Alport Castles in the Derbyshire part of the Peak District National Park isn’t your usual human-made masonry structure. Although, from a distance, you’d be forgiven for thinking so. Indeed, the unusual rocky mounds protruding abruptly from the ground, close to the Upper Derwent Valley, resemble those of castle ruins very typical for the United Kingdom. But, Alport Castles in the Peak District are not the remnants of a grand home belonging to a long forgotton King or Queen. In fact, the interesting structures are the result of possibly the UK’s biggest-ever landslide. And yes, a classic Peak District walk to see these Alport ‘castle ruins’ up close is an absolute must!
In this guide, we’ll tell you a little about Alport Castles in the Derbyshire Peak District, and how it came to be. Then, we’ll look at how to get there before delving into the different trail route options for walking to Alport Castles. Lastly, we’ll look at a suggested hiking gear list, what other hikes there are to do in the Peak District, before throwing in some bonus tips at the end.
To see footage of the Alport Castles walk in the Peak District, feel free to watch our The Peak District: Alport Castles Walk YouTube production.
For more incredible walks in the Peak District, check out our guides on Chrome Hill, Mam Tor and Thor’s Cave. Otherwise, read our Peak District Hiking post (guide coming soon), where we reveal some of the best hikes in the Peak District National Park.
Table of Contents
About Alport Castles
Alport Castles are an area of rocky outcrops that were formed as a result of a massive landslip. The remnants left behind now look like castle ruins. Especially the main attraction of the Alport Castles walk, which is known as ‘The Tower‘. Indeed, this particular castle ruin uncannily resembles an old mott-and-bailey castle. It’s quite the sight to behold.
What Is the History of Alport Castles?
The massive landslip that created the incredible Alport Castles is heavily debated. There are three main theories as to why the landslip occurred. One theory suggests a glacier cut the sides of the rock so steeply, that when the glacier then melted, the rock walls were so unstable they collapsed. Another theory suggests that the soft shale that lies under the heavy sandstone above was too weak to support it and so collapsed under the weight of it. And the final theory suggests that trapped water in more porous rock caused the slipping of that rock over less porous rock below, resulting in the sliding of one rock over another.
Whichever theory is true, Alport Castles in the Derbyshire Peak District is under geological conservation due to the sheer size of the landslide. But even better for us hikers, we get to enjoy a cracking walk to a one-of-a-kind natural attraction in the Peak District.
Where Is Alport Castles?
Alport Castles, within Alport Dale, can be found in the Upper Derwent Valley of the Derbyshire Peak District. In fact, Alport Castles and the fantastic walk to reach it lies very close to other popular attractions in the Peak District National Park like Bamford Edge, Derwent Reservoir and Kinder Scout. Indeed, visitors often overlook Alport Castles for these nearby neighbours, meaning you’ll likely experience a very quiet trail and secluded walk.
Located in the Dark Peaks area of the Peak District, the landscape surrounding Alport Castles feels wild and rugged. The remoteness is a refreshing change from the busy tourist hubs of other parts of the Peak District. Indeed, spotting the Alport Castles in the distance as the walk leads you ever nearer has a sense of stumbling across a long forgotten civilisation.
Alport Castles lies north of the A57 Snake Pass Road, essentially connecting Manchester through to Sheffield.
How to Get to Alport Castles
The best way to get to get to Alport Castles in the Derbyshire Peak District is with your own set of wheels. Incredibly, any visit to the Peak District National Park isn’t too far from the cities of Manchester and Sheffield. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the nearest places to travel from. We’ll include the distance and drive time.
- Manchester: 1 hour // 24 miles (39km)
- Sheffield: 40 minutes // 17 miles (27km)
- Buxton: 50 minutes // 25 miles (40km)
- Bakewell: 40 minutes // 20 miles (32km)
If you don’t have access to your own vehicle, then we recommend hiring something. Of course, this can easily be organised from both Manchester and Sheffield. When hiring a car, we always get the ball rolling with a search on RentalCars.com. Booking a car with Rentalcars.com is easy and stress-free, plus they offer an unbeatable free cancellation policy too.
Although it’s far easier to access Alport Castles and other parts of the Peak District with your own vehicle, there is a fairly decent bus system in place for those who want or need to travel via public transport. To be able to do the Alport Castles walk with public transport, your best bet is to use the X57 bus service which links Manchester and Sheffield via the Snake Pass. You can alight along the road at Ladybower Reservoir and begin the walk from there. Good news for weekend hikers though, the X57 bus service adds on a stop to the Upper Derwent Valley, calling at Fairholmes Visitor Centre, making this hike very doable without a car.
You can find more information regarding the Peak District and public transport here.
Where to Park For Alport Castles?
The best place to park for the Alport Castles walk is the Derwent Overlook Car Park in the Upper Derwent Valley. The trailhead is directly opposite. Alternatively, you can also park at Fairholmes Car Park at the Upper Derwent Visitor Centre. Both are found at the northern end of the Ladybower Reservoir and the base of Derwent Reservoir next to the Derwent Dams.
Practical Information For the Alport Castles Walk
These are just a few key points to note if deciding to walk to Alport Castles.
- Scrambling up ‘The Tower’: many people (us included) choose to scramble up ‘The Tower’. Although not particularly high, it’s steep and requires a certain level of ability to tackle. Also, it’s important to remember that Alport Castles are the result of a landslip, so no one can guarantee the rocks are 100% set in place. Climbing and scrambling is at your own risk.
- Arrive early: parking around Ladybower Reservoir in the Upper Derwent Valley gets very busy, especially on the weekend. Aim to arrive early or hike in the week to ensure a parking spot.
- Alport Castle facilities: restrooms can be found at Fairholmes Car Park. In addition, you’ll also find a cafe here and some nicely located picnic benches on the water’s edge.
Alport Castles Circular Walk Preview
- Trail Type: Loop
- Distance: 14.5km
- Time: 4 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 600m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Derwent Overlook Car Park (Upper Derwent Valley)
- Map: Wikiloc
Alport Castles Walk Description
The Alport Castles walk from Ladybower Reservoir begins directly opposite the Derwent Overlook Car Park. Here, you’ll see a trail that immediately ascends the hillside, climbing high above the roadside. This woodland trail is utterly charming, especially when shrouded in morning mist, as we experienced. Climbing ever higher, the trail eventually emerges from the Hagg Barn forest and gently climbs across Rowlee Pasture. Ahead, you’ll start to see Alport Castles appear between the hillsides.
Alport Castles, Derbyshire
Eventually, you’ll reach the opening down to Alport Castles. Straight ahead is the ‘The Tower’, looking exactly as described – a castle. A trail winds down towards it. There are many good vantage points as you descend the trail from which to view and admire the picturesque results of such a violent natural event.
For those that wish to, it’s possible to scramble up ‘The Tower’ of Alport Castles, admiring the Derbyshire Peak District views from the pinnacle of this natural attraction.
‘The Tower’ of Alport Castles
Scrambling up ‘The Tower’ of Alport Castles is more straightforward than it looks from a distance. You’ll find numerous narrow trails that wind their way to the summit. Try to stick to the most evenly laid and avoid taking any unnecessary risks with shortcuts.
Once at the peak, it’s time to enjoy being King or Queen of Alport Castles. The views are outstanding. Admiring this giant scar in the Peak District landscape from this elevation provides a great vantage point of the landslip. Alport Castle views extend down over Alport Dale and the picture-perfect Derbyshire countryside.
Returning to the Upper Derwent Valley
Once you’re ready to relinquish the crown, it’s time to carefully descend ‘The Tower’ and retrace your steps back to the original lookout down over the Alport Castle’s rocky ruins. From here, the trail continues in a westerly direction and down towards the remote Alport Castles Farm.
Fun fact: The suffragette Hannah Mitchell was born and raised at Alport Castles Farm in Derbyshire in 1871. Later should she would move to Bolton where she became more involved in the socialist movement.
From Alport Castles Farm, the trail heads south and follows along the River Alport and down through Alport Dale. Finally, the Alport Castles walk crosses the A57 Snake Pass Road and Alport Bridge before continuing along an open and flat stretch of path next to the River Ashop. The trail then crosses back over the Snake Pass and climbs once more up to Rowlee Pastures Farm. From there, the trail joins back up with the initial stages of the Alport Castles walk back through the forest. Then, it’s just a case of heading back to your car.
Alport Castles Recap
Alport Castles is one of the most enjoyable walks we’ve done in the Peak District. Incredibly, this walk is still fairly unknown. It’s even more incredible given the popularity of the Peak District National Park. If you’re looking to experience something a little different in the Peak District, with a quieter trail to enjoy too, then we think you’ll love the Alport Castles walk.
Other Walks in the Peak District National Park
There are plenty of hikes in the Peak District National Park. Seriously, loads. But, these are some of our favourites.
- Chrome Hill: witness true peaks with a walk over the Dragon’s Back.
- Mam Tor: one of the most popular walks in the Peak District, with various length route options including Win Hill and the Great Ridge.
- Derwent Edge: a beautiful walk from the Upper Derwent Valley across typical Peak District moorland.
- The Roaches and Lud’s Church: hike up and around the famous rocky ridge in the south Peaks and add on the fairytale rocky chasm of Lud’s Church.
- Kinder Scout and Downfall: hike to the Peak District’s highest point and enjoy the seasonal waterfall from this vast open plateau.
- Stanage Edge: whether you hike or climb, a visit to the Stanage Edge escarpment will leave you spellbound.
- Dovedale to Milldale: a walk through the beautiful Dovedale passes hidden caves, picturesque forest and clifftop trails. Be sure to add Thorpe’s Cloud and Bunster Hill to your hike.
- Three Shires Head: at the point where Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire meet is a pretty little cascade.
- Thor’s Cave: this impressive natural cavern has fantastic views across the Manifold Valley in the south of the Peak District.
- Dovestone Circular: a fantastic circular walk around reservoirs and moorland, enjoying the ever-popular Trinnacles rock formation.
- Bamford Edge: easily one of the most photographed parts of the Peak District overlooking the Upper Derwent Valley.
- Padley Gorge: a deep and narrow valley offers a magical woodland walk to all who venture within.
Five Hiking Essentials For the Alport Castles Walk
These are our five hiking gear essentials for the Alport Castles walk in the Derbyshire Peak District! For a more extensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Alternatively, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a hiking trip to the Peak District, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
You should also pack water, snacks and warm clothing.
- Peak District Castles: to see true castles in the Peak District, consider a visit to Bolsover Castle, Peveril Castle and the very well-known Chatsworth House.
- Upper Derwent Valley: from this area of the Peak District, you can also enjoy the Derwent Dam Viewpoint, Derwent Edge and Bamford Edge.
- Explore more of the Peak District: if you want the hassle taken care of when it comes to trip planning, Get Your Guide offers some pretty great tour options for the Peak District National Park.
Save or share this post with your hiking buddies before your next trip to the Peak District National Park!
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