Derwent Reservoir is a lovely day out where the whole family can have fun being outdoors, seeing some great sights and enjoying some sport. We've pulled together some key Derwent Reservoir visitor information you'll need for your visit.
Derwent Reservoir lies about 45 minutes drive north west of Durham city. It's owned by Northumbrian Water. Although its primary purpose is obviously to supply the area with water, over the decades Derwent Reservoir has also become a popular destination for days out and sports, from walking, cycling and running to sailing.
Ahead of your visit, we've pulled together Derwent Reservoir visitor information and everything you need to know.
Derwent Reservoir history: a brief overview
Derwent Reservoir building work began in 1960, and it took seven years to dig the valley out and build the Derwent Reservoir dam from the spoil. It was finally opened by HRH Princess Alexandra in 1967.
Several buildings had to be demolished to make way for Derwent Reservoir, including the beautiful Millshield Mill.
What's the best way to get to Derwent Reservoir?
Derwent Reservoir is best accessed by car. If you're driving from Durham city, then head up the A691 towards Lanchester, through Consett, then join the A68 north, until you reach the bungalows of Carterway Heads. It's about a 40 minute drive.
At Carterway Heads, turn left on to the B6278 towards Edmundbyers. You can either turn right before crossing the little stone bridge and enter the Derwent Reservoir visitor centre (paid parking, with play area) or continue through Edmundbyers and make your way around to Pow Hill Country Park, which has free parking and the Boat Shack Cafe.
How much are the Derwent Reservoir parking charges?
If you use the Northumbrian Water car parks at the visitor centre or at Millshield on the east bank of Derwent Reservoir, then you'll have to pay for parking. The Derwent Reservoir parking charges here are £1.50 for two hours, £3.50 for four hours, £5 for all day parking and £10 for overnight parking. At the Derwent Reservoir visitor centre you can either park next to the play area as soon as you've crossed the cattle grid, or continue along the road up to the car park next to the dam.
If you use the Durham County Council car park at Pow Hill, it's free.
And how about Derwent Reservoir toilets? Are there any?
Always an important consideration. This is key Derwent Reservoir visitor information!
Derwent Reservoir visitor centre building has a toilet near the play area, but not up at the dam-side car park.
There is a portable toilet cubicle at the picnic site on the walking path between the Derwent Reservoir visitor centre car park (the one next to the dam if you drive past the play area and continue along the road) and Pow Hill Country Park, which you can reach if you're walking between the two.
Pow Hill Country Park: If you're having refreshments at Boat Shack cafe at Pow Hill Country Park then they'll have a toilet too.
There is also a toilet block at Millshield car park.
Where should I head for Derwent Reservoir sports?
For walking (or 'hiking', if you're serious), there's an easy walk with good views all the way around the south of Derwent Reservoir between Millshield picnic area and Pow Hill Country Park. Probably the best part for walking is from the Derwent Reservoir visitor centre, across the top of the dam, stopping for a toilet break and a sit down to admire the views at the picnic area on the other side, then continuing around to Pow Hill Country Park. The signs claim it is one and three quarter miles, so a three and a half mile round trip.
For cycling, you can either follow the same path or head in the other direction to Millshield picnic area, as this is (slightly) more undulating and further, which makes it more interesting for cyclists. The path is well-maintained. The sign at the visitor centre claims Millshield picnic area is one and three quarter miles away; however, half way around it claims you've travelled a mile and still have more than a mile to go; which one you believe depends on how tired you feel!
For sailing, then head to Derwent Reservior Sailing Club, on the north shore. From Caterway Heads continue up the A68 to Barleyhill, then follow the brown signs down to Derwent Reservoir (but not turning off left when you reach Millshield picnic area).
Play area: If the children just want to let off some steam, head to the Derwent Reservoir visitor centre where there's a play area with swings and slides.
For fishing, head to the visitor centre.
What wildlife can I see at Derwent Reservoir?
There's a lot of Derwent Reservoir wildlife. Probably the most exciting are the red kites - difficult to spot, but look out for them riding the thermals with their massive outstretched wings. There are also red squirrels in the pine trees, the common green hairstreak butterfly, and a host of interesting plants and flowers such as quaking grass and the parrot waxcap fungi (I'm not making these up, I swear).