The Peak District is where I call home and there are some amazing walks in Dovedale, a hidden gem in the Peaks, that I want to share. Before we get into this post I just want to say. Welcome to my first ever post about my homeland! I can’t believe that I’ve been writing Alicia Overseas for over a year and haven’t started writing about the glorious English countryside! Born and bred in Yorkshire I was surrounded by the country which was great whilst growing up. I played in fields and was the ultimate country kid.
That said, I certainly didn’t appreciate the beauty of Northern England until the last few years. In fact, I don’t think I really appreciated it until I left and for the other side of the world. After travelling around Australia for a year and now exploring New Zealand, I find myself missing England more and more! So, I’ve decided to start putting some posts ‘outdoorsy’ adventure posts together based in Northern England, starting with these 2 fun walks in Dovedale which anyone can enjoy!
Dovedale is a small valley nestled in-between Yorkshire and Derbyshire in the Peak District. The area is popular with hikers, outdoor enthusiasts, families, literally anyone! The walks you can enjoy in Dovedale are so versatile. There’s the beautiful Ilam Hall along with its grounds to explore, the stepping stones walk (which I’ll cover in this post) and the Thorpe Cloud hike to tackle located in this tiny valley. You’ll find everything you need to know about the stepping stones walk and Thorpe Cloud hike in this post along with some of the other great things to do in Dovedale!
Where is Dovedale?
As I mentioned above Dovedale is a valley located in Derbyshire on the edge of the Peak District in Northern England. It’s an easy location to reach by car but a little tricker by public transport. The valley sits on the River Done, 45 miles in length, which flows through the landscape. Whilst the valley and land, which is owned by the National Trust, the village is called Ilam with only a few houses occupying residents, it really is a teeny tiny gem hidden in the country.
The nearest bigger town to Dovedale is Ashbourne just a 20-minute drive south. The nearest cities are Derby and Sheffield. From Sheffield, which is where Dave and met and is the city we call home in the UK, Dovedale is just over an hours drive. If you’re planning a day trip to Dovedale then I recommend either staying remotely somewhere in the Peak District, you can rent gorgeous cottages on Air BnB for a reasonable price!
2 Fun Walks in Dovedale for All Abilities!
The Peak District National Park is a substantial size packed full of beautiful walks and hikes. They are heaps of walks for beginners but there are a lot of hikes. That requires some level of fitness/hiking experience. But both of these walks in Dovedale are great for everyone to enjoy! The stepping stones are a hit with kids and families whilst the Thorpe Cloud hike is great for those with a little scrambling experience! You can even put both these walks together, which is what we did and enjoy a full day out in Dovedale!
Walks in Dovedale – Ilam Village to the Stepping Stones Walk-in Dovedale
The first walk I want to talk about is the Dovedale stepping stones. Popular with everybody and anybody and one of my favourite little spots in the Peak District. This walk-in Dovedale starts in the village of Ilam, explores the grounds of the Dovedale House then loops back onto the road and into the fields in search for those stepping stones! I think the stepping stones definitely deserve the credit they are a gorgeous addition to these stunning walks in Dovedale.
On arrival, parking, the car can be a struggle! There is a paid car park available at the Ilam Hall but because I’m budget we got there early in search for free space on the road. There are up to 20 spaces for cars available on the road but you will need to arrive early. I recommend enjoying this walk midweek to avoid the crowds.
If you want to be alone or without heaps of families on this walk then do not try it on a sunny Sunday morning! Because these walks are short they are so popular on Sundays with families and dog walkers! We didn’t find the crowds an issue though because up North we are all so friendly! If you’ve got a pup then you’ll be stopping every few yards for a chat with fellow walkers!
Dovedale Stepping Stones Walk – The Facts
- Distance: 3 Miles Return
- Difficulty: Easy
- Time: 3 Hours Return
- Advisories: Difficult access for wheelchair users or strollers
- Point of Interest: Dovedale House and the Dovedale Stepping stones
Ilam Village to Dovedale Stepping Stones Walk – Starting the Walk
After parking the car head into the Village of Ilam or come down the Ilam Hall if you park in the car park provided. Start this walk by enjoying the grounds of the hall, I’ll give a little more information on the history of the house later on in the post so just keep reading!
As you enjoy the grounds follow the track that leaves the hall behind. Look out for a graveyard and church in the distance. Once you reach the village church exit the grounds onto the road passing the duck pond, a great place for a picnic but only if you want to share! There’s also some old houses and the tiny local school which is so cute!
After leaving the village you want to cross onto the left side of Thorpe Road and head for the wooden gate leading into the fields. There’s a signpost highlight where to go but you really can’t miss the gate.
As you cross the gate you’re now walking at the base of Bunster Hill and that flat hill you can see in the distance? That’s Thorpe Cloud which you’ll be climbing up if you decide to go the whole hog and put both of these Dovedale walks together!
Walking Through the Fields
As you enjoy the views and lush green countryside there’s a little bit of a slope which leads you onto the track that’ll take you to the famous Dovedale Stepping Stones! After you reach the top of the slope you’ll reach one, of many, stiles. Here you have two options. Either continue over the stile and make your way through the fields towards Thorpe Cloud.
A word of warning! You’ll meet many of the Peak District natives on this Dovedale Walk from dogs to the local sheep and cows!
The second option here is to turn around and go back a couple of yards and tack the track on the left along the dry stone wall – Avoiding stiles and cattle! If you do have a dog you might want to stick to the dry stone wall to avoid any run-ins with the locals – It is their grass after all! The last thing you want to do is upset the cows. Even after growing up in the countryside walking past a heard of cows always makes me a tad nervous! I just don’t fancy being trampled to death if you get what I mean!
We took the first option and tramped through the feeds, enjoyed the animals and over stiles! You’ll eventually reach a stile leading you down to the River Done!
Walk Along the River Done to the Giant Dovedale Stepping Stones
As you drop done onto the track that runs alongside the river just turn left so you’re walking upstream to find the stepping stones!
The track is easy and flat so you can relax for the final part of the walk. As you reach the stepping stones prepare to maybe get wet feet! If you tackle these Dovedale walks in winter there’s a high chance the river level will be up!
When we enjoyed this walk we did get wet feet – The river flows fast in winter and the water gushed over the top of the stones! But it’s all good fun right?
After crossing the giant stones you can go right and loop back along the river bed.
This is actually just one option to reach the Dovedale Stepping Stones! If you don’t want to walk from the village then there is an even simpler and easier route you can take!
Alternative, Easier Route to the Dovedale Stepping Stones
If you don’t want to walk from Ilam park then you can enjoy an even easier route. The National Trust has a car park in Dovedale which you can park in for 3 pounds. There’s also a cute little hut which sells coffees and teas to treat yourself!
The footpath is clearly signposted from the car park so all you need to do is follow the river bed along to the stepping stones! This is a great option if you’re new to hiking or have small children!
2 Fun Walks in Dovedale – 2 Hike Thorpe Cloud!
When you arrive in Ilam or Dovedale you won’t be able to miss the huge hill with a flat top! It’s so strange to see a hilltop with a perfect flat peak but it’s a great hill to climb! I call it hill it’s definitely more of a limestone mountain.
You can climb the hill from plenty of directions but I recommend following one of the above walks from the Dovedale steps. Once you cross over the stepping stones you can turn left around the back of Thorpe Cloud and scramble up the track to the top! The hike is strenuous but look how great the views are!
I must admit this side of the cloud is definitely more of a scramble than a walk! We have both climbing and hiking experience so it was quite easy but I recommend a good pair of hiking shoes and experience!
If you don’t fancy a scramble then you can climb up the front of Thorpe Cloud which is a little less steep going up but feels just as steep on the climb back down! We reached the top of the hill just in time for sunset and it was just stunning! If you get a clear day then you are in for some wonderful countryside views from the top!
Walks in Dovedale Need to Know Before You Go!
There are a few things to know and a few resources to try and get or at least read before you head on an adventure to Dovedale. These walks in Dovedale are short but it’s still good to be prepared.
- There are no shops in Dovedale
- Make sure you have plenty of food to take with you – There is a cafe at Ilam Hall and a small hut selling some bits and bobs in the Dovedale carpark!
- Take lots of water
- Toilets can be found at the Dovedale National Trust Carpark but will cost 20p
- You can find toilets in the Dovedale House too so make sure you go before setting off on either of these walks
- Phone signal can be questionable in the Peak District so be prepared to only be able to make emergency calls!
- Don’t underestimate the Peak District in winter – If its forecast snow it probably will and watch out for black ice! I actually slipped on the Dovedale stepping stones on pure black ice and landed right on my f*****g coccyx – I cannot describe the pain! Let’s just say I got a few stern looks from some families after some of the ‘word vomit’ that escaped from my foul mouth!
Don’t forget to explore Ilam Hall during your visit too! The house is a 17th-century manor with beautiful grounds to explore!
Staying in Dovedale
As I mentioned before the Peak District has so many gorgeous Air BnB options why not treat yourself to a cute cottage for the weekend! Getting away in a cosy cottage in the middle of nowhere was always our favourite thing to do back home. But if you don’t want to pay then you can actually stay in Ilam Hall. Ilam Hall doubles up as a YHA hostel as well which is perfect for those on a budget and wanting to stay close to the Dovedale walks!
Getting to Dovedale
Reaching Dovedale is easy with a sat nav or map from the neighbouring cities and towns. It isn’t accessible via public transport. If you are taking a trip to the Peak District then I do recommend hiring a car if you can. The national park is huge and some of the best places to hike and explore require a car! You can reach some of the main ‘tourist’ spots on tours like Bakewell but having a car is a lot easier!
My Hiking Essentials
These two walks in Dovedale are quite easy and not too strenuous. They don’t need much planning and you don’t need much equipment either. However, I would recommend a good pair of hiking shoes and some of these essentials! I never attempt any walks without my re-useable water bottle or a first aid kit – You just never know when you might need it. I also make sure I have a good pair of hiking socks as well because blisters on the feet from rubbing shoes are not fun!
Sharing is Caring
I hope you enjoyed this guide to a couple of epic walks in Dovedale. The UK has some amazing places to hike and explore and I can’t wait to be sharing more. If you did enjoy this post then let me know and share it with your friends – I would appreciate it so much!