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Derwent Edge Walk In The Peak District: The Complete Guide

Derwent Edge Walk In The Peak District: The Complete Guide

Derwent Edge is easily one of the most popular and beloved parts of the Peak District National Park. The impressive escarpment provides breathtaking views across Derwent Valley and the wider Dark Peaks area. Indeed, any walk along Derwent Edge will leave you utterly spellbound by this truly beautiful part of the UK.

In this guide, we’ll look at what Derwent Edge is and where to find this Peak District walk. Then, we’ll let you know how to get to Derwent Edge and where to park. We’ll give a brief overview of the walk, including the notable rock stacks you’ll come across, as well as provide a couple of trailhead alternatives. Lastly, we’ll answer some FAQs and let you know about some of our other favourite walks in the stunning Peak District.

For more incredible walks in the Peak District, check out our guides on Stanage Edge, Mam Tor and Dovedale Walk. Otherwise, read our Peak District Hiking post (coming soon), where we reveal some of the best hikes in the Peak District National Park.

What Is Derwent Edge?

Derwent Edge is a long gritstone escarpment in the Derbyshire Peak District, forming the perimeter of a vast moorland plateau. Due to the rare plants and animals found on the moorland, the area has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Made up largely of peat, the walk across Derwent Edge can be notoriously boggy. But, muddy boots are a small price to pay for what makes Derwent Edge so special.

Along the Derwent Edge walk you’ll encounter a whole host of fantastic ‘tors’. These interesting and rather striking free-standing rock formations are what make the Derwent Edge walk so incredible. The tors have even been named over the years. The most notable tors are Salt Cellar, Wheel Stones (AKA The Coach and Horses), Dovestone Tor and Back Tor – the highest point of the Derwent Edge walk.

Certainly, a walk across Derwent Edge, scrambling the tors and admiring the views of the Derwent Valley below, is one of the best walks in the Peak District.

Where Is Derwent Edge?

The Derwent Edge escarpment is found in the heart of the Peak District National Park in the Upper Derwent Valley. The Edge isn’t far from the popular village of Edale and is usually explored from Derwent or Ladybower Reservoirs, both of which sit below.

The Derwent Edge walk we’ll describe in this guide begins from the Derwent Overlook Car Park next to the Fairholmes Visitor Centre. This car park lies on the eastern side of Ladybower Reservoir, just south of the Derwent Dam.

How to Get to Derwent Edge

The best way to get to Derwent Edge is to drive yourself there. Indeed, given the wealth of car parks to choose from for a walk to Derwent Edge, having the freedom of your own vehicle is very beneficial. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the nearest places to travel from. We’ll include the distance and drive time.

  • Manchester: 1.5 hours // 31 miles (50km)
  • Sheffield: 30 minutes // 14 miles (22km)
  • Buxton: 45 minutes // 20 miles (32km)
  • Bakewell: 30 minutes // 17 miles (27km)

Derwent Edge and Fairholmes Visitor Centre postcode is SS3 0AQ

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.

Public Transport 

Although it’s far easier to complete the Derwent Edge circular walk with your own vehicle, there’s a fairly decent bus system in place for those who want, or need, to travel via public transport. To be able to do the Derwent Edge 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. And for weekend hikers, there’s good news – 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. Also, we recommend using Google Maps to help plan your journey.

​​​​​​​Derwent Edge Parking

The best place to park for this Derwent Edge walk is the Derwent Overlook Car Park in the Upper Derwent Valley. Alternatively, you can also park at Fairholmes Car Park at the Upper Derwent Visitor Centre (Fairholmes). Both are found at the northern end of the Ladybower Reservoir and the base of Derwent Reservoir next to the Derwent Dam.

Parking isn’t free. You’ll need to use the pay and display machines. Cards are accepted. Additionally, car parks can become very full at weekends, public holidays and school holidays, so try to arrive early to nab a spot.

Dan standing on Derwent Edge

Useful Things to Know Before the Derwent Edge Walk

  • Stick to paths: with the boggy nature of the Peak District moorlands, erosion is all too commonplace. In addition, the fragile habitat here which many species call home means it’s extremely important to stick to the trails and paved pathways at all times. Keeping to official routes will limit the disturbance of breeding birds like the Red Grouse. Dogs should also be kept on a lead at all times.
  • Tors to look out for: The named tors you’ll pass on this walk include Back Tor, Cakes of Bread, Dovestone Tor, the Salt Cellar, White Tor and Wheel Stones (The Coach and Horses). See if you can see the shapes they resemble.
  • Derwent Edge Weather: the weather at Derwent Edge, and the Peak District as a whole, can be unpredictable. The area can and does see a fair amount of rain so dress appropriately and be ready for any weather.
  • No amenities: there are no amenities along the Derwent Edge walk. The nearest can be found at Fairholmes Visitor Centre.

Derwent Edge Walk Map and Preview

  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Distance: 14km
  • Time: 2.5–3.5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 430m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Derwent Overlook Car Park
  • Map: Wikiloc

Derwent Edge Walk Description

Below, we’ll provide a brief overview of the Derwent Edge walk beginning from the Fairholmes Visitor Centre. The circular walk visits incredible rock attractions and points of interest along the way, which we’ll mention in order. Feel free to click on our Wikiloc link above to follow the trail.

Derwent Edge Walk From the Fairholmes Visitor Centre

Beginning from the Derwent Overlook Car Park, head north towards Fairholmes Visitor Centre and cross a small bridge close to the Derwent Reservoir Dam. You’ll pass through a pretty woodland before reaching Derwent Lane. Cross Derwent Lane and take a path leading north and running alongside Derwent Dam. The views of Derwent Dam are fantastic.

Above Derwent Dam

Eventually, the trail route turns right and heads away from Derwent Dam. Hiking easterly alongside a small brook that runs down into the River Derwent, this is where the trail starts to steepen significantly. You’ll climb higher and higher through Hancock Wood. This is the hardest part of the entire Derwent Edge walk.

Soon enough, you’ll climb above the woodland and enter out to the openness of the vast Peak District moorland surrounding Derwent Edge. You’ll continue straight ahead to reach Lost Lad Hill first.

Lost Lad Hill

Hiking to Lost Lad Hill is a steady and gentle uphill trail across the plateau. Stick to the trail here to avoid any muddy surprises. The trail eventually arrives at the base of Lost Lad Hill. It’s then a short but steep climb to reach the peak and the cairn on the top.

Lost Lad Hill sits at 518 metres above sea level. From here, it’s an easy trail, paved in parts, to reach Back Tor – the highest part of Derwent Edge. You’ll see it directly ahead along the path.

Cairn on Lost Lad Hill in the Peak District

Back Tor

Once you arrive at Back Tor on Derwent Edge, you’ll no doubt be awestruck by the incredible pancake stack rock formations found here. I know we were. Feel free to explore, scramble around and stop for a quick pit stop. Back Tor is the highest part of Derwent Edge, sitting at 538 metres above sea level. From here on out, the trail undulates its way back down.

Beck explring Back Tor on the Derwent Edge walk

Cakes of Bread

From Back Tor, you’ll follow a paved pathway along the open Derwent Edge plateau. The paved path, followed like a yellow brick road, helps with the conservation of the area, as well as keeping hiking boots clean and protected from the potential bog fests the Peak moorlands are renowned for.

Soon, you’ll pass some small pockets of layered rock stacks called ‘Cakes of Bread’. Then, continue onwards to reach Dovestone Tor.

Dovestone Tor

Dovestone Tor is a large rocky outcrop that drops seemingly endlessly down into Derwent Valley below. The sheer escarpment edge found on the Derwent Walk is a very popular place for rock climbers. Understandably so. Although, perhaps not quite as popular as neighbouring Stanage Edge. Still, the routes here are known for their difficult and challenging nature.

For us hikers though, Dovestone Tor provides a sweeping vantage across the rest of Derwent Edge and the valley below. Certainly, the extensive views from Dovestone Tor were some of our favourites along the Derwent Edge circular walk.

Dovestone Tor Derwent Edge

Salt Cellar Derwent Edge

From Dovestone Tor, the walking trail continues along Derwent Edge to ‘Salt Cellar’. Salt Cellar on Derwent Edge is one of the most popular rock formations to photograph. The different angles surrounding this somewhat lonely stack showcase both the length of the Derwent escarpment and the views of the valley beyond.

The gritstone boulder got its name due to its resemblance to a salt pot. Do you see it? Salt Cellar at Derwent Edge pretty much signals the halfway point of the walk.

Salt Cellar Derwent Edge walk

White Tor

From Salt Cellar, the trail continues to White Tor. This is another impressive part of the Derwent escarpment before the walk reaches its final and possibly most famous rock formation – Wheel Stones (AKA The Coach and Horses).

Wheel Stones (The Coach and Horses)

The incredible Wheel Stones rock stack at Derwent Edge is also known as The Coach and Horses. This is because when viewed from a distance, specifically along the A57 road, the tor resembles a coach being pulled by horses on the horizon. The gritstone rock stacks are some of the largest viewed on the Derwent Walk and are certainly inviting for a scramble if you have the experience to do so.

After enjoying Wheel Stones, it’s time to return to Fairholmes Visitor Centre and back into the Derwent Valley. A little after passing Wheel Stones, take the trail on the right and begin to head back down towards Ladybower Reservoir. The views are wonderful.

Soon enough, you’ll be passing back along the side of Ladybower Reservoir on Derwent Lane. Then, simply pass back through the woodland next to Fairholmes Visitor Centre and return to your car.

Dan at the Wheel Stones Derwent Edge

Other Walking Routes

Of course, the Derwent Overlook Car Park and Fairholmes Visitor Centre Car Park are just a couple of places from which to begin the Derwent Edge walk. Below, are another couple of popular walking routes for the Derwent Edge walk.

Derwent Edge from Cutthroat Bridge

Beginning from Cutthroat Bridge Car Park along the A57, this Derwent Edge walk gently ascends to Whinstone Lee Tor and traverses Derwent Edge in a northerly direction. Reaching Lost Lad Hill, you’ll then swing around and start to descend the moorland back down to Ladybower Reservoir. Reaching Ashopton at the southern end of Ladybower Reservoir, you’ll then follow the trail left, passing through Ladybower Wood and Priddock Wood, back to the car park.

Follow the trail here.

Derwent Edge from Ashopton Viaduct

Beginning from Heatherdene Car Park at the southern end of Ladybower Reservoir, head north through Ladybower Wood towards Whinstone Lee Tor. This trail follows the Derwent Edge walk in the opposite direction to that which we did. Although, you can walk it any way around, to be honest. Follow the route all the way along Derwent Edge to Lost Lad Hill, before swinging back around to descend back down into Derwent Valley. From here, follow along the edge of Ladybower Reservoir and back to the car park.

Follow the trail here.

Ladybower Reservoir

Derwent Edge Weather

You can walk Derwent Edge in the Peak District any time of year. Indeed, different seasons will certainly bring changing views and terrain conditions to enjoy. Of course, for the driest and less boggy conditions out on the moorlands, you’ll be wanting to hike Derwent Edge during the summer months. In addition, late summer is the perfect time to experience the majestic moment the Peak District hills turn a vibrant purple as the flowering heather shrouds the hillsides.

Winter can be very muddy, so decent hiking gear such as good walking boots and even ankle gaiters will be your best friends. But, any time of year in the Peaks can bring unpredictable weather, so we always recommend checking the forecast for Derwent Edge before setting off.

You can check the weather forecast here.

Derwent Edge Walk FAQs

Below, we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the Derwent Edge walk in the Peak District National Park.

How Long Is the Derwent Edge Walk?

The walk around Derwent Edge described in this guide takes around 2.5–3.5 hours.

What Are the Options to Extend the Derwent Edge Walk?

It’s certainly possible to make the Derwent Edge walk longer should you wish. Some of the most popular Derwent Edge walk extensions include adding on the following destinations.

What Amenities Are Nearby?

Fairholmes Visitor Centre has a very popular cafe if your need refreshments. In addition, you can find toilets here and a free water refill station. For a nice pub stop before or after the Derwent Edge walk, check out Ladybower Inn. You can also find public toilets at Heatherdene Car Park.

Can You Make the Derwent Edge Route Shorter?

The best way to experience the whole of Derwent Edge is to walk the full length of it and complete a circular walk. But, if you were really short on time, then the shortest route to still get the best of Derwent Edge would be to complete a simple out and back from Cutthroat Bridge.

Is Derwent Edge Difficult?

No. Aside from the steep climbs in and out of the valley, Derwent Edge is easy to walk with a clear trail to follow.

Dan walking along Derwent Edge in the Peak District

Other Walks in the Peak District National Park

There are plenty of walks in the Peak District National Park. But, these are just a selection of some of our favourites.

  • Mam Tor: one of the most popular walks in the Peak District with views down the Great Ridge.
  • Alport Castles: a hidden gem in the Peak District, the Alport Castles are the result of one of the largest landslips in the UK.
  • Stanage Edge: an impressive gritstone escarpment that’s inspired many creatives over the centuries.
  • 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.
  • Dovestone Reservoir: explore the northern reaches of the Peak District and visit the epic Trinnacle.
  • Dovedale to Milldale: a walk through the beautiful Dovedale passes hidden caves, picturesque forest and clifftop trails. Don’t forget to check out the Dovedale Stepping Stones!
  • Three Shires Head: at the point where Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire meet is a pretty little cascade.
  • Birchover & Stanton Moor Circular: discover the prehistoric Nine Ladies Stone Circle on this delightful country walk.
  • Thor’s Cave: this impressive natural cavern has fantastic views across the Manifold Valley in the south of the Peak District.
  • Chrome Hill: climb true peaks in the Peak District. We recommend visiting for sunrise.
  • Bamford Edge: easily one of the most photographed parts of the Peak District.
  • Padley Gorge: a deep and narrow valley offers a magical woodland walk to all who venture within.
Beck walks the Tors on Derwent Edge

Five Hiking Essentials

These are our five walking gear essentials for the Derwent Edge walk in the 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.

You should also pack water, snacks and warm clothing.

Bonus Tips

  • Trail maps: If you’re not bothered about using a GPS map for the walks, consider having access to Maps.me or an Ordnance Survey map. You’ll find all the route variations available and can happily form your own loop around this fantastic escarpment.
  • Occasional trail closures: there are times, albeit not often, when access to Derwent Edge and the walks across the moorlands here are closed due to grouse shooting and general maintenance. Signs will be posted at trailheads. Please follow any guidelines displayed on these signs.
  • Busy trails: for a quieter walk to Derwent Edge, try to visit outside of school holidays and weekends.
  • 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!

Beck Piggott

With an art and design based background, Beck uses photography and writing to help inspire readers to climb mountains, hike coastal trails and chase waterfalls around the globe.

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