We’re constantly looking for walks with an opportunity to have a paddle or even a quick wild swim. The Peak District has plenty of chances to get our toes wet. The Three Shires Head walk is one of our favourites. Combining a gorgeous hike across fields, alongside rivers and a picturesque pool at the end.
This circular walk to Three Shires Head was just under five miles and took us three and a half hours including a fairly long stop at the waterfalls for a play and a paddle.
What is Three Shires Head
Three Shires Head is the point in the Peak District where three counties meet. It’s located on the River Dane where Cheshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire all join together. It’s a really lovely spot and one of my favourite in the Peaks for a picnic. There are delightful little waterfalls, small pools, brick bridges and great views across the river Dane Valley.
Three Shires Head Walk route
If you managed to find a space in the Roaches car park walk out onto the road then turn left and cross over the small stream up the hill and through a gate into a field. This is well sign posted.
There are often horses in this field so make sure you keep an eye on little ones and keep dogs on a short lead.
Walk across this field and through another little gate and across another field. You’ll see a ramshackle old barn to your right.
See if you can spot the sheep skull on the stone wall.
Keep following the path taking in the gorgeous Peak District Views as you go. You’ll eventually get to a green sign post reassuring you you’re on the right route. This one will direct you to turn left and through another gate.
Once through this gate you have a couple options. Essentially the high road or the low road. Both will get you to the Three Shires Head. We opted for the low one which took us through another field and past some very friendly sheep.
At the bottom of the field there’s another run down old barn. Walk past keeping it to your left. Leaning against the wall here is another sign and another choice to make. Arrows point to both the left and right, both routes again will get you to Three Shires Head.
We headed down hill (the left option) which got us to the river quicker. At the bottom of the hill you’ll see another sign post directing you to the right along the river. Keep the water on your left. Do not cross over the wooden bridge.
You then basically follow the river all the way to the Three Shires. Going gets a bit tougher from here. Parts of the path are quite steep and uneven with rocks to clamber over and banks to avoid. It’s also pretty narrow so you might have to back into some bushes to let people past.
As you get nearer the Three Shires Head the route gets easier. Take time to look behind you at the winding river and this beautiful Peak District valley.
Now for the fun bit. The water! If you’re visiting the Peak District for wild swimming then head all the way to the brick bridge where you’ll find some small pools. They’re not really big enough for a proper swim but you can definitely get right in.
If you’re just after a paddle then I recommend walking down to the river before you get to the bridge. There are plenty of great places to roll out your picnic blanket and cool off your toes. I do recommend water shoes as the bottom of the river is pretty rocky and you wouldn’t want to risk cutting your toes before the walk back to your car.
Slightly further down the river there’s a small waterfall and we did see some people jumping in. I really wouldn’t recommend it. The water probably isn’t deep enough to be safe.
Once you’ve had your fill of the water it’s time to begin the walk back to the car. Retrace your steps with the river on your right this time until you reach a fork in the path. We opted for the high route back to took the path to the left.
Again the path is pretty rocky so please do watch your footing. And I imagine it can get very muddy and slippy here after rain. It’s a fairly gentle elevation up to the top where you’ll eventually get to the three shires sign.
From here its a fairly obvious walk back across the fields to your starting point.
For an alternative route back to your car you can cross over the bridge at Three Shires Head and follow the river back with it on your left.
Where to park for the Three Shires Head Walk
We were trying this walk at the Three Shires on a beautiful sunny day and it seemed like everyone else wanted to too. On arrival at the Roaches Gradbach car park it was completely full. So we ended up driving back up the hill from here and found a couple of spaces at a private house. They charged £10 and had left an honesty box out. This was right next to the first gate for the Three Shires head walk.
Ordinarily, as long as you arrive fairly early in the morning you should be able to find space in the Roaches Car Park. The postcode in SK17 0SU. It’s managed by the Wildlife Trust and is free.
Facilities at Three Shires Head
There are no toilets or refreshments on this walk so pack a picnic and make sure you visit the toilet before you set off.
We stopped for a lovely meal on the way home at the Three Horseshoes Country Inn and Spa in Leek. The food was amazing and the staff were super friendly. I love to head back and try out the spa one day.
Most of these pubs near Ladybower are within an easy drive of Three Shires Head.
The Three Shires head walk with dogs
Our dog loves this walk. It has a little bit of everything. Open fields, winding tracks and the river to swim or cool off in. You’re likely to encounter lots of farm animals on this walk so make sure you keep dogs on a lead and clean up after them.
The walk difficulty
This one isn’t too hard but there are several inclines and lots of rocky paths. I would not recommend with a buggy or if you struggle to walk far.
Make sure you join the Marvellous Midlands Walks Facebook Group where you can share your favourite routes, photos and recommendations for walks in the Midlands. It’s also a great place to ask for recommendations and find inspiration for your next hike.
Another great spot for a paddle in the Peak District is at the Dovedale Stepping Stones. This route is a 4 mile circular from Ilam but you can easily park closer to the river and cut out several miles.
I also love this walk at Padley Gorge from the gorgeous Longshaw Estate. It has the big bonus of a lovely National Trust Cafe to refuel after your walk.
Or if you’re after another hike with a jaw dropping view, try this Ladybower walk which includes an energetic climb up Win Hill.