Hartington is a lovely place to start a walk and few walks could be better than that along Beresford and Wolfscote Dales - an easy outing with varied and ever-changing scenery.
There are many possible circuits from Hartington and what is described below is actually two alternative circuits - one relatively long at 15 kilometres, and the other much shorter at around 10 kilometres. The first of these goes right down Beresford Dale and most of the way along Wolfscote Dale before climbing out of the valley to Alstonefield and returning across the limestone hill country which surrounds the Dove valley. The second goes only a short way down Wolfscote Dale before branching up Biggin Dale, one of the nicest of the local dales, and returning to Hartington via Biggin.
Start at the car park just outside the village on the Warslow road. Alongside the public toilets opposite is a footpath which passes along the edge of the field behind the houses, over a stile and along the edge of another field to reach and cross a farm track. Beyond this the well-marked track crosses another field and makes a gradual descent to the River Dove, which it meets just after entering the trees which hide the river here. Just as you enter the trees you might be able to catch a glimpse of Charles Cotton's fishing house on the far bank, erected in the 1680s for him and his friend Izaak Walton. It is the only relic of Cotton's era still standing, for Cotton's home of Beresford Hall, which once stood on the bluff behind the trees on the west bank has long since been demolished.
The next section of Beresford Dale is rocky, enclosed and picturesque and was much admired by Walton, especially Pike Pool, where a jagged spike of limestone rears out of the river itself. The west bank, to which you cross just above Pike Pool, has several limestone crags and caves hidden behind a high wall (it is private ground) and Cotton reputedly hid from his debtors here, for he was profligate with money and usually in debt.
Continue downstream to a footbridge at the end of a single track road which comes down to the river here, and cross the river again. The trees disappear and the valley widens giving a broad meadow which the path traverses towards the twin crags known as the Celestial Twins, which loom over the next bend in the river. Another footbridge recrosses the river here, but you should ignore it and stay on the east bank to turn the corner to enter Wolfscote Dale, as the next section of the Dove is called.
Wolfscote Dale is a deep, steep-sided and impressive valley with the river running along the bottom, delayed occasionally by a series of weirs. After nearly two kilometres of fine scenery you reach the rock cliffs of Drabber Tor and just beyond this lies the entrance to Biggin Dale, a nature reserve and another valley which cuts a deep V shape in the surrounding limestone hills. This dale offers a simple and pleasant return route if you only want a short walk - go up the dale to its head (taking the left fork when it branches), and when you meet the road turn left and after a hundred metres branch left again along a farm track (Highfield Lane) which returns directly to Hartington. This circuit is approximately 10 kilometres.
From the junction with Biggin Dale continue down the valley, which now twists in a series of wide bends on its way down to Lode Mill. The next valley which comes in from the left is called Coldeaton and a path leads up here to the Tissington Trail, which offers another alternative (but long) return route to Hartington or Biggin. However, opposite the dale is a footbridge and a path which climbs steeply up the valley side (Gypsy Bank) to give a magnificent view of Wolfscote Dale and meet a farm track coming out from Alstonefield. Follow the track all its length (about a kilometre) to meet the Alstonefield road and then turn right towards the village.
About 200 metres along the road another track branches off right and heads back in the general direction of Hartington. Take this track and follow it for about a kilometre, until it has stopped climbing and you have passed Pea Low on your left. A footpath branches off left here across the fields heading for the gap between Pea Low and Gratton Hill, and you should take this and follow it as it curves around the northern end of Pea Low to meet a farm track. Irritatingly you must follow the farm track back about 200 metres before you can escape across the wall onto it.
From the stile a footpath opposite continues northwards along the west side of the dry valley of Narrowdale, or you can turn right and go back down the track you have just come up the side of and then down the centre of Narrowdale. It really doesn't matter which one you take, the two routes converge at the foot of Narrowdale, though the lower route can sometimes be very muddy.
Beyond the end of Narrowdale you find yourself on a farm track which leads from Narrowdale Farm. Follow the farm track northwards (often very muddy also) until it arrives at the end of the single-track road by the footbridge half-way along Beresford Dale. You must then retrace your steps to Hartington, which might be boring in other circumstances, but not when the route includes the best part of Beresford Dale.