Cheshire’s 34 mile/55 kilometre long Sandstone Trail runs down the length of the central ridge, from the market town of Frodsham on the Mersey to the north, down to Whitchurch, just over the Shropshire border in the south. It’s probably the most popular middle-distance trail in north west England, and justifiably so. At the heart of this sandstone spine is isolated Beeston Crag, capped by the ruins of a medieval castle. Seen from afar, the crag’s prominence must surely have acted like a magnet to our distant ancestors. There’s ample evidence of people living on the hill way back in the Neolithic period. Today, farmland and wooded hills stretch away on either side.
Castles and forest
Across the Beeston Gap, the lofty ridge runs north along the low-lying Delamere Ridge, through Delamere Forest, and on towards Frodsham and the Mersey estuary. To the south, the tree-clad sandstone ridge undulates past Peckforton Castle and Bulkeley Hill towards Rawhead and the Iron Age hillfort at Maiden Castle.
Many of its towns and villages feature Cheshire vernacular architecture using local sandstone or black-and-white half timbered construction.
Beeston Castle wears a hood,
Huxley Meadows gets a flood.
As long as Helsby wears a hood,
The weather’s never very good.
— Old Cheshire weather lore
Two key books celebrate the Sandstone Trail. The Official Guide to Walking Cheshire’s Sandstone Trail, by Tony Bowerman, gives precise route directions for the whole trail, as well as fascinating, in-depth information about places of interest, history, folklore and wildlife along the way. The other book, Circular Walks along the Sandstone Trail, by Carl Rogers, takes you on 13 linked circular walks.
Towns and villages
But Cheshire offers much more to walkers than just the Sandstone Trail. Explore its field paths, riversides and canal towpaths or the dappled shade of the ancient and accessible Delamere Forest. Or take in its pretty rural villages and unspoilt pubs and inns.
Several excellent walking books will guide you to the best of Cheshire, including: Walks in West Cheshire and Wirral by Jen Darling, Walks in Mysterious Cheshire and Wirral by Tony Bowerman and Short Walks from Wirral Villages by Joanna McIlhatton.