Are These The Best Flat Walks In Derbyshire?

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It’s easy to think that Derbyshire is all hills with hardly any flat ground for a decent walk. After all, Derbyshire is rightly famous for the Peak District, a 555-square mile area of the county which is full of, well, peaks. And hills are the thing that many people are looking for in Derbyshire but what those folk are missing out on are the amazing flat bits in between the hills.

If you’re looking for some great flat walks in Derbyshire, then you’ve come to the right place.

There are some real gems in the area. As well as amazing views of the hills, these walks take in a huge amount of history, from the industrial revolution to the location of the RAF training ground for their famous “bouncing bombs” mission in World War II. There are viaducts to cross, tunnels to go through, deer to spot, and play parks for the kids.

What they all have in common is their gradient. These are all walks that have a gradient of 1:10 or less. Generally the surface will be either compacted small stones or tarmacked and therefore suitable for unassisted wheelchairs and buggies. A lot of the walks also have optional extra stretches, taking in further beautiful views or interesting spots. You can either choose to do them or leave them for another time.

I hope you’ll find one or more of these routes to be the right one for you and that you have a fantastic Derbyshire day out.

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Monsal Trail

Distance: 7 miles or 11.5 km
Start/Finish: Hassop Station
Refreshments: the excellent Hassop Station Café
Best OS map: OS Explorer Active Map OL24 The Peak District
Highlights: Views from the viaducts and long tunnels
Grade (1 Easy to 5 Strenuous): 2

This was my first ever walk in Derbyshire, and what a stunner it is! The Monsal Trail is a popular weekend stroll or pedal for locals and it’s not hard to see why. The trail takes its route from a railway line that was originally part of the Midland Railway Company network. It’s now paved over and flat and makes for a great walk through the Derbyshire countryside.

The walk can start at a number of different locations and is a straight-out-and-back, so you can choose how far you want to walk before turning around to head back the way you came. Normally I’m more of a fan of circular routes, but with the Monsal Trail you see different things on the outward trip than you do when you return. The viaducts offer stunning views of the valleys along the way and, because I’m really just a kid at heart, my favourite thing was walking through the (well-lit) tunnels making my voice echo. This amused other passers-by, almost as much as it did myself, so all in all a great day out.

There are great facilities at the start of the walk at Hassop Station (including toilets). Although on busy days there can be queues, so it’s best to arrive early.

You can find more details of the Monsal Trail route here.

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Derwent Dam

Distance: 0.4 miles or 0.6 km
Start/Finish: Fairholmes Visitor Centre
Refreshments: Upper Derwent Visitor Centre, Fairholmes
Best OS map: OS Explorer Map OL1 The Peak District: Dark Peak Area
Highlights: Home of the Dambusters
Grade (1 Easy to 5 Strenuous): 1

For me, the Dambusters will always be the theme of a late 80s Carling Black Label advert (from their “I bet he drinks Carling Black Label” ad campaign). In reality though, the Dambusters were a heroic group of RAF crew who were part of an air assault on the German dams in the middle of World War II. They trained for their ‘bouncing bombs’ raids on the picturesque twin-towered dam of Derwent Reservoir.

This is a short stroll, which takes you from the car park to a series of information boards about the Dambusters and you have the opportunity to see their training ground on the reservoir. There’s a further extension to the walk, although this has a steady incline to it, so won’t be suitable for everyone. If you can, time your visit for when the dam is over-flowing as it makes for a particular impressive sight.

You can find more details of the Derwent Dam route here.

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Ladybower Reservoir

Distance: 0.6 miles or 1 km
Start/Finish: Heatherdene
Refreshments: Yorkshire Bridge Inn
Best OS map: OS Explorer Map OL1 The Peak District: Dark Peak Area
Highlights: The submerged village of Ashopton
Grade (1 Easy to 5 Strenuous): 1

Look on a contemporary map for the village of Ashopton in the area of Ladybower Reservoir and…you won’t find it. That’s because it was submerged under the waters when the Ashop and Derwent rivers were diverted to form the reservoir. Today, it’s only when there’s a severe drought that parts of the village buildings will start to re-emerge – a truly ghostly sight.

Running North to South, the reservoirs of Howden, Derwent and Ladybower are the largest expanse of water in the entire Peak District, and they make for a stunning sight indeed. At the Southern end is Ladybower Reservoir and this walk takes you from Heatherdene a short distance away to the Ladybower Dam. If you’re feeling peckish after your walk, then pop around the corner to the Yorkshire Bridge Inn for a selection of scrumptious meals.

You can find more details of the Ladybower Reservoir route here.

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Distance: 0.4 miles or 0.6 km
Start/Finish: Dovedale
Refreshments: Fantastic afternoon tea at the Izaak Walton hotel
Best OS map: OS Explorer Active Map OL24 The Peak District: White Peak Area
Highlights: Watching folk tackle the famous Stepping Stones
Grade (1 Easy to 5 Strenuous): 1

This has been a popular spot for day trippers for centuries. Possibly the Peak District’s most famous dale, Dovedale is a delightful walk at any time of year. In the Summertime though is when it really shines as one of the highlights of the walk is the Stepping Stones at the far end of the short path. Only suitable for a foot crossing, the Stepping Stones are a series of flat-topped stones laid in a path across the river. Adventurous types can tackle them (hopefully without getting their feet wet) whilst everyone else can watch (and hope that they get their feet wet!)

You’ll see stunning views of Thorpe Cloud on the walk and, if you stop in to the Izaak Walton hotel for afternoon tea, lovely alternative views down into Dovedale.

You can find more details of the Dovedale route here.

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Parsley Hay

Distance: 2.5 miles or 4 km
Start/Finish: Parsley Hay
Refreshments: Parsley Hay and Hartington Station
Best OS map: OS Explorer OL24 The Peak District
Highlights: Information centre in Hartington Station signal box
Grade (1 Easy to 5 Strenuous): 3

A lengthy walk along repurposed railway line that forms part of Derbyshire’s Pennine Bridleway. This flat walk is part of the Tissington Trail, which stretches 13 miles from Parsley Hay to Ashbourne in the South. The path itself is smooth and tarmacked, with plenty of options for picnic spots along the route. Railway buffs will love the Hartington Station – a signal box that has been restored from the original railway line and still has working signalling levers.

You can find more details of the Parsley Hay route here.