So much to do…..here is just a taste of what’s on your doorstep!
Leaving the cottages, turn left and a few minutes walk will take you to Monsal Head. Here you can enjoy stunning views along Monsal Dale, one of many beautiful limestone dales in the area. Below you lies the Monsal Trail which follows the track of the former Matlock – Buxton railway line and is now a popular walking/cycling route. Imagine the scene around 150 years when the completion of the viaducts and tunnels between here and Buxton first brought trains linking Manchester and London through the heart of the country. Even in those days, projects on this scale were not universally popular and both the Dukes of Devonshire and Rutland used their influence to ensure that the railway was out of sight and earshot from their stately residences of Chatsworth and Haddon Hall. In the end the line survived for 100 years or so before falling victim to the cuts of the 1960s.
There’s plenty more to see beyond Cressbrook Mill. Litton Mill, Millers Dale and Chee Dale for a start or the National Nature Reserve at Ravensdale. You can follow the route of the old railway line through the newly tunnels keeping a lookout for any ghost trains – bound to be a favourite with kids of all ages! Hug the River Wye looking out for dippers and trout along the river or the brilliant flash of a distant kingfisher skimming over the water. Discover the Platelayers Track which clings to the hillside high above the valley offering a birds eye view of the river below. Why not visit the nearby villages of Litton and Tideswell. Look out for wild orchids and cowslips in late spring or come in autumn or winter for early morning mists or the crunch of frost underfoot.
Now owned by the National Park Authority, it enjoys a new life as the Monsal Trail. Follow the footpath down to the viaduct and enjoy the tranquillity of a traffic free walk along the dale to Cressbrook Mill. Taking advantage of the River Wye as a ready source of water power, the Mill developed from 1785 into a major cotton producer sporting an imposing Georgian frontage reflecting its prosperity. It eventually closed in 1965 slipping into a period of slumbering decay until eventually being converted into apartments.
And should you eventually be driven homeward by rain or snow, why not pause a while to toast your toes in front of a blazing log fire in the Stable Bar at the Monsal Head Hotel before a leisurely down hill stroll back to your cosy cottage. Alternatively, leaving the cottages, turn right and a short stroll takes into Little Longstone……
Home to around 100 souls, this peaceful village slumbers beneath Longstone Edge enjoying the sunshine and sheltered from any cold north winds. The Edge is rich in mineral deposits giving rise to the lead mining industry which flourished locally in the 18th and 19th centuries. The last local lead mine may have closed over 100 years ago but spot the number of “rakes” named on maps of the surrounding area to see how firmly lead is etched into local history.
Old packhorse routes criss-cross the moor so perhaps its no surprise that their importance is reflected in the name of the village local – The Packhorse. Built originally as two lead miners’ cottages, the Packhorse came into being in 1787 and remains the epitomy of the traditional village pub complete with drinking troughs for its original four legged customers. If you are here in mid-July you can see the village Well Dressing or even lend a hand with the preparations.
Past the Packhorse and opposite the Manor you can follow a footpath down through fields of sheep and cows to join the Monsal Trail which heads from here all the way to Bakewell and beyond. Bear to the left however and you will soon reach Great Longstone, Little Longstone’s larger neighbour. Here you will find the Crispin and the White Lion pubs. As well as being a thriving village with a popular primary school it is now also the home of Sheffield-born politician Roy Hattersley. It is also one of a dwindling number of villages where you can still buy milk from the farm – Church Farm on Church Lane.
From here you could head up to Longstone Edge and enjoy the unfolding panorama towards Chatsworth and southwards over Bakewell to Matlock and Riber Castle on the skyline. Or amble across the fields to Ashford-in-the-Water, take in a local cricket match or play “Pooh sticks” at the Sheepwash bridge. And then, a treat from the village delicatessen or……oh well, there’s always tomorrow!
‘The Peak is a Park for all seasons, not just for the holiday season; a park for all seasons of the calendar; a Park for people of all ages and for all ages of mankind.’ -Brian Redhead.
The Lodge and Dove Cottage are an ideal base to explore the many attractions the Peak District has to offer. The stately grandeur of Chatsworth House, home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, is within easy reach as is the gentler charm of Haddon Hall. Other stately homes within a reasonable distance include Hardwick Hall, Calke Abbey, Kedleston Hall and Lyme Hall with its deer park.
Families will enjoy a day out at several theme parks a short drive away such as Alton Towers, American Adventure and Gulliver’s Kingdom.
The range of scenery offered by the area is varied and magnificent. You may choose a serious hike on the lonely moorlands of the Dark Peak or wander by a gentle river through the wooded dales that are so much a part of the White Peak. Dramatic rocky crags and gritstone edges afford wonderful views over the countryside and the upland farms maintain a largely traditional management of the land with sheep flocks and cattle herds. Wildlife abounds and there is a rich variety of wildflowers to be discovered.
Whether you choose to explore the countryside on foot, by cycle or touring in the car you will find paths, cycle tracks and endless country lanes. Several long trails cross the countryside based on the beds of former railway lines and offer safe walking and cycling for all the family – cycle hire is available at a number of locations the nearest being the former Hassop Station.
You may choose other more adventurous activities. The Peak Park is popular with climbers and cavers and there are facilities for sailing, gliding, hang gliding, canoeing and other outdoor pursuits.
The many small villages each have their own charms and special interest. The village of Eyam is well known to history as the Plague Village. Castleton has a ruined Norman Castle and showcaves to explore. Tideswell has an impressive church known as the Cathedral of the Peak…
Bakewell, famous for its Bakewell Pudding, is a charming market town some ten minutes drive away. Also within easy reach are the market towns of Buxton and Ashbourne. Buxton has a fine range of Victorian and Edwardian architecture including the Crescent and the domed former Royal Devonshire Hospital now part the University of Derby. The Pavilion Gardens have a range of attractions and events from children’s play area to regular antique fairs and even collectors vehicle auctions. The beautifully restored Opera House hosts several festivals and has a full programme of varied entertainments throughout the year ranging from Pantomime to Grand Opera.
Nearest places for day to day basics are the village shops in Great Longstone or Ashford-under-Water. You can pick up milk and eggs at Church Lane Farm in Great Longstone. Fresh eggs at the Hollow in Little Longstone.
In Bakewell there is a reasonable choice of shops, a COOP in the centre and Aldi on the outskirts. If supermarkets are your thing you will also find Morrisons and Waitrose in Buxton, Sainsbury’s in Matlock and all the main chains in Chesterfield.
There are an increasing number of farm shops and other outlets specialising in local produce. Chatsworth Farm Shop at Pilsley is a popular choice or try the Ginger Butchers or Critchlows, both in Bakewell.
The Monsal Head and the Packhorse are both 5 minutes walk, and the Crispin and White Lion in Great Longstone are also walkable. Other pubs that we would recommend within a short drive are the Bull in Ashford, the Bull at Foolow, the Devonshire Arms at Pilsley, the Red Lion at Litton and the Derwentwater Arms at Calver. Craft beer enthusiasts should take in the Joiners Arms and Thornbridge Brewery Tap both in Bakewell.
In Bakewell there is a good choice of restaurants offering English, French, Italian and Indian menus.
And also try Hobbs Café at Monsal Head and Hassop Station Café on the Monsal Trail.