Well. If you’ve ever researched the Peak District, you may have come across Alport Castles. Maybe you’re here because you’ve seen the name and wondered what it was about? As walks go, this was one of the best ones we have done in a while. Possibly because of the company; with my brother, who we’ve hardly seen because of the pandemic. But also because Alport Castles with kids completely exceeded my expectations.
Starting OS Grid Ref: SK 17202 89209. Paper map OL1 Dark Peak area. The route is suitable for small children, but not for wheels. They may be able to go to the top of the area, but not down in the boulders. The full route is just over 8 miles long and will take approximately 3-4 hours, plus extra for picnic stops and climbing around!
Formed from one of the biggest landslides in Great Britain, Alport Castles has it’s name due to the largest gritstone mound that stands proud, among the debris. It resembles a motte and bailey castle and is nicknamed ‘The Tower’. A shape looming out of the middle of the valley beckons you to explore, climb and delve into the rockery that surrounds it. And so we did just that!
Starting Point and Parking
The walk starts at the Fairholmes pay and display car park by Derwent Reservoir. Postcode S33 0AQ. Here you will find toilets, food options and an ice-cream van. The road leading up to Fairholmes car park has parking areas available, which are free, but they fill up very fast. We were lucky and managed to slide in a space, but we drove up and down a few times before we found one.
Once your car is safe and locked up, take the gate for the cycle path to Lockerbrook. This is found across the road, just before the roundabout to the entrance of Fairholmes car park. You will see a signpost with Lockerbrook just before a gate. Follow the path to the left over a small bridge towards Lockerbrook Coppice. The area is wooded and already starts to quieten away from the crowds at Derwent. The way is marked well and takes you on a steady incline, through a zig zag with marvellous views behind you. It’s amazing how high you can get in a short space of time!
The trees break and you are now walking across a field, towards a wall with a gate. Turn left at the end and walk down towards the Lockerbrook Outdoor Centre. Go past here, but enjoy the little waterfall first! We have a filtration bottle, which I kicked myself for not bringing, as the water looked amazingly clear.
Forks In The Road
Carry on until you hit a fork in the road. Just before this fork, is a path on your left up towards a large stile and a gate. Go over the stile that was made for a giant*, and follow the worn out path on the home stretch to Alport Castles. The crease in the grass eventually makes it’s way into a walkway, which is very easy to follow, even in inclement weather.
This stretch is approximately a mile long, so we stopped halfway and had a picnic, on a small rocky patch overlooking Snake Pass. Views expand over the Peak District, where we could see the paragliders on Mam Tor and the Kinder Scout skyline.
Giant Boulder Canyon
I was honestly unprepared for the scale of Alport Castles. I though it was a little structure in the middle of a field that the kids could play around on. Instead, we were greeted with a gigantic chasm of boulders, with a towering platform of gritstone and moss. The rocks were bigger than the kids and our muscles certainly worked in places they hadn’t for a while! Our imaginations ran wild in this almost prehistoric setting. Of giants sitting atop the summit, glowering down at humble humans. Dinosaurs crashing around and leaving a trail of destruction, forming a pit of broken rubble. 3 little cave-kids running around, bashing rocks together to try and make some tools!
The Way Back
The walk I wanted to do, is circular and turns right from Alport Castles, straight back to the top of Howden reservoir and back down to the car park following the line of the water. Simple and straight forward, back on the cycle route around Derwent. We didn’t go this way, purely because it would have taken a bit longer, and it was already nearly 4 o’clock, so we turned and walked back the way we came. (We had other commitments that day and started later than we originally planned).
On the way up, we followed signs for Lockerbrook, on the way down we followed them back to Fairholmes. I have saved the route we originally wanted to do on Ordnance Survey Maps. You can find it here.
I was very impressed with what the Peak District had to offer us on this very sunny day, and will definitely have Alport Castles on my list of places that makes me go ‘WOW’! The signage from the car park is super easy to follow, make sure you’re headed towards Lockerbrook, and once you’re past there, it’s a fairly straight road to the main event.
Overall, the walk is approximately 8.5 miles, with a slight incline on the way to Alport Castles, then declines down towards the reservoir. The fields may be a bit muddy in wet weather, but it’s not really a hard slog. The views are incredible and the whole area feels expansive and wild. A very rewarding walk, if you’re happy to put in the mileage.