Things to Do
For tourists seeking a town with a rural, close-knitted community feel to it, the Peak District’s very own Ashbourne is an ideal location. Heralded as ‘the gateway to Dovedale’, Ashbourne is an ideal place to start your Peak District adventure. Totally surrounded by valleys and gorges, Ashbourne is truly the epitome of Peak District scenery, showcasing the very best in rural landscapes and the famed-limestone ravines. Ashbourne also offers quick access to two of the most popular climbs in the district, Thrope Cloud and Bunster Hill.
It’s complete ruralness creates a close-knitted community, where it is claimed that everyone knows everybody. This community-feel is best demonstrated amongst the towns shopping district, with a wide variety of independent shops helping each other out and trading amongst each other. This feeling of community is continued over to the towns weekly market, where local produce is sold and bought.
Ashbourne is a town of tradition and creativity, epitomised by the towns annual event, the Shrovetide Football match, which sees the town split in two to compete in a medieval football match.
Alongside a fascinating selection of Tudor and Georgian houses, intertwined with fascinating landmarks such as the famed St Oswald’s Church, Ashbourne is the epitome of a quaint, English town, and should be made part of any trip around the Peak District.
Town Centre- Famed for its wide variety of both chain retailers and independent purveyors, Ashbourne is, according to locals, the shopping mecca of the lower regions of the Peak District. In a time when high streets and shopping districts are losing footing with the rise in online shopping and chain stores, Ashbourne’s shopping thoroughfare has been able to maintain a strong sense of purpose amongst both retailers and shoppers. Alongside big-name brands such as Mountain Warehouse, Fatface, and the Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Ashbourne is also home to a plethora of thriving, locally-trading boutiques, antique dealers, arts and crafts shops, florists, and jewellers, which makes for a highly personal shopping experience.
Ashbourne’s town centre is also host to several highly rated pubs and eateries, such as the Lamplight Restaurant, the Bridge, and the George & Dragon, to name a few.
Market – To complement the towns already abundant shopping centre, Ashbourne’s quaint and cobbled Market Square features a local market every Thursday and Saturday, where one is sure to find fresh farm foods, antique furnishings, unique adornments, and a buzzing atmosphere!
Walks and Hikes
Dovedale – Known as ‘the gateway to Dovedale’, a visit to Ashbourne is incomplete without exploring the town’s stunning local valley. Pulling in millions of visitors every year, Dovedale truly has it all in terms of Peak District scenery: the Dovedale River runs for three-miles and takes you to the foot of Thrope Cloud and Bunster Hill, two of the best family-favourite gradients to climb in the Peak District, each showcasing some spectacular views of both Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Besides the hills, Dovedale has plenty of fascinating woodland areas, and limestone ravines to be explored.
Ashbourne Tunnel – a popular destination for those seeking a highly unique walk or cycle, the Ashbourne Tunnel is disused 19th-century railway tunnel, running for 350-metres in total, under Ashbourne itself. The tunnel has been kitted out with both lights and sound installation, which regularly plays the sound of a moving steam engine, recreating the noises that would have echoed off the walls many years ago, making for a highly immersive and welcoming experience.
Local Landmarks and Museums
St Oswald’s Church – One of the most impressive structures in the whole of the Peak District, St Oswald’s Church and it’s 212ft high spire acts as the focal point to the town of Ashbourne, despite the fact that the church lies at the bottom of the valley the town resides upon. This perpendicular-gothic styled building is estimated to have been completed around the start of the 14th century, although St. Oswald’s Church itself dates to to the Saxon-era. Described by George Eliot to be the ‘finest single spire in England’, the Church itself is bedecked in some fine stain glass windows dating back to 1905, and contains other features such as a 13th-century window, marble and alabaster monuments, and a selection of tombs. The parish church is unusual in terms of architecture as a north isle was never constructed, giving the church an uneven quality.
Sudbury Hall & Museum of Childhood – Sudbury Hall is a 17th century stately home located in the small village of Sudbury, near Ashbourne. This building is worth viewing for its unusual mixture of architecture styles alone. Thought to have been designed by the Lord of the Manor himself, George Vernon. Enjoy a tour of this grade-I listed mansion and surrounding gardens, before popping next door to the Museum of Childhood, taking the place of the former 19th-Century servants wing. This museum showcases toys from generations past and is sure to be a nostalgia trip for visitors of all ages!
The Shrovetide Football Match- This annual medieval football game is played every year on Shrove Tuesday and attracts many spectators each year- the Prince of Wales even stopped by to view it once! The match sees the streets of Ashbourne filled with players, who pass around a ball- larger than a regular football and made of Portuguese cork- and aim to get it into the opposite team’s goals, which are positioned three miles apart. It’s very different from contemporary football, in that the game lasts for 16 hours and is a hand contact. It is well worth viewing if you’re in Ashbourne on Shrove Tuesday!