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Discover the Peak District: 2 Fun Walks in Dovedale for All Abilities!

Discover the Peak District: 2 Fun Walks in Dovedale for All Abilities!

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! 

Dovedale in the Peak District drone photograph
The Valley of Dovedale

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! 

Duck pond in Dovedale
The Ducks wanted a slice of our picnic that’s for sure!

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. 

Thorpe Cloud in the distance as you enter Dovedale
Thorpe Cloud in the Background – Keep reading for the views from the top!

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 Stepping Stone walk is one of the best walks in Dovedale
Making my way across the Giant 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? 

Walks in Dovedale
Reaching the Stepping Stones on a very cold Sunday Morning!

Loop-Back Around 

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! 

The top of Thorpe Cloud in Dovedale
Very proud of myself on top of the cloud!

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! 

Find maps of both these Dovedale walks and more walks in the area here! 

Ilam Hall

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! 

Booking.com

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! 

Happy Hiking, 

Alicia 

The Best Christmas Markets in the UK

The Best Christmas Markets in the UK

Our 2018 Christmas period was one of the strangest experiences I’ve ever had. It was the height of the Australian summer and a scorching 32 degrees outside. We spent the day with friends, lounging, swimming and having the most relaxing time on the beach. Though it was a perfect day filled with friends, laughter and love it didn’t feel like Christmas at all. It kind of felt like a normal Saturday in Sydney. That goes for the whole run-up to Christmas. Christmas has always been my favourite holiday season. Wrapping up from the frosty air, nursing a mulled wine and explore the Christmas Markets make the run-up to the big day so special. I realised exactly how much I missed our UK Christmases! So after visiting the majority of the UK Christmas markets I wanted to share in my opinion the best Christmas markets to visit in the UK. 

What are ‘Christmas Markets?’

Christmas Markets have been a popular festivities amongst travellers and locals all over the world but prominently in Europe. The original Christmas markets came from Germany and can be otherwise known as ‘Christkindlmarkt’. These markets are usually made up of various stalls selling food, drinks, hand-made gifts, seasonal gifts and pretty much anything else you can think of. The stalls line the streets of most big UK cities and towns strung together by fairy lights. Though the majority of towns/cities in the UK will have a Christmas market some are definitely better than others. From experience, I’ve found the best Christmas markets in the UK to be in the bigger more popular places such as London and Edinburgh. 

Traditional Christmas Markets

When Are the Christmas Markets Held?

Traditionally the Christmas markets were always held for the advent period but in most places nowadays you can find them from late November to early January. So if you’re visiting the UK during the festive period I would recommend stopping to see at least a few of the Christmas markets around the country, especially if you’re from somewhere that doesn’t have them like Australia. But if you’re from mainland Europe then I’m guessing our little markets maybe a little bit of a disappointment.

I’m yet to visit other parts of Europe at Christmas but a road trip exploring the best Christmas markets in Europe is definitely on my bucket list! I mean come on a month hopping between the likes go Prague and Munich drinking hot coca and traditional Christmas dishes? Sounds like a perfect way to spend December!

But where are the best Christmas markets in the UK? Well, I’ve selected a few of my favourites from England and Scotland! 

8 of the Best Christmas Markets in the UK

  1. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 
  2. Manchester Christmas Markets 
  3. York Christmas Markets 
  4. Chatsworth House Christmas Markets 
  5. Leeds 
  6. Glasgow Christmas Markets 
  7. Edinburgh Scotland
  8. Padstow Christmas Markets

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland – London

This is probably the most well-known Christmas in the UK. Now I’m not a London girl and I’ve only visited the capital a handful of times but a couple of those times have been in the festive period. I must say that London knows how to do Christmas. From the window displays in Liberty to the beautiful planned Christmas lights which are always so gorgeous. Take a look at this post for a guide on the Christmas Lights in London! The Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is like the Christmas extravaganza. As well as an authentic German market there’s rides, shows, bars and even an area to let loose and boogie! It’s definitely one of the best Christmas markets in the UK and probably most popular.

Is There an Entry Fee at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland?

No. There isn’t an entrance fee to walk around the markets and various other attractions. That said, the majority of experiences inside the park will need to be paid for. But there’s everything from pantomimes to circus acts to enjoy. If you do go to a show or anything inside the Winter Wonderland make sure you plan well. Hyde Park covers a huge area and if you’re not familiar with it you will get lost. Even if you do know the park well it might look a little different! I know this because myself and my best friend who was living in London at the time had some tickets and were literally running trying to find the show and not miss it! 

More information on the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park

Manchester Christmas Markets 

Manchester is another big city in the UK mostly known by football maniacs all over the world. Situated in the northwest of England Manchester know exactly how to do shopping and Christmas markets. I’ve visited these markets pretty much every year for the last 5 years. The markets in Manchester span the whole of the city with over three hundred stalls. Manchester has won awards year after year for these amazing markets so they are worth a visit. As well as the stalls Manchester also has a Christmas ice rink nestled in-between the markets and these gorgeous Christmas karaoke huts. Imagine wooden huts, karaoke, mulled wine and a bunch of friends. Honestly, Manchester is a wonderful place for a festive day out! 

Manchester Christmas Markets some of the best christmas markets in the uk
Manchester Christmas Markets

The markets are usually spread out quite wide but the locations for 2019 are, Exchange Square, Market Street, Cathedral Gardens, Corn Exchange, Exchange Street, New Cathedral Street, King Street, St Anns Square and Brazennose Street. I’ve popped these places on a map just below.

The markets are free to get lost in! For more information about the Manchester Christmas Markets go here!

York Christmas Markets 

Ask anyone from the UK what they think of the city of York and most would call it enchanting and magical. York is exactly what you expect when you think of an English city. Cobbled streets, old buildings and a rich history fill the city. The Christmas Markets in York are just as good as the rest of the city. In fact, the whole of York is one of the best places to enjoy Christmas in the UK. From beautiful Christmas lights and traditional German market York is definitely high up on the list as one of the best Christmas markets in the UK.

As well as enjoying the markets in York I recommend taking a stroll down the Shambles and enjoy some Christmas shopping! If you’ve never been to York then you’ll probably notice a huge line outside Betty’s Tearoom but if I’m honest I wouldn’t bother. If you have heard of Betty’s Tea room the one to visit is in Harrogate! Other must-see places in York (Christmas or no Christmas) are: 

  • York Minster 
  • The Shambles 
  • York City Walls
  • York Dungeon 
  • Jorvik Viking Centre
Me and My Beautiful Family at York Christmas Markets a couple of Years Ago!
Me and My Beautiful Family at York Christmas Markets a couple of Years Ago!

Chatsworth House Christmas Markets 

Being from God’s Own Country myself, Yorkshire for those of you who don’t know that saying, so it would be rude not to include of my own.  Best Christmas Markets in the UK I love are at Chatsworth house. Nestled in the heart of the Peak District lies Chatsworth House. Chatsworth House is home to the Cavendish family and has been for the last 16 generations. It’s currently home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Certain areas of the house have been open to the public for years. The gardens are beautiful and Chatsworth hosts an array of events throughout the year including some Christmas Markets. 

The Christmas Markets at Chatsworth House have been voted as some of the best in the country. The house promotes a different Christmas theme each year which is released in late September. Keep an eye on this website for the release. Tickets also need to be purchased for the markets at Chatsworth but it’s certainly worth it! 

The Best Christmas Markets in the UK – Leeds Christmas Markets 

Leeds is also a hub for designer shopping, dining and bars! One of my favourite bars in Leeds is the rooftop bar Angelica’s. Enjoy views of the city below whilst during a cocktail. You’ll find the bar on the roof of the Trinity Shopping Centre. The Christmas markets in Leeds are somewhat smaller than the others I mentioned but still cute and worth a visit. Leeds is so festive at Christmas time but maybe that’s because I love Christmas shopping!

Glasgow Scotland 

We unexpectedly found ourselves at the Glasgow Christmas markets a few years ago and boy we were glad. Glasgow is a beautiful city and the Christmas tree is amazing! The city is easy to navigate as it’s set out like a square. The Christmas markets in Glasgow span across a couple of areas in the city. The main are areas usually George Square and St Enoch Square filled with culinary delights and traditional Christmas gifts. Glasgow also runs various independent Christmas markets across the city. Find these locations here. 

Dave at Glasgow Christmas Markets
Dave enjoying Glasgow Christmas Markets a few years ago – before we knew how to take photographs!

Edinburgh Christmas Markets 

The Christmas Markets in Edinburgh is pretty special. If I was choosing between Glasgow or
Edinburgh I’d opt for Edinburgh. The market is a lot bigger and completed with a Ferris wheel offering great views of the city. Edinburgh has a fantastic array of Bavarian-themed stalls and plenty of German sausages to go around.  There’s usually plenty of areas playing live music and outside bars. Snuggle in with a blanket under a heater and get into the festive spirit whilst listening to some festive favourites. Edinburgh is a great Scottish city to visit from gorgeous colourful shopping street to haunted ghost tours. Some of the great things to do in Edinburgh at Christmas are: 

  • Go Ice Skating 
  • Enjoy the Nativity Play in St. Andrew square 
  • Visit Edinburgh Castle
  • Walk unto Arthurs Seat 
  • Enjoy the colours on Victoria Street 

Padstow Christmas Festival

Okay, I haven’t actually been to this Christmas Market but I know many who have and it’s highly recommended. Built upon the beautiful English coast Padstow is found in Cornwall England. It makes a change from the big city of London and the countryside of Yorkshire and Scotland is the coast. The Padstow Christmas Festival is one of the biggest in the country with pop-up stalls everyone can enjoy! Padstow also have plenty of other events going on at Christmas too! Check it out on their website here!

I honestly can’t wait to get back to Europe at some point for all the winter festivities! I really hope you enjoyed this post on my favourite Christmas Markets in the UK. This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list of the best Christmas Markets in the UK but these ones are especially good! If you did enjoy this post I would be so grateful if you could share it with your friends! I hope you manage to enjoy some Christmas markets this year!


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Happy Travels 

Alicia