The Peak District walk with a giant cave and a mysterious ‘disappearing river’

Daisy Jackson Daisy Jackson - 3rd December 2021

Thor’s Cave is one of the Peak District’s most impressive structures – and the river that flows nearby has its own stories too.

When people think of caves in the Peak District, their minds will turn to the world-famous tourist hotspots Blue John Cavern and its neighbours in Castleton.

But there’s a mighty cave, down on the Staffordshire side of the Peak District, that’s often overlooked.

This is Thor’s Cave, a huge natural cavern located in a steep limestone crag.

Thor’s Cave from above. Credit: Instagram, @aurimaskan

Its structure dominates the horizon, but it’s the view from inside the cave itself that makes this well worth the drive.


Once you scramble into Thor’s Cave – and the rocks can be icerink-slippy, so take care – its limestone walls create a picture frame looking over the Manifold Valley.

Thor’s Cave is in the Staffordshire side of the Peaks, a little further afield than some parts of this beloved national park.

The cave in autumn. Credit: Instagram @jennieclaydon

It’s around an hour and a half’s drive from Manchester itself to the village of Wetton, or less if you live on the south side of the region.

But it’s well worth the trip.

It’s believed that this ancient structure was occupied by early humans in the Palaeolithic period, after remains, tools, pottery and bronze items were found here by archaeologists.


If you’re thinking the cave looks familiar too, you might recognise it as the cover image of The Verve’s debut album, A Storm in Heaven, and from their music video for Blue.

Thor’s Cave. Credit: Instagram @fastpacker

A 7.5km circular walk from Wetton village will take you all along the course of the River Manifold and pass by Thor’s Cave, and other caves in the valley.

The river itself has been nicknamed the ‘disappearing river’, for good reason.

Unless there’s been particularly wet weather, the river vanishes around Wetton Mill and doesn’t reappear until Ilam Hall, about six kilometres away.

It’s all down to the limestone riverbed, which is pockmarked with sinkholes and underground channels and caves.


Read more: The incredible winter walk near Greater Manchester with a cosy pub at the end

In dry weather you can walk along the empty riverbed, knowing that the River Manifold is still flowing way beneath your feet.

And when you’re all walked out, you can settle down for a pint and a pie at the traditional country pub, the Royal Oak.

There’s a detailed route plan you can follow on peakdistrictwalks.net.

Featured image: Instagram, @christani14