Dovedale, nestled in the heart of the picturesque Peak District National Park, is a true gem waiting to be discovered. Located between the villages of Ilam and Thorpe, this enchanting valley boasts an abundance of natural beauty, making it the perfect destination for a day out.
Getting to Dovedale is a breeze. If you’re travelling by car, set your satnav to the postcode DE6 2AY, which will lead you to the main Dovedale car park. Alternatively, for those who prefer public transport, hop on a bus from Ashbourne or Buxton, and you’ll be there in no time.
One of Dovedale’s most iconic landmarks is the famous Stepping Stones, a series of flat stones strategically placed across the River Dove. The stones offer a fun and adventurous way to cross the river, but be careful, as they can be slippery! Just a short stroll from the Stepping Stones, you’ll find Lover’s Leap, a breathtaking viewpoint named after a local legend. It’s said that a young woman, heartbroken by unrequited love, leapt from the edge but was saved by the billowing fabric of her dress, which caught on a tree branch.
A visit to Dovedale wouldn’t be complete without exploring its magnificent limestone caves. Thor’s Cave, perched high above the Manifold Valley, is a must-see. Accessible by a steep path, the cave rewards its visitors with stunning views of the valley below. For the more adventurous, Dove Holes, a set of smaller caves, can be found further upstream.
For those who enjoy a good walk, Dovedale offers several routes suitable for all levels of fitness. The Dovedale Valley Walk is a gentle 3-mile (5 km) stroll, perfect for families and those who prefer a leisurely pace. This walk takes you along the River Dove, past the Stepping Stones, and through beautiful woodland teeming with wildlife.
For a more challenging hike, tackle the 6-mile (10 km) Dovedale to Milldale Walk. This route takes you along the river and through the delightful village of Milldale, where you can stop at the lovely Polly’s Cottage for a refreshing cup of tea. As you continue along the trail, you’ll pass Ilam Rock, a towering limestone pillar standing proudly above the river.
If you’re keen to learn more about the area’s history, don’t miss the picturesque village of Ilam. Here, you can explore the stunning Ilam Hall and its gorgeous gardens. The hall dates back to the 16th century and is now managed by the National Trust, providing a fascinating glimpse into the past.
Dovedale’s unique geological features make it a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. The area is home to a variety of bird species, including dippers, wagtails, and kingfishers. You might also spot the rare and protected white-clawed crayfish in the clear waters of the River Dove.
The beauty of Dovedale has inspired many over the years, including the renowned English poet, Samuel Johnson. In 1771, he penned the poem “The Vanity of Human Wishes,” in which he described the valley as “a place where the air is soft and the zephyrs kind.”
Dovedale is also steeped in history, with archaeological finds dating back to the Stone Age. The area’s caves have yielded ancient tools and pottery, providing evidence that people have been drawn to the valley for thousands of years.
In conclusion, Dovedale is undoubtedly a fantastic destination for a day out. Its stunning natural beauty, fascinating history, and variety of walks make it an ideal spot for families, couples, and solo adventurers alike.