12 perfect Christmas walks in Derbyshire

A frosty Froggatt Edge

A frosty Froggatt Edge - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Christmas walks are all part of the festive tradition – precious days spent in the outdoors – hatted, scarved, gloved and booted.  

In Derbyshire we’re spoilt for choice. Here are 12 of the county’s loveliest yuletide rambles. 

Decorated churches, packed with history, charming outdoor markets, frosted riverside meanders, moonlight walks on the wild moors, windswept edges, wide-open vistas and cosy woodlands – they’re all included. 

Advent in Ashbourne 

Highlight: Penelope Boothby Monument, St Oswald’s Church 

Festive fare and shopping: St John Street Café & Gallery  

The handsome market town looks good at any time of year but it’s particularly enticing throughout Advent with its Christmas lights and colourful decorations.  

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On Thursdays and Saturdays, the triangular cobbled Market Place is set up with stalls that spill down to the Shambles. Behind the Georgian and Victorian frontages, there’s evidence of the town’s original medieval layout.  

Asbourne's Victoria Square at Christmas

Asbourne's Victoria Square at Christmas - Credit: Gary Wallis

Six coaching routes passed through Ashbourne back in the day including the London to Carlisle route, while Pilgrims of the St Non’s Way rested up here.  

As a busy thoroughfare, it’s not surprising to learn Bonnie Prince Charlie, Queen Victoria and esteemed writers, Samuel Johnson, George Eliot and Izaac Walton were all spotted kicking around town. 

Back in the present, duck into yards and jitties, looking up and down to get a glimpse of its Georgian and Victorian architectural street furniture: decorative pub signs, Victorian lanterns, sun dial, boot scraper and an ancient signpost.  

Ashbourne, along with its markets, is known for its individual shops – great for Christmas gifts. Save them for the end of this circular walk and head down St Johns Street, then Church Street, passing the historic Alms Cottages and the old Queen Elizabeth Grammar School founded in 1585.  

Slip into St Oswald’s (with the finest spire in England according to George Eliot), passing 12 ghoulish skulls supporting the pointed Gothic pillars on the entrance gateposts.  

Admire the beautiful pre-Raphaelite stained-glass window of two sisters near the south entrance before heading to the Boothby Chapel. It’s packed with effigies of Ashbourne’s old families – all ruffs, robes and armour and elevated on tombstones decorated with painted shields, battlements, angels and mythical creatures.  

But it’s the exquisite Carrara marble statue of five-year-old Penelope Booth that steals the show – a picture of delicate perfection as she lies in peaceful slumber. 

Across from the church, follow the signed public footpath, passing the junior school to Belle Vue Road.  

Cross it and continue up a driveway, following a second fingerpost. Turn left to follow the route to Bentley Brook. At the fork, turn right to walk through fields before emerging at Mappleton Road. At the four-way junction, drop down Dovehouse Green and Union Street.  

Soon you’ll arrive back at Market Place and Buxton Road. Enjoy a hot chocolate and a mince pie before indulging in a little Christmas shopping. 

Seasonal Bakes in Bakewell 

Highlight: Christmas Tree Festival at All Saints Church 

Festive fare and shopping: The Gallery Café, The Rutland Arms Antique Centre, The Square  

Bakewell, home of the Bakewell pudding, is truly atmospheric with its riverside location, honey-coloured stone buildings and elegant church on the hillside but it’s especially enchanting during Advent with its decorated shop windows and Christmas firs glowing golden with fairy-lights.  

Start your walk at the far end of Bakewell Recreation Ground, following the banks of the River Wye towards town, passing the Lovelock footbridge to reach Bakewell Bridge.  

A snow covered Bakewell Bridge

A snow covered Bakewell Bridge - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Turn right over the crossing and take the path on the left-hand side to continue along the flood-plains of the meandering River Wye. At the end of the grassy path, turn left onto Holme Lane and continue to Riverside Business Park.  

Along the way, the waterside mill terraces with their long-fronted cottage gardens are particularly charming. The mill here was developed by Richard Arkwright, the grandfather of the Industrial Revolution, and managed by his son.  

The Riverside Brewery, Thornbridge Tap Room and shop may tempt you in for a bite of lunch.   

Cross the bridge and head back towards town. If you’re lucky, you just might see a kingfisher on the banks of the mill leat adjacent to the main road. Soon you’ll leave the busy A6 behind to climb Bagshaw Hill.  

Turn left into North Church Street. Follow the path into the church and enter by the south entrance where the tiny porch is stacked high with medieval carved masonry.

Since several tribal lands converged in Bakewell in the Middle Ages, there are sculpted creatures typical of the Mercians, vine scrolls from Anglian Northumbrians, weave patterns from the Danish Vikings and Celtic interlay from the Norse Vikings.  

Inside the church, there are more historic treasures. Vernon Chapel is home to the ancestors of Haddon Hall and other influential local families. Among the grand effigies and tombstones, you’ll find a monument to Sir John Manners and Catholic Dorothy Vernon, their alleged elopement well dramatised in literature.  

Explore the rest of the church, jam-packed with decorated Christmas trees during the festival, then drop back down to Rutland Square and investigate the main shopping thoroughfare and back alleyways.  

Bakewell offers plenty of Christmas gift ideas – particularly on a Monday when the market’s 100 plus stalls are packed with foodstuffs, crafts and bric-a-brac. Finish with a well-earned coffee and slice of Christmas cake.  

Festive Cheer in Castleton 

Highlight: The ‘broken road’ 

Festive fare: Tilly’s of Castleton, Cross Street  

Castleton is the perfect Derbyshire village to get into the Christmas spirit. It’s known for its bright decorations and colourful Christmas tree lights along with its carol-singing and Yuletide brass band concerts in the surrounding show caves. When Mam Tor is dusted in frost or snow you could be in the Alps with a little imagination.  

Before exploring the town, set out from the Visitor Centre (worth dropping in to learn about the area’s natural and human history) and follow Buxton Road and Old Tor Road towards Mam Tor and the Great Ridge.  

The scenery in and around Castleton

The scenery in and around Castleton is breath-taking - perfect for a festive stroll - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

You’ll pass Treak Cliff Cavern on the left, possibly the most impressive of the Castleton Caves. If you haven’t visited before, make sure you book a guided tour. It boasts a pillar encrusted with the semi-precious Blue John mineral, worth millions of pounds.  

From here, you are led through a series of caves, each one more spectacular than the one before: Aladdin’s Cave, Fairyland, Dream Cave and the Dome of St Paul’s, the former caverns filled with stalactites and stalagmites, the ‘dome’ awe-inspiring in its scale.  

As you climb higher, the road is no longer accessible to vehicles. It soon becomes apparent why as the old road loops round Little Mam Tor. The now defunct throughway was once the main route into Castleton from the north.  

Victim to numerous landslides from the ‘Shivering Mountain’, Mam Tor, the road was eventually rerouted through Winnats Pass.

The collapsed sections of the road – where you’ll have to negotiate cracks and drops – emerge at Peak Cavern, then the junction of the A623. Follow it along its grassy verges until you meet Winnats Pass.  

Drop down through the pass surrounded by soaring pinnacles and rock faces, surely the most dramatic road in the Peak District.  

It’s an atmospheric place where mists swirl and winds whistle through in inclement weather. It explains, perhaps, the tale of an unfortunate couple who allegedly haunt the pass. Eloping to Peak Forest, they were robbed and murdered by opportunist thieves.  

The natural history of Winnats Pass is equally dramatic: the deep ravine of limestone cliffs and surrounding hilltops were once a coral reef. Soon you will join Arthurs Way, then Buxton Road back into the village.  

Warm up with a steaming bowl of winter soup before seeking out some Blue John jewellery for that special Christmas gift.  

Boxing Day in Buxton 

Highlight: Solomon’s Temple folly 

Festive fare: The Herb Garden Vegetarian Bistro, Hardwick Street  

Is there a more handsome spa town in the Midlands? Buxton’s newly renovated Crescent is surely up there with the Circus in Bath.  

The Romans came here too, and thanks to them, the town’s healing bathing and drinking water was discovered, the bottled mineral water sold throughout Britain today.  

However, you can fill up for free at St Anne’s Well at The Slopes – good for quenching your thirst as you tackle the steep woodland paths through Buxton Country Park to Solomon’s Temple. It’s time to walk off all that Christmas dinner. 

A festive looking Buxton Pavilion

A festive looking Buxton Pavilion - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Along the way, there is much to see; Buxton is teeming with history. Head along the square between the park and Old Hall Hotel. Mary, Queen of Scots was placed under house arrest here.  

On the other side of the square, admire the opulent Frank Machen opera house, the highest opera house in England. If you end your walk with the Christmas Panto, you can enjoy the grand interior too.  

From here, amble through the Winter Gardens observatory and out into the Pavilion Gardens, showcasing more elegant Victorian architecture – The Pavilion and Octagon Hall, the latter’s eight sides encased in glass and wood.  

The River Wye runs through the park, tranquil brooks, ponds and lawns all adding to the ambience. Emerging at Burlington Road, turn right onto Bath Road, crossing West Road to continue along College Road with its leafy villas.  

Almost immediately, turn right to climb Temple Road. Watch out for a left turn to stay on Temple Road. It emerges at Poole’s Cavern – also renowned for its spectacular stalagmites and stalactites.  

At the back of the car park, you’ll find woodland paths climbing to Solomon’s Temple. This isn’t a biblical reference, but rather pays homage to businessman, Solomon Mycock who allegedly built the folly to keep the local unemployed busy.  

Climb the tower to take in expansive views of Buxton, the quarries that have taken great chunks out of surrounding hills and of the Dark Peak’s moorlands.  

Retracing your steps back to the Crescent, visit the beautifully restored Pump House and Cavendish Arcade.  

The original thermal baths at the Arcade are now packed with charming individual shops while retaining some of the spa’s architecture. Admire the barrel-shaped stained-glass ceiling and embossed decorative tiles.  

Feeling healthier after the invigorating Boxing Day walk, it’s time to relax with a light post-Christmas meal. 

Joyeux Noel in New Mills 

Highlight: The Millennium Walkway 

Festive fare: Gioia Mia Café, Market Street  

Teetering above the Goyt and Sett rivers, New Mills showcases some of the best examples of Victorian engineering in a stunning natural setting.  

Before ambling out, drop into the Heritage Centre to learn about the town’s industrial past. Outside, a viewing platform offers a tantalising glimpse of the deep ravine and the Millennium Walkway.  

The Millennium Walkway, New Mills

The Millennium Walkway, New Mills - Credit: Visit Peak District & Derbyshire

Head down Station Road, turning left at a gap in the wall to follow the signed Millennium Walkway. The 525-foot-long steel walkway is an impressive sight, bolted to the ravine’s retaining wall and supported by pillars in the riverbed.  

Traversing the suspended walkway, you’ll arrive at Torrs Hydro with its reverse Archimedes screw turbine. It’s surrounded by three imposing Victorian structures: Union Bridge, Queens Bridge and the railway viaduct.  

Cross the Millward Memorial Bridge and bear right to pass under the base of Queens Bridge. Follow the leat to the sluice gate, then retrace your steps back to cross Millward Bridge.  

Keeping right, follow the Sett River upstream. Turn left, passing under the railway viaduct, climbing up through Lower Rock Street, then Rock Street onto Market Street, looking seasonally festive.  

Warm up with a Bailey’s hot chocolate or coffee liqueur and a gooey cake at Gioia Mia’s. 

Christmas in Calver 

Highlight: Winter mists on the Derwent 

Festive Fare: The Eating House, Calver Bridge 

Leaving the bustling Derbyshire settlements behind, head into the countryside to enjoy farm lanes, fields and the burble of the River Derwent.  

From West End in Baslow, walk along Bubnell Lane that follows the River Derwent, heading right across flood plains where the road curves. Passing woodland, follow the banks of the river, particularly beautiful on a frosty winter morning when mists steam off the water.  

Calver Bridge

Calver Bridge - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Follow the pathway between houses and the river, emerging at the A623 beside a bridge. Take care crossing over the busy road to Derbyshire Craft Centre.  

It’s an Aladdin’s cave, stacked high with gorgeous gifts. At the back of the shop, you’ll find the Eating House, freshly-baked cakes and savouries – also tantalisingly stacked behind the display counter. 

Replete, climb up Curbar Lane into the hamlet, looking for a right turn into a lane just past the circular sheep pen. Follow grassy pathways between Lane Farm and Cliff College, then Gorsebank Lane down into Over End at Baslow.  

Drop down through Bar Road and School Lane, emerging at the church. Cross over the old arched bridge back to West End. 

Festive Lights in the Longstones 

Highlight: View from Monsal Head 

Festive Fare: The Packhorse Inn, Little Longstone 

Start your walk at Monsal Head, drinking in the sweep of the River Wye, the old railway viaduct, the seemingly miniature house, pocket-sized garden and footbridge in the valley far below. 

Now cross the staggered junction onto Butts Lane. Head past Little Longstone’s diminutive Congregational Chapel with its handsome bell tower.  

Stop off at the Packhorse Inn for lunch, known for its fresh, locally produced food. At the bottom of the lane, turn right into Great Longstone’s Main Street. It’s lined with stone cottages and elegant 18th century villas softened by wide grassy verges and mature trees.  

Pass the Crispin Inn, referencing the Patron Saint of Shoemakers and Great Longstone’s once lucrative cobbling industry.  

Admire Great Longstone’s tall Christmas fir next to Station Road, then follow the country lane as far as the bridge crossing the Monsal Trail. Drop down onto the trail, passing the old Thornbridge Station and its grand Jacobean hall.  

On the other side of the Headstone Tunnel, walk on to the viaduct for closer views of an idyllic Wye valley. From here climb the steep pathway up to Monsal Head.   

Frost on Froggatt  

A frosty Froggatt Edge

A frosty Froggatt Edge - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Highlight: Escarpment rocks 

Festive Fare: Grindleford Community Shop, St Helen’s Church Vestry 

Head out on a frosty morning when the ground’s sparkling white. Park at Froggatt Car Park (layby on the A625), cross the road to the little wooden gate and descend through Hay Wood.  

Look for a left turn leading to Grindleford. It joins a lane emerging at Saint Helen’s Church. Enjoy a warming cup of ethnically sourced coffee and a Welbeck Bakehouse pastry in the leafy churchyard dotted with gravestones before slipping into the Christmas-decorated church for a moment of quiet reflection.  

Turning left out the church, head across the flood meadow just before the bridge. Follow the Derwent Valley Heritage Way to Spooner Lane, emerging at Froggatt Wesleyan Reform Chapel.  

Turn right onto Hollowgate road, becoming Froggatt Lane. Look out for a left-hand fingerpost. The path climbs steeply to Froggatt Edge, crossing the A625 to continue up through more woodland. Follow Froggatt Edge back to the car park.  

On bright days the views across the Derwent Valley are breath-taking. Clamber over the weird and wonderfully weathered gritstone rocks.  

On other days, when the mists come down and the birches are frosted silver, Froggatt Edge feels ethereal and otherworldly.  

Yuletide in Tideswell 

Highlight: The Suffolk Carvings in the ‘Cathedral in the Peak’  

Festive Fare: High Nelly’s, Bank Square 

Festive Tideswell

Festive Tideswell - Credit: Gary Wallis

One of the Peak’s highest villages, Tideswell’s renowned for its wintery weather and beautiful surroundings.  

From Tideswell Dale Car Park on the B6049, cross to the fingerpost and head through fields to Meadow Farm. Turn right to follow Meadow Lane, enclosed by dry-stone walls, into the village.  

Enjoy views across the uplands, the criss-cross of stone field enclosures like a Mondrian painting. Continue down Sherwood Road, then Sunny Bank Lane into the centre of the settlement.  

Head up High Street. How about some Fairtrade coffee or Yorkshire tea from High Nelly’s? The chic café, cheerfully decorated for Christmas, offers tasty home-cooked, home-baked lunches.  

Drop into the ‘Cathedral in the Peak’ with its stunning Suffolk Carvings, others dating back to the Middle Ages. Pews, pulpit, stalls and screens are covered in intricately sculpted flora and fauna, biblical scenes and strange mythical creatures, all enhanced with yuletide greenery and candles. 

Head south again through Tideswell’s main street. Turn right into Richard Lane, then left along the track running parallel to the B6049. Meeting the road, march the short distance along the pavement to the car park, feeling better for a good post-Christmas work-out. 

Baubles and Firs in Farley Wood 

Highlight: Christmas baubles on the Jo Cox Way 

Festive Fare: Duke of Wellington, Chesterfield Road 

In Farley Wood you'll find baubles which offer a poignant commemoration

In Farley Wood you'll find baubles which offer a poignant commemoration - Credit: Helen Moat

From Matlock’s Duke of Wellington, head along Wellington Street, then Cavendish Road with dizzying views of the town, High Tor and Black Rocks below.  

Where the road bends right continue straight up the lane beside Cavendish Fields. The lane becomes a path, heading up between trees and a stone wall. It bends right, then left along the edge of Hurker Wood.  

Turn right to follow another path between woodland and field. The path merges with Farley Wood’s forest track. Turn left to follow it as it twists and turns through spruce, Christmas firs, Scots pines, and birches. 

As you draw closer to Farley Lane, the conifers lining the track are decorated with baubles of every colour and design, commemorating murdered MP, Jo Cox.  

Visit on a snowy morning if you can. Trees are dressed in silver, stacked logs, trees and decorations on the Jo Cox Way layered with snow. It feels as if you’ve entered Narnia. 

Leaving the woodlands behind, head down Farley Lane and take a left-hand path below Bent Farm. It returns you to Cavendish Fields.  

Retrace your steps to the Duke of Wellington and warm up with one of their good-value meals.   

Starry Skies at Surprise View 

Highlight: Carl Wark Hillfort 

Festive Fare: Millstone Country Inn 

Sunset over Hope Valley from Surprise View

Sunset over Hope Valley from Surprise View, where a meteor shower isn't out of the question - Credit: Gary Wallis

There is something truly magical about stepping out at night under a navy sky, illuminated only by galaxies and the light of the moon.  

Other than the starlit sky and shadowy outlines, vision is restricted to the few feet cast by torchlight. It allows us to hone in on the textures and shapes of our immediate surroundings; we see the world afresh.  

Few places are more beautiful than the Dark Peak moorlands off Surprise View Car Park, and especially so at night.  

At this Dark Sky Site, finish off the year with a bang and step out onto a moorland strung with stars on a clear winter’s evening.  

Head across Millstone Edge as the light fades out and on to the ancient hillfort of Carl Wark. Take in the shadowy rocks of Higger Tor before retracing your steps to the car park via Mother’s Cap.  

Watch the stars come out one by one. Stop frequently to take in the winter constellations: Orion, Gemini, Taurus and Perseus. It’s unlikely you’ll see the Aurora but there’s a good chance of seeing a meteor shower.  

Settle down with a flask drink and enjoy the end-of-year spectacle, then drive down to the bright lights of Millstone Country Inn to warm up. 

End-of-year magic in Milldale 

Highlight: The Viator’s Bridge 

Festive Fare: The George at Alstonefield 

The Viator’s Bridge, Milldale

The Viator’s Bridge, Milldale - Credit: Joy Hales

The last day of December’s approaching, festivities are drawing to a close and the New Year beckons. It’s time to return to simple pleasures and enjoy the stillness and beauty of Derbyshire’s White Peak. 

Head for Milldale, a delightful hamlet tucked into the Dove valley. Before setting out, climb onto the Viator’s Bridge, so narrow it caused writer and fishing guru, Izaac Walton to exclaim ‘What’s here, the sign of a bridge? Do you travel in wheelbarrows in this country? … Why a mouse can hardly go over it, ‘tis not two fingers broad.’  

He may have indulged in a little hyperbole but the miniature footbridge sets the scene for this beautiful settlement with its little barn (information point), babbling river and topsy-turvy stone cottages cascading off the hillside.  

Head up through the steep dale of cottages, woodland and meadow past Milldale Car Park, looking out for a squeeze stile in the wall on the right, climb up and over to Alstonefield.  

Make your way to the George, set behind the triangular green and its spreading tree. With its quarry-tiled floor, lime-washed walls, decorative paraphernalia, crackling fires, woollen blankets, candles and rustic furniture, the 400-year-old coaching inn oozes winter hygge.   

Enjoy a steak-and-ale pie and a pint by the wood-burner before careering down Millway Lane back to Milldale. The expansive views over the White Peak will warm your heart.