How to visit Ladybower Reservoir, Derbyshire

by Jan

One of our favourite places to visit in the Peak District was Ladybower Reservoir in Derbyshire.

The Ladybower Reservoir is an unlikely tourist attraction but has a majestic beauty and unique history, which attracts tourists from all over the world.  Having seen many photos, we knew it was somewhere we wanted to visit on our trip to the Peak District.

Located in the Upper Derwent Valley, the Ladybower Reservoir is, in fact, the lowest of three interlinked reservoirs.  Together with the Howden and Derwent Reservoirs, it covers 210 hectares, making it the largest expanse of water in the Peak District National Park.

It is a beautiful area and definitely worth a visit.  So, here’s our complete guide to Ladybower Reservoir, with all the information you need for your own visit.

What is the Ladybower Reservoir?

Although Ladybower Reservoir is one of the Peak District’s top attractions, it was built by the Derwent Valley Water Board for practical reasons –  to provide water for the residents of the East Midlands.

Started in 1935, this amazing feat of engineering took 8 years to complete, though construction was hampered by supply issues during the Second World War.   The reservoir was designed with a clay-cored embankment, which contrasts with the solid masonry of the other two dams.

Once Ladybower Reservoir was finished in 1943, it then took another two years to fill with water!  Eventually in 1945, it was formerly opened by King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth.

Today, the water is used for river control and to compensate for the water retained by all three dams, along with supply into the drinking water system and hydroelectricity generation.

Why is the Ladybower Reservoir so popular?

Ladybower Plug hole and dam, Peak District

Well firstly, the surrounding landscape is stunning, making it ideal for nature-lovers, hikers, and cyclists.

Secondly, you need to see the Ladybower plugholes.  Yes, when the water at the dam is overflowing, the plug holes are truly magnificent. You may recognise them from the Tom Cruise film Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015).

What are Ladybower Plug Holes?

Ladybower Reservoir has two Bellmouth spillways, which drain away excess water from the dam.  Known as the “Ladybower plugholes,” these enclosed spillways prevent damage to the dam.

It’s best to see the plug holes after periods of heavy rain, when the water in the dam is higher.  We were in luck, as it had been raining for weeks, so they were in full flow.  Such a formidable sight!

Even if you don’t fancy a long walk around the dam, it’s worth a quick visit just to see the Ladybower plug holes.  They are extremely photo-worthy and a popular spot for Instagrammers!

The Lost Villages

Another reason the Ladybower Reservoir is so famous is for the two villages which disappeared below the waters.  The construction of the reservoir led to the submergence of two villages, Derwent and Ashopton.

The village of Ashopton was demolished before the area was flooded, but parts of Derwent village remained intact.  During periods of extreme dry weather, water levels drop, and the drowned village of Derwent can be seen at the bottom of the site. You can also see the remains of Ashopton village during times of exceptional drought.

So, has that persuaded you to visit?  If so, here’s the information you need.

How to visit Ladybower Reservoir

Getting to Ladybower Reservoir

The easiest way to get there is by car, as there is no train station near the reservoirs.

However, if you’re using public transport, the nearest train station is Bamford, which is only 4 miles (6.4km) away.  The nearest city is Sheffield, which is 12 miles away (19.3 km).  The 257 Sheffield bus stops by Ladybower Inn.

Parking for Ladybower Reservoir

Heatherdene Car Park

  • Parking: A6013, Hope Valley S33 0BY
  • What 3 words:  ///halt.bandaged.hindering
  • No of spaces: 60
  • Cost:  up to 2 hours £3.50 and all day £6.00
  • Facilities: Toilets, picnic benches, water refill point

The easiest and quickest way to visit Ladybower Reservoir is to park at Heatherdene car park off the A6013 Bamford Road.

This is at the south end of the reservoir and is in the best position for seeing the dam wall and Ladybower’s famous plug holes.  From here, it’s only a short, accessible walk to see the Ladybower Reservoir.

You’ll also find some layby parking on the main road.  However, you should check the parking restrictions.

A word of warning – it’s best to avoid bank holidays and weekends.  Our first visit to the Ladybower Reservoir was on a Bank Holiday weekend and the car park was so full we couldn’t get a space.  Visitors had parked on the verges for miles.  However, when we returned a few days later, it was easy to find a space in the car park.

How to get to the Ladybower Reservoir from Heatherdene Car Park

From the Heatherdene car park, head south out of the car park and cross the main road.  Follow the path to the left until you’ll see Ladybower Reservoir on your right.  From the car park it is only about 400 metres to the start of the dam and is very accessible.

Upper Derwent (Fairholmes) Visitor Centre

  • Parking: Fairholmes Car Park, Bamford, Hope Valley, S33 0AQ
  • No of spaces: 100 spaces
  • Cost – up to 2 hours £3.50 and all day £6.00
  • Facilities: – Visitor Centre, toilets (currently these are temporary portaloos), refreshment kiosk, shop with maps, cycle hire, picnic sites
Information board at Ladybower Reservoir

However, if you want to do a longer walk near the reservoir or visit the other dams, you could park at the Fairholmes Visitor Centre.  This is a bigger car park at the northern end of the Ladybower Reservoir.  It has better facilities and is closer to Derwent Dam.

Your parking ticket is valid in both car parks, so you can drive from one dam to another.

How to get to Ladybower Reservoir from Fairholmes Car Park

You’ll find plenty of choice for scenic walks near the Ladybower Reservoir.  However, the most direct route from Fairholmes is to follow the road from the car park.

A more scenic route would be to go via the Derwent Dam.

Turn right out of the car park and follow the road towards Derwent Dam.  From here, follow the road uphill, keeping Ladybower Reservoir on your right.  Eventually, you’ll come to the viewpoint for the plugholes.

Ladybower Dam

Ladybower Dam, Derbyshire, Peak District

Once you’ve checked out the plugholes, take a stroll across the dam.  You’ll see two draw off towers, which control the water valves.  In the distance, you can see two aqueducts.

You can walk all the way around the reservoir, which is an exceptionally long walk or return to your car.

Things to do around Ladybower Reservoir

Derwent Dam, Peak District

So, what other things can you do near Ladybower Reservoir?  Obviously, if you’re at Ladybower Dam, it’s worth paying a visit to Derwent Dam too.  This impressive structure was used to test the Dambuster bouncing bombs, so is of significant historical importance.  You could walk to this dam or drive.

Read moreA guide to Derwent Dam, Peak District

The area around Ladybower Reservoir is one of the prettiest areas in the Peak District and a popular destination for walkers.  One of the most iconic walks in the Peak District is to Bamford Edge, an overhanging rock that has spectacular views over the reservoir.  You’ll get some fantastic photos here at sunset.  You could also hike to Alport Castles, the UK’s largest landslip.

It is also a popular area for cycling.  You can hire bikes from Derwent Cycle Hire at the Fairholmes Visitor Centre.

You must not swim in the reservoir.  The cold temperatures and strong currents make it extremely dangerous.

Places to eat near Ladybower Reservoir

The Yorkshire Bridge Inn and the Anglers Rest are both traditional country pubs in Bamford, which serve good pub food.  You could also eat at the Ladybower Inn, which is on the A57, near the reservoir.

Snacks, drinks and ice-creams are available at the Fairholmes Visitor Centre.

Where to stay near Ladybower Reservoir

The nearest village to the Ladybower Reservoir is Bamford, a popular destination as it is so close to the reservoirs and many walking routes.

Here are some of the recommended places to stay in Bamford:

Yorkshire Bridge Inn – The closest accommodation to the Ladybower Dam.  A top rated bed and breakfast accommodation , with a garden and bar.  Click here to book.

Bike & Boot Inns – Located on the outskirts of Bamford, this is a top-rated accommodation with a restaurant, bar and free parking.  Click here for prices.

George’s Cottage – A 2-bedroom, self-catering character cottage in a prime location.  Click here for availability.

Campsites near Ladybower Reservoir

You’ll find plenty of campsites near Bamford.  The closest are Swallowholme Camping, Heatherhill Farm Campsite and Handhurst Farm Camping.

We'd love to hear from you!

Have you been to the Ladybower Reservoir?  We’d love to hear your comments below.

Save this guide for Ladybower Reservoir for later!

Pinterest: How to visit Ladybower Reservoir, Derbyshire

*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links – any purchases you make are unaffected but I may receive a small commission. (Read our full Disclosure Policy)

All rights reserved © Chimptrips. Republishing this article and/or any of its contents (text, photography, links, etc.), in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More