Alport Castles should be on your list of places to see in the Peak District. In this guide, I share the details of an adventurous circular walk to Alport Castles, as well as all the essential information you’ll need before visiting.
Alport Castles is an incredible rock formation in the Derbyshire Dales, caused by an enormous landslip believed to be the largest in the UK. The jaw-dropping structures rise from the ground like towers, hence where it got the name ‘Alport Castles’.
Despite boasting some of the best views in the Peak District, Alport Castles remains quite the hidden gem. That’s largely due to its remoteness and the challenging walk you must conquer to get there.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through an epic circular walk to Alport Castles. This is by no means the quickest route, but if you’re up to the challenge, I can promise you it’s an adventure. In case my route is too long or strenuous, I’ll also provide some easier alternatives. Let’s get to it!
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Alport Castles Walk at a Glance
Time: 6-8 hours
Highlights of this Alport Castles Walk
B29′ Overexposed’ Crash Site Memorial – A B-29 Superfortress’s wreckage now remains as a memorial site standing in the moors.
Alport Valley – A picturesque section of the walk with rolling green hills and a majestic river.
Alport Castles – Incredible rock formation caused by an enormous landslip believed to be the largest in the UK.
Alport Farm – Another beautiful section of the walk with enchanting scenery.
Snake Woodland – A fairytale woodland with spectacular trees and a pretty river.
Lady Clough Dale – The river that runs through Snake Woodland continues alongside Snake Pass.
Alport Castles FAQs
Before I share my experience on the Alport Castles circular walk, let’s cover some key information to help you plan accordingly.
How to Get There
Located in what’s known as the Dark Peak area of the Peak District, you’ll find Alport Castles on the eastern side of the Alport Valley. They lie north of Snake Pass and northwest of Ladybower Reservoir.
Several routes and trails get you to Alport Castles; however, my way starts at this car park on Snake Pass Summit. Other popular starting points include the Derwent Overlook car park and there is more parking further east along the Snake Pass.
Snake Pass is a main road in the Peak District that runs for many miles from Glossop to Ladybower Reservoir. Snake Pass Summit is very close to Glossop, just 4 miles away.
Parking at Snake Pass Summit is limited. If you’re visiting on weekends or during school holidays, your best bet would be to arrive early in the morning.
I also saw bus stops by the parking area, but for now, at least, they are out of action. You can take the 237 bus to the bottom of Snake Pass, but this would add quite a bit of time to your hike.
From the car park at Snake Pass Summit, Alport Castles is a 10km walk away. If you’d prefer a shorter route, I recommend starting at one of the other car parks I have suggested instead.
Best Time to Visit
So when it comes to the trail itself, you needn’t worry about it getting busy. However, since the car parks also serve other walking routes in the area, these can get full during busier times.
If you’re visiting over the weekend or during the school holidays, it’s recommended to arrive before 9 am. That way, you will avoid the bulk of the crowds and will have less trouble locating a parking spot. We did this walk during the week, so we had no problem.
It’s also worth mentioning that the location of Alport Castles is quite remote and rather exposed to the elements. I wouldn’t want to attempt this walk in extreme weather conditions, especially in poor visibility.
Alport Castles Walk Difficulty
I won’t beat around the bush here. This circular walk to Alport Castles was probably the hardest of all the hikes we did in the Peaks. It’s not a walk. It is a hike. In every sense of the word.
I’ve classified this hike as hard as not only is it strenuous on the legs, but the terrain was tricky to navigate pretty much the entire way. It also involved a bit of scrambling up to Alport Castles and a few hairy moments where the wrong move could have been dangerous.
Do not let that put you off. Any hiker with some experience will be able to handle the trail with no issues. You just need to be prepared for quite a gruelling workout at times. It’s worth it, though, for the diversity of gorgeous scenery and the adventurous nature of the trails.
As I said, there are more accessible walking routes if this one sounds too tricky. Many people start their Alport Castles walk from Derwent Reservoir. Or you can shave some time off by parking further east on Snake Pass instead.
Alport Castles Walk Map
Other Things Worth Knowing
Dogs: The entirety of Alport Castles trail is dog-friendly. Our 11-year-old Jack Russell/Chihuahua loved the adventure. Although always keeps dogs on leads around livestock.
Kids: I would not class Alport Castles hike as kid-friendly. There are too many potentially dangerous areas.
Weather: Be mindful that the weather can change quickly in the Moors, and they can become very disorientating in poor visibility.
Footwear: Supportive footwear with a good grip is a hiking essential for this trail.
Pushchair/Wheelchair Access: Unfortunately, this route is not accessible with a pushchair or wheelchair.
Facilities: There are no facilities nearby. Please bring enough food and water for your hike, and take all your rubbish home.
Map: It’s always good to have a map handy should you get lost or lose the trail. We use All Trails for this purpose.
Hiking Essential Items
Check out our Hiking Must Haves Blog for a list of hiking essentials for each and every adventure. Alternatively, here are some essential items I recommend you have in preparation for your walk:
- Sturdy worn-in hiking boots
- Twin Skin Socks
- A waterproof hiking backpack
- A refillable water bottle
- A waterproof jacket
- Life straw
- Hiking snacks
- Blister plasters
- First aid kit
- Power bank
Here are some other essentials for your adventure:
Our Experience Walking to Alport Castles
After parking the van at Snake Pass Summit, we joined The Pennine Way and made our way to the B29′ Overexposed’ Cr@sh Site. You don’t need to visit this spot, it’s a bit of a detour, but it’s worth seeing, in my opinion.
The USAF plane tragically cr@shed in Saddleworth Moors in 1948 whilst descending in poor visibility, k!lling all 13 crew members. Debris of the wreckage remains, as well as a memorial plaque and other remembrances. I talk more about this part of the walk in this blog: B29 ‘Overexposed’ Cr@sh Site walk.
After respectfully exploring the crash site, we took the trail heading east toward Alport Valley. This section of the walk is vast open moorland. The tracks are well-trodden, but there are many of them. It can be disorientating. That’s where a map like All Trails comes in handy to help stay on track.
Follow this trail for half a mile or so before it meets the stream and forks off into two. You’ll want to take the route to your left, keeping the stream on your right-hand side. This is an important step, as I don’t recall any opportunities to cross over further down.
If you’re anything like us, you’ll be questioning your navigational skills regardless of whether you have a map or not. Thankfully, there is eventually a sign in the form of a plaque on a gate (see photo below) to reassure you that you’re heading in the right direction.
Alport Valley to Alport Castles
Time to roll up your sleeves, as this is when the hike really gets interesting in every sense of the word. The views through the valley are immense, with rolling green hills on either side and a majestic river snaking through the middle.
The trail resembles the river, snaking in and out of the hills. There are no crazy ascents or descents, but it undulates enough to feel the resistance in the legs. It’s also not the easiest of terrains. The path is narrow and on a noticeable slant. I could feel the pressure points on my right foot paying the price for the imbalance.
Thankfully the views are enough motivation to continue. But after 5km of it, I was grateful when this section was over. I was also relieved that I’d worn leggings instead of shorts. The fern trees were out of control in some areas. It was difficult to see the ground below at times.
Also worth mentioning is that our GPS acted strangely in this stretch. It appeared as if we had detoured from the trail. But I knew that sticking to the path closest to the river would lead us to where we wanted to go.
You’ll understand why it’s called Alport Castles when you see it. The unique rock formations appear like a castle looming in the distance. There is no clear trail to the viewpoint, but you can spot a few worn tracks as you clamber through the overgrown fern trees.
By now, our bellies were grumbling, and we were eager to rest our legs, but we knew the views would be mega from the summit, so we pushed on through. Again, there’s no obvious route to the top. It’s just a matter of judging the rocks and seeing where you can climb.
It’s a steep climb up and involves using both hands and feet in some sections. I wouldn’t want to attempt it when it was wet or icy, but in our ideal conditions, it was fine. The view from the top is out of this world. Sitting enjoying my chicken avocado wrap, I wondered if I’d ever had a better lunch view.
We must have spent nearly an hour on the rocks, taking in the views and snapping some photos. During that entire time, we didn’t see one other person. Alport Castles is still a hidden gem in the Peak District, but it won’t last forever. It’s only a matter of time before its popularity grows.
Alport Castles to Snake Pass Summit
Without a better route, we took the same way down the formations as we did coming up. Only at the bottom, we swung left, following the trail down towards Alport Farm and Alport River. I mentioned earlier that this is a beautiful stretch. Like something straight out of a fairy tale.
Approaching the river, we crossed the bridge and joined the track leading south towards Snake Pass. It’s a mundane stretch in this section as it passes through some farmland and houses, but it’s only about 1.5 km long. At Heyridge Farm, on the approach to Snake Pass, you’ll want to follow the trail west keeping north of the main road.
These next few km before the woodland are tough going. Undulating through Cowms Moor, my legs were screaming at me. The terrain was far more effortless than we had tackled earlier, but the inclines were much steeper. Or maybe my legs were just tired. Either way, this hike is the gift that keeps on giving.
At around the 17km mark, we entered Snake Woodland. It started to rain at this point, which made the woodland walk even more magical and serene. I’m not usually a lover of rain, but it felt so soothing and relaxing. It was also lovely to have another change of scenery.
You’ll eventually reach a section where you must cross over Snake Pass to reenter the woodland on the other side. At this point, you want to stick to the trail closest to the road keeping the Lady Clough River on your left. This part was relatively easy and gentle on the legs compared to the rest of the trail. Only a few obstacles to encounter in the form of fallen trees.
Upon leaving the woodland, the sun was starting to set. Thankfully we were almost there, but the hike took much longer than expected. It took us 7 hours in total, with an hour’s break for lunch at Alport Castles and a few other stops along the way.
Be sure to allow yourself enough time to get back before dark. The final stretch is quite hairy, with narrow paths and steep drop-offs. The setting sun was gorgeous, though, and we had the treat of yet more spectacular views. I was relieved when I saw Ventura (our van) up ahead. What a day! What an adventure!
Enjoy this Adventurous Walk to Alport Castles!
I hope you enjoy this challenging hike as much as we did. It’s one of the best Peak District walks, in my opinion, but also one of the most interesting. Let me know what you think in the comments!
Stay adventurous and Happy travels.