Three Shires Head Walk from Gradbach (Waterfall Walk) | 8-Mile Route

Three Shires Head Peak District

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

Following the River Dane to Three Shires Head
Following the River Dane to waterfalls at Three Shires Head

Walk information

Walk type: Medium circular walk

Distance:  8 miles/13 km

Walk time: 3.5-4.5 hours

Total ascent: 528 m/1,732 ft

Highest point: 454 m/1,489 ft

Walk highlights: Three Shires Head with waterfalls on the River Dane, exploring old quarry areas and views of Shutlingsloe hill. Also a great swimming spot in summer!

gpx file

Three Shires Head walk map

Three Shires Head walk map Peak District
Three Shires Head walk map Peak District

Click for OS online 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.

Gradbach car park Peak District
Gradbach car park in the Peak District

Parking Cost

Free parking

Public transport

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

Watch out for muddy fields on the walk
Watch out for muddy fields on the walk

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.

For kids paddling in the water, it’s handy to have a pair of waterproof sandals to protect stubbed toes! As an adult, I love my Teva sandals, perfect for campsites and paddling trips!

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

More waterfall walks

Do you love exploring the Peak District waterfalls? After this walk check out our other brilliant walks where you can see pretty waterfalls in the Peak District – 15 Beautiful Peak District Waterfalls

Ordnance Survey Walk Map

Three Shires Head signpost
Three Shires Head signpost

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.

There are lots to choose from, for a starter option there’s the Silva Starter Compass – perfect for kids. I recommend the Silva Expedition compass, it’s more expensive but a valuable piece of kit!

For online maps, you can get via OS Online App or Viewranger App.

Check prices here for the one month or yearly option with OS Online App. 


Want to read later? Save the walk to Pinterest

Three Shires Head waterfalls Peak District

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.

Small wooden bridge at the start of the walk
Small wooden bridge at the start of the walk

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).

Stone stile on the Three Shires Head walk
Stone stile on the walk

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.

On route to the Three Shires Head walk
On route to the Three Shires Head

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

Bridge at Three Shires Head
The bridge at Three Shires Head

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.

Quarries on the walk
Quarries on the walk

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.

Views on the Three Shires Head walk
Views on the Three Shires Head walk, with the path on the other side

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.

Following the Dane Valley Way national trail
Following the Dane Valley Way national trail

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.

Descending from the Dane Valley Way
Descending from the Dane Valley Way

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

Views of Three Shires Head from the other side of the river
Views of Three Shires Head from the other side of the river

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.

Views of Shutlingsloe Hill
Views of Shutlingsloe Hill

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.

Gate and house on the walk
Go through the gate next to the house on the walk

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.

Over the tall wooden stile near the end of the walk
Over the tall wooden stile near the end of the walk

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.


Additional options

Three Shires Head in the Peak District
Waterfalls at Three Shires Head in the Peak District

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.

Have you done this walk, did you go swimming at Three Shires Head? Let me know any feedback in the comments.

Save me to your Peak District walks boards on Pinterest

Three Shires Head waterfall Peak District

Three Shires Head Walk Peak District_3

*Peak District Walks participates in the Amazon Services Associates Programme, as well as other affiliate programmes. If you make a purchase through these, Peak District Walks earn from the qualifying links. This is at no extra cost to you. Read more here.

Peak District charity patches

(order here)

Peak District Walks have now launched their charity iron-on embroidered patch raising funds for the Edale Mountain Rescue Team (charity no. 1138626) - one of the busiest mountain rescue teams in the UK.

Order our Mam Tor charity patch now or our latest Kinder Scout patch. Please visit our shop below. If you'd like to know when new designs are created, join our mailing list here to be notified.

More information about the charity project here.


Mam Tor Patch

visit our shop

Need more help planning your Peak District trip?

Join our Peak District walks Facebook page, follow on Instagram and/or Twitter for inspiration.

More information on the Peak District, including transport options, where to stay + other useful resources.

Check out the 7 YHAs in the Peak District and find the best walks direct from your accommodation.

Find out what maps you will need for your trip here.

FREE beginner's hiking eBook. (Coming soon - request a copy here).

*NEW* Read our useful guides on hiking tips here.

Visit our hiking recommendations page, (footwear, clothes + kit).

Or get in touch and I will help as best I can :).


Please note 'Peak District Walks' accepts no liability through any injuries or accidents that may result from walking our routes. We always recommend you wear appropriate footwear to avoid injuries and to take a paper map and compass on your walks. Read more here.

One thought on “Three Shires Head Walk from Gradbach (Waterfall Walk) | 8-Mile Route

  1. Pingback: 15 Beautiful Peak District Waterfalls (+ Walks to Visit Them) - Peak District Walks

Comments are closed.