2 hrs 17 mins
4.73 miles (7.62 Km)
Dove Dale car park
Note: This is an excellent route with stunning views but it does involve some steep ascents and descents on access land where the paths are not obvious.
From the car park, pass the toilet block on your right then turn right onto the track that heads towards Dove Dale.
After 100 mtrs, turn left uphill by Dove Dale sign.
Through gate then follow the well defined path uphill to begin with, keeping the wall on your left and passing through a series of gates.
After a descent the path again rises and just beyond a stile on your left, the path forks. Take the right fork signposted "Viewpoint".
Head uphill to the viewpoint and enjoy the great views over Ilam.
Tthen head directly up Bunster Hill heading away from Ilam. There's a path/sheep trod right of the arete which is easier than heading straight up but this peters out. When it does, swing back left and take the line of least resistance to the top of Bunster Hill.
After taking in the fantastic vista (and recovering from the climb!), follow the undulating ridge then the path in the direction of the farm buildings to a gate by the "Bunster Hill" sign.
Continue towards the farm buildings passing a barn on your right.
Right at the “T” junction of farm tracks and down to Air Cottage.
Over the cattle grid at entrance to Air Cottage and follow the signs on right through a small field (the fencing is not always in place but the gate is!).
The path is then signposted leftwards.
Follow the well defined path traversing along the top of Dove Dale Wood passing through a gate (signposted “Dove Dale”) until the path eventually forks.
Take the right fork down steps to begin with then track down to the River Dove.
Right at the bottom to the bridge at Ilam Rock, over the river and turn left.
After some distance the path rises to a view point above the river and bends round to the right (the 2 big caves of Dove Holes are now visible in front of you). Turn right at the viewpoint and follow the path uphill.
A short distance after crossing a stile, the path descends briefly and then continues uphill where you are greeted by more stunning views up and down Dove Dale as well as Hall Dale on the opposite side.
Continue on the undulating path to a gate.
Beyond the gate the path climbs steeply, first heading leftwards, then right, then directly up but it soon levels out for yet more breathtaking views.
Continue along the ridge keeping the wall on your left passing between 2 stone gate pillars (gate presumably long gone as is the wall).
Path skirts around the top of the gulley then continues along the ridge with wall on your left and passing through a wooden gate.
Path then skirts around top of 2nd gulley (there's a steep descent ahead which you can avoid by taking the path down the gulley at this point).
Continue along ridge with wall on your left.
As wall/fence swings round to the left, the path starts to bear away from the wall and becomes less defined.
Head diagonally downhill keeping the hawthorn bushes on your right.
Continue to descend, heading towards the gulley ahead of you (path does reappear).
Just before the wall, turn right and follow the gulley down to the river. If you still have energy to spare, the next hill on your left is Thorpe Cloud!
If not, turn left downstream and either cross the stepping stones, or cross the bridge further downstream.
The car park is a short distance beyond the bridge.