Nestling among the hills in the Hope Valley in the Dark Peak region of the Peak District, Edale is a village that attracts many hikers, walkers and perhaps people who just want to admire the scenery. As a child it was often the starting point of days walking in the hills when we stayed with my aunt in nearby Chesterfield. This summer I went back for the first time to catch another glimpse of Mam Tor and explore one or two new walks in the area. Even under the grey skies of the first two days, the landscape looked glorious with heather covered hills, brooks rushing over rocks or meandering along the valley and the red berries adorning the mountain ash trees. On our third and last day we were blessed with sunshine, and seeing the landscape in the early morning light was a sight that I shall never forget.
We stayed at the Rambler Inn close to the railway station, and this is the only place in Edale that offers accommodation as well as cooked meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner. I can certainly recommend the food, having tried their scrambled egg, home-made tomato soup, vegetarian lasagne and apple crumble with custard. My son would vouch for their steak and ale pie as well as the vegetarian burger. The bar serves cask ales and traditional cider; it's a popular pub, where children and dogs are welcome. For bed and breakfast, the rooms are comfortable enough and have beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.
The only other pub in Edale is the Old Nag's Head, which is situated in the centre of the village. It is considered to be the official start of the Pennine Way and is often packed with walkers and hikers. They do serve food, including a full roast on Sundays, but we didn't eat there as reviews all seem to say that the food at the Rambler Inn is better. Both pubs serve food until 9.30pm, and both have outdoor seating for fine weather.
For those looking for a cafe rather than a pub, Cooper's Cafe is just a few yards from the village shop and Post Office. Open seven days a week from 8.30am until 4pm, it offers cooked breakfasts, soup, sandwiches, cakes and hot and cold drinks. We enjoyed their sandwiches one lunchtime, and I found my pot of Teapigs' Super Fruit tea very refreshing. Cooper's is another popular place and has a corner with a sofa, bookcase and one or two acoustic guitars. When the weather doesn't permit walking, it's a great place for families to while away the time.
The cafe is situated beside Cooper's campsite, one of several campsites in Edale. Cooper's is the largest and accommodates caravans as well as tents; it is very close to the start of the Pennine Way and the Grinds Brook walk. The Fieldhead campsite is right next to the Moorland Visitor Centre, on the road that leads from the railway station down to the village. Cooper's and Fieldhead are the only campsites that are open all year round. There are several other sites nearby at Nether Booth, Upper Booth and Barber Booth that are open from around Easter time until September or October.
Those looking for the comfort of bed and breakfast accommodation away from the noise and bustle of a pub have several choices such as Western House, Mam Tor House and Ollerbrook Barn. One guest house to be recommended is Stonecroft, on the main road that runs from the station to the village. Special diets are catered for and breakfast ingredients are all organic. Stonecroft offer to make travel arrangements for their guests and organise local activities for them as well.
Edale does have a Youth Hostel but it is located at Nether Booth, which is just over a mile from the village. Not only does the hostel provide accommodation and meals, but it is an outdoor activity centre as well. Among the activities you can take part in are mountain biking, canoeing, climbing and archery; the minimum age for these activities is eight.
The Moorland Visitor Centre is the place to go for information about the area as well as for gifts and souvenirs. It is a moorland research centre, the first of its kind in the country. I was struck by how attractive the building is; the roof is made of sedum turf and a narrow stream of water flows down from a central section. While we were looking round inside, various bird calls were being played over the speakers. We spent some time looking at a contour model of the area; I have to admit that I had never realised as a child that Kinder Scout was a plateau, thinking it to be a peak, but now I know. On our journey home we were intending to stop off at Bamford and have a look at the Ladybower Reservoir. We were able to buy a booklet at the centre that showed how to get there from Bamford station plus the route of several walks. We also bought one or two snacks at the centre, but resisted the temptation of the souvenirs.
Edale is situated about nineteen miles from Manchester and around fifteen from Sheffield. There is a stopping train that runs about every two hours between the two cities. Edale is just a few minutes by train to Hope, where you can visit the Blue John caverns and Peveril Castle. The next station east is Bamford, for the Ladybower and Derwent reservoirs, and after that is Hathersage, the nearest station to Stanage Edge. There is, I believe, a bus service to Edale. I personally didn't see any buses while I was there, but information on public transport is available at the Moorland Visitor Centre.
I've mentioned that the start of the Pennine Way is considered to be from the Old Nag's Head in Edale, but there are plenty of other walks for the less ambitious. The Grinds Brook walk is particularly picturesque, and the first stretch is not at all steep. It runs through fields, a wood, across a wooden bridge where you can see delightful mini waterfalls, and along heather-covered hills. I managed the first stretch easily with my rickety knees and was amazed at how beautiful the scenery was. On the other side of the valley, the climb to the top of Mam Tor would reward you with stunning views, and you could drop down the other side to Castleton or continue along the ridge to Hope and take the train back.
It is worth pointing out that most of the time there is no mobile phone signal in Edale. My modest Sony Ericsson actually fared a little better than my son's iPhone, but a lot of the time indicated that I could only make emergency calls.
I'm sure the winter weather makes life hard in Edale, yet I can imagine it would be a delightful place to live. There is a church, a primary school and one little shop with a Post Office. For all your other needs, neither Manchester nor Sheffield is far away. I shall have to content myself with the occasional visit during the summer and store up the memories of morning mists, heather-purple hills and meandering streams. If you haven't seen them, you surely should.