A delightful walk with magnificent scenery and the incomparable River Dove, what more can anyone want?
A lovely one and a quarter mile stroll along the banks of the River Dove is followed by a sharp climb up through Dovedale Wood and continues along the top of the valley. The views are magnificent, none more so than from Bunster Hill that looks down on Ilam.
Alpine-style cottages, a Tudor Gothic Hall, an eccentric river and a wonderful background of soft green hills make Ilam a very popular place with visitors, many of whom come to walk in Ilam Hallís beautiful parkland, along the aptly named Paradise Walk by the River Manifold.
Dovedale is one of the most treasured beauty spots not only in the Peak District but also in the country. Photographs of the stepping-stones across the Dove must have appeared on more calendars and gift boxes than almost any other countryside scene in England.
Let us leave the last words with Byron, who wrote with Dovedale in mind, to his friend the Irish poet Tom Moore, ĎI can assure you there are things in Derbyshire as noble as Greece or Switzerland.í
Length: 7 miles.
Start/Finish: Milldale Car Park, on the Hopedale Road out of the village.
Location: Off A515 Ashbourne to Buxton road, take the Alstonefield road and then turn left for Milldale.
Terrain: Mostly easy walking, through woods, fields and by the river. The climb up through Dovedale Wood is steep and the walk along the top of the wood and round Bunster can be slippery, particularly in wet weather.
MESSAGE FROM STAFFORDSHIRE
HIGHWAYS: I am
contacting you in relation to a bridge deck replacement and disabled access
upgrade of Ilam Rock Footbridge in the Dovedale Valley, which Staffordshire
County Council is proposing to undertake starting 8th September 2008 for a
duration of 10 weeks.
Riverway Stafford ST16
1. Walk down the road from the car park into Milldale. Turn right to cross Viatorís Bridge and follow the riverbank, for one and a quarter miles.
2. Cross the River Dove by a footbridge and walk back along the other side of the river.
3. At a green post marker and a smaller National Trust indicator signed for Ilam, turn left up a steep and winding path.
4. On reaching the top of the wood, ignore the stile on the right; go to the left keeping just inside the wood with the fence on your right.
5. A few yards after passing a National Trust Ė Dovedale Wood sign, you leave the wood by a stile.
6. Head straight on towards Air Cottage that you can see in the distance, and follow the path round the cottage to the other side.
7. About 25 yards past Air Cottage, go right through two gate stiles and a small field to reach the cottage drive.
8. Continue along the drive, passing Hill Top Farm on your right, until with the Ilam to Alstonefield road clearly in sight, turn sharp left about 50 yards from the gateway onto the road.
9. These instructions follow the longstanding official right of way and may seem a little strange. As the route from this point heads back in the direction that you have just come from, angling across the field and away from the drive in a triangular fashion to reach a stile in the far corner of the field.
10. Follow the well-trodden path down, to go over a stile, with Bunster Hill looming in front.
11. You have two alternatives. Go down the hill and then keep left, to reach the Izaak Walton Hotel. The other alternative is to remain at the same level as you walk round Bunster Hill, before descending to follow an obvious path through two fields to arrive at the rear of the hotel.
12. Walk along the path behind the hotel, which bends slightly to the left as it drops down to a stile, to a pathway leading to Dovedale Car Park.
13. Go to the left and you are shortly presented with two options. Follow the road and cross the stepping-stones, which can be covered with water after prolonged heavy rainfall, or cross the footbridge and walk up the other side of the river.
14. From the stepping-stones, continue alongside the River Dove, cross Viatorís Bridge at Milldale and turn left back to the starting point of the walk.
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PLACES OF INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Tissington Hall (Tel 01335 352200) is a fine Jacobean Manor House in the heart of the village, owned by the FitzHerbert family who built most of the cottages in Tissington. Open to the public for guided tours during the summer on selected dates, tours take place Tuesdays to Friday. For full opening details please ring or visit website.
Tissington Trail following the closure of the railway line, the track was converted into a trail and ever since has been popular with walkers and cyclists. The trail links up with the High Peak Trail. You can now either walk or cycle through some of the White Peakís finest scenery without ever seeing a car!
Ilam Park lies on the banks of the River Manifold and includes a walk along an avenue of Lime Trees known as Paradise Walk. The 158 acres of the park is managed by the National Trust and there is a National Trust shop, information centre and tearoom. Entrance to the grounds is free to walkers.
Watts Russell Inn (Tel. 01335 310126) is an attractive old pub that dates back over 250 years and is named after the wealthy businessman James Watts Russell who lived at Ilam Hall. Open lunchtimes and evenings Tuesday to Sunday; Saturday all day; closed Mondays except Bank Holidays. Meals served Tuesday to Saturday lunchtime and evenings; Sunday lunchtimes. Outside seating.
Ilam Hall Tea Rooms (Tel. 01335 350245) provide excellent views of the Italian Gardens and beyond, whether sitting inside, or in the garden. A good selection of hot meals and snacks is available. Open at weekends and normally every day during the summer. Please ring for details.
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Milldale is a delightfully positioned hamlet at the northern end of Dovedale. It attracts walkers like few other places of its size in Britain. Most come to explore the beautiful Dove Valley, with its famous Stepping Stones and strange rock formations, but there are many other excellent walks in the area that either start, or pass through Milldale.
There was a mill in Alstonefield manor in the 13th century. It was presumably situated in the hamlet of Milldale, where records show that there was a mill to the north of Viatorís Bridge by 1775. The mill ceased to operate in the late 1870s, but 50 years later it was still standing, although derelict by that time. The buildings to the left of what used to be part of the mill have been converted into a National Trust Information Barn.