Alport Castles is in fact not a group of castles, as the name would suggest, at all. Even though it is the largest landslide in England, for some reason, it is very often skipped in the tourist guides or programs about the Peak District. It offers stunning views (comparable to the Quiraing, Isle of Skye) and a fair share of climbing, if you wish to get to the top of ‘The Tower’.
Although, there is a large car park available, close to the Derwent Reservoir (Upper Derwent Visitor Centre Fairholmes S33 0AQ), it gets full very quickly, especially on a sunny weekend, so you might be forced to look for alternative parking options. There are few parking bays on the Snake Road and luckily, when we were about to give up and go home, a space got available at the Ladybower Café car park (S33 7ZH). This, however, has added 2 additional miles to our rout. The best parking option is the Bridge End Car Park, half way on the road along the Derwent Reservoir, which has direct access to the path you can take to reach Alport Castles.
Starting from the Ladybower Café, you need to head towards the Derwent Reservoir. Stick to the Snake Road, until you will see the iconic bridge, where both reservoirs meet, and take the footpath on your left. From here you have few options to chose from. You can either reach the Fairholmes car park, and take a footpath through the forest from there, or you can take one of the paths to your left, earlier on. We have decided to walk for a bit along the reservoir and enjoy the amazing view and then take the path next to Bridge End Car Park. The footpath alongside the reservoir is well prepared and very relaxing. The beautiful views and birds living in the area attract more and more people every year, regardless of the season, and make the Ladybower and Derwent Reservoir a perfect destination for a relaxing family walk.
The path leading to Alport Castles, from the Bridge End Car Park, is not a difficult path however it does sometimes get a bit steep. The good news is that once you have reached the top you will carry on the rest of the walk on, more or less, flat ground. Once you get out of the forest, and have reached the open space, turn right and carry on straight until you get to a large crossing of footpaths.
Here, turn right again and then, after few meters, once you see the sign towards Fairholmes on your right, turn left. Cross the field and go over the wall. Now all you have to do is stick to the main path. What I really enjoyed about this path was the amazing view of the whole Hope Valley. On a clear day you can see perfectly the whole Great Ridge and Mam Tor from here. It is also worth to remember that since it is the highest point in the area it will get very windy up there so make sure you have a hat or a headband with you just in case.
On your way you will also come across a number of sheep so if you have your dog with you do remember to put it on a lead. When walking on the plateau you can feel like you are crossing some foreign wasteland as the only thing you can see for miles is a sea of grass. The ground can be a bit boggy so if you don’t want to end up covered in mud, stick to the stone footpath. Fun fact for the bird watchers out there, if you are lucky you might spot on your way a Raven or even a Peregrine Falcon, which are popular in the area.
Since it is a landslide, the Alport Castles is well hidden in the valley so you will not see it on the horizon. At some point we were actually wondering if we are on the right path since we couldn’t spot it anywhere. Eventually we have reached our destination. At this point it is up to you if you wish to admire the unique landscape from the distance or go down and see The Tower from a close-up or even climb it. The path down is not the easiest one. You need to find your way through the rocks and boulders so do take your time and watch your step as some of them might be wobbly. If you choose to climb the main ‘Castle’ you will need to go all the way around it and find the path on the other side. This task might be a bit risky because of the strong wind and loose rocks so personally I was content in admiring the area from ground level.
Standing there, surrounded by these massive walls, hearing the echo carry every sound through the whole valley, is a truly remarkable feeling. The place has a mystical, fairy tale like atmosphere and has most certainly become one of my favourite places in the Peak District.
On our way back, we have decided to stick to the same route, until we reach the already mentioned crossroads, and then took the path through the forest, towards Fairholmes. Again, this will lead you either to the car park or if you carry on straight, you should reach the main road alongside the Derwent Reservoir. The forest path has its unique charm, with the tall pine trees towering over you and the rays of sun finding their way between the branches towards the lush green ferns.
If you are still not convinced whether to visit this enchanted place or not, please go to our YouTube channel and watch the video from our hike. Hopefully this will help you make up your mind.