There are currently 3 comments and 8 photos online for this walk.

Derwent Edge
Author: Peter Truman, Published: 01 Jan 2010 Rating :

Derbyshire, Dark Peak
Walk Type: Hills, valleys and dales

Length: 10 miles,  Difficulty:
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A walk along the rooftop of the Derbyshire Peak District takes you from the Fairholmes visitor centre by Ladybower Reservoir, along the side of Derwent reservoir and a climb to Derwent Edge that runs parallel and about 300m above Derwent and Ladybower Reservoirs.
Derwent Edge is one of the string of exposed gritstone escarpments that run from the top of the Derwent Valley all the way to Chatsworth and beyond. This is the Dark Peak of the Peak District and forms a stark contrast to the more gentle, yet no less dramatic, limestone valleys of the White Peak that are far below and to the south of Derwent Edge.
What makes Derwent Edge particularly special for me are the rocky tors that are sprinkled along the route. These weathered gritstone outcrops form all manner of wonderful shapes, with equally colourful names - Salt Cellar, Cakes of Bread and Wheelstones.

It is difficult and even unfair to select favourites, but the walk along Derwent Edge is truly wonderful. It's a good long walk and high enough that you can feel the air and space around you. Stanage Edge is my personal favourite, but Derwent Edge has a completely different character to it. It is higher, and consequently a little more desolate. It is a little quieter as it takes a bit more effort to get there, and there is simply no comparison with Stanage for climbing, so it's mostly walkers who venture up to Derwent Edge, the tors here being more suitable for standing on and admiring the view or maybe a little bouldering; no serious climbing here.
It is not as easy to get to as Stanage and takes somewhat longer to walk up; it is not a quick late afternoon or evening stop-off for a quick walk or climb after walk; it's a bit more serious than that.
Much of the High Peak area is now designated Open Access Land. This means that footpaths do not have to be adhered to. But with such access comes a responsibility to look after the area so appropriate care should always be taken when exploring the area. The National Trust is putting a huge investment into managing the area - footpaths, walls, buildings and moorland but they need our help to maintain the environment so please treat it with respect.
It is worth remembering that paths across the High Peak have been here for centuries as packhorse trails taking lead and wool across the hills to cities such as Manchester and Sheffield. Just what would it have been like to hike across these moorlands with primitive mountain and weather proofing gear?
The reservoirs far below Derwent Edge were constructed in two phases. The first, from 1901 to 1917 saw the Howden and Derwent Dams completed. It was here during World War II that the 617 Squadron, led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, practiced their raids that would lead to the destructive raid on the German Ruhr valley dams in May 1943. It is still sometimes possible to see preserved Lancaster bombers flying down the Derwent Valley, quite an awesome sight and sound.
The third reservoir, Ladybower, was built from 1935 to 1945. It is the latter that meant that the villages of Derwent and Ashopton were flooded although some of the remains of both can occasionally be seen when the reservoir level is particularly low.

The views from Derwent Edge are simply fantastic; the panoramic views across a large swathe of the Peak District are a joy and the views extend across several distant counties. Make sure you take some binoculars with you! The rock formations that can be seen along the Edge are worthy of much exploration; they are at their best sprinkled with snow but as noted above this makes the area a little more inaccessible and a challenge to get to. Over the last few years the amount of snow has been relatively light and there are very few days of the year when snow covers the area, even the very highest ground (January 2010 proving an exception!) But when there is snow it is worth every bit of effort to get there and it takes on the appearance of another world.
The Upper Derwent Valley is superb for wildlife - Merlins and Ring Ouzels can occasionally be seen but many other birds are regularly seen including Red Grouse, Golden Plover and Curlews. The mountain hare can also often be seen, easily identified in its white winter coat. Just shows how the environment has changed - evolution has changed the hare's coat to white against what were once very harsh and largely white winters. It is now easy to spot the hare against the browns and greys of the mountains.
It is equally important to look behind you as where you are going when walking along Derwent Edge. The views are impressive from almost any direction all the way along and it is well worth while walking the opposite route to experience the views in reverse. As with any of these edges, the best light is in the evening as the sun starts to decend and light up the edges with a warm evening light.
Whenever possible it is also worth waiting to see the afterglow and later to experience the moors in the dark. There's an unsightly orange glow from the lights of Sheffield, star light and on the right evening plenty of moonlight to walk back down. Magical, but do take a good torch!

The walk starts from the Upper Derwent Fairholmes Visitor Centre by Ladybower Reservoir, which is accessed from the A57. Approximtae post code S33 0AQ.

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Walk Sections

Fairholmes to Abbey Tip

Start: OS ref SK173894
End: OS ref SK171919

Start point: 53.4005 lat, -1.7419 long
End point: 53.4246 lat, -1.7434 long

This walk starts from the Fairholmes visitor centre and car park (pay and display, if you have driven here) at the northern tip of Ladybower Reservoir. This is very popular at weekends so you may need to leave the car in one of the lay-bys before the car park.
Walk along the path/road at the end of the reservoir towards Derwent Dam and across the field in front of it. When there's lots of water in the reservoir it can overflow over the dam wall, an impressive sight. Walk up the steps on the right hand side of the dam and turn left to walk along the track running alongside Derwent Reservoir.
Follow this track until you get to very near the far end of the reservoir and Howden Dam is in sight. Suggest you continue to the dam for a look and turn back again, it is only a few minutes extra walking. There's a path that goes up the hillside from the Abbey Tip plantation - this is the path before the bridge over the Abbey Brook inlet. This path slowly rises through the trees and into open moorland heading east.

Howden Dean

Start: OS ref SK171919
End: OS ref SK193912

Start point: 53.4246 lat, -1.7434 long
End point: 53.4175 lat, -1.7105 long

Follow the footpath up through the trees and out into the open moorland of Little Howden Moor. Continue to follow the path up until it flattens out. A good bracing climb up that is really rewarding for the views looking back. As you climb up you can see Howden Moors on your left and north, Howden Edge above that although that is one of the least distinct gritstone escarpments in the Peak District (but a fine walk nonetheless).
Follow the track as it swings gently round to face south and then follow the path that swings to the left and up until you get to the cairn on Lost Lad, the first 'summit' on the walk at 518m. This is still over a hundred meters short of the highest point in the Peak District (632m on Kinder Scout) but if you look directly east and with a clear day you should about be able to make it out quite clearly. By now the route has turned into a paved path - just imagine the effort involved in laying the whole path along Derwent Edge to preserve it from our boots.

Lost Lad to Back Tor

Start: OS ref SK193912
End: OS ref SK197909

Start point: 53.4175 lat, -1.7105 long
End point: 53.4154 lat, -1.7042 long

The ascents from this point on are gentle and with little height to loose or gain until we get to the far end of Derwent Edge and return to Ladybower Reservoir, but that's a way off yet! In addition, the parks are very well marked and easy to follow given the large pieces of stone that have been brought here and laid under the stewardship of the National Trust to look after the Derwent Estate. Follow the path down Lost Lad and head south east to the trig point at Back Tor, pausing to enjoy the fine views.

Back Tor to Dovestone Tor

Start: OS ref SK197909
End: OS ref SK197898

Start point: 53.4154 lat, -1.7042 long
End point: 53.4051 lat, -1.7051 long

The path, now quite gentle, continues south towards the next major outcrop of gritstone, Dovestone Tor. En route to your left you will see the oddly shaped "Cakes of Bread". Dovestone Tor makes a fine place to stop for a few moments for refreshments and admire the view. Do not forget to look back up the valley to see the general shape of Derwent Edge.

Dovestone Tor to Salt Cellar

Start: OS ref SK197898
End: OS ref SK196892

Start point: 53.4051 lat, -1.7051 long
End point: 53.3998 lat, -1.7066 long

Salt Cellar is perhaps the best known and much photographed landmark on this walk. Hardly surprising given its peculiar weathered shape.

Salt Cellar to Wheelstones

Start point: 53.3998 lat, -1.7066 long
End point: 53.3931 lat, -1.6978 long

The next significant outcrop is Wheelstones but the path passes White Tor about half way between the two.

Whinstone Lee Tor

Start point: 53.3931 lat, -1.6978 long
End point: 53.3842 lat, -1.7038 long

The path, still perfectly visible (on a good weather day!) continues across Derwent Moor and crosses the path that, were you to turn left, goes to Moscar and then to Stanage. Go straight across noting the strange moon-like area with scattered rocks known as Hurkling Stones before you get to the summit of Whinstone Lee Tor. The views from here across Ladybower Reservoir, back up the Derwent Valley and beyond are simply marvellous and well worth drinking in before heading back down towards Fairholmes again.

Down to Derwent Village and Fairholmes

Start point: 53.3842 lat, -1.7038 long
End point: 53.4005 lat, -1.7434 long

From Whinstone Lee Tor follow the path down that follows the contours and soon joins the Moscar path. The path is quite obvious and is well warn by the many who enjoy this route throughout the year. Head down until you get to the road which is followed back to the Fairholmes visitor centre and car park. Do stop to read the signs about the lost villages of Derwent which disappeared when the reservoir filled.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2010 by the author Peter Truman and may not be reproduced without permission.

3 responses to "Derwent Edge"

In terms of directions this is a really easy walk to follow, it has a path for the whole way so no guessing with the next turn is. Half of the walk had incredible views, the other half was quite boring but overall a good workout!

By AmyLouiseC on 21 May 2019

Garmin recorded it as 9 miles but may not have been pausing and resuming as readily. Lovely walk though and plenty of Grouse around after the initial climb.

By wearles on 11 May 2018

This is undoubtedly the best walk in the Peak District. If you only do one then make it this one.

By romycat on 11 Sep 2016

8 images to "Derwent Edge"

Image by: Peter Truman
Uploaded: 12 Jan 2010
The summit of Lost Lad, the well worn path can be seen running up the left of this image.
Image by: Peter Truman
Uploaded: 12 Jan 2010
Derwent Edge at sunset from the road alongside Ladybower Reservoir. March 2006.
Image by: Peter Truman
Uploaded: 13 Jan 2010
Lost Lad and the path leading to Back Tor.
Image by: Peter Truman
Uploaded: 13 Jan 2010
View from Back Tor looking north across Howden Moor.
Image by: Peter Truman
Uploaded: 13 Jan 2010
Salt Cellar.
Image by: Peter Truman
Uploaded: 13 Jan 2010
Ashes Farm from the path dropping down from Whinstone Lee Tor.
Image by: Peter Truman
Uploaded: 13 Jan 2010
Old gateposts in what little now remains of Derwent Village, the rest of that property now being in the reservoir!

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There are currently 3 comments and 8 photos online for this walk.

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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