The Lud’s Church walk is an enchanting and magical trail in the Peak District National Park. Its captivating atmosphere is truly spellbinding. Indeed, walking through Lud’s Church feels like stepping into the pages of a fairytale. In this guide, we’ll cover two walking options to this hidden gem – a short and a long version. We’ll let you know details such as trail specs, what car parks to use for Lud’s Church and how to get there.
For more incredible Peak District walks, check out our guides on Derwent Edge, Mam Tor and Stanage Edge. Otherwise, read our Peak District Hiking post (coming soon), where we reveal some of the best hikes in the Peak District National Park.
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What Is Lud’s Church?
Despite its name, Lud’s Church isn’t a church at all. It’s an incredible jagged chasm cut deep into the rock bed. Lud’s Church measures around 18 metres deep and just a few metres wide in parts, penetrating the landscape for around 100 metres.
The towering cliff walls are padded in bright moss and adorned with lush ferns. Certainly, wandering through this wonderful gorge feels as far removed from the English countryside as you can get. Rather, it’s like stepping into another world filled with magic and mystery. And, given the myths and legends surrounding Lud’s Church, that sentiment might not be quite as strange as it sounds.
Lud’s Church History
Lud’s Church is steeped in history. Some of it is true and some of it is purely legend. Given the beguiling nature of the chasm, it’s no surprise this secret place gave rise to such tall tales. Indeed, the feelings of intrigue and enigma conjured up are almost palpable as you wander through the rocky corridors.
Legends of Lud’s Church
A famous poem about Arthurian Legend called ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ references a ‘Green Chapel’. Lud’s Church is widely believed to be the location of said chapel. And, it’s easy to see why. The emerald-lined walls rising sharply from the ground could easily be those of a long-forgotten parish or castle keep.
There’s also thought to be a connection to Robin Hood. The much-loved outlaw and his Merry Men would use Lud’s Church as a place of refuge and sanctuary. Again, it’s easy to imagine given how secret the chasm feels. One could almost conjure up images of Friar Tuck preaching in a small niche and Little John charging through the main walkway.
In the early 1400s, Lud’s Church was thought to have been used by Lollards – an early Christian reformation movement being persecuted for their beliefs. The name ‘Lud’ likely came from a Mr. Walter de Lud Auk, who was captured at the site. In the mid-1800s, a local landowner placed an old ship’s wooden figurehead in a small crevice above the chasm. The gesture was to commemorate Alice, the daughter of Walter de Lud Auk and was known as ‘Lady Lud’. Some say her ghost still haunts the chasm.
Where is Lud’s Church in the Peak District?
Lud’s Church is located in the Staffordshire Peak District between the towns of Leek and Buxton. Its even more popular neighbour is the much-loved Roaches – a rocky escarpment that easily links to Lud’s Church via an exceptional walk.
Lud’s Church itself lies hidden, somewhat, within Back Forest close to the village of Gradbach. At over 100 metres long, the narrow gorge cuts closely by the River Dane and can be reached either by a short walk from Gradbach or via a long walk from The Roaches. We’ll discuss both below.
How to Get to Lud’s Church
The best way to get to Lud’s Church for this Peak District walk is to drive yourself there. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the nearest places to travel from. We’ll include the distance and drive time.
- Manchester: 1.5 hours // 33 miles (53km)
- Sheffield: 1.5 hours // 34 miles (55km)
- Leek: 20 minutes // 8 miles (13km)
- Buxton: 15 minutes // 6 miles (10km)
- Bakewell: 35 minutes // 18 miles (29km)
The postcode is Buxton SK17 0SU.
If you don’t have access to your own vehicle, then we recommend hiring something. Of course, this can easily be organised from both Manchester and Sheffield. When hiring a car, we always get the ball rolling with a search on RentalCars.com. Booking a car with Rentalcars.com is easy and stress-free, plus they offer an unbeatable free cancellation policy too.
Despite how well-connected many of the walks in the Peak District are, sadly Lud’s Church short walk from Gradbach is not one of them. There are no buses running to Gradbach and so your only option for the short walk is to drive.
But, if you’re wanting to walk to Lud’s Church via The Roaches, then you can use public transport. The easiest thing would be to get to the town of Leek. Then, from Leek, take bus #109 towards Buxton and alight at Old Buxton Road in Upper Hulme. From here, you’ll simply walk half a mile or so up Roach Road to Hen Cloud and begin the circular Lud’s Church walk from here.
You can check the bus services here.
You can also check the train services to get to Leek here. We also recommend using Google Maps to help plan your journey.
Lud’s Church Parking
- Lud’s Church short walk from Gradbach: at Gradbach you’ll find a small car park which can and does fill quickly, especially at weekends, public and school holidays. The car park is free and is also the same car park used for one of the routes to the Three Shires Head, another excellent walk in this part of the Peak District. The Lud’s Church Car Park postcode for the short walk from Gradbach is SK17 0SU.
- Lud’s Church long walk via The Roaches: if wanting to walk to Lud’s Church via The Roaches, something we highly recommend, then you’ll find lay-by parking along Roach Road. The postcode is ST13 8UQ.
Useful Things to Know Before Lud’s Church Walk
- Check the weather: the weather in the Peak District can often be a little unpredictable. Even in summer, rain is not unusual. The geology of the chasm means it can remain damp, cool and muddy all year round. Although a little moody weather can actually add to the magical atmosphere of walking through Lud’s Church, it’s good to make sure you’ve packed appropriately and have caught up on the forecast. You can check the weather here.
- Crowd control: Lud’s Church and The Roaches are very popular places for visitors to the Peak District. If you can be flexible with time and would prefer to walk into the chasm of Lud’s Church with fewer people, then try to visit during the week and outside of school and public holidays.
- Local amenities: Nearby Gradbach Mill has a wonderful Riverside Cafe which is open from Easter weekend through to October on weekends and bank holidays. During the summer school holidays, the Riverside Cafe is open all week from 10am to 4pm. There are no toilets at either Lud’s Church car parks.
Lud’s Church Walks
Below, we’ll talk about two walking options to Lud’s Church. Option one is the short route from Gradbach and option two is the longer route via The Roaches. Whichever walking trail you choose, you’ll see exactly the same parts of Lud’s Church, you’ll just enter the walk through the mossy chasm from opposite ends.
Lud’s Church Short Walk Map and Preview
- Trail Type: Loop
- Distance: 5.3km
- Time: 1.5–2.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 130m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Roaches Gradbach Car Park
- Map: Wikiloc
Lud’s Church Walk From Gradbach
The Lud’s Church short walk starts from Gradbach and begins by turning right out of the Lud’s Church Car Park and heading eastwards towards Gradbach Mill. You’ll reach a small fork in the road on the way, either leading you towards Gradback Mill on the right or Gradbach Scout Camp on the left. For the purpose of this trail description, we’ll describe the route as it passes through Gradbach Mill, although passing through the scout camp is just as straightforward.
After passing through Gradbach Mill, continue to walk alongside the River Dane. Soon enough, you’ll enter into Back Forest and cross over the Black Brook stream. There’s a steady uphill walk through the woodlands. At about 1.5km into the Lud’s Church walk, you’ll meet a large pile of boulders with stone steps cut into them. Feel free to climb for views of the surrounding Staffordshire countryside. But, Lud’s Church is very close.
From the boulders, the trail takes a sharp turn to the left, almost turning back on itself. Follow the trail for another 300 metres before reaching the entrance to Lud’s Church.
Entering the Chasm
At the entrance is a series of stone steps. Take care as you descend as they’ll likely be damp. At the base, the exploration of Lud’s Church and a walk through this exquisite chasm begins. Follow the sharp bends in the rock as they reveal hidden nooks and crannies as you delve ever deeper into this other world of fantasy and make-believe.
This exceptional chasm cuts through the landscape like a deep scar. The wall sides are covered in green moss and the walk through Lud’s Church has a sense of walking into a real-life fairytale. The walk through might be short, but you’ll easily while away time as you enjoy this sliver of enchanted woodland in the UK.
Once you’ve explored the length and breadth of the chasm, you can retrace your steps and head back the way you came. This would be the super quick route. The added bonus is getting to walk back through Lud’s Church. Alternatively, you can make the whole of the Lud’s Church walk into a short circular trail.
Exit Lud’s Church at the southern entrance and continue to walk through the enchanting woodland. At around the 3km mark, you’ll swing right around to walk back through the woods in a northerly direction and walk an undulating trail running alongside the Black Brook. Soon enough, you’ll join back up with the main path coming from Gradbach Mill (or Gradbach Scout Camp). Simply retrace your steps back to Lud’s Church Car Park.
Lud’s Church Long Walk Map and Preview
- Trail Type: Loop
- Distance: 11.5km
- Time: 2.5–3.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 390m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Roach Road Lay-by Parking
- Map: Wikiloc
The Roaches and Lud’s Church Walk
After finding parking along Roach Road, you’ll find the trailhead and start point leading up to The Roaches and Hen Cloud to the southern end. The hike up to Hen Cloud is short and steep but oh so worth it. From the top of Hen Cloud, the views across the Staffordshire Peak District are extensive.
From Hen Cloud, the walk continues, traversing The Roaches in a northerly direction. At around the 2.2km mark, you’ll reach the mystical Doxey Pool. Soon after passing Doxey Pool, you’ll reach the highest point of The Roaches 505 metres above sea level. Indeed, the vantage point from this part of The Roaches is unrivalled in the Staffordshire Peaks.
The trail then begins to descend down to Roach End. Continue straight at Roach End towards Back Forest wood. As you enter the woodland, you’ll immediately feel a shift in the feel of the walk. The grandeur of the escarpment is swapped for the magical feel of an enchanted forest walk.
Eventually, you’ll arrive a Lud’s Church. You’ll walk from south to north, marvelling at this incredible chasm deep in the woodland. Once out of the other side, follow the trail to the right and back through the woodland to Roach End. From here, join Clough Head Lane and follow the path along the base of The Roaches, enjoying the views of the massive escarpment.
For more information on hiking The Roaches on its own, check out our guide here.
Below, we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Lud’s Church circular walk in the Peak District National Park.
Where to Park for Lud’s Church Walk?
This depends on the trail you choose to take. Please refer to Lud’s Church Parking for information on where to park.
How Long Is the Lud’s Church Walk?
The short walk to Lud’s Church from Gradbach Car Park is 5km and takes less than two hours. The long walk to Lud’s Church via The Roaches is 11.5km and takes 2.5–3.5 hours to complete.
Is Lud’s Church a Hard Walk?
No, not especially. The main thing to bear in mind is the walk entering and exiting Lud’s Church chasm. The steps can be slippery and the gorge floor is often muddy.
Is Lud’s Church Dog Friendly?
Yes. Bring your furry friend along by all means. Just keep doggo on a lead as this limits the disturbance to other walkers, especially if Lud’s Church is busy, as well as helping to protect local wildlife in the area like Red Grouse.
Why is it Called Lud’s Church?
Lud’s Church is thought to be named after Walter de Lud Auk, part of the Lollard Christian Reformation movement, who was captured during a meeting at Lud’s Church.
Other Walks in the Peak District National Park
The Peak District National Park is practically our backyard and we love hiking here. Below is a selection of some of what we believe are the best walks in the Peak District.
- Mam Tor: one of the most popular walks in the Peak District with views down the Great Ridge.
- Alport Castles: a hidden gem in the Peak District, the Alport Castles are the result of one of the largest landslips in the UK.
- Derwent Edge: a beautiful walk up another Peak District escarpment.
- Stanage Edge: walk across one of the Peak District’s most famous escarpments.
- Kinder Scout and Downfall: hike to the Peak District’s highest point and enjoy the seasonal waterfall.
- Dovestone Reservoir: explore the northern reaches of the Peak District and visit the epic Trinnacle.
- Dovedale to Milldale: a walk through the beautiful Dovedale passes hidden caves, picturesque forest and clifftop trails. Don’t forget to check out the Dovedale Stepping Stones!
- Three Shires Head: at the point where Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire meet is a pretty little cascade.
- Birchover & Stanton Moor Circular: discover the prehistoric Nine Ladies Stone Circle on this delightful country walk.
- Thor’s Cave: this impressive natural cavern has fantastic views across the Manifold Valley in the south of the Peak District.
- Chrome Hill: climb true peaks in the Peak District. We recommend visiting for sunrise.
- Bamford Edge: easily one of the most photographed parts of the Peak District.
- Padley Gorge: a deep and narrow valley offers a magical woodland walk to all who venture within.
Five Hiking Essentials
These are our five walking gear essentials for the Lud’s Church walk in the Peak District! For a more extensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Alternatively, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a hiking trip to the Peak District, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
You should also pack water, snacks and warm clothing.
- Where to stay in Gradbach: if you love the area around Lud’s Church then you might consider staying at the incredible Gradbach Mill. You’ll find plenty of walks to keep you occupied from here.
- Gradbach Walks: other walks around the Gradbach area include The Roaches, Ramshaw Rocks, Thor’s Cave and Three Shires Head.
- Ordnance Survey: if you choose to walk to Lud’s Church without a GPS map, then consider having an Ordnance Survey map or Maps. Me as alternative trail directions for walks from the Lud’s Church car parks.
- Explore more of the Peak District: if you want the hassle taken care of when it comes to trip planning, Get Your Guide offers some pretty great tour options for the Peak District National Park.
Save or share this post with your hiking buddies before your next trip to the Peak District National Park!