This is a lovely, gentle circular walk around one half of the Y-shaped Ladybower Reservoir. The well-surfaced paths all the way round make it perfect for families looking for a longer Peak District walk with a pram or buggy.
The walk starts at the northern tip of the reservoir from the Fairholmes Visitor Centre and heads in a clockwise direction to the impressive Derwent Dam. There’s an optional nature area near the dam which is great for kids and often has activity trails on during school holidays.
The route continues along the eastern side of the reservoir where the lost villages once stood before the area was flooded to create the reservoir. There are beautiful views all the way around but some of the best are from this part of the walk, looking across the water to the woods on the western side.
After crossing over Ashopton Viaduct at the south end, the route follows the road back up the western side and then drops down onto the woodland path, returning back to the start.
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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 Map OL1 (Dark Peak). It’s also a good opportunity to show young kids the map features and get them started with map reading.
TYPE OF WALK: easy going, circular route around the reservoir with well-surfaced paths
PARKING: Fairholmes car park at the Upper Derwent Visitor Centre. Click here to see location on Google Maps. Postcode is: S33 0AQ. All day parking is £5 (or £3 up to 2 hours). If you want to pay by card, you need to go into the Visitors Centre to pay at the desk. This car park is owned by Severn Trent, so if you have a Peak District National Park car parking permit it is not valid here. There is also limited free roadside parking around the reservoir.
WALK HIGHLIGHTS: The impressive Derwent Dam, beautiful open views across the reservoir and to Ashopton Viaduct.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE: This walk can be done in 2-3 hours but with kids allow 3-4 hours.
PUBLIC TOILETS: Public toilets are located at the Upper Derwent Visitor Centre next to the car park. There is also a small café serving takeaway drinks and hot food.
These directions follow the above OS Map in an clockwise direction.
1. From the Fairholmes Visitor Centre car park, walk past the visitor centre and cafe kiosk. Cross over the road where the zebra crossing is and follow the path.
2. After 200 metres, the path reaches the road. Turn right and head towards the Derwent Dam, crossing over the bridge with the impressive dam wall straight ahead of you. The walk continues along the path but make sure you walk across the grass to get a closer look at the dam. In wet weather, the dam in full flow is a spectacular sight.
3. OPTIONAL DETOUR: Just after you’ve crossed the bridge, there is a path on the right to the nature area. You’ll find lots of wooden carved animals along the path and there are often special fun activity trails for the kids during school holidays.
4. Continue on the path as it bends round to the right after the dam and turns into a road. Follow the road for 2.3km, passing through what is left of the Derwent hamlet, most of which was flooded to create the reservoir.
5. Where the path splits, walk through the right-hand gate and follow the path to the right, keeping close to the reservoir.
6. Continue on the path for a further 800 metres, through another gate and into the woods. Continue on the path to the right, ignoring the uphill path to the left. Admire the beautiful open views across the reservoir and over the woods on the other side.
7. Soon the Ashopton Viaduct will come into sight ahead of you. Continue for a further 1.4km until you reach a gate. Walk through the gate and follow the road on the right 100 metres down to the road.
8. Turn right and walk along the pavement for 400 metres crossing over Ashopton Viaduct.
9. Follow the pavement, turning right at the end of the viaduct. On your right-hand side, you’ll see a wooden gate and path leading down towards the reservoir. Take this path only if you don’t have a pram as there are steps. For the pram friendly route continue uphill along the pavement and through the wooden gate.
10. After 1.3km, you’ll reach an off-road parking area. 100 metres after this, the road bears to the left. Turn right into the woods where the clearing is before a grass bank (see photo).
11. Walk 70 metres down to reach the woodland path. You’ll notice you are joining the path you didn’t take earlier in order to avoid the steps to your right. Turn left and follow this path for 1.7km through the woods, a gate and more woods until you reach a car park.
12. Bear left onto the pavement and follow the road for 600 metres back to the Fairholmes Car Park.
After your walk
If you’ve not stopped for a picnic on your way round, then finish off at the Fairholmes cafe. They serve a good selection of drinks, hot food, cakes and ice creams.
Peak District Kids is a free online resource. If you enjoyed this walk, you can show your support by buying me a coffee. Thanks so much!
Hello! 'Peak District Kids' is the go-to website for parents both visiting and living in the Peak District run by Bakewell-based Mum, Jenny. Find out about the best walks, bike rides, attractions and events for families in the UK's oldest National Park.