The Three Shires Head walk is an iconic place to visit in the Peak District and is one of the classic waterfall walks.
This quaint spot along the River Dane, known as the Three Shires Head marks the boundary for the three local counties Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire, so you can hop between the three counties in a matter of seconds!
From Gradbach, the walk takes you up to the River Dane and picks up a section of the Dane Valley Way before reaching the waterfalls and bridges at the Three Shires Head. Here it then loops around the Dane Valley, before passing back through (a second chance for a wild swim!)
Finally, taking you past Cut-thorn hill, with views towards Shutlingsloe and back to the car park at Gradbach.
Here you will find details on how to get to the start of the walk at Gradbach, where to park, route map, GPX file and weather information, plus a detailed step by step guide of the walk.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve done this walk and what you think!
Three Shires Head Walk from Gradbach
Three Shires Head walk map
Walk start point
Start grid reference: SJ 998 662
Car parking address: The Roaches car park, Gradbach, SK17 0SU
The car park at Gradbach in a small car park for up to about 20 cars. It’s also a popular place to park for visiting nearby Lud’s Church so in peak times it can be busy.
Nearest train station: Buxton train station (7 mile/12 km)
Unfortunately, there are limited public transport options for this walk. There is a bus from Buxton (no. 16 with D&G Buses) that goes to the Travellers Rest pub near to Flash village, followed by a 2.5-mile walk.
Alternatively, as the train station is such a distance, a taxi (or walking) would be the only other options.
Facilities on the walk
There are no public toilets available at the start of the walk at Gradbach or anywhere else on the walk.
Following your walk, the nearest pubs to Gradbach are the Rose and Crown at Allgreave (2.3 miles/6-minute drive) or in the opposite direction the New Inn at Flash (2.1 miles/5-minute drive).
Other useful information
Shortly after leaving Grabach, at the beginning of this walk and other parts away from Three Shires Head can be very muddy so hiking boots are recommended! Check out the clearance offers from Cotswold Outdoor if you’re in need of some new boots at a discount.
Also in the summer months (and winter ones if you are brave enough), you can swim in the pools where the waterfalls cascade into at Three Shires Head. This does mean on hot summer days it can be a very popular spot to visit.
The route is signposted in some parts (Dane Valley Way sections) but I recommend you take a map and compass (see below).
Water on your walk – I recommend a filter water bottle for your Peak District walks, it saves you carrying extra weight and you can fill up safely and drink water from the streams (and waterfall) on your walk.
Other useful information
Check the weather for your walk location and hills
- BBC Weather for Flash (highest village in Britain!)
- Met Office weather for the Peak District
- Met Office weather for Shining Tor (nearest summit to Three Shire Heads)
Ordnance Survey Walk Map
The map required for this walk is OL24 – Peak District (White Peak Area)
Check prices here with Ordnance Survey, you can buy a standard map or a waterproof (active) one. You can sometimes find cheaper deals on Amazon, but the Ordnance Survey website sometimes has discounts for buying more than one map!
And don’t forget your compass.
Check prices here for the one month or yearly option with OS Online App.
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Three Shires Head walk route
Stage 1 – Gradbach to Three Shires Head
Distance: 2.2 miles/3.5 km
Grid reference SJ 998 662
From the car park at Gradbach, take the footpath from at the back of the car park next to the brook, then cross the little wooden bridge and follow the water across a field to the road.
Turn right onto the road, heading uphill then look for a footpath, which looks like someone’s driveway. Go through a metal gate, signposted with a yellow arrow, then across several muddy fields heading towards the hills.
You will walk alongside the boundary, a drystone wall whilst passing through about six gates and lots of mud.
When you reach the end of the dry stone wall, continue in the same direction, up and over a small hill. Then look for a green public footpath sign directing you on a path going left (you can’t see the sign from the front but it’s a large green sign).
Turn left here, towards Three Shires Head down a muddy track then look for a metal gate on your right.
Next turn left down a track, heading towards the River Dane. Once you reach the water, turn right on the Dane Valley Way (DVW) and follow the path as it runs parallel to the River Dane.
Go through a wooden gate, again follow both the yellow arrow and Dane Valley Way signs, the path heads gradually up and away from the river.
Continue walking all the way, alongside a drystone wall past the River Dane, then all the way until you reach the waterfalls at Three Shires Head.
This is the iconic meeting point of the three counties Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire with two beautiful 18th century stone bridges, used a meeting points for packhorses.
Stage 2 – Three Shires Head (back) to Three Shires Head
Distance: 3 mile/5 km
Grid reference SK 009 685
Cross over the second the stone bridge and continue following the River Dane upstream. The path stays close to the river and you follow the path for about 1 km across moorland terrain which can be wet and boggy in places.
There is a small wooden plank bridge that takes you over the worst bits.
After 1 km the path then starts to head slightly uphill, you’ll notice an old tower which the path takes you up and around. Before the path reaches the road take the path heading left and back downhill, with great views of the valley and quarry slicks.
Follow the path amongst the old quarry works as it heads down to the river where you need to cross over a few stones, watch out for the large one, it’s wobbly!
Once across the stream, follow the rocky path upwards, continuing on the Dane Valley Way, signposted DVW and past more old quarry ruins from Reeve-edge Quarries.
Continue along the Dane Valley Way path for about 1 km, next to a drystone wall, the track then crosses a small bridge and you continue down the track.
Then you leave the DVW national trail doing a U-turn back down the hill towards a small house. Climb over the wooden stile, next to the house, then a second one a short distance away.
Walk down the hill, it can be particularly muddy and slippy on this path. Then over another wooden stile to reach the road.
Once over the road, follow a rocky path to the right of the stream all the way down, past another stone bridge then all the way down back to the Three Shire Heads.
Stage 3 – Three Shires Head to Gradbach
Distance: 2.8 miles/4.5 km
Grid reference SK 009 685
Cross the stone bridge but this time turn left along the track that skirts around the bottom of Cut-thorn Hill. As the path splits, keep going uphill on the track following around the bottom of the hill until you gate taking you on to the road.
Turn right on the road, past the house then turn left onto the footpath through the wooden kissing gate.
Follow this all the way until you reach a short wooden post with a yellow arrow, follow the path around to the left then across a broken stone still then a wooden stile. In the distance, you can see the iconic Shutlingsloe Hill, another great walk you can do nearby!
Follow the path as it then curves back around the base of Birchenough Hill and across the fields, descending to a track.
Go through a gate next to a house, with a beware of the dog sign, (I didn’t see or hear a dog!) As soon as you’re past the house there’s a small gate on your right with another yellow arrow, go through here and head for a gap in the stone wall towards the bottom left of the field.
From here head down towards a tall wooden step stile which takes you onto the road. Turn right, for a short distance.
Then look for the fingerpost for a public footpath on the left. It’s a narrow path heading down over a wooden stile then down some small stone steps back onto the road next to Dane Cottage.
Turn left down the road. Then look for the gate to take you back over the field that you crossed at the beginning of the walk.
Follow your footsteps through the stone stile, across the wooden bridge then back along the path into Gradbach car park.
Do you have any more questions about the Three Shires Head walk, maybe what to wear on your hike or any other questions? Ask me in the comments below.
Three Shires Head Short Walk
To shorten the walk you can miss off the loop in stage 2.
This will shorten the walk by about 3 miles so will be a 5-mile/8 km walk but you’ll still get to visit the beautiful Three Shires Head waterfalls, which is the highlight of both walks.
The short walk route is here – including a map, GPX file + other information,
More Walks in the Peak District
Love the walks in the White Peak Area of the Peak District? You might like these Peak District circular walks.
- Shutlingsloe walk including Macclesfield Forest
- Chrome Hill walk
- Lose Hill walk from Castleton
- Kinder Scout via Grindsbrook from Edale
Have you done this walk, did you go swimming at Three Shires Head? Let me know any feedback in the comments.
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