Skip to Content

Carsington Water Walks & Visiting Guide (Various Distances)

Carsington Water Walks & Visiting Guide (Various Distances)

🥾Jump to Route & Map

Discover the scenic walks around Carsington Water, located on the edge of the Peak District near Ashbourne, Derbyshire. 

This impressive reservoir is the ninth largest in England and can hold up to 7,800 million gallons of water, making it a leisure hotspot in the area.

So, lace up your boots as I go over everything you need to know before your next visit! 

Getting to Carsington Water

Carsington Water is easy to reach by car. Clear signs direct you to car parks near the visitor centre and other key areas, making parking convenient.

Getting to Carsington Water by public transport is a bit trickier but still doable. From Ashbourne, you can take the 110 bus, or from Matlock, the 111 bus, both taking about 30 minutes.

Parking at Carsington Water

Carsington Water offers plenty of parking spaces at the main visitor centre and additional spots at Millfield and Sheepwash, located further around the reservoir.

Carsington Visitor Centre Car Park

Carsington Visitor Centre Car Park

If the main visitor centre car park is full or you want more variety, you can park at the following locations and start the circular walk from there (both are paid): 

Carsington Water Walk Map & Routes

Download file for GPS

The walk starts at the main visitor centre and passes the sailing club. It then crosses the main dam wall, goes by the Draw-off tower, and enters woodland as the terrain becomes hillier. The route continues around the water’s edge, passing bird hides and nearing the village of Carsington before finishing on the other side of the car park where you set off.

For a Shorter Circular Dam Wall Route – (about 5km – 3.1mi), follow the steps to 2, where you’ll turn off. When you rejoin the path, take a left, which will bring you back to the car park via the dam wall.

Carsington Water Walk Map

Carsington Water Walk Step by Step

🟡 Easy- Medium | 🚶‍♂️ 12.7 km (7.90 mi) | ⛰️ Total ascent: 129 m (424 ft) | ⏱️ 3-4 Hrs

Note: Whether you walk clockwise or anti-clockwise on this route, it will make very little difference to the difficulty or enjoyment of the walk.

marked with a red footpath and blue arrow cycle path

The route is very clear and easy to follow, marked with a red footpath and blue arrow cycle path. Just note that the footpath is slightly less accessible if you decide to follow that.

1. Head out to the right of the car park, past the main play area, and towards the sailing club. Cross the small road and continue through a little wooded area.

crossing which goes past the sailing club

2. Follow the path over the main dam wall towards the Draw-off tower. This is a great spot to take photos of the reservoir or watch the many sailing boats.

Shorter Route: Once you emerge from the initial tree line, take the right turn that goes over the main road and downhill. When it rejoins the main path, take a left, and it will bring you back to the main visitor centre.

Carsington Water dam wall footpath

3. The path will lead you into Millfields car park. Just follow the path around.

path into Millfields car park

4. You’ll enter a wooded area again for most of the remaining trail. Keep following it. There will be some moderate uphill sections.

Carsington Water Walk path along side field of yellow flowers and reservoir in background

5. You will come out on Oldfield Lane. Turn left and rejoin the footpath a little further down.

Oldfield Lane along carsington water

6. Follow the path as it goes through a few fields.

yellow flower field along Carsington water Walk

7. Eventually, you’ll reach a corner with a gate at the end. Go left before the gate. The gate path leads to the villages of Hopton and Carsington.

gate and path which gate leads to the villages of Hopton and Carsington

8. The path then becomes fairly straight, following the main B5035 road for about 1 mile.

path following main B5035 road for about 1 mile

9. You’ll arrive at Sheepwash car park. Follow the path around. There are a few nice picnic benches here.

path through Sheepwash car park

10. After the car park, you’re on the home stretch. Keep going along the path. Be sure to check out the old RAF bombing tower or bird-watching hides along the way. Carsington is well known as a wildlife centre.

RAF bombing tower along the water

11. You’ll then emerge at the other side of the visitor centre where you started, finishing the walk.

Carsington Water on site visitors centre

Enjoyed this walk? Check out some other Peak District reservoirs!

Local Amenities & Facilities

Carsington Water offers ample facilities, on-site café, and toilets. Nearby, you can also enjoy several highly rated Peak District pubs:


ice cream van at Carsington Water

Carsington Water offers ample toilet facilities throughout, including baby changing areas and accessible toilets.

For refreshments, Carsington Water has on-site cafés and the Mainsail Restaurant. Whether you need a warm cup of tea after a walk or ice creams for the whole family, they’ve got you covered. There are also plenty of places to have a picnic, but no BBQs are allowed.

Adjacent to the visitor centre, you’ll find courtyard shops including the RSPB shop, Carsington Clothing, and Watermark Books and Gifts, which is located within the café.

Near the Reservoir

The closest major towns with more amenities are Ashbourne and Matlock.

History & Significance of Carsington Water

Carsington Water is a reservoir situated between Wirksworth and Kniveton in Derbyshire, England. Managed by Severn Trent Water, it was built to manage water supplies, especially during drought conditions. Planning for Carsington Water began in the 1960s, and construction started in 1979. However, a major setback occurred in 1984 when the dam partially collapsed. After a reconstruction effort, the reservoir was completed and opened in 1992 by Queen Elizabeth II.

The reservoir is the ninth-largest in England, with a capacity of 36,331 megalitres. It sources water from the River Derwent during the winter and releases it back into the river during summer for downstream use.

Carsington Water is also a popular spot for leisure activities. Visitors can enjoy walking, cycling, fishing, birdwatching, and various water sports. The reservoir is also just a short distance from the high-peak trail.

Educational programs, in partnership with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, provide nature learning opportunities for children and families.

The dam failure in 1984 also had significant implications for geotechnical engineering, highlighting the importance of understanding geological and chemical interactions in construction. The incident led to advancements in engineering practices to prevent similar failures in the future.

Carsington Water – FAQs

How long is the walk around Carsington Water?

The walk is 12.7 km (7.9 miles) and takes about 3-4 hours.

How much does it cost to park at Carsington Water?

Up to 1 hour: £2.00
Up to 2 hours: £3.50
Up to 4 hours: £6.00
Over 4 hours: £7.00

Can you swim in Carsington Water?

No, swimming is not allowed.

How long is the Carsington Water cycle route?

The cycle route takes between 45 minutes and 2 hours, depending on your speed.

Is Carsington Water free?

Walking or cycling around Carsington Water is free, but parking is paid.

Are dogs allowed at Carsington Water?

Yes, dogs are allowed but not in the restaurant or other food outlets. They are welcome on the balcony area and all other outdoor seating.

Can you paddleboard on Carsington Water?

Yes, paddle sports like sit-on-tops, kayaks, open canoes, and stand-up paddleboards are welcome.

– Day Pass: £15.00 per craft
– Afternoon Pass (2pm – 5pm): £12.00 per craft
– 10x Launch Card: £120.00

All paddle sports are restricted to the bay area (within yellow buoys). Ensure all equipment is brought by you, and everyone has buoyancy aids or lifejackets.

View more info here.

Is Carsington Water muddy?

Usually, the path is well made, so wellies are not needed, but it can be muddy in places, especially after heavy rain. Avoid wearing new white trainers.

What time does Carsington Water close?

Visitor Centre Opening Times:
– April to September: 10am – 6pm
– October to March: 10am – 5pm

Car Park Opening Times:
– April to September: 7:30am – 8pm
– October to March: 7:30am – 7pm

How big is Carsington Water?

Carsington Water is England’s ninth-largest reservoir, with a capacity of 36,331 megalitres.


Thursday 4th of July 2024

Carsington Water used to be nice until it got all commercial. Now you can barely move for tourists and the parking costs an arm and a leg.

Gertrude Smith

Wednesday 3rd of July 2024

Can anyone inform me whether the various walking paths around Carsington Water are suitable for those of us with limited mobility? Particularly interested in pathways that are flat and offer resting spots. Thank you kindly in advance for any insights.


Wednesday 26th of June 2024

Just wanted to share, the cycle route around Carsington Water is pretty solid. Good mix of flat and hilly sections, not too crowded early mornings. Just grab a map at the visitor centre, you won’t regret it.


Saturday 22nd of June 2024

Has anyone tried the cafe near the visitor centre? Wondering if it's any good for a quick bite after a long walk.


Thursday 4th of July 2024

@Sara-Lou, Yes lots of good options

Danny K.

Wednesday 19th of June 2024

hey, can someone tell me if its really okay to bring dogs to carsington water? wanna make sure its cool before i drive down there with my pupper

Jess B.

Thursday 4th of July 2024

Hi Danny, yes it's totally fine to bring dogs! Lots of space to walk them, just keep them on a lead in certain areas. You'll have a great time!