Located in the heart of England, the Peak District spans 555 square miles of strikingly diverse landscapes, charming villages, and idyllic countryside. A large portion of the national park lies in Derbyshire, but it also includes parts of Cheshire, South Yorkshire, Staffordshire, West Yorkshire, and Greater Manchester.
To the north of the park is the desolate Dark Peak, with its wild heather moorland, dramatic gritstone plateaus, and steep cloughs covered with oak woodland. One of its most distinctive features is the 636-metre Kinder Scout; the highest point in the Peak District.
In the opposite direction, the White Peak to the south boasts sweeps of gently rolling pasture land cut by glacial streams and limestone dales. The area is known for its ancient burial grounds that date back to prehistoric times.
Thousands visit the Peak District for its incomparable natural beauty. But if there is one thing you should not miss on your trip to this piece of paradise, it’s the waterfalls.
The waterfalls in the Peak District are among the most incredible sights in the UK, from gentle cascades in obscure paths to loud plunging torrents of water in well-trodden spots. There are eminent ones such as Kinder Downfall and Three Shires Head and lesser-known gems such as Waterfall Swallet and Blackden Brook.
Not sure which Peak District waterfalls to visit? We’ve narrowed down your options to the top 13 most stunning waterfalls in the Peak District. But whichever cascade you choose to explore, it is sure to take your breath away.
- Kinder Downfall
Of all the waterfalls in Derbyshire, Kinder Downfall is the most recognizable and most iconic. The waterfall plunges down a craggy mountain wall at an impressive height of 30 metres, making it the tallest waterfall in the Peak District.
Surrounded by scenic countryside and untamed moorland, this tumbling cascade attracts hikers exploring Kinder Scout and those trekking the Pennine Way. At the bottom is the enchanting Mermaid’s Pool, said to be the home of a mermaid who lures men to their death with her beautiful singing on Midsummer’s Eve.
If you want to see Kinder Downfall in all its glory, be sure to visit after heavy rain. Kinder River, which feeds the falls, dries up when the weather is dry, and instead of a rapid gush of water, you’ll witness nothing but a mere trickle or just the mountain walls.
Better yet, go and see Kinder Downfall when it’s wet and particularly windy. The strong winds blow the water back upwards, creating a massive spray.
- Padley Gorge
Padley Gorge is a gorgeous, almost magical waterfall. Oak and birch woodland covers the deep and narrow ravine it cuts through, while the crystal-clear Burbage Brook flows through it.
The water that tumbles down these falls sets off placidly, then flows freely over huge rocks when it reaches the gorge, forming several small but scenic waterfalls. The quiet woodland, with its cascades and moss-covered trees, exudes an enthralling, fairytale-like atmosphere.
Padley Gorge is perfect for a family outing. You can follow the three-mile trail across the dale to see the series of waterfalls, keeping your eyes open for wildlife as you go. Along the brook are plenty of lovely spots where you can spread a blanket and have a picnic, or even soak your feet in the cool water in warmer weather.
- Rivelin Valley
Located in northwestern Sheffield, Rivelin Valley is a two-and-a-half-mile stretch of dense woodland crisscrossed by a stream. The vale teems with various wildlife, fascinating plants, old stone bridges, and the remains of 21 mill dams and 20 watermills, which are remnants of the steel industry of Sheffield.
As you go deeper into the valley, you’ll find a multitude of miniature waterfalls. They are not as imposing as examples like Kinder Downfall, but combined with the natural splendour of the surroundings, they make Rivelin Valley one of the most enticing spots in the Peak District.
Like Padley Gorge, Rivelin Valley is ideal for a family day out. The trail past the falls is dog-friendly, there are giant stepping stones to hop on as you traverse the streams, shallow spots to paddle and splash around in, and numerous quiet spaces for picnics.
- Lumsdale Falls
If you want to add a dash of history to your waterfall hunting, take a trip to Lumsdale Falls in the spectacular Lumsdale Valley, a short distance away from the town of Matlock. Between the 17th and 19th centuries, Lumsdale rose to prominence as a bustling industrial hub, with a collection of mills powered by water from Bentley Brook cropping up across the valley.
Now Lumsdale Valley is a tranquil wooded gully, its water-powered mills overgrown with vines and ivy. Bentley Brook courses its way through the moss-covered structures and gathers in abandoned mill ponds before spilling over the stone wall to a stream beneath. Lumsdale Falls cascades peacefully against the backdrop of the otherworldly ruins and is a must-see spot if you’re after waterfalls in the Peak District that aren’t visited by tons of other tourists.
- Waterfall Swallet
Nestled between the villages of Foolow and Eyam and tucked behind a cluster of trees, Waterfall Swallet is essentially a hidden gem. Despite its undiscovered nature, the waterfall is one of the most breathtaking sights in the Peak District, cascading over a craggy limestone cliff and gathering in a gentle pool below.
Standing at 15 metres, Waterfall Swallet is the second-highest waterfall in the Peak District, after Kinder Downfall. It’s located in private woodland which means you can only admire it from a nearby path beside the road, but it is still definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
- Lathkill Dale
The lush Lathkill Dale is known for its rare wildflowers, colourful butterflies, ancient trees, and birds of prey. But nothing is more spectacular than its stunning waterfalls, especially after heavy rainfall.
The Lathkill River feeds the valley and babbles from its source until it reaches the gorge, where it drops abruptly and breaks into several beautiful cascades. You may have seen this collection of falls featured in many photos promoting the Peak District, as it’s one of the most-visited spots by walkers with their cameras.
Not far from the waterfalls is the dramatic Head Cave where the Lathkill River gets its water during the wetter season. In summer or after a long spell of hot weather, it dries up, and you can explore its interior.
As tempting as it looks, Lathkill Falls are off-limits to swimmers to protect the delicate flora and fauna in the area.
- Wessenden Reservoir
Located at the northern end of the Peak District, the Wessenden Reservoir has one of the most secluded waterfalls tucked away in an empty moorland. The reservoir is the highest among the network in the Wessenden Valley, and the best way to access the falls is through the Pennine Way route.
The trail’s sharp inclines and unpredictable weather make getting to the fall a challenge. But the sheer untamed beauty and serenity of the waterfall and its surroundings are all worth the effort.
- Jacob’s Ladder Waterfall
Almost everyone knows about Jacob’s Ladder; the stone footpath carved into the hillside leading to the Kinder Scout plateau. There’s a very pretty waterfall right at the bottom of this ascent, giving you the chance to stop and catch your breath as you admire the water, before starting your climb to the top of the mountain.
The waterfall is not hard to find. Merely follow the river upstream instead of ascending the steps, and around the corner, you’ll discover a gush of water cascading into a clear pool surrounded by lush vegetation. It’s a very pleasant spot to recharge your energy before tackling the steep Jacob’s Ladder.
- Blackden Brook
Set on the north side of the Kinder Scout plateau, Blacken Brook waterfall is definitely off-the-beaten-path. Saying that the spot is hard to access is an understatement, as to get to the waterfall, you will need to navigate through an uneven and unmarked path, then traverse a brook.
You can see the plunging water from a distance however, if you don’t fancy a complicated journey. But if you want a closer look, you’ll need to climb down a grassy and slippery bank. The view is all worth it, though, because Blacken Brook waterfall is mostly isolated, so you typically get the spot all to yourself.
- River Alport Waterfalls
Hiking to River Alport waterfalls makes accessing Blackden Brook look like child’s play. To reach the spot, you will have to trek across extremely rough terrain with hardly any hint of a path, which means that the River Alport waterfalls are only for seasoned hikers.
While you are in the area, don’t miss the chance to visit the fascinating Alport Castles; a half-a-mile stretch of fortress-looking rocky outcrops formed by the largest landslide in Britain. To get to the waterfalls from the Castles, head to West End Moor trig point, then check your map to find the location of the river and then navigate from here. It’s a tricky route, but the impressive views of the waterfalls make it worth it.
- Middle Black Clough
The Peak District’s Middle Black Clough lies in the middle of two other cloughs; Near Black Clough and Far Black Clough. While all three gorges are impressive in their own way, Middle Black Clough has the advantage of having a marvellous 10-metre waterfall. Despite its popularity among hikers, the fall remains blissfully secluded most of the time, and if you get lucky, you may even get the waterfall all to yourself on your visit.
Although virtually hidden, the Middle Black Clough is easy to access. However, the track to the waterfall requires walking through a dense cluster of trees, traversing a river and light scrambling over slippery boulders. Sometimes, the river may be unsuitable for crossing, especially after heavy rain.
- Three Shires Head
Three Shires Head lies on a portion of the River Dane where Cheshire, Derbyshire, and Staffordshire meet, hence ‘three shires.’ One of the most prominent landmarks in the area is the arched stone bridge, which horses carrying panniers used to cross.
Beneath the bridge is the pristine Panniers Pool, famous among wild swimmers for being the perfect spot for an outdoor dip. As the river flows downstream, it rolls over a cluster of rocks, forming two picture-perfect waterfalls.
The lush banks and grassy hillside complete the mesmerising vista. You can go for a swim in the clear water in summer, or if you prefer not to get wet, you can have a picnic alongside the flowing river and scenic waterfalls, watch people splash in the pools, or simply enjoy the natural beauty of the surroundings.
- Birchin Clough
As it tumbles down the rocky cleft of a verdant hillside, the Birchin Clough waterfall looks calming yet spectacular at the same time. After a heavy rain, the scene turns even more majestic as the gentle trickle of water turns into a gushing rapid plummeting over a craggy ravine.
Unlike most secluded waterfalls in the Peak District, Birchin Clough is relatively easy to reach and is close to another famous attraction, the Dovestones Reservoir. To reach the location, you will need to clamber uphill on a trail that can get treacherously slippery and muddy after heavy rain. It’s best to take extra caution and wear boots with enough traction, but once you reach the top of the waterfall you can take in the view of miles upon miles of windswept moorland.
The Peak District has a variety of activities you can do, from walking and climbing to cycling, caving and exploring historical landmarks. But why not try something new the next time you visit this national park?
Chasing waterfalls is something of a new kind of adventure. There is a certain satisfaction in finding these hidden gems in the most unexpected places. Whether you choose to climb the steep slopes to Kinder Downfall, cross the river to Middle Black Clough or brave the coarse path to Blackden Brook, you are sure to experience some of the most unforgettable thrills in the Peak District and see some of the most beautiful sights, too.
If you’re planning a visit to a village in this famous national park and are looking for somewhere to stay, check out our range of self-catering properties in the Peak District.