The best walks in Derbyshire and the Peak District
I absolutely love the Peak District National Park and I am lucky enough to have lived in Derbyshire for most of my life with some spectacular scenery and countryside right on my doorstep. My favourite things to do on a weekend or in an evening is explore a trail, hike a peak or watch the sunset from somewhere beautiful. Here are the best walks in Derbyshire and the Peak District…
The best Derbyshire reservoir walks
I love being by the water but unfortunately Derbyshire is probably the furthest you can get from the sea in the UK. Luckily, we still have plenty of water around, and there are some really nice reservoir walks in the county.
The walk at Carsington Water is 8.5 miles of easy walking on paths through fields and woodland around the reservoir. This circular walk begins and ends at the visitor centre and is also a great for cycling. Bike hire is available on site.
On site at Carsington Water is also a visitor centre (perfect if you’re visiting with kids), a cafe and a wildlife hide where you can spot birds.
After your walk around Carsington Reservoir, pop over to the nearby market town of Ashbourne which is full of historical buildings, independent shops and good pubs – perfect for an afternoon of pottering.
There are three reservoirs at Linacre and they’re surrounded by fields and bluebell woods. There’s a five mile walk around Linacre Reservoir following paths and lanes through woodland and farmland. If you’re not quite up to a five miler then you can loop around the reservoirs to make your walk much shorter. This is one of my favourite Derbyshire walks, it’s perfect for an afternoon amble.
There are some great pubs to visit once you’ve finished this walk too. Pop into The Peacock at Cutthorpe for a delicious fish finger sandwich, or The Peacock at Barlow for a glass of fizz on the terrace while you take in some spectacular countryside views. A Christmas Eve tradition of ours is to do the Linacre Reservoir walk followed by lunch at The Tickled Trout at Barlow, a cosy gastro pub which serves amazing sourdough pizzas. All of these pubs are dog friendly.
Stunning is the word for the almost-alpine scenery surrounding Ladybower Reservoir. During autumn, the oranges and golds of the trees is just gorgeous and it looks more like the Lake District than the Peak District.
There’s a simple 5.5 mile walk which circles the reservoir and is really easy to navigate. There’s a path all the way round, you just need to cross the reservoir via the Ashopton Viaduct. We followed this route, although we soon realised we wouldn’t really need the map.
We parked at Fairholmes Visitor Centre and it was £3 for a couple of hours (which is probably enough to do the walk, if you’re quick) and £5 for the whole day. You can also pay inside the visitor centre which is really helpful as we only had cards. There is also parking on the side of the road leading up to here which I think is free.
There are toilets at the visitor centre (an absolutely must for me, both before and after the walk!) and a cafe serving snacks like pasties, hot dogs and jacket potatoes as well as cakes and ice creams.
The best Derbyshire trails
I love visiting Cromford Canal on a summer’s evening. Pick up some fish and chips from one of the chip shops in nearby Cromford and enjoy them on a picnic bench by the canal.
If you like woodland walks, then this one is for you. There are plenty of woodland trails to explore and it’s perfect for dogs as well. Head to Farley Hill, just outside of Matlock and then there is a small parking area where you can leave you car and get exploring. You can walk through the woods and down into the town of Matlock where there are plenty of cafes to stop for an afternoon tea or pubs for a mid-walk pint, plus lots of vintage shops to explore. As Matlock is located in a valley, there are steep hills to descend and ascend again to get back to your starting point.
If you want to make a night of it, you can stay at the nearby Darwin Forest in a luxury lodge with a hot tub.
This is a lovely flat trail which runs along the old Midland Railway line. Park in Bakewell and start the trail at the Hassop Station Cafe with a hot drink. You’ll walk through former railway tunnels and you can take a slight detour when you reach Monsal Head to take in some spectacular views of the Monsal Dale valley and have a well earned pint or glass of wine at The Stable Bar. There’s also sometimes an ice cream van here in summer so we’ve even just driven up for an ice cream with a view when we haven’t quite felt up to a walk.
After your walk you can have a lovely wander through Bakewell. It’s full of independent shops, cosy pubs and the River Wye runs through the town so you can walk over one of the lovely bridges which crosses this.
Five Pits Trail
The Five Pits Trail is the nearest trail to where I live at the moment and so I often walk Alfie here when the weather is good. There are some circular walks which vary from 2.5 to 5.5 miles in length and take in Holmewood Woodlands and Williamthorpe Local Nature Reserve.
The Tissington Trail is a 13 mile footpath near Ashbourne in Derbyshire. You can walk the trail or there is a circular walk which leaves the trail and crosses open fields, descending to Fenny Bentley. The walk starts and ends in the beautiful village of Tissington where there’s even a place to finish off with a prosecco.
The best Peak District peaks
Well, where do you think the Peak District got its name from?! There are a couple of great peaks in Derbyshire which are great for those days when you just feel like challenging yourself.
Kinder Scout is the only actual mountain in the Peak District, standing at 2087ft. When the skies are clear, you can see Manchester and even Snowdonia from the top. It’s also home to Kinder Downfall, a 30 metre waterfall which is pretty spectacular.
For an eight mile loop, park at Bowden Bridge Car Park. If the car park is full, there is also plenty of parking on the road. There are a couple of routes you can do from here. One goes up to the plateau via Mermaid’s Pool.
A route that I did recently goes up via Hayfield and then back round Kinder Reservoir. It was so windy that Kinder Downfall was actually inverted – the waterfall was blowing upwards instead of down – which was really an amazing sight.
For a slightly gentler peak, I would recommend the Mam Tor circular walk which starts with the peak and some spectacular views and then takes you to Castleton and back through the Limestone Way.
Castleton is also a brilliant village for a pub stop!
One of my favourite walks in the Peak District starts at Castleton visitor centre where you can park all day for £6. From here, you climb up to the top of Mam Tor (a bit more challenging from here as there is a longer, uphill start to get the legs burning!), across to Back Tor and Losehill as you look over the Great Ridge and then back to Hope village and then on to Castleton.
The best Peak District edges
Stanage Edge is a gritstone escarpment in the Peak District and you’ll often find climbers taking advantage of the stone cliffs. There is an eight mile circular walk which starts in the village of Hathersage, walking through fields and woodlands up to the edge where you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the Derwent and Hope Valleys, Kinder Scout and Mam Tor.
We were lucky in that during our most recent walk there. It was very foggy and the fog started to lift as we got up onto the edge which made it pretty spectacular. We were unlucky in that we did a social distancing walk during the Covid-19 pandemic and so the village pubs weren’t open at the end of the walk!
The best circular Peak District walks
Baslow to Chatsworth circular
One of the best walks in the White Peak, the limestone plateau that forms the central and southern part of the Peak District. This is a beautiful 10 mile walk taking in some incredible sights of the Peak District. There are stunning views – like this one from this rock and the view of the Chatsworth Estate from Hunting Tower – plus you get to walk back through Chatsworth along the river which is lovely on a warm day. There is even a waterfall at one point!
Park in the Nether End car park in Baslow for this one and then head up the hill towards the Hunting Tower. The initial terrain is a little boggy, especially after rain, as it’s more woodland and then it opens up to beautiful views at the top. The Hunting Tower makes a great stop for a picnic. Once you’ve refuelled head down to Chatsworth (passing the waterfall on your way!) and then walk back to Baslow along the river.
Chatsworth and Edensor walk
If you fancy Chatsworth but a 10 miler is a bit far for you, there’s a much shorter circular walk that you can do here. This four mile walk follows paths on the Chatsworth estate taking you through the villages of Edensor and Calton Lees. We followed this walk, just modifying slightly as we parked in Edensor rather than the Calton Lees car park.
You can park for free in front of the church, however it can get busy on weekends. From the church, head uphill through the village and take the Calton Lees footpath to the right.
You emerge onto open parkland where, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll be able to spot herds of deer and maybe even a stag! This walk also has spectacular views of Chatsworth House and, if the weather permits, you can even go wild swimming in the river.
Padley Gorge circular walk
Another beautiful Peak District walk, Padley Gorge is an Instagram favourite. It’s especially nice to visit during late summer when the heather is out and the hills are transformed to a beautiful purple colour, or in autumn so you can see some spectacular colours.
Park at the Longshaw Estate pay and display car park where there are toilets and a cafe. From the Longshaw Estate, the walk crosses the road to Padley Gorge where you’ll see beautiful woodland to the left and a babbling brook to the right – the perfect place to stop for some pictures!
Further along the way you’ll find great views of Mam Tor and Lose Hill before some steep up-hill walking to get to Surprise View which is above Hathersage. It’s one of the best views in the Peak District and provides a great place to watch the sunset from. If you don’t have time for the walk, there’s a car park just below here so you can walk up with a couple of glasses of fizz to enjoy the sunset!
From here you’ll descend back to Longshaw where you can refuel with a bacon butty and a cuppa.
This is a really nice circular route which takes in some great views from Ashover Rock before ambling through nearby villages and woodland. Parking is free on the road in Ashover village and there’s also a free car park at Ashover Parish Hall which is just opposite to where the walk starts.
Start this five mile route on a footpath just next to the Black Swan Inn. From here, it’s a bit of a hike up to Ashover Rock where you’ll be rewarded with views over the surrounding towns and villages. There’s a circular pointer map to help you to distinguish the sights.
Take the path to the rear of Ashover Rock and then through the village of Littlemoor before going towards Fallgate. You’ll pass a flooded quarry which I never knew was there! After this, there’s a woodland walk before you arrive back in Ashover.
The walk finishes at one of my favourite pubs, The Old Poet’s Corner in Ashover. This is an old man’s pub but it’s super cosy with roaring fires and they serve amazing food.
That’s my pick of the best walks in Derbyshire and the Peak District. Have I missed any out? Let me know in the comments!