10 reasons to visit Matlock and Matlock Bath
- Credit: Archant
Mike Smith invites you to make the most of your visits to Matlock and Matlock Bath
HALL LEYS PARK
If you visit Matlock on a sunny day, you will want to join the promenaders in Hall Leys Park, recognised as one of the best parks in the country, having received its 11th consecutive Green Flag Award in July 2018. The judges of the award have been impressed by the park’s excellent use of green space, its floral displays, its high standard of safety and its well-maintained facilities.
These include a boating lake, a children’s interactive wet play area, a miniature railway, a skateboard park, tennis courts, a bowling green, a putting green and a café. An eye-catcher in the park is a four-sided shelter surmounted by a clock tower. It was built in 1895 for a cable tramway that operated in Matlock until 1927.
To take a nostalgic journey back in time through the Derbyshire countryside, board one of the vintage trains restored by the volunteers of Peak Rail.
The locomotives, which include both steam and diesel engines, travel from Matlock Platform 2 to Rowsley South station on four miles of track that formed part of the old Midland Railway line, which linked Manchester Central and London St Pancras, before its closure in 1968. As well as selling model trains and railway prints, the station shop is a tourist information point. The adjacent second-hand transport bookshop is run by Bill Hudson, author of the classic railway book Through Limestone Hills.
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DERBYSHIRE RECORD OFFICE
You don’t need to make an appointment to visit the Derbyshire Record Office – just drop in, ask a question and friendly staff will help you to find the answer. Archives and Local Studies Manager Sarah Chubb says, ‘Changing exhibitions in the reception area are designed to engage with people from all over the country, whatever their age or interests.’
The Record Office has valuable resources in the form of newspapers, maps, photographs, wills, advertisements, records of estates, businesses and organisations. Free computer access allows you to research records of baptisms, marriages and burials from 400 parishes – a goldmine for the thousands of people who enjoy digging into family history.
FROM SILVARIOUS TO INDIGO
Eileen O’Donnell is an enterprising businesswoman who is the founder of Silvarious, a Bakewell shop selling hand-crafted jewellery and distinctive gifts. Her business became so successful that she was able to open further shops in Ashbourne, Derby and Matlock. Her Matlock branch, located next to a colourful flower shop, faces Crown Square, where a stainless-steel crown tops a roundabout from which Matlock’s shopping streets radiate like the spokes of a wheel.
One of the spokes is Dale Road, which has antique shops, eating places, independent shops and a furniture showroom called Indigo, where pieces crafted in the firm’s own workshops attract lots of celebrity customers.
A SNUG AND A BOUTIQUE
As well as possessing its own popular café, Hall Leys Park is overlooked by Sara’s Snug, a café run by Sara Binns, which is a good place for you to relax whilst enjoying the bucolic view. There is a great range of cakes and the drinks are served in china cups and saucers, in keeping with the Edwardian setting.
The ‘snug’ is sub-let by Susannah Ash, who founded the Bow Boutique that adjoins the café. Shortly after graduating with a degree in printed textiles and surface pattern design, Susannah decided to set up the boutique so that she could display and sell interior pieces and quirky gifts carefully cherry-picked by her trained eye.
GREAT MASSON AND GREAT RUTLAND CAVERNS
When you manage to drag yourself away from the mesmerising viewpoints at the Visitor Centre at the Heights of Abraham, be sure to visit the two show caverns that are the legacy of lead-mining activity that began in Roman times and reached a peak in the 17th century.
A guided tour of the Great Masson Cavern gives you an exciting underground experience which takes you on a journey that begins with the glow of a single candle and culminates in the flooding with light of the ‘Great Chamber’. In the Rutland Cavern, you will experience the atmosphere, sights and sounds of a typical working day in the life of a lead-mining family in the 17th century.
CHIPS WITH EVERTHING
The title of Arnold Wesker’s best-known play ‘Chips with Everything’ sums up the menu at many of the eating places in Matlock Bath, where there is a greater concentration of fish and chip restaurants than you are likely find anywhere else in the country.
With additional refreshment opportunities at pubs, tearooms and ice cream parlours, and family attractions such as an aquarium and a display of holograms, the main thoroughfare of this riverside resort has become an inland version of a seaside promenade. Matlock Bath has been a popular stopping place for motorcyclists ever since war-time dispatch riders staged regular reunions in this geographically-central location.
THE HEIGHTS OF ABRAHAM
For an exhilarating ride over the Derwent Valley, step on board a cable car near Matlock Station and travel to the Heights of Abraham, located 554 feet above the A6. Cable cars were installed 35 years ago, but the ‘Heights’ are said to be Derbyshire’s oldest tourist attraction.
A Visitor Centre at the summit contains a gift shop, bar, restaurant and terrace café where you can eat, drink and relax whilst enjoying spectacular views over the limestone gorge carved out by the River Derwent. The surrounding park and woodland cover 60 acres and include play areas and picnic sites, as well as a ‘prospect tower’ and two show caverns.
If you have a young family, the theme park at Gulliver’s Kingdom will be at the top of your list of places to visit in Matlock Bath. With more than 50 attractions ranging from a log flume and a ‘Drop Tower’ to tail-thrashing animatronic dinosaurs and ‘Bazooka Blasters’, there is a great deal to enjoy in the hillside ‘kingdom’.
Families have always been encouraged to bring their own picnics to make the most of a full-day out and there are now opportunities to extend your stay further by booking a room in one of the 18 family-themed suites, each equipped with three bunkbeds, a double bed and a kitchenette.
THE PEAK DISTRICT LEAD MINING MUSEUM
When Derbyshire Dales District Council surrendered their ownership of the Grand Pavilion, a local action group stepped in to save the Edwardian building. Although the pavilion has yet to be restored to its former glory, you should not be put off by its rather shabby external appearance.
The Peak District Lead Mining Museum, situated within the building and run by the Peak District Mines Historical Society, is a great attraction for visitors of all ages, with an enormous water pressure engine as its centrepiece. Hands-on activities include an opportunity to try panning ores in the Temple Mine across the road. The well-stocked gift shop has mineral specimens and books for sale.