Travel & Tourism

Alport Castles – The incredible Peak District lakeside walk with a jaw-dropping spectacle on the route 

We bring you *drama*, with the help of our brilliant pal GetLostMCR

Daisy Jackson Daisy Jackson - 26th November 2023

There’s no end of impressive sights to be found around Greater Manchester, whether you’re into ravines that look like Lord of the Rings settings or incredible skyscrapers that tower over the city centre. 

But there’s one particular hike in the Peak District that’s so impressive it will take your breath away (and we don’t just mean from the effort of walking uphill). 

The Alport Castles walk takes in everything from geological formations to massive lakes to manmade structures.

One of which is the Derwent Dam, a massive structure that towers 34m overhead and is flanked by twin Victorian-Gothic towers at either end. 

If you catch it when the water cascades over it, you’ll witness a spectacle like no other. 


Building the dam in the early 1900s was such an intense and laborious process that an entire town was built here to house the 1000-odd workers involved in its construction. 

A specially created railway was also built to bring the enormous stones it’s made from to the valley from the Bole Hill quarries. 


But as well as being a mighty sight to behold, the Derwent Dam holds historical significance from the purpose it served during World War Two. 

The 617 Squadron used the dam to practice their low-level flying, in preparation for the Dam Busters raid against the Germans. The dam has a lot of similarity to the German dams and is now adorned with a commemorative plaque. 

Occasionally, legendary planes like the Lancaster Bomber will still fly overhead to mark the work of the 617 Squadron. 


The dam stands at one end of the Derwent Reservoir and was constructed to keep up with the huge demand for water from the booming industries in Sheffield, Nottingham and Leicester.

There’s so much water in this part of the Peak District, it’s been referred to as the Lake District of the Peaks.

If you’re eager to get out for some brisk winter fresh air, our pal GetLostMCR has pulled together the most perfect walk, which takes in lakes, views, woodland, and that iconic dam.

The nine mile route is named after Alport Castles, another feature you’ll pass on your way round.

It’s not actually a castle, but rather a tumble of boulders caused by what’s said to be the largest landslip in Britain – it doesn’t take much imagination to see how this geological feature resembles a castle.


GetLostMCR’s circular route starts at Fairholmes Car Park and Visitor Centre and you’ll get to visit the best of Derwent Reservoir, Derwent Valley Woodlands, Rowlee Pasture and Alport Castles.

The good-to-knows

Car Parks

  • The route starts at Fairholmes Car Park. The car park does fill up quickly on weekends, so advice is to visit off-peak where possible.
  • Start: Fairholmes Car Park, Bamford, Hope Valley, S33 0AQ
  • Toilet facilities at Fairholmes Visitor Centre
  • Bicycle Hire – Derwent Valley is a great place to explore cycling trails


There’s a refreshment kiosk at the car park, which is open everyday 8am until 6pm (later if there is demand), selling takeaway drinks, snacks and hot food.


  • Ladybower Inn (7 min drive from visitor centre)
  • Yorkshire Bridge Inn (8 min drive from visitor centre)

The route

  • Distance: 9 miles
  • Duration: Approx. 3 hours
  • Elevation: 1,100 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate, gradual ascents
  • Navigation: Follow the route step by step here

Public transport

Manchester Piccadilly > Sheffield (50 mins). From here take a bus to Fairholmes Car Park, a stop on several bus routes.

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Featured image: GetLostMCR