PLACES to visit really close to ashbourne
Ashbourne is surrounded by lovely places to visit within just a few miles' drive, walk or cycle ride. Theme parks, stately homes, gardens and some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country are all easily accessible. We have listed our favourites, all within ten miles, in alphabetical order.
If we have missed your favourite place, please get in touch.
Ashbourne is the perfect place to base yourself for visiting the world famous Alton Towers theme park. Take the whole family to enjoy the thrill rides, children's rides and beautiful gardens. Or drop the kids off by the entrance and come back to pick them up later. A visit will take all day so allow yourself plenty of time and try and arrive early. If you can afford it, its worth the extra price of the queue-jump tickets.
It is just twenty minutes drive from Ashbourne. Head out along the A52 in the direction of Leek and follow the brown road signs. Don't take any short-cuts suggested by your satnav as most of these will take you down single track roads without passing places and they may also bring you to the wrong entrance.
Bradley Wood lies to the east of Ashbourne, running for about half a mile alongside the Belper Road, and covers almost 40 acres of steeply sloping hillside. The land was owned by Captain Henry Fitzherbert-Wright, who gave it to the townspeople of Ashbourne in 1935. With this donation Captain Fitzherbert Wright expressed the hope that it would be a means of providing a pleasant haunt for the people of Ashbourne and their children and would be held in perpetuity.
This "pleasant haunt” has become a woodland and wildlife oasis,with magnificent beech trees, gnarled old oaks, firs, and a wide diversity of other trees and vegetation. Its many regular walkers can see buzzards, red kites,woodpeckers and squirrels as well as numerous other smaller woodland birds.
In 2013 the Wood was registered by the Ashbourne Town Council with the Woodland Trust as a Heritage Wood, and as a result it is now recognised for protection from development.
With its network of narrow undulating paths it is a perfect place to walk, and be re-invigorated by the beauty and wildness of the natural environment. See the walks section of this website for several self-guided routes that take in the woods.
Carsington Water is a ten minute drive from Ashbourne - head out on the B5035 signposted for Wirksworth and follow the brown tourist road signs.
The lake is the ninth largest reservoir in England, covering approx 300 hectares and run by the Severn Trent water company. There are three car parks (pay & display), a cafe & visitor centre, toilets, water sports, bike hire and a seven mile circumnavigation suitable for walkers and robust pushchairs. Its good for cycling as well but gets too crowded on busy days. The area around the visitor centre is fully accessible for all.
It is a beautiful place to visit, especially on a warm summers day. Nearby attractions include the Miners Arms pub in Carsington Village, Hopton Hall gardens and Middleton Top.
The magnificent limestone scenery of Dovedale (owned by the National Trust) is just five miles away from Ashbourne. Drive north out of Ashbourne on the Buxton Road and follow the brown tourist road signs. Or alternatively drive via Blore and Ilam.
The short walk from the main Dovedale car park to the famous Dovedale stepping stones is fully accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs and worth doing in its own right. But if you have the time & energy the best way to experience Dovedale is to walk to Milldale (cafe & toilets). There & back will take you half a day from the main car park - its mostly flat apart from one short steep section over lovers leap.
From Dovedale it is an easy walk across fields to Ilam Hall. The more adventurous may want to tackle the climb up Thorpe Cloud but be aware that its very steep and slippery and it is more difficult to get down than up.
The main Dovedale car park (charges apply) has toilets and refreshment kiosk. It gets very busy and on sunny weekends and bank holidays the road between Thorpe and Ilam often gets gridlocked. An alternative is to use Narlows Lane car park (free) in Thorpe opposite The Old Dog pub – from there it is around half an hour’s walk to the stepping stones via Thorpe Pastures and Linn Dale, but you will need a map to find your way. On very busy days one of the local farmers opens a field for parking (charges apply), on the way down the hill from Thorpe. Again its about half an hour's walk from here to the stepping stones and the route is obvious. If you are coming from Blore direction then you can park in the National Trust car park at Ilam Hall (free for NT members) and walk to Dovedale over the fields - again about half an hour and the way is obvious.
Hopton Hall gardens
Hopton Hall is 7 miles from Ashbourne, close by Carsington Water. The house is a private residence not open to the public but the woodland gardens are usually open in February for snowdrops and the formal gardens open in June/July for roses.
At any time of year, it is worth walking the road alongside the gardens, to admire the amazing “crinkle-crankle” wall.
Ilam is a pretty village in the National Park, five miles to the west of Ashbourne.
Ilam Hall is now a youth hostel but the grounds are owned and run by the National Trust with plenty of parking (free for members), cafe & toilets, fabulous views across to Thorpe Cloud & Bunster Hill and gentle riverside walks. There are often organised activities for children in summer - check out the NT website.
It is simple to combine Ilam with Dovedale in one visit. They are just a mile apart along the road or there is an easy scenic walk across fields.
JCB visitor centre
The JCB worldwide headquarters is at Rocester just eight miles south from Ashbourne - take the B5032 from Hanging Bridge towards Ellastone.
Factory tours are sometimes available - check their website for details. The landscaped grounds with lakes, sculptures and fountains are freely open all the time and are popular with runners and dogwalkers - there is plenty of parking.
Kedleston Hall is another National Trust property (free entry for NT members) within easy reach of Ashbourne. It is a gentle ten mile bike ride along quiet back-roads with a cafe for refreshment before the return journey (another good nearby cafe is at Maynell Langley garden centre). By car you can take the A52 to Derby and follow the brown tourist road signs or you can use the back roads via Hulland Ward.
The building was commissioned in the 1750s by Nathaniel Curzon whose ancestors had resided at Kedleston since the 12th century and designed by the architect Robert Adam. The house is framed by historic parkland and boasts opulent interiors intended to impress.
The Manifold trail runs through the Manifold valley between Waterhouses to the south and Hulme End to the north. From 1904 to 1934 this route was the line of the Leek and Manifold narrow gauge railway but it has been converted into an off-road trail for cyclists and walkers.
The southern end is just a ten minute drive from Ashbourne. Head out of Ashbourne on the A52 Leek Road and look for the parking signs on the left when you reach Waterhouses village.
The views are spectacular, including the opportunity to visit Thor's cave. There are several cafes / toilets along the route. Bike hire is available at Brown End farm in Waterhouses. A leisurely ride all the way to Hulme End and back will take around half a day (around twenty miles). Or you can include it as part of a much more strenuous circular ride starting from Ashbourne.
Middleton Top Area
Middleton Top is the imposing building with the tall chimney at the top of the High Peak Trail inclines, that you pass on the way to Cromford. It is the last surviving complete winding engine house built by the Cromford & High Peak Railway Co and still contains its original pair of beam engines. It was one of a series of winding engines and inclines required to lift railway carriages from the Cromford canal up to the High Peak Railway. The engines are still in working order and several times a year there are open days when you can experience them running.
This site also has a visitor centre, cycle hire, car park, toilets and picnic area. The old railway line is now the High Peak Trail, a walking and cycling route which links with The Tissington Trail at Parsley Hay.
A short walk down the incline from Middleton Top is the National Stone Centre, which has a cafe, a self-guided tour around some of the disused limestone quarries above Wirksworth and offers courses in dry-stone walling.
Wirksworth is a charming town that is easily reached by walking on down through the Stone Centre (but remembering you have to walk back up!).
If you carry on down the inclines, past the Stone Centre, you find yourself at Black Rocks and further still at the bottom of the inclines is the Cromford Canal, part of the Derwent Valley World Heritage site.
Milldale and Alstonefield
Milldale is a pretty village just 7 miles from Ashbourne, situated alongside the River Dove around 3 miles from the main Dovedale car park. It has limited parking and most visitors choose to walk there as part of their exploration of Dovedale. Buy a drink or ice-cream from the small cafe (takeaway only) and spend a few peaceful minutes watching the ducks on the river. Most visitors head back the same way but there are several options for circular walks back to the main car park. [links coming soon].
It is well worth the extra effort to take the short walk uphill to Alstonefield, which is one of the prettiest villages in the area, with attractions including picturesque stone cottages, "The George" fine-dining restaurant and a village hall which puts on an impressive series of concerts throughout the year (see the what's on page for more information).
Just along the valley from Milldale is Wolfscote Dale, not quite as spectacular as Dovedale but well worth an extended walk.
Norbury Manor is the former seat of the Fitzherbert family (who now reside in Tissington Hall). The property is a rare example of a medieval hall built on the first floor and once formed part of the private apartments of the Fitzherberts. The surviving part of the original early medieval hall offers a rare king post, Tudor door and 17th-century Flemish glass. Visitors can also find a beautifully maintained small garden space which includes a knot garden, as well as a short walk into the woodland, and path which leads down to the River Dove.
The manor is run by the National Trust (entry is free for NT members) – opening hours are restricted so check their website for details. There are no visitor facilities and parking is limited. It is an easy 5 mile cycle ride from Ashbourne - Sides Lane from Clifton village is a nice quiet road without hills.
Peak Wildlife park
The Peak Wildlife Park is a fifteen minute drive from Ashbourne and is a great place for anyone who loves the animal kingdom. Get to meet penguins, pigs, lemurs, tortoises, sheep, goats, meerkats and more……..
Head out of Ashbourne on the A52 Leek Road and look for signs on the left as you go downhill towards Leek.
The park features walk through areas where you can get up close to the animals and also offers special experiences where you can gain a look behind the scenes and help the keepers.
Run by the National Trust (free entry for members), Sudbury Hall is ten miles to the south of Ashbourne, in Sudbury village just the other side of the A50.
It is the historic country home of one branch of the Vernon family and is notable for its magnificent exterior brickwork.
The Museum of Childhood situated in the Hall’s old service wing is a delight for all ages - discover something new, or relive nostalgic memories. Explore childhoods of times gone by, play with toys and share stories. Try your hand as a chimney sweep, a scullion or a Victorian school pupil, and be captivated by archive film and interactive displays.
The Burrows Garden
The Burrows Gardens is 7 miles from Ashbourne, signposted from the A52 just past Brailsford. It is normally open from April to October, on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Tea and cakes are available on Fridays, Sundays and NGS dates.
With its collection of loved and cared for plants the gardens are ideal for a gentle stroll, a summer picnic or a journey of discovery into the intricacies of Mother Nature. There is something for everybody, whether you are a knowledgeable plants person, a gardener, or just someone who loves the beauty, peace and tranquility of lovely gardens set in 5 acres of beautiful countryside.
Thorpe Cloud is the prominent limestone hill to the north of Ashbourne that can be clearly seen from the hilltop side of town. It is owned and managed by the National Trust and can be climbed or admired as part of a visit to Thorpe or Dovedale or Ilam. If you are driving to walk up the hill then we suggest parking at Narlows Lane, opposite The Old Dog. If you are just driving to look at it then we suggest a circular route via Blore and Thorpe to give the best views of the area. Or for the more active visitor it is an easy nine mile round trip walk from Ashbourne town centre (self-guided walk coming soon).
It is quite a dangerous hill - the paths are steep and slippery and mountain rescue get many call-outs to deal with falls and injuries. Getting down is more difficult than getting up! It is best avoided when the ground is wet and it is essential to follow the main paths, not try and short cut up the sides. The views from the top are magnificent and its a great place to watch the sun go down.
Tissington village is a ten minute drive from Ashbourne – head out north on the Buxton road and follow the brown tourist road signs. Or cycle there along the Tissington Trail.
The village has been managed by the FitzHerbert family since the 1460s, whose hall, erected in 1609, stands prominently in the centre of the village. The village is delightfully laid out with plenty of space and charming cottages mostly built in the early 19th century. It has an imposing southern approach from the A515 via a grand gateway and an avenue of lime trees. There is a cafe and various craft shops in the village and public toilets at the Tissington Trail station. Plentiful parking is available around the village square or at the station.
The village is perhaps most famous for the annual well dressing, which attracts coachloads of visitors from around the region (see the what’s on page for this year's dates).
Wild Park Derbyshire
Wild Park Derbyshire is a family-run outdoor activity centre offering paintballing, laser tag, quad biking, archery, crossbow and pistol shooting. Its open seven days a week and you can come as a family, as an individual or as a bigger group.
There are also excellent on-site conference facilities which makes it perfect for corporate events.
Head out of Ashbourne on the A52 towards Derby and its on the left just past Brailsford.