The beauty of Longshaw is its surroundings. The variety of countryside - hills, woods, fields of sheep and cows, moorland, streams, disused quarries and breathtaking views - is amazing especially as they're all to be had so close to the focal point of the car parks, visitor centre and cafe. The wildlife is also great - over this summer I've seen loads of birds (including great spotted woodpecker, green woodpecker, meadow pipit, curlew, reed bunting, mallard, various members of the crow family, swallow, siskin, redstart, various garden birds, and heard-but-never-saw cuckoos). And that's just the birds - there are butterflies and moths, a little mouse ran to hide as I went past a few days ago, there are deer in the fields opposite the car parks, and there were amazing bluebells earlier in the year, then pretty meadow flowers and orchids a few weeks ago, now the heather is turning the hills purple, and in a couple of months we'll have the autumn colours in the many deciduous woods.
The Longshaw Lodge building itself is nice enough to look at but nothing special (and you can't go in and look around it anyway). But you won't want to because your gaze will always be drawn to the countryside around. Even the cafe (which is ok-if-not-amazing for simple food and scones, but particularly good at coffee and cake) has a lovely view from the outside seating, down towards Burbage brook and back up to Higger Tor, so you can go nowhere and still enjoy the scenery!
The National Trust, for free, run walks starting from outside the visitor centre every Wednesday and Sunday at 11am, for approx 2.5 hours, around the Estate and some of the hills nearby. They have at least seven different routes, taking you to Totley Moss, Owler Tor, Padley Gorge, Lawrence Field, Burbage Edge, Millstone Edge and Tumbling Hill. Since I live locally and have had time off work recently, I've had the chance to do them all this summer. Every one of these walks involves spectacular views, either along the Derwent Valley towards Castleton, or over Sheffield to North Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. Between them, they also cover a few historical points of interest you might otherwise miss: eighteenth-century signposts, quarring sites and buildings, millstones troughs and other stone items left by the quarries, an old storage house for ice, modern sculptures, the Duke's favourite sitting spot, the foundations of old settlements, an air shaft from the Totley railway tunnel, York Minster on the horizon (just!), and what came to pass for a stone hot tub back in the day! There are normally about 15 people on the walks a sunny summer Wednesday and maybe only 1 or 2 on a wintery rainy day, and many of the same faces come time and again for some walking and socialising and a natter at the cafe afterwards. The volunteer guides I've had so far have all been good, but one or two have been particularly extra-good at giving information about the area and pointing out subtle landmarks you'd easily miss otherwise, from the Duke's enthusiasm for getting roads diverted away from his favourite views, to the use of the quarries for providing millstones and later the stone to build dams. It's well worth going on the extra tour of Bolehill Quarry, though it runs only a couple of times a year - so informative and brings it alive for you. The staff, from rangers to volunteers to cafe/shop staff are all friendly and helpful. I've always been on the walks on my own, but each time have been made to feel part of the group during the walk and for a coffee afterwards. The guides carry first-aid kits and gauge the walk to be suitable for all ages and most levels of mobility - you'll need walking boots or sturdy trainers, and some level of walking ability, but nothing out of the ordinary.
There are also various kiddy activities on offer, but I can't comment much on those as I don't have kids.
On the Longshaw Estate itself, there are some well-made paths which are easy to navigate and appear to be wheelchair accessible (I'm guessing a bit, but you can probably contact the visitor centre to arrange coming in the back entrance if you'd like easy disabled access to the visitor centre). There are also many off-the-beaten-track paths which are peaceful and quiet and every bit as beautiful. The area around Yarncliffe wood is often quiet when I've been - the 'masses' tend to sit in Lawrence Field, near the ice-cream vans and the National Trust's new food buggy. Parking on the road there is free to all (the Longshaw car-park is only free to members), but if you do park there, please don't park round the bend where the blue signs tell you not to - it's dangerous since it's 50mph and a bus route - there's plenty of room to park on the road just around the corner.
You can also walk down towards the Grouse Inn, or within about 1 to 2 hours depending on walking speed you can be down in the centre of Grindleford village, and can stop off at the village shop (in the side of the church, currently) for a coffee and homemade cake before you walk (or cheat and get the infrequent bus) back up to Longshaw. Also for a longer walk, you can walk along White Edge towards Curbar Gap, and back along Curbar Edge / Froggatt Edge to the Grouse Inn - a long walk but great views including sight of Chatsworth - or along Burbage Edge and up to Stanage Edge with its famous setting, and back via Higger Tor and Carl Wark fort.
What's so good about walking around the Longshaw estate is that you don't walk *to* something, see it, and walk back - you see something the whole way through the walk, and you can choose how tough and how long that is. This is not a National Trust property for people who want to go around a country house and see paintings and antique furniture, but is a National Trust estate for people who want beautiful Peak District countryside managed and made accessible by the National Trust in an informal setting. Some of the time you have a view up and across to the surrounding hills, and other parts of the time you're on the hills and having a panoramic view back down the valley, enjoying what wildlife and history comes along the way.
The Peak District is full of amazing scenery, so you're spoilt for choice in this area, but it's hard to be disappointed by Longshaw's countryside unless the weather is so poor that the clouds sit in the valley and block all the views. So don your walking boots, avoid a foggy day, and you can walk in any direction and be captivated by the scenery.
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