Rudyard Reservoir

An exploration of the Victorian tourist spot that gave Kipling his name.


Rudyard Reservoir


4.5 miles (7.2kms)

180ft (55m)
1hr 45min

About the walk

Rudyard Reservoir was created in 1800 to provide an adequate water supply to the region’s canals. It wasn’t until the second half of the century, however, that it was commercially exploited as a major tourist attraction, thanks to the fast-growing popularity of boating and picnicking among the Victorian middle classes.

In its heyday, the waterfront would have been awash with holidaymakers escaping from the smoggy industrial towns at weekends, with a funfair, bandstand and dance floor for the adults, and carousels, slides and swings for the children. Ice skating was very popular in the winter, when fairy lights were hung from trees, and great fires on the shore enabled night skating and dancing. The reservoir was also the scene of some amazing spectacles. In June 1861, the memorably named African Blondin walked over the reservoir on a tightrope. (He was a pupil of the great Charles Blondin, renowned for crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope.)

However, it was at a Victorian picnic in April 1863 that the reservoir’s name was assured its place in literary history, when renowned pottery designer John Lockwood Kipling met his bride-to-be Alice Macdonald. History has it that the courting couple spent much of their time here and were so fond of the memories that they named their first son after the reservoir. Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay on 30 December 1865 and spent his first five years in India, before being sent to England to stay with a foster family. After finishing his schooling he returned to India to work as a journalist on the Civil and Military Gazette, but during his spare time he wrote the first of the poems and stories that would later make him famous. He went on to write many more, including his most famous poem, If. Despite his popular and critical success, Kipling declined many of the honours that were offered to him, including a knighthood, Poet Laureateship and the Order of Merit, but in 1907, aged 42, he accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Walk directions

From the car park, which is at the far end of a potholed dirt track off Beat Lane, take the left fork underneath the obvious bridge. Follow the wide, gravel bridleway along the shore, with a mini-gauge railway just to the left (see While You’re There). Continue towards the end of the reservoir.

Nearing the end and just after the Lakeside Loop signal box there’s a short track to the right of the main path up to a scenic picnic area. After this cross the dam at the head of the reservoir (a pay telescope gives wider views). Bear right to the visitor centre and toilets.

From the visitor centre and toilet block head away from the reservoir up the footpath beside some prominent black railings (not the vehicle drive through the wide gate). At the top is a metalled road. Turn left to reach the Hotel Rudyard, otherwise turn right and then fork left at The Crescent, after which the road becomes a gravel track. Where the track veers right, take the narrow footpath straight ahead (avoiding the private road into the caravan park). Just after the brow of the rise is a junction of two paths. Fork right, then go straight ahead along the road. Go downhill and left on a path before a private drive. At the far end turn right onto a road. Continue above the shore until it becomes unsurfaced at Rudyard Lake Sailing Club.

After 400yds (366m) along the wooded path, cross the stile into a clearing with views over the water. The path eases gently uphill to a gate with a chain, which signals your arrival at the vast Victorian pile of Cliffe Park Hall.

Continue past the building and down the gently sloping drive. At the far end turn right onto a small, surfaced road, back towards the reservoir. Go over the stile beside the cattle grid and continue around the end of the reservoir to the car park.

Additional information

Gravel bridleways, footpaths and roads, several stiles

Lakeside and woodland

Good, but care should be taken near wildfowl

OS Explorer 268 Wilmslow, Macclesfield & Congleton

Car park at northeast corner of reservoir

Opposite visitor centre at reservoir's southwest corner

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About the area

Discover Staffordshire

It was Staffordshire that bore the brunt of the largest non-nuclear explosion of World War II, when a munitions dump at RAF Fauld went up in 1944. It was also the county’s regiment that once boasted within its ranks the most decorated NCO of World War I, in the person of William Coltman (1891-1974). Going back a little further, George Handel penned his world-famous masterpiece The Messiah on Staffordshire soil. During another chapter of Staffordshire history, the county was home to the first canals and the first factory in Britain, and it had front-row seats for the drama surrounding one of the most notorious murder trials of the 19th century, that of Doctor William Palmer.

In outline, Staffordshire looks not unlike the profile of a man giving Leicestershire a big kiss. The man’s forehead is arguably the best region for hillwalking, as it comprises a significant chunk of the Peak District. This area is characterised by lofty moors, deep dales and tremendous views of both. Further south are the six sprawling towns that make up Stoke-on-Trent, which historically have had such an impact on Staffordshire’s fortunes, not to mention its culture and countryside. This is pottery country, formerly at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution and the driving force behind a network of canals that still criss-cross the county.

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