20.0 km (12.4 mi). Cumulative ascent/descent: 509m.
For a longer or shorter walk, see below Walk Options.
7 out of 10
Time: 5 hours walking time. For the whole outing, including trains, sights and meals, allow at least 12 hours.
Ashbourne Bus Station 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.
OS Landranger Map: 119 (Buxton & Matlock)
OS Explorer Map: 259 (Derby) & OL24 (The Peak District – White Peak Area)
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 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.
A short walk gets you straight to the Stepping Stones and you can add an easy out-and-back up Dovedale.
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 of a length of your choosing (up to 4.2 km/2.6 mi each way).
An out-and-back Extension to the main walk from the footbridge over the River Dove north along Dovedale (flat) towards Milldale adds anything up to 3.8 km/2.4 mi.
An Extension of the main walk up Hall Dale and via Alstonefield and Milldale creates a 26.3 km/16.4 mi walk with 743m ascent/descent, rated 9/10.
Bus line 442 from Fenny Bentley to Ashbourne (late afternoon Mon-Sat), 1.2 km off-route and reached map-led at the moment, cuts 3.5 km/2.2 mi.
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. Open daily all year 08.00-23.00.
Tea (en route):
Tea (in Ashbourne, on the optional route through town):
Tea (near Derby Bus Station): [all within 150m of the bus station, but on the town centre side]
Ashbourne is a fine old market town in the Derbyshire Dales, close to the southern edge of the Peak District and near the county boundary with Staffordshire. It contains many historical buildings and independent shops and is famous for its annual Shrovetide football match over Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. Being the closest town to the very popular Dovedale, the town is known as both the 'Gateway to Dovedale' and the 'Southern Gateway to the Peak District'. Tourism therefore forms an important element of the local economy. The cobbled market place hosts a market every Thursday and Saturday throughout the year, complementing the wide range of individual shops in the town, which in 2005 became a Fairtrade Town. Almost one in four buildings in the town have either been an alehouse, pub or inn or were redeveloped on the site of such an establishment. 11 pubs are currently trading, a high number for a town of 8,000 people.
The Royal Shrovetide Football Match is a "Medieval football" game in which one half of the town plays the other at football, uses the town as the pitch, with the goals 5 km apart near former mills on the Henmore Brook (a tributary of The Dove). Several thousand players compete with a hand-painted, cork-filled ball. The game is played by two teams, the Up'ards and the Down'ards (representing the upper and lower parts of the town, with the Henmore Brook the boundary), over two 8-hour periods (14.00-22.00 hours), subject to only a few rules. A moving mass (the Hug) continues through the roads of the town, across fields and along the bed of the Henmore Brook. That is why shops in the town are boarded up during the game, and people are encouraged to park their cars away from the main streets. If a goal is scored (in local parlance, the ball is goaled) before 17.30 hours, a new ball is released and play restarts from the town centre, otherwise play ends for the day. The game has been played for centuries, perhaps even over 1,000 years, and there were attempts to ban it, but to no avail.
Two short country walks have been created north and south of the town, featuring Royal Shrovetide Football Challenge Walks markers.
Ashbourne - Buxton Railway
The Ashbourne line joined the North Staffordshire Railway (NSR) at Ashbourne, proceeding to Uttoxeter, together they ran for 54 km (33.5 mi). It was built by the London and North Western Railway using a section of the Cromford and High Peak Railway. The country between Buxton and Ashbourne was sparsely populated, and the terrain immensely difficult, but a lucrative trade in limestone developed which was one motivation for building the line. Another was rivalry between neighbouring railway companies. Despite the relatively short length of this branch line, it was deservedly popular with walkers and ramblers, enjoying its heyday in the 1930s. Apart from the elevated views over the Peak District itself, a large attraction was that it passed close to Dovedale. Nowadays all trace of the old NSR lines has practically disappeared, the track bed from Ashbourne to Parsley Hay though was acquired by Derbyshire County Council and the Peak National Park for a cycle and walking route. This, the Tissington Trail, was one of the first of such ventures in the country. Later, Ashbourne Tunnel was acquired by Sustrans.
The Peak District (National Park)
The Peak District is an upland area at the southernmost end of the Pennines. The Peak District National Park is one of the UK’s most popular and is located within the boundaries of five counties (Derbys., Ches., Staffs., Yorks. and Greater Manchester). Founded in 1951, it was the first national Park in England. The Park spans an area of around 1,440 km2 (550 mi2) and – despite its name – its terrain consists mainly of rolling hills, farmland, moorland and some gritstone escarpments (the "edges"). It is however significantly higher than much of the terrain in the surrounding area.
The Tissington Trail is a bridleway, footpath and cycleway, along part of the track bed of the former railway line connecting Ashbourne to Buxton. It takes its name from the village of Tissington, which it skirts. Opened in 1971, and now a part of the National Cycle Network, it stretches for 21 km (13 mi) from Parsley Hay in the north to Ashbourne in the south. At Parsley Hay, it is joined by the High Peak Trail. http://www.derbyshire-peakdistrict.co.uk/tissingtontrail.htm
Dove Valley/River Dove/Dovedale
The River Dove is 72 km (45 mi) long and the principal river of the southwestern Peak District. It rises on Axe Edge Moor near Buxton and flows generally south to its confluence with the River Trent at Newton Solney. For almost its entire course it forms the boundary between Staffordshire and Derbyshire. En route it cuts through a set of stunning limestone gorges known collectively as Dovedale: Beresford Dale, Wolfscote Dale, Milldale and Dovedale, i.e. the name Dovedale is also – and now more commonly – used for just the 5 km (3 mi) stretch between Milldale in the north and a wooded ravine near Thorpe Cloud and Bunster Hill in the south, before its major tributary the Manifold river joins the Dove.
The Limestone Way is a 74.7 Km (46.4 miles) waymarked long-distance footpath in Derbyshire. It runs through the limestone scenery in the heart of the White Peak area of the Peak District, from Castleton south through Peak Forest, Miller’s Dale, Monyash, Youlgreave, Matlock, Parwich, Tissington, Thorpe, Lower Ellastone and finishing in the Dove valley at Rocester over the county boundary in Staffordshire. It originally ran only to Matlock, but was diverted to its current, longer route to join up with the Staffordshire Way.
Friends of the Peak District Boundary Walk
The Boundary Walk is a 305 km (190 mi) waymarked Long-Distance Path which never strays far from the boundary of the Peak District National Park. It was devised in 2017 by Friends of the Peak District, a branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). It follows existing paths, tracks and quiet lanes, past or through dramatic crags, open moorland, quiet woodlands and some popular trails. A guide book is available. https://www.friendsofthepeak.org.uk/boundary-walk/
The Peak Pilgrimage is a 63 km (39 mi) waymarked linear Long-Distance Path through South Derbyshire from Ilam to Eyam. It was created by Eyam Parish Church and is marketed as a ‘spiritual journey’.
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National Rail: 03457 48 49 50 • Travelline SE (bus times): 0871 200 2233 (12p/min) • TFL (London) : 0343 222 1234
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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