Peak District Lakes & Reservoirs

Although the Peak District isn’t famous for naturally occurring lakes like the Lake District, there are few noteworthy lakes around Chatsworth and just beyond the national park. And when it comes to reservoirs, it’s home to one of the most searched and ‘instagrammable’ places in England. Ladybower and Derwent are the two main attractions but there are plenty of others to explore during your stay.

Ladybower Reservoir

Best for: Historical landmarks, Scenic beauty, Walks, Hiking, Cycling, Bank fishing & lessons

Ladybower is one of the most popular and largest reservoirs in England with a 27,869 million gallon capacity. It features a mesmerising ‘plughole’ or bell-mouth spillway that regulates overflowing water. So in the winter and Spring you’ll often enjoy a gushing water spectacle draining excess into tunnels that feed into river Derwent. This hotspot opened by King George VI in 1945 is the top choice to visit because it’s ideal for most adventurous activities and landscapes, which is what the Peak District is all about. Notably, you can climb Bamford Edge that overlooks the reservoir or take one of several walking and cycling routes around it. Connecting to Derwent and Howden, you can make the trip a quick leisurely stroll or carve out a whole day to explore the various landmarks. Ladybower fisheries teaches fly fishing with docks, streams and even float boats you can cast from.

Derwent Reservoir

Best for: Dams, History, Cycling and Wildlife

When visiting Ladybower, you won’t want to miss a visit to Derwent dam. Just further upstream, upper Derwent reservoir has a few more facilities geared for visitors. The visitor centre is small but educational with a café, outdoor seating, and from time to time an army of ducks. Nearby you can find Derwent Bike Hire, a helpful team that rents out bikes for cycling around the area. The path across Derwent is beginner friendly so families can avoid tricky terrains and instead soak up picturesque views along the way. There are boards to discover detailing interesting facts about the dam’s history, which saw two villages vanish underwater in its creation. The castle tower architecture showcases a descending fortress of water to explore from the bottom when overflowing. When you head into the woodlands, it’s brimming with a wide variety of plants such as bog asphodel and cotton grass. Animals in the area can range from owls, Kites and red squirrels to even a rare sighting of otters.

Howden Reservoir

Howden reservoir

Best for: Walks and Scenic beauty

North of Derwent dam you are greeted by Howden reservoir, a beautiful stretch of scenic lakeside walking surrounded by lush, dense forestation. This walk is a lot more intimate with nature as you can stroll alongside the water without walls or high elevation causing a separation nor human attractions that feel like you’re on a guided tour. This stretch is only around 1 1/4 miles (2 km) so easy to cover as an extended walk through Derwent and Ladybower.

Kinder Reservoir

Kinder reservoir

Best for: Active walks and Hiking

Kinder reservoir is one of the peak places to visit in the Autumn. Dying plants create a canvas of brown on hills surrounding the water creating this vibrant display of multi-coloured trees. A circular walk around Kinder reservoir is about 2.5 miles (4 kilometres). But you can also get an amazing hilltop view across Kinder Scout, an infamous trail for hikers known as being the highest peak in the Peak District National Park. If you’re prepared to get the blood pumping, your lunch breaks will be worth it picnicking in this peaceful place. Walkers will be near Edale to take advantage of great village pubs and some of the region’s top beauty spots.

Langsett Reservoir

Best for: Mountain biking and Woodland walks

Langsett Reservoir rests at the north eastern edge of the Peak District with an impressive 1800 million gallon capacity for Yorkshire Water to supply Sheffield and beyond. There are popular trails in this area for mountain biking with a mix of flat surfaces, rocky paths and windy hills. Go during a week day as the typical circular route can be busy with walkers on the weekend. Speaking of which, the 3 mile stretch is perfect for adventurous walkers who don’t mind a bit of mud and hill climbing to get the heart pumping. The long, tall oak and birch trees leave plenty of space to admire the beautiful blue water through the gaps. There are toilets available but more importantly, be sure to check Bank view café for a cosy atmosphere and tasty lunch. You can’t miss the quirky polka dot building that is a haven for cyclists.

Winscar Reservoir

Winscar reservoir

Best for: Peaceful moorland walks

Winscar reservoir is in the far North of the Peak District below Holmfirth. It’s great for those who want an off path nature circular walk in flatter moorlands. We recommend walking shoes as it can get quite boggy when rainy and jagged rocks are scattered across the coast. A lot of walkers in the area are local because it’s quite a long way for typical visitors staying in the Peak Park around Bakewell. But you’ll find some quirky ravines and the Dunfold bridge on the south side. If you prefer surfaced paths, the Bridge connects to Windle Edge, which is where Trans Pennine Trail cyclists pass through as they travel coast to coast between Hornsea in the East and Southport in the West. A shorter destination for scenic walking just 3.5 miles away East is Longdendale trail where you can find rock streams and woodland paths or venture off to see the captivating Middle Black Clough waterfall.

Carsington Water

Carsington Water

Best for: Kids, Water sports, Boat fishing and Horse riders

Carsington Water is the 9th largest reservoir in England opened by the queen in 1992. With an impressive 7800 million gallon capacity and 31 metres deep when full, there’s plenty of open space for a full day of fun. Located just below the Peak District between Wirksworth and Ashbourne, this is the best choice for liveliness and activities. Seven Trent Waters has developed it to include on site toilets, cafe, Mainsail restaurant, an interactive visitor centre, and quirky outdoor statues. Families love Carsington Water for it’s child-friendly facilities like baby changing spaces, play areas, exhibitions and events. The 8 mile circuit around the reservoir is perfect for cycling, walks, horse riding, and birdwatching. The water is no less active with exciting water sports such as windsurfing, rowing and kayaking but you can also hire a boat to go fishing for rainbow and brown trout for a more chilled experience. And if none of that tickles your interest, you might be pleasantly surprised to hear the place boasts some small beaches.

Emperor Lake

Emperor lake in Peak District

Best for: A day out at Chatsworth House and Wildlife

Emperor Lake is located on the Chatsworth Estate at the top of the hill in Stand Wood. Commissioned by the 6th Duke of Devonshire in the 19th century, it was cleverly designed with a gravity led approach to power water features like the Emperor fountain by Chatsworth House and even generate electricity for the property. The lake’s elevation makes for some stunning views of the stately home from a nearby rock pool and aqueduct. It’s perfect for a timely stroll within a well kept area that is safe and buzzing with wildlife. You can find everything from ducks and deer around the land to rare breeds of domesticated horses, Albion cattle, pigs, and goats in the farmyard.

Swiss Lake

Swiss lake

Best for: Accommodation with lakeside view and Special occasions

It’s not every day you get your own cottage with a lake but the prestigious Chatsworth Estate allows visitors to book a stay throughout the year. Belonging to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Swiss lake was dug out to supply water to the 1st Duke’s cascade in the 1690s. In the autumn, the surrounding trees feature a beautiful palette of purple, orange, yellow and red reflected in the lake. Expect to see an array of majestic water displays on the royal grounds such as the aqueduct waterfall, emperor fountain, and river wye. Before you visit, check Google or Devonshire Hotels whether Swiss lake is currently drained.

Rudyard Lake

Rudyard lake

Best for: Boat hire, Kayaking and Fishing

Rudyard lake is a hidden gem in the Staffordshire moorlands just 3 miles outside the South West border of the Peak District. This lake is geared for boat lovers with a local sailing club. While there are small booking fees, you can go paddle boarding, sailing, rowing, canoeing and kayaking. A generous stretch of water allows you to find a peaceful spot to relax or go crazy on a sunny day. Compared to most other places in the area, Rudyard offers more extensive facilities for days out such as a visitor centre, café and miniature steam railway ride along the lakeside. This makes it a great choice for families who want to keep the kids busy.

Mermaid's Pool

Mermaid's pool

Best for: Wild camping and Wild swimming

Mermaid’s Pool is more of a large pond than a lake but it made this list for the wild campers and swimmers. These activities are usually banned in the Peak District but Mermaid’s Pool is a tucked away area on Kinder Scout with more freedom to embrace the elements. Unlike commercialised reservoirs, no one has any incentive to monitor this natural crater of water up in the hills. It’s also just 6 feet deep, which is much safer than the bottomless pits that make reservoirs dangerous for swimming. Best to avoid in uncertain weather conditions because rescue mountain is not easily accessible should you sustain an injury or accident.

Darwin Lake

Darwin lake holiday village

Best for: Lakeside cottages, group stays, special events

Darwin lake holiday village features an impressive 3-acre lake with surrounding luxury cottages. It’s a popular place to book events from conferences to weddings and reunions. Guests are allowed to fish in the lake provided they return their catches. There is a hall to host large crowds over several days. You’ll have access to private secluded landscaped grounds with parking when you stay and can even arrange for them to hire you a hot tub upon arrival!

List of other Peak District reservoirs

There’s no shortage of lesser known water spots you can explore as well. Many are unique in character and criminally underrated. For example, you’ll find a cosy waterfall area near Wessenden reservoir that can be enjoyed in all its glory without the constant flow of other walkers.

  • Bilberry reservoir
  • Black Moss reservoir
  • Little Black Moss reservoir
  • Blakeley reservoir
  • Bollinhurst reservoir
  • Bottoms reservoir
  • Brun clough reservoir
  • Butterley reservoir
  • Chew reservoir
  • Diggle reservoir
  • Digley reservoir
  • Dovestone reservoir
  • Errwood reservoir
  • Fernilee reservoir
  • Greenfield reservoir
  • Harden reservoir
  • Horse Coppice reservoir
  • Hurst reservoir
  • Lamaload reservoir
  • Mossy Lead reservoir
  • Ramsley reservoir
  • Redbrook reservoir
  • Redmires reservoir
  • Rhodeswood reservoir
  • Riding Wood reservoir
  • Rivelin reservoir
  • Snailsden reservoir
  • Swellands reservoir
  • Swineshaw reservoir
  • Tittesworth reservoir
  • Torside reservoir
  • Valehouse reservoir
  • Wessenden reservoir
  • Wessenden Head reservoir
  • Windleden reservoir
  • Woodhead reservoir
  • Yateholme reservoir
  • Yeoman Hey reservoir