Thor’s Cave is one of the most outstanding natural attractions in the Staffordshire Peak District. What awaits the intrepid explorer is nothing short of breathtaking. At the end of a simple walking route through the beautiful Manifold Valley is an impressive cavern, offering a perfectly framed window lookout across the majestic White Peaks of the Peak District from Thor Cave’s opening. It has to be seen to be believed, and we’ll explain how.
In this guide, we’ll look at what and where Thor’s Cave is and tell you a bit of its history. Then, we’ll let you know how to get there, and where to park for the walk to Thor’s Cave before describing the route. Lastly, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions and suggest some other fantastic walks in the Peak District.
Feel free to watch our YouTube video production of the Thor’s Cave Walk in the Peak District National Park.
For more incredible walks in the Peak District, check out our guides on Chrome Hill, Mam Tor and Dovestone Reservoir. Otherwise, read our Peak District Hiking post (also coming soon), where we reveal some of the best hikes in the Peak District National Park.
What is Thor’s Cave?
Thor’s Cave in the Manifold Valley, Peak District is an incredible natural cavern. Its hugely impressive cave opening measures 10 metres high and 7.5 metres wide. It sits about 80 metres off the valley floor. And, just in case that wasn’t impressive enough, Thor’s Cave also has a second opening. This is known as the ‘west window‘ where there’s also access to a second cave known as Thor’s Fissure Cavern. Of course, given how outstanding this natural attraction is, Thor’s Cave has become a very popular tourist spot, with a quick route and simple walk to reach it.
How Was Thor’s Cave Formed?
Thor’s Cave is a Karst Cave, meaning the dissolution of the limestone in this part of the Manifold Valley has left behind caverns and fissures. This area of the Peak District National Park is known as the White Peaks due to the abundance of limestone that litters the landscape. Indeed, you’ll find many caves throughout the Peak District. But, you’d be hard-pushed to find a more impressive one than this.
Thor’s Cave History
Given the fact that Thor’s Cave in the Peak District is millions of years old, it’s no wonder it has a rich history. Humans have been using the cavern as a shelter since the end of the old Stone Age. And lemme tell ya, that was ages ago. It’s actually classed as prehistory it’s that old. Anyway, in addition, the burial site of seven bodies was found in the cave, as well as tools, pottery and animal bones.
Where Is Thor’s Cave?
The wondrous Thor’s Cave is located in the south of the Peak District National Park, in the county of Staffordshire and is part of the White Peaks. Specifically, Thor’s Cave lies in the Manifold Valley, within a steep limestone crag between the towns of Leek and Ashbourne. Running along the base of the cavern is the Manifold River. As too is the Manifold Way – a disused railway line that used to service Thor’s Cave between 1904–1934, but is now an enjoyable walking route.
The walking route to reach Thor’s Cave begins from the little village of Wetton within the postcode DE6 2AF.
How to Get to Thor’s Cave
The best way to get to Thor’s Cave for the short walk to this outstanding Manifold Valley cavern is with your own set of wheels. 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 // 42 miles (67km)
- Sheffield: 1.25 hours // 32 miles (51km)
- Leek: 30 minutes // 12 miles (19km)
- Matlock: 45 minutes // 21 miles (34km)
- Buxton: 30 minutes // 15 miles (24km)
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.
Access via public transport is not so easy. The closest place you can catch a train too is Leek. But, getting from Leek to Wetton and the Thor’s Cave walk is not straightforward. With a drive time of 30 minutes, you might be able to arrange a taxi to take you. But, you’d need to make sure you arranged a pick up too. Not very convenient.
There is a bus service that runs between Ashbourne and Buxton. But, again, the closest it stops to Wetton is Newton Grange, which would likely be too far to walk from. So nope, your best bet really is to drive yourself there.
Thor’s Cave Parking
Parking for the walking route to Thor’s Cave is found in the little village of Wetton. There is a small parking lot located off Carr Lane in the village centre. Parking is limited so aim to arrive early. Also, nearby farms often open up their fields to park in, for a fee, but it’s still convenient.
Failing to be able to park in Wetton, you’ll find parking at Weag’s Bridge, which will mean approaching the cave on a walk from the south along the Manifold Way.
Useful Things to Know Before Visiting Thor’s Cave
Below, we’ll cover a few useful things to know before you visit Thor’s Cave in the Peak District.
Because of the darkness in the cave, if taking a camera, take your tripod too. In addition, if you’re wanting the shot of Thor’s Cave entrance without any other visitors in it (because this place is popular), then aim to arrive early.
The Best Time to Visit Thor’s Cave
You can walk to and visit Thor’s Cave any time of year. Indeed, if you walked the Thor’s Cave route during every season, you’d probably enjoy a different outlook through the cave window each time.
In terms of visiting and being able to walk the route to Thor’s Cave at quieter times, then you should try to avoid weekends and school holidays. Aim for weekdays and as early as possible.
Thor’s Cave Opening Time and Price
Thor’s Cave is open all year round and is completely free to visit. We like that!
Amenities Close to Thor’s Cave
This is a natural attraction and so you’ll not find any amenities at the cavern. Let’s face it, we wouldn’t want anything spoiling the view of the Manifold Valley out of the gigantic opening of Thor’s Cave anyway. Even Wetton is a small village and there’s not much here either. There are however public toilets at the car park in the village centre.
For more options, you should travel the short distance to Wetton Mill. This National Trust-owned location has a tea room and is a wonderful place to find refreshments.
Thor’s Cave Fun Facts
- The cave used to be serviced by a station along the Leek Manifold Light Railway between 1904 and 1934.
- Folklore talks about a ‘Fiddling Hobthurse of Thor’s Cave’. This harmless sprite’s fiddling or screeching used to fill the cavern.
- The cave was used by the British band ‘The Verve’ as a backdrop to their album cover for ‘A Storm in Heaven’ as well as the location for their music video ‘Blue’.
- Human occupation stretches back 11,000 years. Mind. Blown.
The walk from Wetton is a beautifully picturesque trail through the Manifold Valley to the epic Thor’s Cave. Indeed, you’ll find the route straightforward and easy to follow, all the way to Thor’s Cave entrance. The scramble onto the top of the cavern is a steep scramble up a grassy embankment, but you’ll find paths to follow.
In addition, the entrance into the cave itself is steep and can get quite muddy and slippery if wet, so take care. But ultimately, you’ll find the route to Thor’s Cave to be an excellent payoff for such a simple walk. Indeed, Thor’s Cave really is one of the Peak Districts’ finest attractions.
Thor’s Cave Walk Preview
- Trail Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 4.5km
- Time: 1–2 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 115m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Wetton
- Map: Wikiloc
Thor’s Cave Walk
From the car park in Wetton, head north along School Lane towards Leek Road. As you round onto Leek Road you’ll immediately turn left onto a footpath. This is Thor’s Lane and it gradually descends down through the fields and farmland towards the cavern. Enjoy views of the sublime Manifold Valley as you head closer to Thor’s Cave.
Eventually, you’ll reach a small crossroads in the trail where you can either head up to the top of the cave or take the path right and follow it around to access the entrance to Thor’s Cave. Dan and I decided to head up to the top of the cave first.
On Top of Thor’s Cave
It’s a steep climb straight up the imposing exterior of this incredible cavern, but it’s certainly worth it. The views from on top of Thor’s Cave across the entire Manifold Valley are outstanding. The lush greens against the craggy limestone of the White Peaks are beautiful.
A little exploration from the top of Thor’s Cave reveals even more of this Peak District attraction. Indeed, as you wind around the network of pathways you’ll discover more caverns. They’re smaller but still offer perfectly framed windows in which to enjoy the Manifold Valley views that Thor’s Cave is known for.
Exploring Inside Thor’s Cave
Once you’ve finished enjoying the views from the top of the cave, it’s time to explore inside. Retrace your steps back down the side of the grassy cave exterior and rejoin the trail leading down to the cave entrance.
Seeing the sheer size of the cave entrance is jaw-dropping. Ahead, up a steep little scramble of a trail, is the dark opening to another world. Inside reveals a large but not overly deep cavern ready to delve into. Hard, rugged stone has been smoothed down from years of human exploration. Take care as you scramble and climb inside.
From the back of the cave, you get a wonderful perspective of the grandeur of this incredible place. The massive opening of Thor’s Cave invites you to sit and admire the picturesque Peak District as if glued to some scintillating film on the big screen.
To the left, is the Western Window. Again, more splendid views are to be had through this smaller and narrower gap in the rock.
Once you’ve soaked up all you can of the Peak District’s Thor’s Cave, simply retrace your steps back to rejoin the same walking route you arrived on.
Below, we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Thor’s Cave walking route in the Peak District National Park.
How Long Does it Take to Walk to Thor’s Cave?
Thor’s Cave takes little more than 30 minutes to walk to with the trail route being straightforward and direct.
Is Thor’s Cave Hard to Climb?
The walk to reach Thor’s Cave is not particularly difficult. But, if you choose to enter the cavern and/or scramble on top, then be aware that the paths are steep and can be slippery, especially when navigating the descents.
How High Is Thor’s Cave?
Thor’s Cave opening measures 10 metres high and it sits 80 metres from the Manifold Valley floor below.
Why Is it called Thor’s Cave?
Despite the obvious being to link the cave to the Norse God of thunder, Thor, there is no evidence to support this. Thus, the name is still a bit of an enigma. But, it’s possible the name originates from the word ‘tor‘ which means hill or tower. Both seem plausible.
Other Walks in the Peak District National Park
The Peak District National Park is one of our favourite places to hike in the UK. Below are some of the best trails.
- Mam Tor: a hugely popular walk in the Peak District, with various route options and splendid views.
- 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 a typical Peak District escarpment and across the wild open moorland.
- The Roaches and Lud’s Church: hike up and around the famous rocky ridge in the south Peaks and add on the fairytale rocky chasm of Lud’s Church.
- Kinder Scout and Downfall: hike to the Peak District’s highest point and enjoy the seasonal waterfall from this vast open plateau.
- Stanage Edge: whether you hike or climb, a visit to the Stanage Edge escarpment will leave you spellbound.
- Dovedale to Milldale: a walk through the beautiful Dovedale passes hidden caves, picturesque forest and clifftop trails. Be sure to add Thorpe’s Cloud and Bunster Hill to your hike.
- Three Shires Head: at the point where Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire meet is a pretty little cascade.
- Dovestone Reservoir: visit the impressive Trinnacle rock pillars in Saddleworth Moor in the north of the Peaks.
- 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 essentials for the route to Thor’s Cave in the Manifold Valley, 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.
- Wetton Mill: after enjoying the cave, you’ll still have plenty of time to fit more attractions in, so why not consider a visit to nearby Wetton Mill? Here you’ll find pretty woodland walks and even a route to Thor’s Cave.
- Manifold Way: for a long walk in this lovely valley, consider the Manifold Way. This route links up between Wetton Mill and Weag’s Bridge, again visiting Thor’s Cave. FYI – the Manifold Way is an excellent cycle route.
- 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!