Continuing on our series of features celebrating our home in Derbyshire, and picking up on the theme of sustainable travel, Anna talks about her ultra-local staycation in Derbyshire…
“Having booked a Friday off work and with no chance of more leave until December, a weekend away was calling. A spa weekend, a short flight to Amsterdam or Berlin, a city break in York or Edinburgh? The choices were all pretty exciting!
After pledging to live a more sustainable lifestyle though going too far felt a little excessive for only 3 days. That was Amsterdam and Berlin out, and Edinburgh too really. However relaxing we imagined a spa weekend or a city break it just didn’t seem like it would quench the need for the adventure me and my husband had niggling away.
Why not discover more of what lies on our doorstep? Wouldn’t it be good to just walk out of the house with minimal ‘stuff’ and return 3 days later? We set to checking out the map and local B and Bs.
Wirksworth – Middleton – Bonsall
Walking out of the house with nothing but a small backpack and a map is pretty liberating! There’s nothing like shutting the door behind you and setting off on an adventure – not even getting in the car or on the bus felt great…and the sun was shining too!
We set off up towards Middleton via Middleton Road and the views across to Bolehill already made us wonder why we had wanted to go further afield. We walked up to the Nelson Arms in Middleton and took a right following the farm track and the amazing views of Riber Castle and Black Rocks down into the valley of the Via Gellia.
Reaching the old mill pond at the bottom we crossed the road and headed up into gorgeous Bonsall. Bonsall feels like a place stuck in another time with it’s stone houses and feeling of being pretty cut off. Despite being so close to Cromford, Wirksworth and Matlock it is surrounded by beautiful fields, sheep, horses and cows and when you are walking those places can feel a long way away – this just adds to the sense of adventure! There is also a working quarry nearby and with most having been shut down many years ago now hearing the siren to warn of blasting set us on edge for a second – it sounds exactly like an air raid siren!
Just above Bonsall runs the Limestone Way and this is the route we hooked onto to get to Youlgreave, our stop for the first night. It took us up through the fields and styles towards Winster, overlooking the Derwent Valley for a lot of the way. As we started to pass above picturesque Winster the heavens opened though and there was nothing to do but shield behind a weedy looking bush – thank goodness for waterproof jacket, bags and a bag of sweets to pass the time.
Winster – Youlgreave
Luckily the Miners Standard was just up ahead and as the rain subsided we made a run for the dry pub and a bowl of soup. By the time we had finished the rain had stopped and we continued on the Limestone Way which runs behind the pub.
We followed it up to Robin Hood’s Stride, a tor of gritstone rocks towering above the green landscape around it. Up to the right is a path leading up to the earie Hermit’s Cave and from a little further up the track you can also see down to the Nine Stones stone circle – there’s a number of stone circles in this area and seeing them really helps you gauge how long people have been walking across these hills.
Youlgreave quickly appears down to the right after passing over Robin’s Hood Stride. It was a relief to see it – I was well ready for a pint of ale and some kind of pie (When in Rome!). The path takes you down to Bradford Dale with it’s swimming pond made out of the river – too cold for that right now though – and from there there’s just one last steepish walk up between you and the George Inn!
Youlgreave – Lathkill Dale – Sheldon
In Youlgreave we stayed in a really affordable room which we found on Airbnb. We’d not stayed in a room in someone’s house before and the owner, Phoebe, made us feel really at home. There was a fridge, kettle, toaster, homemade bread, jam, milk, tea, coffee and cereal and a view looking out the castle ring – it’s the footprint of an ancient castle overlooking the village and another sight which just makes you realise the draw this area has had with people since the Bronze Age.
After an evening in the George Inn and a good sleep we set off at 9am and headed down into Lathkill Dale. This is a really beautiful dale with steep sides and a completely clear river running through it which leads into large pools at various points. We walked down over Conksbury Bridge and up the road to meet the path which leads up to Over Haddon. The morning fog hung in Lathkill Dale and from Over Haddon it looked like a long fog slug winding through the dale.
Having left the Limestone Way we took a path up through the fields towards Sheldon. This is a pretty steady up through fields of cattle and sheep and leads to Magpie Mine. This old lead mine was used for over 250 years and although I’ve lived in the area for over 10 years I had no idea it was here. It is a large, well kept site and even has stories of a curse attached to it after 1 group of miner’s killed 3 from another group in the underground tunnels in 1833.
In Sheldon we met a photography group who traipse over the hills every other weekend looking for the best shots – it had only been a little over a day away but it felt like we’d not seen people for ages! The path then leads north and to the edge of one of the steepest dales in Derbyshire, Deep Dale.
Deep Dale – Monsal Dale – Tideswell
Having expected a steep track down I’d imagined steps or at least something to hold on to but there was nothing but a rickety wire fence. It was unbelievably steep and made of mud and wet rocks – none of this was good for my fear of heights but I wasn’t going back.
Stepping down sideways and very gingerly we made it to the stream at the bottom and breathed a big sigh of relief. As we walked over the A6 to join into Monsal Dale we felt like we had conquered a big chunk of the White Peak’s challenges and we were satisfied we were having an adventure!
Monsal Dale is one of my favourite places in the Peak District National Park. It has a magical quality with it’s river winding through the steep sided valley. When coming in from the A6 side there is a path over the river which snakes up through the wood to Monsal Head and the Stables Bar. This is the best spot for lunch and the views are tremendous, looking over the winding valley below and the Victorian viaduct – left from when the steam trains ran from Bakewell to Buxton and on to Manchester.
The Monsal Trail is now popular with cyclists and walkers and the hamlets of Cressbrook and Litton Mill are lovely places to walk through, especially Cressbrook and it’s towering, grand old mill. The long, old train tunnels have also been restored and they mean that you can cut off the corners and pass above both villages. After the Litton Mill tunnel there is a path down to the right leading into Litton Mill and from here take a left down on the road before taking a right a few hundred metres up and into Tideswell Dale.
Whilst not quite as grand or as deep, Tideswell Dale is another beautiful walk. It is peaceful, relatively short and a great end to our adventure. I welcomed the flat, gentle walk through here as my boots were now continuously rubbing on my ankles and I was ready to stop! Tideswell is known as the ‘Catherdral of the Peak’ for it’s huge church in the centre of town and after having a look at the Church and a walk around this picturesque village we settled in for the night at the comfortable George Inn – yes, another George Inn!
Tideswell – Matlock Bath – Wirksworth
After stuffing ourselves with dinner, wine, beer and food (well it was a holiday after all!) we took the bus to meet the Transpeak service from Manchester on the A6 and from here we were taken all the way back to Matlock Bath, just 2 miles from Wirksworth.
Matlock Bath is a Victorian spa town set in a majestic gorge, once advertised around the world as the Switzerland of England. It is full of traditional shop fronts and is set up like a seaside promenade…with the River Derwent as the sea! It also has all the seaside attractions with fish and chips, candy floss, arcades plus a mining museum, the old Victorian baths, an aquarium and a path along the river called ‘Lovers Walk’. This path also takes you up the side of the gorge to High Tor, a precipice above the town with great views…today was about fun and relaxation though so we stuck to coffee, cake and the 2p slot machines!
Walking back along the river towards Wirksworth we saw heritage steam rollers being brought through and passed Arkwright’s, Masson Mill – the finest example of an Arkwright cotton mill.
Sitting back in Mercia Restaurant, one of our favourite spots in Wirksworth, we felt alive, if a bit knackered! We felt like we had explored such a lot of our local area and had discovered new places which we hadn’t expected. Derbyshire really is a special place, full of history, stories and raw natural beauty. We are already planning our next trip up beyond Tideswell and into the wilderness of the Dark Peak.”
We’d love to get more inspiration for staycations – they not only maximise important holiday time by cutting travelling but they support local businesses and reduce our environmental impact.
Please do tell us about your staycation, wherever you may be, in the comments below.