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Car-free adventures: 48 hours on the Derwent Valley Line

Car-free adventures: 48 hours on the Derwent Valley Line

Connecting charming towns and villages, each with an amazing industrial past, the Derwent Valley Line - operated by East Midlands Railway - runs through the UNESCO Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site – connecting the city of Derby with the spa town of Matlock, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution at Cromford and the award-winning market town of Belper.

Day 1

Start your adventure through the scenic Derbyshire countryside at Derby railway station, travelling the full length of the Derwent Valley Line to the beautiful spa town of Matlock.

Once famed for its hydro and spa treatments, Matlock's central location, scenic surroundings and great public transport links make it the perfect base for exploring.

Pioneering industrialist John Smedley developed Matlock as a fashionable spa town in the 19th century, and his legacy lives on in buildings such as Smedley's Hydro (now the offices of Derbyshire County Council) and the Gothic-style Riber Castle, which you can spot high on the hill.

From the station, take a short stroll to Crown Square, with its independent shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants; Matlock is especially renowned for its antique shops. Soak up the scenery at pretty Hall Leys park next to the River Derwent with its boating lake, riverside walks, tennis courts and skateboard park.

For a trip back in time, hop on a steam or diesel train operated by Peak Rail from Matlock to Rowsley, or delve into the town’s heritage on one of the popular Town Trail walks and look out for Blue plaques along the way, explaining the fascinating stories behind some of the town’s most historic buildings.

Alternatively, take the 2.4 mile linear ‘Giddy Edge’ walk from Matlock to the popular 'inland seaside resort' of Matlock Bath via High Tor, with spectacular clifftop views throughout. The walk is fairly strenuous and passes cliff edges with steep drops, so children must be supervised at all times.


Catch the train to Matlock Bath for a cable-car adventure at The Heights of Abraham

Just a 3-minute train ride from Matlock, Matlock Bath is often called ‘the seaside town without the sea’. Just a short walk from the train station is the cable car station for the award-winning Heights of Abraham clifftop country park.

Enjoy an amazing cable car ride across a deep limestone gorge to the 60-acre park where you can soak up the panoramic views of the Derwent Valley, discover adventure playgrounds and woodland trails and tour the show caverns.

If you've worked up an appetite, you can enjoy lunch with a view in the Vista Restaurant & Bar with its impressive terace offering a spectacular panorama of the Derwent Valley below. 


Take the train to Cromford at the heart of the UNESCO Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site

Just a 3-minute train ride from Matlock Bath, Cromford is widely regarded as the birthplace of the modern factory system. It’s also famous in more recent history: Cromford Railway station featured on the sleeve artwork of Oasis’ single ‘Some Might Say’!

Admire the world's first successful water powered cotton spinning mill here at Cromford, built in 1771 by Sir Richard Arkwright, and discover the captivating story of how the Derwent Valley changed the world in the 18th Century with the growth of the British cotton industry.

The Mill Yard, shops and cafes are open but the Visitor Centre is currently closed. You can take a short walk into Cromford Village and view the pretty former millworkers’ cottages and the scenic Mill Pond. Overlooking the pond is Scarthin Books, a much-loved local shop described as an Aladdin’s cave.


Soak up the scenery with a short walk on Cromford Canal

Now a picturesque and relaxing place to go for a countryside walk, Cromford Canal - last used as a working waterway in 1944 - was once a buzzing hub of Derbyshire’s industry.

With 5 miles to explore along the towpath, the canal is rich in wildlife and is designated as a site of special scientific interest. Look out for water vole, a threatened and declining species, and for grass snakes, little grebes, moorhen and coots. 

Access the Canal at Cromford Wharf and enjoy the gentle, easy stroll towards High Peak Junction, where there is a small shop offering refreshments.


Catch the train back to Matlock for an evening of delicious local food and drink

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, back in Matlock you’ll find a great selection of places to rest and recharge, such as The Thorn Tree Inn, the Remarkable Hare restaurant and Mad Hatter tea rooms, plus a vibrant nightlife scene with popular spots such as Monk cocktail bar and the Tipsy Toad.

Places to stay nearby include the award-winning Glendon B&B, a charming Victorian Bed and Breakfast with gorgeous bedrooms, top-class facilities and an idyllic next to pretty Hall Leys Park, just a short walk from local restaurants, shops and bars.


Day 2

Take the train to Ambergate and visit two amazing local attractions: a car experience and whisky distillery!

From Ambergate station, it's a 15-minute walk to your destination at the old Johnson & Nephew Wire Works, a riverside industrial site that has been given a new lease of live through the opening of wo excellent visitor attractions. You can access the site along the A6 road (in the direction of Matlock) or by walking a short distance on the Cromford Canal.

Discover 100 years of motoring history at the Great British Car Journey 

Derbyshire’s newest visitor attraction, the Great British Car Journey features over 100 classic British cars from the days of the Austin Seven up to the latest McLaren. Discover their stories through the latest interactive technology on an audio tour (there's a special child-friendly tour too), before enjoying tasty refreshments in the on-site cafe.

For the ultimate journey down memory lane, there's even the chance to get behind the wheels of a vintage car on the Drive Dad’s Car Experience (booking essential). Choose from more than 30 British classics to take for a 20-minute spin with an expert instructor.


Tour the Peak District region’s first-ever whisky distillery at White Peak Distillery

Just across the River Derwent from the Great British Car Journey is a true hidden gem: the first full-scale, craft distillery in the Peak District region. Founded by local couple, Max and Claire Vaughan, the Distillery is located in the former Johnson & Nephew Wire Works in Ambergate and celebrates the rich riverside and industrial landscape of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

The Distillery backs onto the ancient woodland of Shining Cliff, which is a site of special scientific interest, surrounded by beautiful local woodland walks, and footpaths that follow the Cromford Canal to Cromford Mills.

A visit to the Distillery is underscored by the passion the team has for authentic craft spirits and their unique destination for whisky, gin and other spirits. On the Distillery tasting tours you can sample the award-winning Shining Cliff gin, learn about the whisky distilling process, and try their brand-new whisky set to launch this year.


Catch the train to Belper to explore one of Britain's best High Streets

Birthplace of the world's ground-breaking skyscraper technology, Belper has a rich industrial history and lies at the heart of the World Heritage Site. More recently, the town has been crowned Winner of the Great British High Street Awards - making it the perfect place for some retail therapy.

Industrial pioneer Jedediah Strutt built one of the world's first water-powered cotton spinning mills here in 1776 – and Strutt's North Mill, now the Derwent Valley Visitor Centre – was rebuilt in 1803 using the world's first fireproof iron frame, the template for modern high-rise engineering!

Learn the story of Samuel 'Slater the Traitor', who learned his trade with the Strutts then became an illegal immigrant to the USA to found the American Industrial Revolution at Rhode Island, Massachusetts.

Take a town walk to appreciate sights such as Long Row and The Clusters, the Nail Makers Workshop and St John's Chapel, the oldest building in the town and home to Belper Heritage Centre.


Hire a boat or pedalo on the River Derwent at Belper River Gardens
 

Just a 10 minute walk from the High Street, towards the imposing East Mill, round off your trip with a tranquil boat or pedalo ride at the pretty Belper River Gardens. These unique riverside gardens have been offering visitors a tranquil setting to view the River Derwent for over 100 years, providing the perfect spot to rest and relax following your railway adventure.

To make your days out as enjoyable as possible in the future, we encourage you to plan your trip in advance and to always visit responsibly, taking your litter home and looking after our great outdoors. Wearing a face covering is recommended on public transport and always remember to wash or sanitise your hands regularly to protect yourself and those around you.

Product Information

  1. Contact Details:

    Dale Road
    Matlock Bath
    Matlock
    Derbyshire
    DE4 3NT

    Tel:

    01629 582365
  2. Contact Details:

    Mill Road
    Cromford
    Matlock
    Derbyshire
    DE4 3RQ
  3. Hall Leys Park

    Derbyshire

    Contact Details:

    Matlock
    Derbyshire
    DE4 3AP

    Tel:

    01629 761377
  4. Contact Details:

    Heights of Abraham
    Derby Road
    Matlock Bath
    Matlock
    Derbyshire
    DE4 3NT

    Tel:

    01629 582 365
  5. Contact Details:

    Derwent Works
    Ambergate
    Derbyshire
    DE56 2HE

    Tel:

    01773 317243
  6. Contact Details:

    Derwent Wire Works
    Matlock Road
    Ambergate
    Derbyshire
    DE56 2HE

    Tel:

    01773 856918
  7. Belper

    Belper

    Contact Details:

    Derbyshire
    Belper
    DE56 1AY

    Tel:

    01773 841485
  8. Contact Details:

    Matlock Road
    Belper
    Derbyshire
    DE56 1BE

    Tel:

    01773 570222

Itinerary Distances

FromToDistance * (metric)
Heights of Abraham (53.124,-1.55732)Cromford Mills (53.10997,-1.55463)1.42
Cromford Mills (53.10997,-1.55463)Cromford Canal (53.1097,-1.55419)0.04
Cromford Canal (53.1097,-1.55419)Hall Leys Park (53.13813,-1.55598)2.85
Hall Leys Park (53.13813,-1.55598)Heights of Abraham Vista Bar & Restaurant (53.124,-1.55732)1.42
Heights of Abraham Vista Bar & Restaurant (53.124,-1.55732)Great British Car Journey-Museum (53.07543,-1.49992)5.97
Great British Car Journey-Museum (53.07543,-1.49992)White Peak Distillery (53.06474,-1.48957)1.24
White Peak Distillery (53.06474,-1.48957)Belper (53.02368,-1.4856)4.12
Belper (53.02368,-1.4856)Belper River Gardens (53.02818,-1.48554)0.45
Total Distance *17.5 miles
Estimated Journey Time34 minutes

* Approximate distance by road

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