A short walk to Thor’s Cave, Peak District

by Jan

Thor’s Cave is an impressive natural cavern in the Peak District National Park with picturesque views over the Manifold Valley.  It has a large entrance, which  provides the perfect frame for the Staffordshire countryside below.  There are several ways to get there, but we took the shortest walk to Thor’s Cave.

Having seen many photos of the jaw-dropping view from the cave, I knew it was somewhere I wanted to include in our Peak District itinerary.  It was a rainy day, so we were looking for a short walk, which would be fun for the kids too.

In this guide we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the out-and-back route to Thor’s Cave in Staffordshire.  We’ll give you the directions for the walk, as well as information on parking, eating, where to stay, and what to take.

What is Thor's Cave?

Thor’s cave is one of many stunning natural landmarks in the Peak District.  This rocky outcrop is located on a steep limestone crag, with a splendid outlook over the rolling hills below.

The name Thor’s Cave may have originated from Thor, the god of thunder, Thor, but it’s more likely a variation of Tor, which means tower or high rock.

The cave is located just outside the quaint village of Wetton in the south of the Peak District.  This is an area known as the White Peak.  Wetton is between Leek and Matlock and only 10 miles from Ashbourne.

It’s a beautiful area, which is popular with walkers, cyclists, and nature-lovers.

How was Thor's Cave formed?

Thor’s Cave is a Karst Cave, formed over thousands of years by the effects of wind and water erosion on the limestone rock.  As the underground streams flowed through the rocks they created a network of ancient caves.

The limestone rocks formed from millions of years of compressed dead marine animals.  It’s hard to imagine that there was once a time when the valley was submerged under a warm sea somewhere south of the equator!  Furthermore, the hillside where the cavern now stands would have once been a reef.

Thors Cave, Peak District

Brief history of Thor's Cave

Thor’s Cave was a popular tourist attraction for many years before it became an Instagram sensation.  Until 1934, it was on the route of the Leek & Manifold Light Railway and visitors could get off at the station next to the cave.

However, the history of Thor’s Cave dates back way further than the recent influx of tourists.  Evidence shows it was used for thousands of years before that, as shelter for humans and animals.  Archaeologists have even discovered the bones of giant red deer and bears!

There’s even evidence that Thor’s Cave was the site of a Bronze Age Burial site, and you can see artefacts in the local museum.

How long is the Thor's Cave walk?

Our short walk to Thor’s Cave is an out and back walk.  It is only 1.2 km each way (2.4km in total), but you should still allow about an hour for your visit.  It’s not a difficult route to follow, but is challenging in places.

There are several longer circular walks to Thor’s Cave, which follow a section of the Manifold Way.

Overview of the Thor's Cave short walk (2.4 km)

  • Start: Wetton village Car Park
  • Distance:   2.4 km (1.5 miles)
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty:  moderate (physically challenging in parts)
  • Terrain:  uneven surfaces with roots, boggy, steps, stiles, a few inclines (not accessible)
  • Refreshments:  Pub or café (on return)

Parking for Thor's Cave

There’s no parking in front of Thor’s cave, so you need to park in the nearby village of Wetton and do a short walk from there.  The car park is free, but is small, so may be busy at peak times.

There is only room for several cars, but we were lucky enough to arrive as someone was leaving.  If the car park is full, you can find alternative parking 550m away in the layby near the junction for Wetton Mill (off Leek Road).

Alternatively, there is also limited roadside parking in the village, but you should be respectful to the residents of Wetton when parking.

Address for Wetton village car park:  Carr Lane, Wetton, Ashbourne, DE6 2AF

  • Parking: Wetton Village car park, DE6 2AF
  • Cost:   free
  • Opening times:  24 hours
  • Facilities:  Toilets

Step 1 - Start from Wetton village car park

To get to Thor’s Cave, it’s a very straightforward route, which is signposted along the way.

Firstly, turn right out of the Wetton village car park and walk a short distance until you reach School Lane.  Take a right and follow this path until the end.  At the junction with Leek Road take the concessionary farm track on the left, known as “Thor’s Lane” and follow this for about half a mile.

Step 2 - Getting to the cave

The track to Thor's Cave, Peak District

Once you reach the gate, go through it, and follow the path across the field which contours around the hillside. You’ll see the hillock in the distance, so just head towards that.  Once again, this can get extremely muddy and slippery after periods of extensive rain.

Once you’ve reached the other side of the field, cross the stile, and descend the steps to the right.  Eventually, you’ll reach the entrance of the cave.  You really can’t miss it!

Step 3 - Inside Thor's Cave

To be honest, it’s not the easiest cave to get into and you will need to heave yourself up the rocks to get it.  It is steep and can be tricky, especially when the rocks are wet.  Also, the rocks at the entrance are smooth, so can be difficult to grip.

View from inside cave over Manifold valley, Peak District

Once inside,  it’s time to explore the cavern.  Thor’s Cave is fairly deep, with several narrow chambers which stretch deep into the rear of the cave.

It’s dark at the back, so it’s useful to have a torch or phone for light.   The children loved this part and were keen to delve deep and explore.  I was more cautious, as the ground was uneven and slippery and I’m far less agile!

On the right of the cave is another exit, known as The Window.  Apparently, you can enter through this gap via a rope, but we didn’t try!

Once you’ve explored the cave, exit the way you came in and retrace your steps back to the car park.

The Window at Thor's Cave, Peak District

You can climb on top of the cave, but this would be precarious when it’s wet.  Take the path to the left of the cave opening.

Top tips for the Thor's Cave circular walk

  • Wear sturdy footwear, which supports the ankles.  It should be shoes or boots that you don’t mind getting dirty.
  • Gloves are useful for getting into the cave.
  • Take a torch.  You can use your phone, but a head torch is even better, as it leaves your hands free.
  • Choose your visit time carefully to avoid the crowds.
  • There are no facilities at the cave.

Useful information for your visit to Thor's Cave

When is the best time to visit Thor's Cave?

Thor’s Cave is one of the Peak District’s most popular natural attractions and can get busy.  To avoid the crowds, attempt to avoid peak times such as weekends and bank holidays.

Also, avoid going after sustained periods of heavy rain.  For our walk, the track was filled with puddles and mud, making it almost inaccessible.  Furthermore, the field was extremely muddy and the entrance to the cave was incredibly slippery.  It really wasn’t the best time to visit, though we did encounter less people!

I think a clear, bright day would be the optimal time for amazing views across the valley.  Additionally, try to go early or late to avoid the crowds and get the best lighting for your photo.

Opening times at Thor's Cave

As the cavern is a natural attraction, it is open 24 hours.  Obviously, it would be dangerous to visit in the dark.

Admission costs at Thor's Cave?

Thor’s Cave is free to enter.

How long does it take to visit Thor's Cave?

If you’re doing the short walk, it takes about an hour to visit Thor’s Cave.

Places to eat near Thor's Cave

On our return from the cave we headed to the village pub, The Royal Oak Inn.  This is a friendly family-run pub which has been serving the village for over 400 years.  They serve hearty traditional pub food and have a tempting choice of desserts.

Alternatively, the Wetton Mill Tea Rooms in Wetton is a cosy coffee shop, which offers freshly made sandwiches and homemade cakes.

Places to stay near Thor's Cave

There are no hotels in Wetton, but you could stay at the nearby Manifold Inn Hotel, a 200-year old coaching inn in Hartingdon.  The Biggin Hall Country House Hotel and The Izaak Walton Hotel are also popular options.

There are also plenty of self-catering cottages near to Wetton.

Getting to Thor's Cave

By car

The easiest way to get to Wetton is by car.  There isn’t a train station nearby.

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