Peak District Kids writer: Gemma from Families Can Travel
Thor’s Cave is an iconic natural cavern perched on the side of the Manifold Valley. Don’t forget to pack your torch on this Peak District walk as the kids will love climbing and exploring deep into the dark chamber at the back of the cave (and gloves are a good idea for scrambling). Although please note that the walk up to Thor’s Cave gets extremely muddy and slippy in wet weather, and may be impassable. We suggest attempting this walk in dry weather.
This is a popular tourist attraction so we recommend visiting at the beginning or end of the day to avoid waiting to enter Thor’s cave. This is a circular walk with the cave visit being close to the start, so if you were visiting later on in the day, you could even do the walk in reverse and visit the cave near the end.
Starting in Wetton, you can either follow the flatter route across the track and field to Thor’s Cave, or follow the stepped path up through the woods. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear as parts of the route are rocky and can get muddy in wet weather. Take care when entering and exiting the cave as the smooth surface can get very slippy. Be prepared for muddy hands and bottoms if it’s wet!
After you’ve explored the cave, the route takes you back down through the woodland and then along the flat Manifold Way before climbing up and across the fields back to Wetton village.
There are some steep uphill sections but they’re only short and the views across the Manifold Valley are a good excuse to stop and catch your breath. You can also shorten it to a 2.6 km walk just walking to Thor’s Cave and back.
For a longer, alternative route, click here to check out an 8km circular route, also starting in Wetton, from our friends over at Peak District Walks.
If you are planning a visit to the National Park, please arrive early or late in the day to avoid crowds. Please also take all litter home with you, don’t bring BBQs and park your car in designated parking areas. Also, please use these walks as a guide; access and stiles may change.
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Before you head out on your family hike this winter, please read our guide: Safe Winter Walking Tips
Do check out our top tips for hiking with young kids, as well as our essential items to take on a family hike in the Peak District.
Thor’s Cave walk map
On all Peak District family walks it’s a good idea to have an Ordnance Survey paper map with you, even if you have your phone on you. For this walk you need the OS Explorer Active Map OL24 (White Peak). It’s also a good opportunity to show young kids the map features and get them started with map reading.
The route description below follows this OS Map in an anti-clockwise direction.
Need to know
DISTANCE OF WALK: 5.5 km (if you want a shorter 2.6 km walk to Thor’s Cave and back, follow steps 1-5 and then turn back. You can do the shorter route as a circular by taking route 1 there and route 2 on the way back or vice versa – see step 3).
TYPE OF WALK: circular, a mixture of terrain across fields, flat paths, rocky woodland paths, steps and few short steep inclines.
PARKING: Free parking at Wetton Car Park – click here to see location on Google Maps, postcode: DE6 2AF. Wetton is a popular tourist destination and although there is an overflow car park if needed, we still recommend avoiding peak times.
WALK HIGHLIGHTS: Climbing into Thor’s Cave and exploring deep into the chamber, kids love the steps leading up to the cave, beautiful views across the Manifold Valley
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE: This walk can be done in 2 hours but with kids and allowing time to explore the cave, allow 3-4 hours.
ACCESSIBILITY: Not pram or wheelchair friendly, the steps and couple of uphill sections may be challenging for small children. The route can get muddy in wet weather and inside the cave can get very slippy. This Thor’s Cave walk is best attempted in dry weather.
TOTAL ASCENT: 283 metres
This Thor’s Cave route description follows the above OS Map in an anti-clockwise direction.
START: Wetton Car Park – click here to see location on Google Maps, postcode: DE6 2AF.
1. Walk to the back of the car park furthest away from the toilets and climb over the stile next to the gate. Walk straight ahead, across the field for 250 metres.
2. When you reach the farm on your right, climb over another stone stile and walk along the short path until you reach the road. Turn left and follow the road for 180 metres.
3. Follow the road around to the right and continue until you see a track on your left signposted ‘Concession path to Thor’s Cave’ and a public footpath just after this signposted to ‘Thor’s Cave and Manifold Valley’. You now have two route options, both are about the same distance:
ROUTE 1 TO THOR’S CAVE – follow the first turning on your left along the track to Thor’s Cave for a flatter and more even route, crossing two fields before reaching Thor’s Cave (the footpath is well signposted). From Thor’s Cave continue the walk from Step 6.
ROUTE 2 TO THOR’S CAVE – follow the footpath just after the track on the left into the field and down to the woods. The path through the woods is a little rocky and uneven. It then follows a stepped path leading up through the woods to Thor’s Cave. If like us you choose this route, follow the directions from Step 4.
4. Walk through the stone squeeze stile and head down the middle of the field for 470 metres until you get to a wooden gate leading into the woods. On your way down, look straight ahead for your first glimpse of the cave perched on the top left of the Manifold Valley.
5. Continue downhill through the woods for 70 metres until the path splits. Ignore the path that continues straight ahead and take the left hand path up the steps. Continue uphill on the stepped footpath for 370 metres until you reach Thor’s Cave.
6. It does get busy so you may have to wait to climb into the cave safely. The entrance to the cave is very smooth due to the amount of visitors it attracts. It can be very slippy in wet weather so be careful when entering and exiting and encourage children to move about on their hands and bottoms. Head to the back of the cave to explore the dark chamber to the left and the opening to the right with views across the Manifold Valley. When you’re done exploring, head back down the stepped footpath (back the way you came if you followed route 2). Please note, the photos inside the cave were taken on a different day when it was drier weather.
7. After 370 metres, you’ll reach a junction in the paths. Turn left and continue downhill through the woods for a further 340 metres until you reach the Manifold River.
8. Cross over the bridge and turn left onto the Manifold Way footpath. From here, look up for an impressive view of the entrance to Thor’s Cave. Continue along the flat, smooth Manifold Way path for 1.5 km. This is also a great family cycle trail (click here to read more about cycling the Manifold Way).
9. Just after passing through a gate, you’ll reach the road and some off road parking on the left. Just after this, turn left onto Larkestone Lane and walk over the bridge.
10. Continue for 90 metres, walking over a cattle grid until you see a public footpath sign on the left. Take this woodland path uphill for 80 metres until you reach the road. It’s short but very steep, our kids managed it fine but we had to stop a couple of times to catch our breath!
11. Turn left onto the road and follow it around to the right, continuing slightly uphill for 360 metres. After walking over a cattle grid, you’ll see a footpath on your left. Climb over the stone stile and into the field.
12. This is a steep field but the view behind you is stunning so there’s a good excuse to keep stopping to admire the view. After 160 metres, go through the wooden gate at the top and turn left onto the road.
13. Walk up the road for 180 metres until you see the public footpath sign on your left. Climb over the stone stile into the field.
14. Walk 400 metres across three fields in total. Head slightly diagonally across the first field and through a stone squeeze stile, across the middle of the second field and over a stone stile into the third field. At this point turn around to your left to see the top of Thor’s Cave. Cross diagonally across the third field to the left hand corner and through a gap in the stone wall.
15. You’ll now find yourself on a farm track. Follow the track towards the farm for 200 metres until you see a footpath sign to the left. Climb over the stone stile and walk across the last field keeping the stone wall on your right.
16. After 100 metres, you’ll see another stone stile which takes you back onto the road you walked along in step 3.
17. Follow the road straight ahead, signposted to Alstonefield for 130 metres and turn right through the small gap in the wall next to Carr Farm gate. Then return back along the short path, over the stone stile and across the field that leads back to the car park.
After your Thor’s Cave walk
Why not visit Wetton Village Hall and Tea Room for refreshments, tasty treats and snacks? Or for something more substantial, you might want to tie in a pub dinner at the Royal Oak, also in the village.
Peak District Kids is a free online resource. If you enjoyed this walk, you can show your support by buying me a coffee. Thanks so much! You may also want to share your own photos of this walk in our Peak District Kids Facebook Group.
Or visit the Peak District Kids shop. £1 from every sale of the iron-on patches goes towards the Peak District National Park Foundation, a registered charity established to raise funds to care for The Peak District National Park.