Mam Tor, the 'mother hill', lies at the junction between the Dark and White Peaks in England's Peak District, at the point where the landscape becomes more rugged and wild, providing glorious views and invigorating walks. At 517m high, it's not a huge hill to climb, and there are several routes up (and down) of varying intensity. A popular spot for Duke of Edinburgh expeditions and family outings alike, in peak season you'll meet plenty of people along the way, reminding one how social an activity walking can be.
Known as the 'shivering mountain', Mam Tor is both beautiful and potentially dangerous, with wonderful views across the area, and a slippery shale surface which is prone to landslides. One section of the Stockport - Sheffield road famously collapsed completely in 1974, and the impressive slide of exposed rock and ruined tarmac has been left unrepaired.
The National Trust outline a circular walk that will take you up and over the hill. You start and finish at Mam Nick car park, which is a short drive out of Castleton. Alternatively, you can park at the Blue John Cavern, and take a variety of routes from there. If you cut across the grass north westerly, you meet up with the path to Mam Nick, and can continue the ascent that way. After a bit of the ridge, you have a choice of a steep descent down a grassy path, or continuing along the ridge and the weaving your way back down along a narrow hillside path. This works fine if you don't mind the drop below you, and are ready to squelch through waterlogged peat or occasionally find creative ways over the boggy sections.
There is a clear stone path laid from Mam Nick, which continues along the ridge beyond Mam Tor, allowing you to do quite a long walk without much trouble. The path is useful, along with the paving of the summit, which protects this delicate environment from further erosion, but it did sadly mean the destruction of a Bronze Age tumulus. Mam Tor has been an important peak for millennia, with evidence of defensive and village life, including Iron Age ramparts.
If you want a more challenging walk, then Kinder Scout is also in the vicinity. This is appropriate for those with some navigating and orienteering experience and expertise though, as the terrain is much harder to manage.
If walking is not exciting enough, then Mam Tor is also special for offering paragliding and hanggliding experiences from the summit. At the top parachutes and professionals stand ready, scanning the sky. Across the valley you can watch people floating around, including in tandems for those trying it out as a new experience.
Getting there without a car is not easy. There are train stations at Hope and Edale, with local buses running around the area, but you may need to walk a fair distance before you start any official walk. The Peak District is extremely beautiful though, and well worth visiting. Local areas such as Castleton are well setup to cope with walkers, with abundant specialist shops and information centres. It's definitely somewhere to go and blow the cobwebs away.