Best Walks from Ladybower Reservoir and the Upper Derwent Valley Details
Lakes aren’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think about the Peak District National Park yet it has it’s fair share of famous ones. They may be man made, but the reservoirs of the Upper Derwent Valley still draw tourists to the Peak District.
The highest reservoir, is the Howden Reservoir which was the first to be built with the works starting in 1901 and the dam completed in 1912. The middle reservoir is the Upper Derwent Reservoir, with the Derwent Dam officially opened in 1916. These two dams are impressive structures, constructed from solid masonry. Work on the lower reservoir, Ladybower, didn’t commence until 1935 and was officially opened in 1945. As is usually the case with dams, whole communities were displaced when their valleys were flooded. The villages of Derwent and Ashopton were both flooded when Ladybower Reservoir was filled. They reappeared in 2018 when water levels were particularly low.
The Derwent Dam was also the famous setting in 1943 for the Dambusters’ preparation for their raid on the Ruhr Valley Dams owing to the similarities between them.
There are a number of car parks along the reservoir shores – including the Fairholmes Visitor Centre at the northern end of Ladybower and Heatherdene near Ladybower Dam. There’s also roadside parking on the A57 betweeen Bamford Viaduct (A6013) and the Ashopton Viaduct.
The nearest village is Bamford, with Hope and Castleton just down the road. On Ladybower itself, there are a number of places to eat and drink, owing to it being on the popular Snake Pass road. Both The Yorkshire Bridge Inn and the Ladybower Inn are convenient for the walker based near Ladybower as well as the Ladybower Cafe – a popular lay-by cafe.
The busy road means you can’t walk directly around the reservoir as the A57 is not suitable for pedestrians, but a good path tackles the southern shore and is outlined in the first walk.
Height Gained – 360 metres , Distance – 13 km, Time – 3.5 hours
This is the Peak District after-all, so we’ll start with a route that brings the best of the peaks and the reservoirs. Win Hill is only 463 metres high, but as it’s actually a hill as opposed to a flat topped moor, the views are superb from the summit. The route then returns along the southern shores of Ladybower Reservoir, and across the dam back to the start.
Height Gained – 320 metres , Distance – 8.2 km, Time –2.5 hours
The next three walks all approach the Derwent Moors along with the landmark rock formations that break up the heather moorland. These include the Hurkling Stones, Wheel Stones, White Tor, Salt Cellar and the summit of Back Tor. This initial route is the shortest and easiest, ascending only to the Hurkling Stones but maximising on the view. Returning along the eastern shore of Ladybower.
Height Gained – 400 metres , Distance – 15.5 km, Time – 4.5 hours
Height Gained – 360 metres , Distance – 13 km, Time – 4 hours
These two walks both take the walker over Derwent Edge and Back Tor, but from differing approaches.
The first route starts from the Cutthroat Bridge Car Park on the A57, and takes a detour down the eastern flanks of Back Tor to Strines and Dale Dikes Reservoirs. The second starts from the shores of Ladybower Reservoir and takes in all the named rock formations between Whinstone Lee Tor and Back Tor.
Height Gained – 600 metres , Distance – 18 km, Time – 5 hours
This is a long high level circuit of the Ladybower Reservoir, taking in the summits of Crook Hill before descending to Derwent Dam. The route then re-ascents the opposite side of the valley towards Back Tor and down past the Hurkling Stones to return to Ladybower Reservoir.
Height Gained – 1600 metres , Distance – 63 km, Time – LOTS!
This is how you walk up Kinder Scout and Bleaklow from Ladybower Reservoir. It can be completed by the very fit in one sitting, but most will need to cut this route up into smaller chunks to make it digestible.
Height Gained – 260 metres , Distance – 7.5 km, Time –2.5 hours
This route from the Fairholmes Visitor Centre at the northern end of Ladybower Reservoir takes you along the shore of Ladybower before climbing to the moorland above. The route then returns on the shore of the Derwent Reservoir – famous as the location where the Dambusters practised.
Height Gained – 640 metres , Distance – 15 km, Time –5 hours
Alport Castles, high above Alport Dale are considered to be the UK’s largest landslip. This mass movement has created grit-stone towers that look like castles from afar. The most prominent is known as The Tower which is is a grade 1 scramble and can be added onto the walk for those with a head for heights.
Height Gained – 550 metres , Distance –26 km, Time –x hours
While this walk starts from Hope, it could just as easily be started from Ladybower Reservoir. It follows the entire length of the bridleway on the Ladybower’s southern shore as the route circles around Win Hill. The going is good, and equally good on two wheels or legs.
Height Gained – 300 metres , Distance –11.5 km, Time –4 hours
Height Gained – 500 metres , Distance –15 km, Time – 5 hours
One of the most popular ‘edges’ surely has to be Stanage. While this route may start down the valley, Stanage Edge can also be ascended from nearby Bamford. For those looking for the best view towards Ladybower, it’s hard to beat Bamford Edge and Great Tor.