If someone suggests a “scrambly hike” as a day out, you’d be forgiven for not first thinking of the Peak District as the obvious destination but the Peaks is actually home to some of the best UK hikes and scrambles of different grading thanks to the endless supply of rocky, bouldery brooks and cloughs which are often running dry.
Although not as high or exposed as scrambles you might have seen or experienced in the Lake District, Snowdonia or Scotland, scrambling in the Peak District can actually be a much more fun, alternative way to explore the area. Plus, these routes are often quieter so you can really hone in on your explorer skills and feel at one with the outdoors amongst the tranquillity of vast moorland.
The circular route of Fairbrook Naze, The Edge, Nether Red Brook and Black Ashop Moor is what feels like a remote one and will keep you on your toes (literally and figuratively) throughout the day; enjoy wild swimming spots, slippery scrambles, bizarre rock formations, vast boggy moorland, river crossings and friendly sheep - this Peak District hike really has it all!
At a Glance
- Difficulty: Moderate due to Grade 1* scrambling sections, rough and uneven terrain and pathless, boggy moorland navigation
- Distance: 10.4km
- Total ascent: 455m
- Est Time:3 hours 30 mins without stops
- Starting location: Snake Woodlands parking
- Parking Cost: Free
- Dog friendly: Only if confident with grade 1 scrambles.
- Key features: Beautiful woodland walk, well-marked and maintained paths, multiple wild swimming spots along the route, stunning views from the top, moorland navigation.
*A grade 1 scramble is classed as an easy scramble with simple route finding and no requirement for technical skills or ropes but you may need to use your hands and this route definitely requires that. The route is slippery over the rocks and sure footedness is required as a slip could easily result in injury.
Starting at Snake Woodlands, the Nether Red Brook scramble can be done a couple of ways but is best tied in with Fairbrook Naze, a hike which you can find here. After scrambling up Fairbrook Naze and reaching the summit plateau famed for its fascinating (and totally random) rock formations, the walk from here along what’s known as The Edge (sounds like a budget rate horror film to me), takes you alongside many of these weird and wonderful formations including this one, which I tried, and ultimately failed, to climb.
After admitting defeat and soothing my bruised ego while my hiking companion giggled and rolled her eyes with that knowing look of “I knew you couldn’t do it”, we set back off along The Edge, a quieter part of the Kinder Scout plateau, making our way through more funky rock formations and along a well maintained path.
Glancing to the right, the views down towards Black Ashop Moor are ones that make you really feel like you’re deep in the wilderness (not just an hour or so from your car) but still, this area isn’t to be underestimated and it’s really important to understand that navigation in this area, when the weather comes in, can become incredibly challenging, especially if waymarkers disappear quicker than the white walkers in the fog (sorry if you’re not a Game Of Thrones fan - sorry that you’re NOT a fan that is).
I always like to go prepared for a day in the open moors in case the weather comes in without warning so make sure you’ve got adequate layers and a waterproof layer like the Wanderlust two-tone jacket in your bag.
Passing some more formations to make you go oooh, ahhhh you’ll eventually reach the top of Nether Red Brook where the path makes a turn left away from the edge and a right turn back towards it. There are no signs to mark this path which is why navigation is important or be sure to download the offline route to your phone from OS maps or Komoot. At the top of Nether Red Brook, the way down can seem unlikely but this scramble effectively follows the stream bed straight down.
Standing at the top of the rocky outcrop, not being able to see an obvious route down I questioned whether my map reading skills were really as accurate as I thought they were. Here I was, standing at the top of Nether Red Brook with my mum, who had already set off in front of me shimmying her way down a steep drop between two rocks after a fleeting, “this way is it?” but after one more quick check of the map I took a sigh of relief; it was definitely the right way.
The scramble isn’t technical but good balance, strength in your legs and arms and confidence over rough terrain is a must. There is a small path every now and again to hop onto but the majority of the route is over large boulders and you’ll have to navigate your way down over these.
The route down Nether Red Brook is rough and scrambly and slippy in places especially after rainfall.
Eventually, you’ll find yourself in the base of the Valley known as Black Ashop Moor with no path to follow; not even the faintest glimmer of one to be precise and this is where your navigation skills will come in handy.
You’re heading for the small steam at the opposite end which will lead you back to wards Snake Woodlands but be prepared to lose a foot or even a whole leg to the boggy moorland swamp monsters which will try to suck you down to their peaty home if you make a wrong choice of step. At least if you get sucked into the pool of peaty mud, the view back up to where you came from is a nice final view.
After navigating through the moorland, the next obstacle you’ll face is the river crossing. I hope in your mind you’re picturing a whirlpool and rapid-ridden force of nature but actually it’s just a small one which, if your legs are long enough, you’ll be able to leap across in one foul swoop to the safety of the path on the other side.
Following the path downstream will lead you back towards Snake Woodlands and the view back is stunning during heather season with all the purple hues. The path is well maintained but boggy in places.
Eventually, you’ll reach the edge of Snake Woodlands and will continue following the path through the woods and back up towards your starting point. There is another wonderful little spot for a swim in Snake Woodlands which the path will take you next to.
Map and key locations
Access the route on the OS Map App here.
1: Roadside parking at Snake Woodlands
2: Footbridge below end of woodlands to cross over the river
3: A series of waterfall pools
4: Beginning of the steeper, rocky scrambling section of Fair Brook
5: Top of Fairbrook Naze, rock formations and the beginning of The Edge
6. Top of Nether Red Brook marking the scramble down
7. Boggy moorland crossing across Black Ashop Moor and river crossing (you’ll need to find a suitable crossing place yourself)
8. Path back towards Snake Woodlands
9. River running to Snake Woodlands and extra swim location
Have you ever tried Komoot? Komoot allows you to access routes planned by others or plan your own which you can then download to your phone to follow while you are out. Komoot is free to join and access and you can find the route for his walk here.
- The parking area in Snake Woodlands fills up quickly on a nice day so be sure to get there early or late in the day for any chance of parking
- There are no facilities on this route or in the car park
- The scrambles are slippery in places and require sure footedness and confidence on rough, scrambly terrain.
- The scramble down Nether Red Brook has a steep and relatively high drop to navigate
- Navigation across Black Ashop Moor is pathless so strong navigation skills are needed
- This route includes a small river crossing