Peak District Kids writer: Gemma from Families Can Travel
Located just outside of the south Peak District border between Matlock and Ashbourne, Carsington Reservoir is a great family day out with plenty of activities on offer for all ages. There are shorter 1.5 km and 5 km walking routes but this pram-friendly 12km Carsington Water walk takes you all the way around the reservoir.
This is one of our longer pram-friendly walks so if you’ve got little legs in tow, make sure they’re up for the whole loop. The route is well-surfaced limestone paths with some short uphill sections. Please note that the route is slightly different to the Carsington Water cycle route as there has been some effort too keep cyclists separate from walkers for some sections for safety purposes.
There’s plenty to keep both the adults and kids entertained along the walk around Carsington water with beautiful views across the reservoir, bird hides and carved wooden sculptures to spot. There’s even a little shelter with carved furniture inside for the kids to explore.
There are three available car parks but we recommend starting at the Sheepwash car park, which means the play area is near the end of the walk and can be used as an incentive to keep the kids going. After a play, why not treat yourselves to an ice cream from the Visitor Centre to enjoy along the final section of the walk.
If you want to spend more time at Carsington Reservoir, then the Visitor Centre provides a fun interactive exhibition of the journey of rainwater to our taps. There’s also a wildlife centre and watersports available for the more adventurous.
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If you are planning a visit to the National Park, please arrive early or late in the day to avoid crowds if visiting over sunny weekends or school holidays. Please also take all litter home with you, don’t bring BBQs and park your car in designated parking areas. Also, please use these walks as a guide; access and stiles may change.
During the winter months, it’s important to be extra prepared and safe when out walking and adventuring in the Peak District. The weather can change so quickly, especially on the exposed escarpments, and we don’t want you to get caught out.
Read our top tips for safe winter walking with the kids.
PARKING INFORMATION: Please do not rely solely on the postcode for parking directions. In the National Park, a postcode can cover a large area. Postcodes are only provided as guidance. Please either use the Google Maps point provided for every walk, or what3words.
Do check out our top tips for hiking with young kids, as well as our essential items to take on a family hike in the Peak District.
Download and print out our walking guides ready for your family walk. There are over 80 downloadable walk guides available, and these include all the main Peak District family walks, pram-friendly walks, and toddler walks.
Each printable download is just £1.50, whether it’s a short 1km stroll or an epic walk up Kinder Scout.
Carsington Water walk map
On all Peak District family walks it’s a good idea to have an Ordnance Survey paper map with you, even if you have your phone on you. For this walk you need the OS Explorer Active Map OL 24 (White Peak). It’s also a good opportunity to show young kids the map features and get them started with map reading.
|The Peak District: White Peak Area Map | Weatherproof | Peak…||£14.75||Buy on Amazon|
Although please note that Carsington Water isn’t actually in the National Park, although will be found on the OS White Peak map.
Our Carsington Water walk follows the below OS Map in a clockwise direction.
Get a printable download of this walk
Want to print off this walk guide rather than rely on your mobile? Then click here to download the PDF to print out at home. Perhaps print out a copy for the kids to follow the step-by-step directions and/or photos? It’s a great way to get them engaged with the walk and gives them a sense of responsibility.
All printable downloads are £1.50 each. Click here for the full list of Peak District Kids printable downloads.
Please note that your download link expires 72 hours from order, so make sure you save your PDF somewhere where you’ll remember it. If you are unsure where your download folder is on your mobile device, we recommend you download the PDF on your laptop or desktop.
Need to know
DISTANCE OF WALK: 12.3km (7.6 miles)
TYPE OF WALK: circular reservoir walk along well-surfaced paths
PARKING: There are three car parks around the reservoir. This walk starts from the Sheepwash car park which means the dam wall and playground are towards the end of the walk (a good incentive to keep the kids going). The other two car parks are the Visitor Centre and Millfields which are on either side of the dam wall.
- Sheepwash car park – up to 2 hours: £1.50, all day: £3 – click here for Google Maps location, postcode: DE4 4DD.
- Visitor Centre car park – up to 2 hours: £3, all day: £5 – click here for Google Maps location, postcode: DE6 1ST.
- Millfields car park – up to 2 hours: £2.50, all day: £4 – click here for Google Maps location, postcode: DE6 3JL.
WALK HIGHLIGHTS: Spectacular views across the reservoir, varied walk with woodland and meadows, carved wooden sculptures and bird hides along the way
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE: Allow 3-5 hours for this walk depending on whether you have younger children walking with you. This should also allow time for stopping along the way to look at the carved sculptures, skimming stones along the reservoir shore and a stop at the play area.
TOTAL ASCENT: 131m
ACCESSIBILTY: Pram-friendly, well-surfaced limestone paths with some short uphill sections.
FACILITIES: There are no public toilets at the Sheepwash car park but toilets are available at the Millfields car park and Visitor Centre.
START: Sheepwash Car Park
Click here for Google Map point
Grid reference: SK 2490 5275
Post code: DE4 4DD
Route follows a clockwise direction.
1. Starting from Sheepwash Car Park, with the reservoir in front of you, turn left onto the path and walk in a clockwise direction, following the red pedestrian reservoir trail.
2. After 400 metres you’ll reach an junction in the paths. Turn right and follow the signs for ‘Millfields car park (7km) Reservoir Trail’.
3. Continue along the trail with the reservoir on your right. After 1.3 km, you’ll notice a turning on your left to Hopton. Ignore this and continue on the path which bends around to the right.
4. After 400m, you’ll notice a turning on your left signposted for a more difficult route. This route is pram-friendly and a similar distance but more hilly. Continue straight ahead for a flatter, smoother route.
5. After 1.3 km the paths meet back up with the more difficult route joining the less difficult route from the left. Continue straight ahead on the reservoir trail towards Millfields car park.
6. Continue for 800 metres until you reach a wooden gate. Walk through the gate and into the meadowland and look out for the giant, carved armchair.
7. After 400 metres, you’ll reach the end of the meadowland and pass through another wooden gate. Follow the path for a further 900 metres until it reaches a junction. Turn left onto a narrow lane and walk uphill away from the water on the right.
8. Continue for 120 metres, passing The Croft cottages on your left until you see a path on the right. Take this path, walking through a wooden gate and following the signs for Millfields car park and Visitor Centre, ignoring the road ahead.
9. After 630 metres, the path splits with the pedestrian route bearing off to the right and the Carsington cycle route continuing straight ahead. We always recommend taking the pedestrian route as it’s safer avoiding cyclists, but if the paths are muddy you may opt for the smoother cycle path. After 100 metres they meet back up again.
10. After a further 200 metres, the paths split again. Make sure you take the right-hand path to find the fairytale shelter with carved furniture inside – the kids will love going inside to explore.
11. After 200 metres the paths meet back up again. Continue for 300 metres following the signs for Millfields car park and the Visitor Centre, ignoring two other paths to your left.
12. When you reach a fork in the paths, take the right-hand path and keep right for a further 200 metres until you reach Millfields car park. Here’s a great place to stop for photos and let the kids skim stones from the shoreline.
13. Continue along the path for 200 metres towards to entrance to the car park, follow around to the right towards the Visitor Centre. After a further 300 metres, you’ll come to the circular viewing area, another great spot for photos.
14. Walking across the viewing area and back onto the path, make your way across the spectacular dam wall. This is a popular part of the walk and can also get windy as it’s very exposed.
15. After 1.2 km you’ll reach the end of the dam wall. Continue towards the Visitor Centre for 500 metres, past the entrance to the Sailing Club on your right until you reach the playground. If you have kids, this is the perfect spot to stop for a play and picnic, followed by a visit to the Visitor Centre.
16. Following the outside of the Visitor Centre, pick up the reservoir trail again walking past the Leisure Centre on your right and car park on your left. After 400 metres, follow the path to the right heading towards the Wildlife Centre and Sheepwash car park.
17. Continue for 1.6km following the red arrowed pedestrian route, crossing over a little bridge until the paths split in different directions. Continue straight ahead following the signs for the Sheepwash car park.
18. Look out for the Bombing Tower on this final 600-metre stretch back to the car park and climb up to the top for views across the reservoir.
After your Carsington Water walk
The Visitor Centre has a picnic area, shops and places to eat and drink. There is also the Miners Arms in Carsington village who do a great Sunday dinner.
Looking for accommodation near to Carsington Water?
We recommend Knockerdown Holiday Cottages, which offers sixteen self-catering cottages and there’s a playground, games room, and heated indoor swimming pool onsite. There’s a 1km footpath that leads from Knockerdown Holiday Cottages to Carsington Water Visitors Centre.
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Or perhaps purchase a Peak District Kids iron-on patch. £1 from every sale of the iron-on patches goes towards the Peak District National Park Foundation, a registered charity established to raise funds to care for the Peak District National Park.
Want more ideas for family walks?
Best Family Walks in the Peak District
Pram Friendly Peak District walks
Toddler walks in the Peak District
Also, come and join our friendly Peak District Kids Facebook Group for any questions or to share photos of your walks.