Dovedale National Nature Reserve, Derbyshire

Dovedale National Nature Reserve, Derbyshire

One of the most picturesque spots in the county, Dovedale National Nature Reserve is a popular spot for its famous steppingstones, riverside walks and choice of beautiful picnic spots.


If you want to enjoy Dovedale in all its glory, we recommend heading over during the week and arriving early to secure a spot in the car park and avoid the weekend crowds. One of the most beautiful valleys in the country, it definitely has year-round appeal, so you can just as easily plan for a wintry stroll as a summer picnic by the river. 

Once you’ve paid for your parking, a quick stroll across a wooden bridge will set you off on the right path along the River Dove. If you’re up for a challenge, you can actually walk up Thorpe Cloud, a limestone hill between Ilam and Thorpe villages. Rising to 287 meters, it’s a bit of a steep trek uphill but the views across Derbyshire and Staffordshire from the top are stunning. Just remember to wear a decent pair of walking shoes. 

Alternatively, you can follow the Rive Dove upstream towards the valley’s famous steppingstones. Hopping across the stones is all but a must, as is paddling in the river’s shallow waters in the summer. For more of a family-friendly walk, you can skip Thorpe Cloud and follow the route alongside the river and enjoy the valley’s woodland and wildlife. Although a little muddy in winter, the path is generally quite flat so not too difficult to manage. 

Another time, if you’d prefer to spend more time in the Peak District countryside and arrive in Dovedale en route, there are a few good options that you can consider. Choose to start in Milldale, Wolfscote Dale or Beresford Dale and make the most of the extensive network of footpaths for walkers. In an area that has graced the front of many postcards for its natural beauty and timeless quality, all generations will find themselves enchanted.

While there are a few facilities near the car park and in the local villages of Ilam and Thorpe, visitors are advised to bring provisions for walks and to take away any rubbish with them – always remembering to leave nothing but footsteps.

Feeling inspired? Take a look at out luxury cottages in the Peak District and Derbyshire here.

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