About Winnats Pass
Also known as Winnats, Winnats Pass is a hill pass and limestone gorge in the Peak District in Derbyshire, England. Its name is a corruption of ‘wind gates’ owing to the fact that winds are channelled at high speed through the pass.
Lying west of the village of Castleton in the National Trust’s High Peak Estate and the High Peak borough of Derbyshire, it is a popular cycling and walking track because of its challenging gradient and natural beauty.
History of Winnats Pass
The valley, made of limestone, has evidence of sea creature fossils some 350 million years old, which indicates that it was once under a tropical sea. The pass is therefore a protected site known as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, which means that rocks and plants cannot be removed.
It is thought that the valley itself was caused by melting glaciers wearing away at the rock. Streams then flowed through fissures in the rock, one of which created a large underground cave system which eventually collapsed and left the steep-sided valley visible today.
Local legend has it that the pass is haunted by a young couple called Alan and Clara. They eloped in 1758 but were robbed and murdered by miners as they headed through the pass on the way to Peak Forest Chapel. Their bodies were hidden in a mine shaft and discovered ten years later.
Winnats Pass today
Today, the pass is frequently the site of the National hill climb championship, having been host to the competition on a record ten occasions.
The pass is also riddled with old mine shafts and caves, since lead mining was a significant industry in 18th-century Castleton. Blue John mining was also mined for its ornamental value in the 19th century, and the mining continues on a small scale locally, since in the UK it is only found in the mines of Castleton. Some relics of the mining industry are visible in the Speedwell cavern museum and shop at the bottom of the pass.
Getting to Winnats Pass
People keen to walk up the pass normally start at Castleton Visitor Centre where there is a shop, café and toilet facilities. There is a pay and display car park on site. Castleton bus station is also nearby and is stopped at by the 272 bus. From there, Winnats Pass is roughly a 10 minute walk.