Fairholmes Circular via Bleaklow and Derwent Head or the Westend Valley
Length: 27.3 km (16.9 mi) [shorter version possible, see below]
Ascent/Descent: 646m; Net Walking Time: ca. 7-8 hours
Toughness: 10 out of 10
Take the 09.00 bus line 273 from Sheffield Interchange (Stand D3) to Castleton (calls Ashopton, Ladybower Inn 09.25), arrives Fairholmes, Derwent Dam 09.32.
Return bus to Ladybower Inn and Sheffield: 18.36.
Quite possibly the wildest and remotest of the fully written up SWC walks, this route leads from a remote bus stop on the famous Derwent Reservoirs through woods onto a grassy boggy ridge past Alport Castles, Britain’s largest inland landslip area with its fascinating rock formations and piles of rocky debris, to one of England’s few great, untamed wildernesses: Bleaklow. Bleak by name, bleak by nature, it is famed for its extensive, wild moorland and is home to two of the three highest points in the Peak District. Despite its reputation as an endless, featureless mass of peat bogs, Bleaklow is quite magnificent though. Its contours are more rounded than Kinder's, but it is less accessible and more remote with fewer paths and features aiding navigation, basically an often-pathless wilderness – rough, boggy, quiet, wild and lonely. But it also has some picturesque gritstone rock formations, worn into shapes by wind and water and plenty of scenic river valleys running off it.
The route across Bleaklow follows the Pennine watershed across the heart of the unforgiving plateau, with wide vistas across the Dark Peak area and to the North, before descending through the very pretty Upper Derwent Valley past Howden and Derwent Reservoirs back to the start.
Note: The stretch along the large – and partly pathless – peatland plateau requires excellent navigational skills and very good stamina, as any divergence from the best line requires much higher levels of energy, due to the deep peaty groughs, some watery holes and boggy ground either side of (and sometimes on) the best route.
An Alternative Descent Route from Bleaklow Stones avoids most of the often-pathless crossing of the high moors and leads via Grinah Stones, Barrow Stones, Round Hill, Ridgewalk Moor & the Westend Valley to the road by Howden Reservoir and thence to Fairholmes. This is rated 9/10, with 24.8 km/15.4 mi distance and 581m ascent.
Tea: Derwent Café
(a hot and cold food kiosk in the Fairholmes Visitor Centre, open to 17.30 [not guaranteed]).
For walk directions
, height profile
and gpx/kml files