Dovedale (Ashbourne Circular) walk

Through a pastoral landscape to the Peak District's most famous and scenic dale with its ravines, crags, pinnacles, arches and caves

Thorpe Cloud and Bend in River by the Stepping Stones SWC Walk 326 - Dovedale (Ashbourne Circular)

Thorpe Cloud and Bend in River by the Stepping Stones

SWC Walk 326 - Dovedale (Ashbourne Circular)

25-Apr-19 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Thorpe Cloud from field above Izaak Walton Hotel SWC Walk 326 - Dovedale (Ashbourne Circular)

Thorpe Cloud from field above Izaak Walton Hotel

SWC Walk 326 - Dovedale (Ashbourne Circular)

25-Apr-19 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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View back down Hall Dale SWC Walk 326 - Dovedale (Ashbourne Circular) [Long Version via Alstonefield]

View back down Hall Dale

SWC Walk 326 - Dovedale (Ashbourne Circular) [Long Version via Alstonefield]

25-Apr-19 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Viator's Bridge, Milldale SWC Walk 326 - Dovedale (Ashbourne Circular) [Long Version via Alstonefield]

Viator's Bridge, Milldale

SWC Walk 326 - Dovedale (Ashbourne Circular) [Long Version via Alstonefield]

25-Apr-19 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Ilam Rock and Footbridge, Dovedale SWC Walk 326 - Dovedale (Ashbourne Circular)

Ilam Rock and Footbridge, Dovedale

SWC Walk 326 - Dovedale (Ashbourne Circular)

25-Apr-19 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Raised Boardwalk, Dovedale SWC Walk 326 - Dovedale (Ashbourne Circular)

Raised Boardwalk, Dovedale

SWC Walk 326 - Dovedale (Ashbourne Circular)

25-Apr-19 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Thorpe Cloud and Bunster Hill (1st walk recce in Jan 19) SWC Walk 326 - Dovedale (Ashbourne Circular)

Thorpe Cloud and Bunster Hill (1st walk recce in Jan 19)

SWC Walk 326 - Dovedale (Ashbourne Circular)

19-Jan-19 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Length

20.0 km (12.4 mi), with 543m ascent/descent. For a longer or shorter walk see below Walk Options.

Toughness

6 out of 10, with 5 hours walking time. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 12 hours.

Walk Notes

A walk from Ashbourne, a pretty market town near the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border where the Midlands’ plains meet highland Britain, through the White Peak area and the Peak’s most scenic and famous dale.

You follow a dismantled railway line out of town and then a whaleback-shaped ridge north through a lovely pastoral landscape to Thorpe, where the isolated reef limestone hills of Thorpe Cloud and Bunster Hill guard the southerly end of Dovedale. The route initially skirts to the west of the dale around Bunster Hill to avoid the early day crowds in the dale and later climbs up the hill to stay high above the dale on an airy route before dropping down into it through woods. The core part of Dovedale, with its numerous impressive limestone ravines and cliffs, towering crags and pinnacles, arches and caves, is then walked downstream – flanked by some of the best calcareous ash woods in England – to the most iconic part of Dovedale: the picturesque Stepping Stones. A final ascent through the scenic Lin Dale with fantastic back views is followed by a long stretch back to Ashbourne along the dismantled railway line.
Note: stretches of the path above Dovedale – above a very steep hanging wood – are a little exposed.

A short walk gets you straight to the Stepping Stones and you can add an easy out-and-back up Dovedale.
A long walk also takes in Hall Dale en route to lunch and returns through the full length of Dovedale.

Walk Options

A Short Walk to the base of Thorpe Cloud and then along the River Dove to the Stepping Stones and the bottom of Dovedale proper is 13.8 km/8.6 mi long with 213m ascent (rated 2/10). This can/should be combined with an (flat bar one small ascent) out-and-back up Dovedale towards Milldale hamlet with its tea option of a length of your choosing (up to 4.2 km/2.6 mi each way).
An alternative route in the morning along an elevated path across the nose of the ridge of Bunster Hill (rather than around the base of it) saves a bit of distance, but is only recommended in dry conditions.
An out-and-back Extension to the main walk from the footbridge over the River Dove north along Dovedale (flat) towards Milldale hamlet with its tea option adds anything up to 1.9 km/1.2 mi each way.
An Extension of the main walk up Hall Dale, through Hopedale and via Alstonefield village and Milldale hamlet creates a 26.5 km/16.4 mi walk with 772m ascent/descent, rated 8/10.
A variation of that extension leads to the alternative lunch stop The Watts Russell Arms.
A (map-led) ascent of Thorpe Cloud in the afternoon adds 250m and 125m ascent/descent.
Bus line 442 from Fenny Bentley to Ashbourne (late afternoon Mon-Sat), 1.2 km off-route, cuts 3.5 km/2.2 mi.

Maps

OS Explorer: 259 (Derby) & OL24 (The Peak District – White Peak Area)
OS Landranger: 119 (Buxton & Matlock)
Harvey Superwalker XT25: Peak District South (but not the area south of Thorpe Cloud)
Harvey British Mountain Map: White Peak

Travel

Ashbourne bus station, map reference SK 180 465, is 20 km north west of Derby, 200 km north west of Charing Cross, 118m above sea level and in Derbyshire. It is served by many buses from all corners of the Peak District and surrounding areas, most useful are those from Derby: lines 114 Derby - Ashbourne (Mon-Sat, 54 mins, from/to Derby train station) and Swift Derby - Uttoxeter (daily, 37 mins journey time - quicker on the return, from/to Derby bus station). A 1.1 km walk in Derby from train station to bus station is needed for the Swift bus and is described at the start of the directions and also shown on the route map. Derby Station is on the Midland Main Line from London St. Pancras, with two trains per hour Monday to Saturday, one per hour Sundays (journey time from 84 mins Monday-Saturday, much longer on Sundays).

Saturday Walkers’ Club: Take a train no later than 8.30 hours.

Lunch

The Dovedale Bar at the Izaak Walton Hotel Ilam, Dovedale, Ashbourne, Staffordshire, DE6 2AY (01335 350 981). The Izaak Walton is located 7.1 km/4.4 mi into the walk.
The Watts Russell Arms Hopedale, Alstonefield, Staffordshire, DE6 2GD (01335 310 126). The Watts Russell is located off-route of the long version of the walk, on a variant. Its food service hours are a bit longer than those at The George.
The George at Alstonefield Alstonefield, Staffordshire, DE6 2FX (01335 310 205). The George is located 14.3 km/8.9 mi into the extended walk. An award-winning family run pub, recognised by The Good Food Guide since 2009; and by Michelin and Sawday’s.

Tea

Tea (en route):
Polly’s Cottage Millway Lane, Milldale, Alstonefield, Staffordshire, DE6 2GB (01335 310 486). Polly’s Cottage is located 15.5 km/9.6 mi into the extended walk (or on out-and-back diversions from the main (after 13.0 km/8.1 mi) and short walks (after 11.3 km/7.0 mi)). A lovely takeout shop selling hot and cold drinks, hot pies, sandwiches and ice creams.
The Old Dog Spend Lane, Thorpe, Ashbourne, DE6 2AT, (01335 350 990). The Old Dog is located 5.0 km/3.1 mi from the end of the walk. “Low Lighting, No Bookings.”
The Station Hotel Station Road, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, DE6 1AA (01335 300 035).

Tea (in Ashbourne, on the optional route through town):
The Maison de Bière, Café Impromptu, Dillon’s Tea House and Café, The Greenman, The Horns Inn Victoria Square, Ye Olde Vaults Micropub, The White Swan, The George & Dragon, The Coach & Horses, The Wheel Inn.

Tea (Fenny Bentley Ending):
The Coach & Horses.

Tea (near Derby Bus Station): [all within 150m of the bus station, but on the town centre side]
The Castle & Falcon, The White Horse, Noah’s Ark, and several options for food in the INTU Shopping Centre (formerly Westfield).

Tea (near Derby Train Station):
The Brunswick Inn, The Victoria Inn, The Waterfall, The Merry Widows.

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Start Ashbourne, Derbyshire, DE6 1BW Map Directions

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National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline (bus times): 0871 200 22 33 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234

Version

Nov-21 Thomas G

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Walk Directions  

Full directions for this walk are in a PDF file (link above) which you can print, or download on to a Kindle, tablet, or smartphone.

This is just the introduction. This walk's detailed directions are in a PDF available from wwww.walkingclub.org.uk