Ilam (pronounced eye-lamb) is situated on the River Manifold in the Peak District, near Dovedale. Striking in appearance, its predominantly Swiss-chalet styled buildings makes the village stand out against the backdrop of both the Manifold banks and limestone hills. Complimenting the town’s alluring features is the sizable neo-gothic Ilam Hall, situated in Ilam Park, which was built in the 1820s and is now a youth hostel.
The town’s grandiose appearance owes a lot to former town resident, the industrialist Jesse Watts Russell, who invested a lot of his wealth into the town during the 19th century, including the construction of the monument, Ilam Cross, erected in the village centre in tribute to his wife. The town, today, is a popular destination for walkers, particularly for those looking to to take part in Peak Pilgrimage, a spiritual walk between Ilam and Eyam.
Bradwell’s Dairy Ice Cream – Ubiquitous throughout Bradwell and the Peak District at large, Bradwell’s Dairy Ice Cream has been produced and sold in Bradwell since 1899. The founder, who went by the name of Grandma Hannah, made all the ice cream herself in the beginning – by hand! As Grandma Hannah’s reputation grew over the course of the 20th century, Bradwell’s Dairy Ice Cream became synonymous with quality and intensely moreish flavours. Today, the very kitchen where Grandma Hannah devised all her defining ice cream recipes is now an ice cream parlour, where visitors can sample both the original and newer flavours. All the ice creams are gluten-free (except from the cookies and cream) and are suitable for vegetarians.
Ilam Park – This 158-acre country park is owned by the National Trust and is one of the most pleasurable days out to have in the village of Ilam. The Park boasts a National Trust shop, tearoom, a hostel, and small caravan site. Encompassing both banks of the River Manifold, Ilam Park works well as an epicentre of various routes and trails and is a good starting point for walkers heading to Manifold Valley, Dovedale, Monyash, Miller’s Dale, or Stanton Moor. Many hikers take advantage of the carpark situated next to Ilam Hall.
Ilam Hall – Ilam Hall dates to the 16th Century and was originally owned by the Port family. The original was demolished to make way for the bigger, grander hall that occupies the space today, built in the 1820s. It became derelict at the start of the 20th Century, and demolition of the building started in the 1920s, before Sir Robert McDougall purchased it, and gave it to the National Trust. Much of the building had been destroyed by this point, but McDougall requested for the remaining parts to be converted into a youth hostel, which it remains to be today.
Casterne Hall – This grade-II listed 18th century country house is located near Ilam, in the Manifold Valley. Casterne Hall dates the 16th century, but the building that stands today was built in 1740; Roger Hurt was the first heir of the house, and the hall has been the property of the Hurt family since the mid-16th century. Casterne Hall’s early Georgian-style is distinctive, and it has been used as a filming location in several period dramas, including Jane Eyre (1983) and Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1988). Guided tours are available for groups of 10 people, and the hall also functions as a holiday accommodation and B&B.
Peak Pilgrimage – A popular walk curated for those seeking a spiritual experience, Peak Pilgrimage leads hikers through the Hope Valley – between Ilam to to Eyam. Compared to other popular Peak District walks, Peak Pilgrimage is a predominantly flat, easy-going 39-mile walk, that normally takes four days to complete. The walk is often done in tribute to the 17th Century residents of both Ilam and Eyam, who heroically self-quarantined as the black death ravaged their villages; this act of bravery was done in order to prevent the disease from spreading further north. Because of the walk’s tragic links to the plague, alongside the spectacular lowland scenery and high number of quaint churches seen in passing, Peak Pilgrimage is recommended for those seeking a spiritual awakening.
Ilam Cross – The focal point of the village, positioned directly in the centre, is a stunning 19th century memorial. Described as ‘one of the finest gothic-revival monuments in the country’, Ilam Cross is a beautifully restored dedication to the wife of local politician, Jesse Watts Russell, who paid for this structure to be erected in 1841. Decorated with six stone-carved angles, and topped with a cross, Ilam Cross may not seem like much, but it’s definitely worth inspecting for its beautiful details.