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©NTPL/Joe Cornish

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Dovedale is one of the most visited sites in the Peak District. The River Dove babbles through this shady limestone gorge and the highlight for many is crossing the river by a series of stepping stones.

This pretty attraction in the Derbyshire Dales has recently been upgraded to National Nature Reserve status, as well as already being a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its rich biodiversity.

In fact it has a full set of titles, including being an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so for those who have not yet visited, imagine the treat that awaits you!

Dovedale made history in 1934 when it was generously gifted to The National Trust by Sir Robert and Lady MacDougall, Mr. F.

©NTPL/Joe Cornish
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Holmes and I.C.I., along with the suggestion that it should be made Britain's first National Park. In 1951 it was incorporated into the larger Peak District National Park and is now enjoyed by two million visitors per year.

Dovedale begins just north of Ashbourne at Thorpe Cloud. The dale follows part of the course of the River Dove, which flows from Axe Edge in Buxton for 45 miles until it reaches the River Trent. Along the way it defines the boundary between Derbyshire and Staffordshire, before reaching the tranquil beauty of Dovedale.

Over the millennia the river has carved out limestone formations such as Lion's Head Rock, Raven's Tor, Reynard's Cave and Lover's Leap. The caves in the Dove Valley have been inhabited since the last Ice age and Reynard's Cave was used by Bronze Age farmers to bury their dead.

There are several places to start your visit to Dovedale. Biggin Hill is a long dry valley which runs down to meet the River Dove at Peaseland Rocks. Milldale Village provides a great starting point for your walk through Dovedale as it is itself a conservation area brimming with wild flowers, birds, insects and wildlife.

Either way, enjoy strolling the three mile stretch of the Dove
©NTPL/Joe Cornish
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Valley on flat limestone trails beneath the shady trees and rocky crags. The broad river banks are ideal for picnics and children play for hours in the shallow water.

There is a famous Viator bridge across the river, but most people choose to use the stepping stones which were originally laid across the river for Victorian tourists who would take donkey rides along the gorge. As the saying goes, there's been plenty of water under the bridge since then. Fortunately the broad flat stones are big enough for strangers to pass midstream without too much inappropriate intimacy!

From the valley bottom, some visitors choose to climb up nearby Wolfscote Hill which towers above Dovedale to a height of 388m (1,272 feet). From its boulder-littered summit there are far-reaching views of the Dovedale Valley in both directions.

Hill walkers, mountain bikers, climbers, botanists, photographers and cavers all find something to enjoy at Dovedale. Visitors may see local hang gliders and paragliders who launch from the hill nearby. The River Dove is particularly popular with anglers and is known for its fine trout fishing.

To complete your visit to Dovedale National Nature Reserve, the Ilam Park Visitors Centre has an excellent exhibition which covers the White Peak area and the geology of Dovedale through a touch screen exhibit.

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By Foot:
Quiet roads and footpaths off the Tissington trail (Ashbourne to Buxton) and Limestone Way (Matlock to Uttoxeter) lead to Dovedale.

By Bike:
National Cycle Network 68 is 4 miles east of Dovedale, then on-road ride along Narlow Lane through Thorpe to Ilam. This road can be busy at times. For more information go to the sustrans website.

By Bus:
Bowers 442 Ashbourne to Buxton, daily, alight Thorpe, Biggin or Hartington for different parts of Dovedale.

Glovers 443 Ashbourne to Ilam (Twice on Thursdays only) alight Izaak Walton Hotel.

By Train:
Matlock 11 miles, Uttoxeter 11 miles, Buxton 15 miles and Derby 16 miles.

By Road:
2 miles off the A515 Ashbourne to Buxton. 25 miles from M1 junction 28 and 25 miles from M6 junction 15.

Car Parks:

Ilam Park, Ilam
OS: SK131506, pay & display (NT members free), £2 for up to 4 hours £4 all day.

Dovedale car park (not NT)
OS: SK146509, pay & display, manned, £2 Coach parking available on roadside prior to car park

Milldale car park (not NT)
OS: SK135548, free parking

Narlow Lane car park (not NT)
OS: SK163505, free parking

Alsop station car park (not NT)
OS: SK156548, free parking

Ordnance Survey maps:
Explorer OL24 Landranger 119

Dovedale Postcode for SatNav: DE6 2AZ


+44 (0)1335 350 503

South Peak Estate Office
Home Farm

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