to the left. Exit the Manifold Way onto Larkstone Lane and follow the lane back up into Wetton village.

Terrain Description: A combination of country lanes on tarmac paths, a wide gravel track, an uneven paved trail, an uneven dirt trail descending a relatively steep slope and stone steps.

Download Maps: GPX Track | KML file for maps.me

Disclaimer: These GPS files are provided free-of-charge for personal use only and may not be uploaded elsewhere. By downloading you acknowledge that walking can be dangerous and this GPS data is provided without any warranty and you absolve this website for any liability.

The Manifold Way

Route 4: Thor’s Cave and Manifold Valley Circuit 

Once again, this walk commences in the Wetton car park and you head for the footpaths that are clearly marked for Thor’s Cave. This extended walk takes you much closer to nature. The Wetton Mill tea rooms are also a good place to stop near the start or end of your journey because in total this hike will cover 5.6 miles in a loop leading back to the car park, and takes 2 or 3 hours to complete.

Route Overview

Walk Type: Circular

Walk Distance:  5 miles (8.2 km)

Walk Time: 2-3 hours

Walk Difficulty: Strenuous

Total Ascent: 199m

Highest Point: 299m

Walk Description: Head north west through Wetton village, following the footpath up to Wetton Hill. This route will take you around Wetton Hill before arriving at Metton Mill in the Manifold Valley. Cross over the River Manifold and take the footpath off Wettonmill Road which follows the course of Hoo Brook. You will circle round the back of the hill before heading down through Ladyside Wood back into the Manifold Valley. Cross over the River Manifold and make the climb up to Thor’s Cave before continuing upwards back to Wetton village.

Terrain Description: A combination of country lanes on tarmac paths, a wide gravel track, an uneven paved trail, an uneven dirt trail ascending relatively steep slopes and stone steps.

Download Maps: GPX Track | KML file for maps.me

Disclaimer: These GPS files are provided free-of-charge for personal use only and may not be uploaded elsewhere. By downloading you acknowledge that walking can be dangerous and this GPS data is provided without any warranty and you absolve this website for any liability.

Climbing the steps to Thor’s Cave

Route 5: Dovedale to Thor’s Cave Walk 

This extensive walk commences in Dovedale and encompasses the famous Dovedale Stepping Stones as well as Thor’s Cave itself. The Dovedale Stepping Stones are a sequence of sixteen limestone-topped stones which span the river Dove in one of the prettiest parts of the Peak District National Park.

You begin your long trek from the National Trust car park in Dovedale, which is a cash only car park, and then hike onward to your destination.

Route Details

Walk Type: Circular

Walk Distance: 13 miles (21.5 km)

Walk Time: 5-6 hours

Walk Difficulty: Hard

Total Ascent: 1414 ft

Highest Point: 312 m/1,023 ft

Walk Highlights: Dovedale Stepping Stones, Lovers Leap, The Twelve Apostles, Tissington Spires, Reynards Cave, The Straits, Lion’s Head Rock Ilam Rock, Thor’s Cave

Walk Description: This circular walk starts in the Dovedale car park at the southern end of the Dove Valley. You will cross the famous Dovedale Stepping Stones and then walk alongside the River Dove, taking in all the stunning limestone formations of the Dove Valley. Cross the bridge just after Illam Rock then walk up away from the river towards Stanhope village. Journey south, passing the town of Damsgate before heading west towards Cheshire Wood, following the footpath just behind it. Turn left onto Larkstone Lane and follow the lane till you reach the Manifold Way and follow it up to the bridge to Thor’s Cave. Make the climb to Thor’s Cave before continuing up to Wetton and then journeying back towards Dovedale via the gorgeous village of Milldale.

Terrain Description: A combination of a wide tarmac track, wide gravel tracks, stone steps, steep ascents on loose earth (such as to reach Reynard’s Cave), unpaved and uneven trails through undergrowth and over hills.

Download Maps: GPX Track | KML file for maps.me

Disclaimer: These GPS files are provided free-of-charge for personal use only and may not be uploaded elsewhere. By downloading you acknowledge that walking can be dangerous and this GPS data is provided without any warranty and you absolve this website for any liability.

Dovedale Stepping Stones in the Peak District
Dovedale Stepping Stones in the Dove Valley

Walking Tips 

  • Make sure you bring or wrap up in layers. The weather in the Peak District can change easily so it’s good to be able to layer up or down if necessary.
  • Make sure you wear comfortable shoes with good grip. Thor’s Cave especially can be very challenging underfoot so grippy shoes are essential.
  • Download any necessary maps onto your phone before heading off, as there is no phone signal in the area.
  • Depending on the time of day and the length of your walk, you may want to consider a packed lunch and some snacks. There are no eateries by Thor’s Cave and there are large distances between towns when embarking on longer walks.
  • Carrying water in a reusable water bottle  with you is recommended, especially in hot weather.
Me, scrambling into Thor’s Cave

Packing List for Thor’s Cave 

  • Comfortable shoes with good grip.
  • A torch or phone which has a torch feature to be able to see in the dark tunnels of the cave.
  • A reusable water bottle, perhaps more than one if the weather is warm.
  • You may wish to bring snacks of a packed lunch as there are no eateries right by Thor’s Cave.
  • Either a physical map (could be a print-off) or pre-downloaded maps of the area on your phone as there is no phone signal in the area.
  • A camera if you wish to take photos of the stunning scenery.
  • Cash, especially if you are planning to visit the Wetton Village Hall & Tea Rooms or park in Dovedale car park as these are cash-only. There is also an ice-cream truck near the entrance to the Manifold Way on warm days which is also cash-only.
View from Thor’s Cave over the Manifold Valley

Thor’s Cave FAQ’s 

Is Thor’s Cave Dog-Friendly?

Being an outdoor location, Thor’s Cave is perfectly friendly for dogs, though smaller dogs may find the climb element challenging. It’s also worth noting that after rain it can be slippery outside the cave on some of the smooth rocks. There are also no barriers surrounding the cave so you may wish to keep your dog on a leash.

Is Thor’s Cave Walk Hard? 

The walk is not especially hard but does need a degree of fitness because it’s an uphill trek to get to the cave entrance. The shortest walk is just 30 minutes each way.

Are there Toilets at Thor’s cave? 

There are no toilets at Thor’s cave itself but you can find public toilets close to the car park in the small village of Wetton as well as at Wetton Mill.

Food and Drinks Near Thor’s Cave

There are a range of options for eating within the Peak District National Park close to Thor’s Cave.

Pubs Near Thor’s Cave

The Staffordshire Knot Inn in Sheen near Buxton is a well recommended local pub which also has an excellent menu. It can get busy so it’s advisable to book in advance if you want to eat.

 Another option is the Royal Oak in Wetton, which is a family-run pub and the closest establishment to Thor’s Cave. It has an extensive menu and prides itself on its range of real ales.

Cafes Near Thor’s Cave 

The Old School Tea Room (also known as the Village Hall Tea Rooms) in Wetton is a well regarded local choice which is spotlessly clean and specialises in cakes and teas. They are open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, primarily serving those walking Thor’s Cave and the Peak District.

There’s also the Wetton Mill Tearoom owned by the National Trust.

Tea at the Wetton Village Hall Tea Rooms

Restaurants Near Thor’s Cave 

The Thai Basement in Ashbourne is an excellent choice for people wanting to eat in a restaurant and has a menu to suit all tastes and levels of spiciness. It’s closed on Monday but otherwise opens at lunchtimes or in the evening.

Another very good option is the George at Alstonefield, just outside Ashbourne, which is a pub specialising in fine dining with a Michelin rating. Booking in advance is recommended.

Places to Stay Near Thor’s Cave 

The Peak District deals with many hundreds of thousands of tourists per year, so as you can imagine there is a great deal of accommodation available within easy distance of Thor’s Cave.

Campsites

A convenient choice for Thor’s Cave is the Poplars Farm Site near Ashbourne, with camping during the summer months and glamping available all year round.

Upper Hurst Farm near Hartington is a luxury campsite on a working farm that even contains an alpaca and a peacock!

Hostels (Affordable Accommodation) 

There are a few very competitively priced hostels available in the Peak District. YHA Hartington Hall is a converted manor house with a wide range of accommodation from dorms through to private rooms.

Closer to Thor’s Cave and Wetton is the YHA Ilam Hall. This can be found in the small town of Asbourne and a converted manor which is a National Trust property. Again, there are rooms available from private chambers through to shared dorms. 

a view of Ilam Park from Thors Cloud, Dovedale
A view of Ilam Park from Thor’s Cloud, Dovedale

Hotels (Medium Range Accommodation) 

The Dog and Partridge Country Inn in Ashbourne has plenty of accommodation choices and does an excellent breakfast.

Another option is the local pub in Wetton, the Royal Oak, which does accommodation and has a small number of doubles available.

The Black Lion Inn in Leek is a more expensive option for a pub stay, and is located in beautiful countryside and idyllic surroundings. 

Hotels (Luxury Accommodation)

For those wanting a higher end stay in the Peak District, the Izaak Walton Country House Hotel in Ashbourne comes highly recommended and offers personal touches and a warm welcome.

The Bentley Brook Inn in Thorp is another very pleasing option, and has a wide variety of rooms available.

For a stay including breakfast, dinner and luxury accommodation, check out the Devonshire Arms at Beeley (Chatsworth) which is a little further afield but has incredibly good reviews.

Another high end option – but set in an incredible building – is the pretty Ensana Buxton Crescent, which will appeal to those wanting to stay in a town rather than a village.

Also, the Stables in Asbourne is a high-price option but has some very beautiful rooms.

The Izaak Walton Country House Hotel - 5 minutes from Dovedale carpark
Izaak Walton Country House

Final Thoughts

In my opinion a visit to Thor’s Cave is a must if you are passing near the Peak District. The gaping hollow is so striking when viewed from below and the uphill climb through the forest provides the perfect balance between getting some worthwhile exercise and whilst not being too strenuous of a hike.

Exploring the cave itself feels absolutely magical and there’s a lot of fun to be had scrambling over the smooth rocks.

If you can then I’d recommend timing your visit with the Wetton Tea Room’s opening hours as this family-run business really is a gem in the Peak District and the perfect way to end a trip to Thor’s Cave.

Ella McKendrick on Black Rock Viewpoint, Kenmore Scotland

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