Peaks and Pots, Trams and Cable Cars

Think of Derbyshire think of walking in the Peak District, true but Derbyshire has more than just hills and views to draw the crowds.  Let’s start in the south of the county where the county town of Derby offers plenty to tempt the shopaholic.  This modern city, is proud of its engineering heritage and its position at the forefront of invention.  In keeping with this tradition a unique system of signposting has been installed which will send information to your mobile phone.  Download a brochure to help you to use the system.

Derby is probably best known as being a railway town and home of Rolls Royce.  The Roundhouse was once the largest turning shed in the world.  The crumbling ruin was restored and is now part of Derby University.  It remains open to the public.

The city of Derby is also home to Royal Crown Derby and Denby potteries.  Both have visitor centres and factory shops which are open throughout the year.  Royal Crown Derby is situated on Osmaston Road just outside the centre of town.  You have to travel to Denby to visit the Denby Pottery factory.  The choice of visit will largely reflect your choice of tableware available in the factory shops on each site.

So, what about the children?  Head out of Derby towards Matlock where there are several places to keep the kids amused, and dare I suggest add to their education?  The Tramway Museum at Crich makes for a great day out.  Step back in time into a village setting where you can shop for sweets and souvenirs or take a pint in the local – all lovingly restored to their own period of time.  At least two trams run all day and every day, with more brought out of the sheds in busy periods.  Children will love riding on the trams and dads and granddads will enjoy touring the workshops.  The education centre offers a variety of activities for children to complete during their visit.  Indoor and outdoor play areas ensure that a day will not be long enough.

Matlock and Matlock Bath together form a great location with plenty to attract families.  Start by taking a ride up to the Heights of Abraham.  Starting from Matlock Bath, modern cable cars carry you across the road and up to the top of the ridge where you will find plenty to while away a few hours.  Walk through the woodlands on winding paths and enjoy the spectacular views over the Derwent valley below.  If the children still have energy to spare, the adventure playground offers plenty of opportunities for climbing and sliding.  Top off your visit by joining one of the regular guided tours through the caverns left in the hillside as a result of mining activities in the past.  Refreshments are available in the visitor centre.

A stroll through Matlock Bath, along the side of the river, leads past the aquarium housed in what was once the thermal baths in Victorian times.  There are plenty of shops and eating places along the road providing a full range of meals and snacks to eat in or take away. 

Matlock is the centre for shopping and here you will find the Peak Railway.  This steam railway is open throughout the year offering journeys through the peaks.  Check dates for services and special events.

Derbyshire is famous for its well-dressing, a tradition that dates back to the Great Plague which claimed the lives of nearly one third of the population, but left some villages untouched.  Many villages take part in this traditional display and a visit to one of many wells can be combined with other activities, for example a cycle ride from Ashbourne along the Tissington Trail will take in the wells at Tissington along the way.  Starting from Ashbourne, the trail runs on disused railway tracks for thirteen miles.  Bikes are available for hire along the route.

The town of Ashbourne makes a great centre for exploring the walks through the dales.  The town holds an annual ball game at Easter when the whole of the town centre is closed as the old traditional game is played between the Uppers and the Downers.

Just outside the town is Dovedale which offers arguably the most attractive walks of the area. Children will enjoy crossing the river Dove using the famous stepping stones.  Back in town there are plenty of shops, pubs and cafes to revive you after your walk.

Just outside Ashbourne you will find Carsington Water where the visitor centre offers sailing, canoeing, fishing and cycling.  Equipment is available for hire, and RYA courses are on offer for would be sailors.  Cycle hire includes electric bikes to help you with the hills!  Climbers are not forgotten at the centre with introductory courses on offer, using a state of the art outdoor climbing wall.

Lovers of historic houses will find plenty to visit in Derbyshire.  Starting from Chesterfield, famous for its church with the crooked spire where both Hardwick Hall and Bolsover Castle offer tours of the houses and gardens.  Opening times and prices vary.  Hardwick Hall is owned by the National Trust and Bolsover Castle by English Heritage.  Members of these organisations enjoy a discounted entry rate.  Both houses stage special events during the season.

Less well known is that the Chesterfield Canal is reputed to be one of the most beautiful and varied in the country.  It runs for 46 miles from the river Trent and every inch of the canal has a towpath which is accessible and creates a pleasant walk for all ages and abilities.  The towpath is known as The Cuckoo Way.  Boat trips run on Sundays from Tapton Lock.  Advance booking is highly recommended.

Perhaps the most famous stately home in Derbyshire is Chatsworth House.  This beautiful house, set amid the Peak National Park between Chesterfield and Bakewell, has many attractions.  The house, gardens, farmyard where animals can be handled and an adventure playground are open throughout the year, but check opening times before setting out, and allow plenty of time to enjoy all that is on offer.  Don’t forget to visit the farm shop, which specialises in locally produced foods.  Save plenty of time for the array of shopping opportunities at Chatsworth.

Visitors to Derbyshire who come specifically to visit the Peak District will be aware of the spectacular and rugged landscape and of the opportunities for walking and climbing in the area. 

Whatever your reason for coming to Derbyshire – why not try something different from the many and varied attractions found in the county.

Last updated on 23/07/2015 10:36am by Sharon Eason
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