Three Shires Head and Knotbury from Gradbach

A Peak District walk full of interest that visits Staffordshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire. The route is generally easy to follow and the highlights are the packhorse bridges at Three Shires Head, the quarries at Danebower and some excellent panoramas.

Technical sheet
No. 293309
A Macclesfield Forest and Wildboarclough walk posted on 04/07/16 by Walking Britain. Update : 08/07/16
Calculated time Calculated time: 3h50[?]
Distance Distance : 6.96mi
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 692ft
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 686ft
Highest point Highest point : 1506ft
Lowest point Lowest point : 886ft
Average Difficulty : Average
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Area Area : Peak District
Location Location : Macclesfield Forest and Wildboarclough
Starting point Starting point : N 53.19308° / W 2.00371°
Download : -
View along the River Dane


(D/A) Exit the car park and turn left along the lane or take the less obvious path from inside the car park that follows the river bank upstream. Turn left over the footbridge and walk across a field generally following the line of the river to another lane. You are now on the Dane Valley Way and this will be followed for much of the route. Stiles and gates generally have a DVW logo attached. Turn right along the lane and take the first left. This is a driveway to a house and you need to take the signed footpath that leads into a field. This path crosses a number of fields with a wall to your left. Continue until you reach a cast-iron footpath sign provided by the Peak & Northern Footpaths Society (grid ref. SK008670).

(1) Turn left here onto a track following the arrow pointing towards Three Shires Head. The path veers right off the track after 400 yards and climbs to a further track at grid ref. SK008677. The path for the last section up to this track is indistinct.

(2) Bear left along the track descending slightly to reach Three Shires Head and two packhorse bridges over the River Dane (left) and a smaller stream coming in from the right. So far you have been in Staffordshire. As soon as you cross the smaller of the two bridges you step into Derbyshire and crossing the larger bridge will take you into Cheshire - hence the name of this location. To continue the walk cross both bridges into Cheshire.

(3) Once on the other side, turn right and continue upstream with the River Dane on your right. Stay with the Dane Valley Way which is the path closest to the river, passing below Holt Farm. The path is well signed and has some recent improvements and will take you up past a derelict building to a footpath junction below a disused chimney. Bear right here and follow the clear track through Danebower Quarry.

(4) The path descends steeply to cross the River Dane, crossing into Derbyshire, before climbing up into Reeve-edge Quarry. The path soon becomes a track and easy to follow. The next section contours across the southern flank of a hill to pass above Blackclough down below on your right. The track loops into a side valley crossing a small stream to take you back into Staffordshire.

(5) Continue along the track towards Orchard Farm. You will see a gravel track snaking up to the farm on your right. The onward route bear left downhill here to reach the tarmac road at grid ref. SK019687.

(6) Bear left along the road, taking the first rough track on your right. This takes a shortcut and leads back to another tarmac lane. Almost immediately take the signed footpath on your right. This old walled lane leads across two fields to reach a high ladder stile. Cross this and bearing left continue until you reach the tarmac lane in Knotbury.

(7) Turn left down this lane to a T-junction. Turn right and follow the lane towards a steep sided valley. Bear left when the lane turns sharp left.

(8) Continue along this lane past Hawk's Nest Farm on your right. The road reaches an area on your right where motor cycles scramble across the rocky hillside. Continue ahead on the lane passing through a gate to reach a house on your right. Go past the house and follow the track leading across field on your left.

(9) Turn left before the first wall, go into the next field, and walk half left to a small gate in the field corner. Go through the gate and ahead you will see the familiar sight of the cast-iron sign at grid ref. SK008670. All that remains is to follow your outward route back to the start perhaps enjoying the view ahead to the Roaches(D/A).

Waypoints :
D/A : mi 0 - alt. 889ft - Car park
1 : mi 0.94 - alt. 1152ft - Turn left
2 : mi 1.41 - alt. 1224ft - Bear left
3 : mi 1.94 - alt. 1188ft - Three Shires Head
4 : mi 2.9 - alt. 1476ft - Descend the path on your right
5 : mi 4.08 - alt. 1490ft - Continue along the track
6 : mi 4.41 - alt. 1440ft - Bear left along the road
7 : mi 4.86 - alt. 1417ft - Turn left
8 : mi 5.36 - alt. 1257ft - Hawk's Nest Farm
9 : mi 5.82 - alt. 1257ft - Turn left before the first wall
D/A : mi 6.96 - alt. 886ft

Useful Information

This walk visits three counties - Staffordshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire and offers an interesting walk in this fairly remote part of the Peak District. The walk starts from the small car park near Gradbach (grid ref. SJ998662) which can be busy on fine days. There are no refreshments along the way so do make sure you have adequate food and drinks. Navigation is generally good although a 1:25000 OS map may help as there are many paths and tracks in this area.

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

Opinions and comments


Global average : 4.44/5
Number of opinions : 6
Description quality : 4.5/5
Routemap quality : 4.17/5
Walk interest : 4.67/5

on Mon 21 Jun 2021 15:29:07 CEST

Global average : 4.67 / 5

Date of walk : 20/06/21
Description quality : Good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

Fantastic views all the way. Lucky with weather, dry day and even though rained overnight, not muddy or boggy. I walked it with my Dad and it took us just over the 4 hours. We started from Gradbach Mill where we were staying (recommended, super clean and friendly staff). There is also a basic outdoor cafe and customer toilets at the Mill, nice to get a drink and snack and sit by the river. Very close to the walk start point. Only criticism is that it took us a while to navigate round Orchard Farm - the written instructions could be a bit clearer, especially as footpath signing not that obvious there. But great walk would def do again

on Mon 31 May 2021 09:27:39 CEST

Global average : 4 / 5

Date of walk : 12/05/21
Description quality : Good
Routemap quality : Good
Walk interest : Good

Pleasant walk, mixed countryside and interesting old quarries.

on Mon 20 Aug 2018 10:07:29 CEST

Global average : 4.67 / 5

Date of walk : 20/08/18
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Good
Walk interest : Very good

We really enjoyed this walk so thanks for posting it - excellent work! The section to point 2 is a little vague but as the description says, the path is not clear; it helped to have our own OS map with us as we weren't familiar with the area. But once we were past the second section, the description was excellent. The Dane valley is beautiful and provided varied terrain and views. Had never been to Three Shires Head before and we were completely taken by it - we will be visiting again for sure. The return through the old quarry was a nice contrast, too. Watch out for the car park, it gets very busy as it's a starting point for a number of other routes. The route was baked hard because of the recent heat wave, but we could see how it could get quite boggy at other times.

on Mon 23 Apr 2018 10:00:48 CEST

Global average : 4 / 5

Date of walk : 01/04/18
Description quality : Good
Routemap quality : Good
Walk interest : Good

Pleasant walk along the River Dane with the added interest of crossing the Three Shires. Went in early April and the ground was very boggy which made it slow going. Would repeat when the ground is very dry.

on Fri 06 Apr 2018 18:18:52 CEST

Global average : 4.33 / 5

Date of walk : 05/04/18
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Average
Walk interest : Very good

Extremely muddy on the day I chose, slipping and sliding like ice in places and calf deep in others so no speed records that day.
Probably a reflection of my map reading skills but I lost the track in places and was confused by multiple tracks in others. I was very glad I remembered to take my compass. I must have deviated a little as my route was 8.5miles, a little longer than specified, and it took 3h40min.

No particular difficulty anywhere, good views and would have been a pleasant stroll if underfoot had been dry.

As it was a good workout and an enjoyable afternoon.

on Tue 27 Mar 2018 09:37:24 CEST

Global average : 5 / 5

Date of walk : 25/03/18
Description quality : Very good
Routemap quality : Very good
Walk interest : Very good

Great walk reasonably easy to follow with superb views.

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