Alport Castles and Howden Reservoir

Route Summary:

This fine walk in the Dark Peak  starts by the side of Ladybower Reservoir, before heading to Alport Castles via Alport Dale. The route then descends down to Howden Reservoir and circuits the reservoir before crossing back over at  Derwent Dam.

Route Information

  • Start: Unnamed Road, Hope Valley S33, UK
  • Date:23-12-2016
  • GPX File: Download
  • Trig Pillars:N/A

Other POI: Ladybower Reservoir, Hagg Side, Bellhag Tor, Pasture Tor, Rowlee Farm, Rowlee Bridge, Blackley Hey, Alport Dale, Whitefield Pits, Alport Castles Farm, Alport Castles, Little Moor, Ditch Clough Plantation, Howden Reservoir, Slippery Stones, Cold Side, Howden Clough, Abbey Bank, Pike Low, Derwent Dam, Derwent Reservoir, Fairholmes

Route Description:

As this was going to be my last walk before Christmas, and possibly the last one before my attempt at the Yorkshire Three Peaks in January, I decided to create a route with a decent amount of mileage, whilst also trying to take in some areas that I’d never visited before. I’d had a few people mention Alport Dale and Alport Castles to me as a great place to walk and so included them, and then extended the walk by adding in a full circuit of Howden Reservoir, and a little detour up Abbey Bank for a better viewpoint to appreciate the remaining two reservoirs – Ladybower and Derwent.

I started out at one of the car parks on the left hand side as I drove down the lane towards Fairholmes. It was a pay and display, but only £2.50 so I didn’t grumble too much. The route starts from this car park and heads up through the Hagg Side woods, emerging at the north-westerly corner of Bridge-end Pasture. The route then continues north-west between Hagg Side and Open Hagg – a pleasant stretch that gives great views towards Lose Hill and Kinder. The scenery soon changes as the path passes below the impressive looking Bellhag Tor and Pasture Tor high on the right. The path eventually winds it’s way downhill past Rowlee Farm and to the A57 road.

Open Hagg
Open Hagg, with Kinder on the left
Bellhag and Pasture Tors
Looking back at Bellhag and Pasture Tors

The route continues directly over the road down a farm track, over Rowlee Bridge (a grade II listed building, constructed c.1830), and along the edges of Blackley Hey. Eventually a ford is reached that crosses the River Ashop, a relatively short river of around 10km in length, which starts on the slopes of Mill Hill just north-west of Kinder, and eventually flows into the Ladybower Reservoir.

On this occasion, the ford was slightly too deep for me to walk across and so I used the bridge a short distance away and returned back to the ford on the other side to take a photo (below). From the ford, the track eventually re-crosses the A57 and heads north towards Alport Dale.

Heading towards Rowlee Bridge
Heading towards Rowlee Bridge
River Ashop
Looking east down the River Ashop
A ford crossing the River Ashop
A ford crossing the River Ashop

The walk continued into the scenic area of Alport Dale, flanked with the interesting features of Whitefield Pits on one side, and the steep slopes leading up to Alport Moor on the other. Eventually, the rocky landscape of Alport castles is visible high on the right. Once Alport Castles Farm is reached, a path to the right leaves the valley bottom and heads up towards Alport Castles.

Looking up at Whitefield Pits
Looking up at Whitefield Pits
Alport Dale
Alport Dale

The Alport Castles are actually formed from a landslide, and at around half a mile long, is thought to be the largest landslide in the United Kingdom. A few outcrops have been formed from the debris of the landslide, and these apparently look like castles from a distance – which is where the name comes from. The largest of these outcrops is called ‘The Tower’ and it was my initial intention to scramble up to the top of it. I eventually decided against it as the rock was very greasy and my boots were constantly slipping, and also the wind had picked up considerably to the point where it was capable of physically moving me. As I had never been up there before and wasn’t sure how stable the rock was, I decided to give it a miss. No doubt I’ll get another chance to do it some other time. Apart from that, it really is an amazing landscape and I spent a while there exploring and taking photos, some of which are below.

Alport Castles
Alport Castles
Alport Castles
Alport Castles – again
Alport Castles
And my favourite Alport Castles picture of the day

The walk continued across moorland and down towards Howden Reservoir between Ditch Clough and Fagney Clough, eventually arriving at the end of the western leg of Howden Reservoir via a pleasant stroll through Ditch Clough Plantation. It was then a simple case of following the main path northwards around the edge of Howden Reservoir until the area of Slippery Stones was reached. The route crossed here via an old packhorse bridge before leading me back southwards on the opposite side – but not before I had a chance to admire the views towards Mosley Bank, Cranberry Bed, and Swine Side where there were some lovely autumn shades on show.

Heading towards Howden Reservoir
Heading towards Howden Reservoir from Alport Castles
Ditch Clough Plantation
Ditch Clough Plantation
Howden Reservoir
Howden Reservoir
The Packhorse Bridge
Packhorse bridge near Slippery Stones
Cranberry Bed, Mosley Bank
Looking towards Mosley Bank, Cranberry Bed, and Swine Side

The walk continued past Howden Reservoir and over Abbey Brook before I took a path on the left upwards towards Abbey Bank where I hoped for some good views looking out over the reservoirs. A thick blanket of cloud seemed to have suddenly covered the sky and, all of a sudden, everything seemed a little bit duller with the landscape losing a lot of the vivid colour that was visible earlier under the blue sky. The route continued over Pike Low before descending, and offered great views looking back towards an overflowing Howden Dam, as well as eastwards towards Derwent Edge. The descent eventually brought me out at Derwent Dam where I crossed and headed back to the car. All in all, a wonderful days walking and a perfect way to end the year.

Howden Dam
Howden Dam from Abbey Bank
Derwent Edge
Derwent Edge from Pike Low
Route Map
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  1. Paul Besley says

    Lovely write up. Fascinating area, full of interesting history and geology.

  2. Elizabeth says

    The geology of that area is something spectacular for sure! I’d love to visit there one day, I just wish it wasn’t so far away from Shetland, lol!

  3. Suzanne says

    This looks like a stunning walk with some great landscapes. Also like the fact that the ascents are minimal and short and sharp! Will add to my list of smiling routes!

  4. Adrian Spencer says

    This one next for me! Will let you know how I get on.

    1. Hill Explorer says

      Go for it! Alport Castles is a great place. Getting around the reservoirs seems to take forever though. I was going to do a similar route at some point this year but instead of dropping back down to the reservoir, carrying on to bleaklow and returning along Howden Edge.

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