Water wheels

Jonathan Manning visits a CAMRA pub of the year on this circular route from Carsington Water Club campsite

Cycling the perimeter trail around a reservoir may not seem like a route in need of directions and a map, but this ride neatly diverts from the shore of Carsington Water to visit a pretty village with a pub and community shop that serves hot and cold drinks as well as fresh cakes and snacks.

Just south of the Peak District National Park, Carsington Water is the newest and ninth largest reservoir in England, fed via tunnels and an aqueduct from the River Derwent. Finished in 1991, the architects and engineers had plenty of time to factor recreational use into its design, leading to an excellent eight-mile shoreline trail for walkers and cyclists. There is also a convenient bike hire at the visitor centre. 

With the reservoir your constant companion, there are lovely views across the water to the surrounding hills and woodland, plus lots of wildfowl to catch your attention – there are bird hides if you fancy a breather. There’s a busy sailing club and a hire centre for kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, so there’s plenty to stop and watch from one of the many benches along the route. Wooden sculptures, statues and giant photo frames decorate the trail. 

The track around the reservoir is mostly flat but when it is time to turn your back on Carsington Water there is a steepish climb to contend with. The rewards come in Kirk Ireton, an attractive hilltop village with a welcoming community shop, The Stables, and a fabulous pub next door. The Barley Mow Inn was the regional CAMRA pub of the year in 2020 and, serves its own Barley Mow Inn Brewery ales. It is open at weekends, but closed Monday and Tuesday, and only open in the evenings from Wednesday to Friday. From Kirk Ireton it’s a gentle, largely downhill pedal back to the Club site. 

You can download this route from our dedicated Strava page here.


1.  Turn right out of Carsington Water Club site onto Dam Road and in 170m turn right into Millfields car park. Immediately turn left along the cycle trail, signposted to Visitor Centre, Sailing Club and Reservoir Trail. Continue on the broad track along the top of the dam wall, passing car parks and the Carsington Water Visitor Centre, and keep going, with the reservoir to the right. Follow the ‘Carsington Water Circular Route’ waymarks that in places separate cyclists from walkers, keeping the reservoir to your right, and ignore NCR 547 signs. Stay on this track for 10.7km, until you reach a T-junction with a road, with 2the reservoir immediately to your right. 

2.  10.7km – Turn left onto the road, leaving the cycle 3 trail, and pedal uphill to a T-junction in about 550m. 

3.  11.2km – Turn right at the T-junction along Benthead Lane, and in 300m turn left, signposted to Kirk Ireton. Continue on this road to a T-junction on the 4edge of Kirk Ireton. 

4.  12.4km – Turn right at the T-junction, and in 100m turn right, signposted to Blackwall [If you fancy refreshments, ignore this right turn and just around the corner on the left is the Kirk Ireton community Stable Shop with the Barley Mow Inn next door]. Follow Blackwall Lane for almost 2.5km to a T-junction with 5Dam Road. 

5.  14.8km – Turn right at the road and in 700m turn right into the Club site. 

About the route

  • Start/finish: Carsington Water Club Campsite, Kirk Ireton, Ashbourne, Derbyshire DE6 3JL.
  • Distance: 9.7m/15.5km.
  • Time: 90 minutes.
  • Level: Suitable for all cyclists.
  • Terrain: Mostly flat, smoothish tracks, but one 600m climb on asphalt. A mountain, gravel or hybrid bike would be fine.
  • Landscape: Lovely views over Carsington Water, tracks through woodland, and a taste of the hills that lead into the Peak District.
  • Refreshments: Café, restaurant and ice cream parlour at Carsington Water Visitor Centre; The Stables community shop and Barley Mow Inn, Kirk Ireton. 

About the author

Family of three outside their caravan on a sunny day

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