Walks Near Manchester: 6,500 Years Through the Marsden Moors

A walk through history across the moors north of Marsden...

By Ben Brown | Last updated 27 July 2022

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Credit: The National Trust

Barren, wild and strangely romantic, the moors have captivated people for centuries, and you won’t find a better example of the sheer rugged beauty of these desolate hills than between Saddleworth and Marsden, a little village just over the border in Yorkshire.

The stunning moorland around Marsden is home to a multitude of walks and paths, each one looking to engross the walker in the wildness of the area, as well as offer a chance to explore this almost mythical corner of the North.

Marsden Moor is an area which has seen human activity throughout the ages, and there’s plenty of evidence still of this today. From Neolithic man, through to the Bronze Age, Roman times and the Industrial Revolution – it’s all here one way or another.

Credit: The National Trust

In both 2019 and 2021 devastating fires across Marsden Moors damaged 700 hectares of land and wildlife, taking days to put out. As a result, all BBQs, fireworks and fires are BANNED all year round.

The National Trust have created a series of walks, each of different abilities, length and elevation. Pretty much all of them will start in the centre of the village though, so that’s your first port of call.

Marsden Train Station can be reached via the regular train to Huddersfield from Manchester Piccadilly. The village itself is lovely, and if you’re going to stop off for a pint at any point, there’s some cracking places right in the centre of town.

The Railway right at the station is the perfect place for a pre-walk pint and packet of Quavers, but a bit further in you’ll find The Riverhead Brewery Tap, The New Inn, The Shakespeare and plenty more.

From Marsden itself, it’s likely that you’ll be exploring the North – a slice of moorland wedged between the village and the busy M62 (to Leeds).

Heading West out of Marsden following the canal, you’ll quickly come to Stanledge Tunnel – Britain’s longest, deepest, highest canal tunnel.

This 200 year old tunnel goes right underneath the Pennines and is a pretty scary experience when you’re in there. But you can only go in if you’ve got a canal boat, so take some pictures, have a quick waltz around the Visitor Centre and move on.

Credit: The National Trust

Further up is Close Gate Bridge, a narrow packhorse bridge that spans the River Colne near its source and is surrounded by steep hills and trails leading off in most directions.

From here you can head on up to March Haigh Reservoir, where you can look across to March Hill, one of the UK’s primary Mesolithic sites, where archeologists have uncovered flint toold and hearths beneath the peat soils.

Credit: The National Trust

From here you can head South West back towards Saddleworth and Castleshaw, home to a couple of reservoirs and once a Roman Fort. From here you can make your way back to Marsden via Pule Hill, where a small Bronze Age cemetery was discovered.

Or you can head North East towards Cupwith and Deanhead Reservoirs, as well as the famous ‘Farm in the Middle of the Motorway’ on the M62.

If you’re going this way, I highly suggest a visit to The Rose & Crown pub on the way back down into Marsden, it’s a cracking boozer with an excellent Roast Dinner and stunning views.

For more information on the walks around Marsden Moors, head on over to the National Trust…

Marsden Moors