Guide to Derwent Reservoir, North Pennines

Derwent Reservoir is a body of water just within the eastern side of the North Pennines National Park. If you haven’t been or are looking for a cheap day out in the North East then this could be a good shout for you!

The reservoir was built in 1943 and since then has served the growing cities in the midlands. I have been twice, once many years ago (before I could drive) and then the second was in January of 2022 which sparked this blog. Before going I wanted to do some research but honestly, the website for Derwent Reservoir is a bit shit, so hopefully, this blog post can do better and answer the questions you actually have about visiting the place.

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How to get to Derwent Reservoir and where to park?

The road up is a little winding and complicated from Sunderland so if you are going, I would recommend a sat nav of some sort to make sure you don’t get lost.

South Side of Derwent Reservoir

There are several car parks located around the site. The one at Pow Hill Nature Reserve is free, but it is not very well maintained. So in the wet month’s, it is essentially a bog and an ice rink in the winter. It is also one of the smaller car parks so be prepared to have to go to one of the pay and display sites anyway.

Here are the postcodes for parking at Derwent Reservoir:
Pow Hill Car Park: DH8 9NU
Derwent Waterside Car Park: DH8 9TT
North Dam Car Park: DH8 9TT
Millshield Car Park: DH8 9PT

All-day parking at Derwent Waterside is £5 all day and can be pre-booked on their website here. Alternatively, you can pay when you get there but the machines only take cash.

Map of Derwent Reservoir

We usually park at Pow Hill, because it is free so I can only comment on that car park. Here at this car park, there are some picnic tables further around. There is also The Boat Shack which is known for its crazy hot chocolates and milkshakes. You should definitely follow their Instagram if you want to see some of their delicious creations. It gets really busy in the summer and bank holidays so keep that in mind if you are wanting to visit! The are closed right now but will reopen for the year in March.

If you need toilets there are some located at the Edmundvyers car park (which I could not find a postcode for). When I say toilets, I do mean simply portaloos. However, if you’ve gotta go then they are better than nothing! There is even a disabled portaloo which I had never seen before.

Derwent Reservoir Dam

The next car park around is located at Derwent Waterside Visitor Centre, and the North Dam site is the visitor centre, cafe, a big play area and toilets. There are also picnic tables here. The cafe is very small with only a few tables inside so If you were planning on spending the full day here and don’t want to risk either of the two places to eat, I would take a picnic as there are plenty of places for you to sit with it. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to visit this area on our visit and there is little information available online about them.

Derwent Tower

The final car park is the one located at Millshield. This car park was one of the highest-rated because it appears to be one of the biggest, has toilet facilities and picnic areas. I couldn’t find accurate prices for this one so if anyone knows the parking costs please let me know!

Derwent Reservoir

Things to do at Derwent Reservoir

The main thing reason people go up to the reservoir is to walk around it and take in the natural beauty. Half of the water is sufficiently paved so you can walk all the way from Pow Hill to Millshield on a decent path. Although towards Pow Hill it does get a little pothole-y and muddy! This is also apparently the one that is wheelchair accessible so I think maybe it needs looking at…

Derwent Reservoir

This whole walking path is 4km (depending on the source you read) which if you walk slowly and take in the place, can make for a great day out. If you do want to walk around in then any of the car parks will work for you, but bear in mind the limited toilet and food facilities and plan accordingly.

There is also a lot of wildlife to be spotted here. From numerous birds on the water to the occasional red squirrel and roe deer amongst the trees. There is some information about the wildlife on the various signs around the place.

Snow at Derwent Reservoir

Depending on when you visit, you can also see the seasonal plants and flowers that bloom at varying times of the year. The wildflowers that grow in the summer are apparently beautiful and not to be missed!

The reservoir is also a very popular fishing location. If you are interested in fishing on the water then you can find more information about booking your permit on their website.

During the summer months and bank holidays, the waterpark often hosts different events. The best place to stay up to date with that is on their Facebook page and turn on notifications so you see all their posts.

Overall, despite the walk being short and there not being a great deal for us adults to do, it was a pretty day out in the fresh air. No, I won’t be rushing back as I do feel I have done the site now and there is nothing else for me to see. But if you haven’t been before it is a nice place for a cheap day out!

Key things to remember when visiting:

  1. Take change for the car parks as they do not take card. Otherwise you can prebook parking online.
  2. It is high up so it is naturally colder and more exposed to the wind and rain so dress accoringly.
  3. Take any and all rubbish with you when you leave
  4. Only park in the designated car parks and not on the grassy verges.

Thank you for reading this post. If you end up visiting Derwent Reservoir let me know how you get on! I hope you enjoyed this post. And if you want to see more of my posts then drop your email address in the box below to be notified of any and all my new posts.

Stay Safe and Happy Adventuring!

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