Ladybower is a gorgeous Y shaped reservoir in the Upper Derwent Valley, surrounded by loads of amazing walks. Whether you’re a local looking for a new walk or you’re just visiting the Peak District for the weekend, you must stop by and enjoy at least one of these Ladybower walks. There’s something for everyone, from dog-friendly walks to challenging hikes to spots to have a picnic with a view!
The area is very well kept, and you are unlikely to get lost on your way while walking – if anything you’ll discover something even more beautiful! From the little pebbles in the streams to the purple heather on the hills, make sure you stop to notice all the tiny details around you while on these Ladybower walks. Nature really is at its best here.
This article is written by Faraway Lucy writer, Mitoshka Alkova.
1. Wheel Stones – Derwent Dam Loop from Thornhill
How long is this Ladybower walk: 11.4 miles / 5 hours
This is an advanced hike so it might be a good idea to do one of the easier ones first to warm up. The elevation can get quite tiring so good, stable footwear is key. However, the out of breath incline will be worth it – trust me. The moment you see the Wheel Stones it will feel like you have been transported into a scene from the Lord of the Rings. These unusually shaped gritstone tors are the result of centuries of exposure to the elements.
After you’ve completed the traditional climb up your chosen Wheel Stone, continue to reach Derwent Edge, Back Tor and Lost Lad, all of which offer spectacular views. Your next highlight comes right before the end of your route: Derwent Dam. Take a moment to notice the magnitude of the stone structure and change in water level. It always amazes me that all that water can be held up by a single wall!
This is a great circular route for the advanced (or for those willing to take extra breaks on the way) and right at the end, you’ll be rewarded with the little Derwent Reservoir Café. The perfect place to grab a bite to eat. You deserve it after all. There is a 257 / X57 bus station at Ladybower Inn where there is also limited parking.
2. Crook Hill Loop from Thornhill
How long is this Ladybower walk: 6 miles / 3 hours
You’ll start off with a steep, constant elevation on this route. However, this will soon even out for you to enjoy the views, with the last part being flat and following Ladybower Reservoir. The route to Crook Hill Farm is clearly signposted and once you reach the farm take the route on the right-hand side through the fields. You’ll find it hard to miss, that and the hill that’s ahead of you. Although there’s another path closer to the A57, I suggest sticking to this route as the other path is much muddier.
The views from Crook Hill are spectacular, but if that wasn’t enough how about some ancient mystery exploring? Between the two elevations, you’ll find what remains from an ancient stone circle, of which only a few are still upright. Continue on and see if you can spot Kinder Scout on a clear day. Any excuse to spend longer with this view, right?
Once you reach Ladybower Reservoir, take the lower path along the shoreline to enjoy the mirror effect of the water in the summer months. In autumn I recommend exploring the Pine Woodland next to the path which will reward you with the most beautiful colours.
3. Win Hill from Yorkshire Bridge
How long is this Ladybower walk: 3 miles / 2 hours
Park up on the road ahead of the Yorkshire Bridge Inn and cross the Ladybower Dam straight away. After you’ve taken in the view and felt the magnitude of power the stones hold, turn left onto Parkin Clough. The walk through this woodland is a peaceful mixture of rocks, exposed tree trunks and green colour. Take moments to stop and notice the way the trees have managed to secure themselves to the earth.
Before long you’ll reach the rocky top of Win Hill standing proud at 463 metres with expansive views. You can usually find a few tourists here so approach this hike in the early hours to avoid them. The views are great and you can also take a photo at the Trig point which is a real classic! On your way back, descend down the opposite side of Win Hill and back through the moorland and woodland.
4. Ladybower Circular route up to Hurkling Stones
How long is this Ladybower walk: 5.5 miles / 3 hours
The starting point for this route is the Ashopton Viaduct. However, you can also park on the limited spaces on the A57 route. The perk of this walk is that it’s a relatively flat one that avoids those steep hills that are recurring here. Cross the Ladybower Dam and head past the mill to get on the right route towards the Hurkling Stones. These are right on the edge of Derwent Moor and have a great view looking down at the reservoir and surrounding hills.
Hurkling actually comes from the Old Norse Language and means to crouch, which you can understand once you see them. The stones also used to be used as district markers. From here, start your slow descent towards the Crindle Clough. Finally, you’ll reach the Ladybower shoreline which will lead you back to your car. The woods here are great for exploring and you can pretty much go wild and still end up back at the car! This is a lovely, peaceful walk that’s achievable for beginner hikers.
5. Derwent Edge and Back Tor via Hurkling Stones
How long is this Ladybower walk: 10.5 miles / 4.5 hours
This walk begins in the same way as the one above but then carries on from Hurkling Stones towards Back Tor. This makes it a little more advanced with its steeper incline. Alternatively, you can start this walk from Fairholmes where you can also find easy parking. If you choose to start from here, cross the solid masonry structure of the Derwent Dam first with its moss-covered stone. There’s a clear access road along the reservoir edge that takes you up the Abbey Tip Plantation and on an incline towards Lost Lad.
At Lost Lad, you can enjoy the gorgeous 360-degree view. Once you’ve finally dragged yourself away from the view, head south-east towards Back Tor, the highest point of this walk. You’ll pass many of the gritstone tor highlights on this walk such as Cakes of Bread, the Salt Cellar and Dovestone Tor. This makes this walk really worth it for the photo opportunities!
Continue on to the Hurkling Stones and follow the clear footpath that will lead you back down to the reservoir. This is a great, and usually quieter walk, so you’re sure to enjoy it and have these views to yourself in quieter months.
6. Ladybower Inn Circular walk through three reservoirs
How long is this Ladybower walk: 16 miles / 6.5 hours
This is one of the toughest Ladybower walks both in elevation and length so be prepared with water and snacks. Despite (or because of) the challenge, it’s one of the best Peak District walks you can go on. Begin at Ashopton which you can reach with the bus line 257 and 273, or park at Ladybower Inn. You’ll experience some familiar sights such as Derwent Edge with its magnificent and expansive views above Derwent Valley. Similarly, you’ll once again pass Back Tor and Lost Lad from which you can spot Kinder Scout on a clear day!
After this, you’ll start to experience something new as you descend gradually towards the moors and views of Staines Reservoir. Head onwards through magical woods to reach the final reservoir on this walk, Dale Dike Reservoir! Take your time to explore the woods here as you loop around and make your way to Boot’s Folly tower on the grassy hill over the two reservoirs. Your journey back to Ladybower will take you through quiet pastures with views for miles.
This is quite the walk, so you can always stop half-way for lunch at the Strines which is in Bradfield Dale just as you’ve come off the Back Tor hill. The view here is great and anything off the menu will satisfy your hunger.
7. Alport Castles
How long is this Ladybower walk: 7.5 miles / 4 hours
How about we break a record on this journey and visit the largest landslip in Britain, Alport Castles? Leaving from Fairholmes, head north-west through the path to the right, away from Ladybower and slowly ascend past the farm track. The helpful sign for ‘Lackerbrook Farm’ will reaffirm you’re on the right path. Then you need to cross the field at the farm and turn right towards Bellhag Tor. This will lead you through a long stretch of moorland with the Alport Valley to your left.
You’ll know when you’ve reached Alport Castles. Surrounded by wilderness, geological beauty and silence, it’s one hell of a place. The large cliff face you see is the Birchin Hat escarpment which is formed from fine-grained mudstones over harder millstone grit. Bring your geology knowledge and a magnifier here for hours of fun! Follow the almost hidden footpath across the Alport river and towards Alport Farm, but not before seeing The Tower.
The Tower is the highlight feature of the walk with the solitary rock structure surrounded by moss that really makes this view seem dreamlike. To get back you’ll pass the farm and head through woodland and finally past Hagg Farm. The last leg will take you through lovely woods which offer the perfect opportunity to reflect on the views you just experienced.
8. Bamford Edge Loop
How long is this Ladybower walk: 9 miles / 3 hours
If you want good views, this is one of the best Ladybower walks you can go on. Starting from Heatherdene car park, head up the path onto Ashopton Road and south along Ladybower. The lovely thing about this walk is that it takes you through some beautiful countryside with views of Win Hill and as far as the eye can see.
Ladybower Reservoir looks so stilled and peaceful from the top, especially if you have the chance to visit at sunset! You can end the walk with a simple loop up Bamford Edge or continue on along to Win Hill on the other side. This definitely adds intensity to the walk with the steeper incline but makes for a great full day activity.
As you reach Win Hill and descend back down, continue along the River Ashop and you’ll be back to the starting point in no time. The footpaths are very distinguishable here, and you are unlikely to get lost. If it makes you feel safer, you can take any path in ‘kind of’ the right direction and a beautiful view will greet you at the top.
9. Cycle route from Derwent Bike Hire
How long is this Ladybower walk: 4 miles / 1 hour or 5 miles / 3 hours
Bored of these Ladybower walks? Then why not take to the area by bike? Ladybower offers one of the nicest cycle routes. And because it’s well-paved and easily accessible, it’s not too difficult too! You can start from the Derwent Bike Hire shop, parking at Fairholmes, and pick up a bike from here if you didn’t bring your own. The price for an adult bike is about £16 for half a day and they are all very reliable.
There are two routes you can choose to take here. If you’re short for time you can cycle to Derwent Café and back. This takes around two hours with short stops and a nice little break at the café. Alternatively, if you’re after a circular route you can continue and make a loop around Ladybower through Hope Valley along Derwent Lane. This is a longer route so consider if you have the time and energy for it. It’s not like you can cut across the water in search of a nice scone or your car!
So there you have it: the 11 best Ladybower walks and hikes you need to go on! Which of these Ladybower walks has most caught your eye? Please let me know in the comments below!
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