A visit to Matlock Bath, Derbyshire is a must-do if you are visiting the Peak District for the first time. It’s very accessible, as it’s at the edge of the Peak District National Park and has many family-friendly natural and historic attractions.
We spent 2 days exploring Matlock Bath and the neighbouring town of Matlock in the Peak District. In this post we share our favourite bike ride, attractions and walks from our visit. We’ll let you know the best things to do in Matlock Bath and the top local attractions for visitors.
Matlock Bath is a small market town in Derbyshire, in Central England. It is set in the magnificent gorge of the River Derwent, on the edge of the Peak District. The Derwent Valley is rich in history, wildlife, and natural beauty, so Matlock Bath is a great day out if you are visiting the Peak District.
A visit to Matlock Bath
Matlock Bath started life as a mining town. However, after the discovery of warm springs near Matlock in 1698, the gentry started visiting to sample the thermal waters. Before long, Matlock Bath had evolved into a fashionable spa town and a popular tourist destination.
Later, with the arrival of the railway in 1849, tourism opened to day-trippers too. Matlock Bath reached the heights of its popularity in the Victorian era when it became known by the poet Lord Byron as “Little Switzerland”.
Read on to discover the best things to do in Matlock Bath today.
Best things to do in Matlock Bath
Check out the High Street
Start your visit to Matlock Bath with a trip up the High Street. Nowadays, Matlock Bath has a seaside resort vibe, with a promenade of cafés, gift shops and amusement arcades. There are also more fish and chip shops than you could ever imagine in a town so far from the sea!
Find some fish
As well as an abundance of fish and chip shops, Matlock Bath has its own aquarium. A beautiful Victorian building in the centre of the High Street houses Matlock Bath Aquarium and Exhibitions.
Here you’ll find a collection of over 50 species of fish, including a thermal pool with giant Koi Carp. Children can even feed the fish with food from the poolside vending machines.
Additionally, kids can enjoy the gemstone and fossil display and one of the largest public displays of Holograms in Europe.
Matlock Bath Aquarium is usually open until the end of October and only costs £3.30 a visit.
Take a stroll round Derwent Gardens
If you want a relaxing stroll away from the bustling High Street, head to Derwent Gardens. These pretty formal gardens follow the River Derwent on the southern side of Matlock Bath.
Children will love the many water features along the route. These include an ornamental fountain, cascades, and little ponds, with water flowing from Matlock’s natural springs. You’ll also spot several follies and grottoes.
You can enjoy plenty of wildlife along the riverbank and at the right time of year, you’ll be able to spot tadpoles.
Cross the bridge to the Lovers’ Walks
For a more challenging walk, you could try Matlock Bath’s famous Lovers’ Walks. This pretty, riverside walk, takes you across the Jubilee Bridge from the Derwent Gardens and up the cliffs.
The original Lovers’ Walks was created in the 18th century and has been in continuous use since then. It’s a steep climb, but you’ll get spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
Walk from Matlock Bath to Matlock via High Tor
Alternatively you can walk in the opposite direction via High Tor to the neighbouring town of Matlock.
After a very steep ascent from the cable car terminus in Matlock Bath you’ll reach the clifftop trail which takes you all the way to Matlock. Once at the summit, the trail is flat, but it’s certainly a tough climb to start.
The trail leads through High Tor, a limestone crag, from which you can survey the whole valley. You can get a close-up from the precarious “giddy edge”, an unfenced viewpoint at the edge of the cliffs that looks down over Matlock Bath. You can also spot Riber Castle in the distance across the valley.
Eventually, we stopped for food and drinks in Matlock, before returning via Dale Road. There’s only one mile between Matlock and Matlock Bath.
Ascend the Heights of Abraham
A visit to Matlock Bath would not be complete without a trip to The Heights of Abraham.
This popular tourist destination was once a Victorian country park and has welcomed visitors since the 1780’s. Decades on and it is still one of the best attractions in Matlock Bath.
You start your visit to the Heights of Abraham with a ride in the iconic cable car, which takes you across the river to the top. Once up, you’ll find a choice of family attractions to entertain visitors.
Firstly take a guided tour through the Great Masson Show Caves. This underground tour follows in the footsteps of former lead miners to discover what their working day was like. The park has two caves, the Great Masson Cavern, and the Great Rutland Cavern, both mined for lead since Roman times.
Admission to these caves is included in the entrance price to the Heights of Abraham.
Next, you can climb the spiral staircase of the Victorian Prospect Tower, built in 1844 to honour Queen Victoria. Other attractions to look out for are Tinker’s Shaft and the Fossil factory.
If you are visiting the Heights of Abraham with kids, they’ll enjoy the two woodland adventure playgrounds, with slides, rope walks and a climbing tower. Plus, they can keep a look out for the three quirky life-size cows.
Visit Gulliver’s Kingdom
If you’re visiting with kids, one of the best attractions in Matlock Bath is Gulliver’s Kingdom.
Gulliver’s Kingdom is a family theme park aimed at 3-13-year olds. It offers a wide range of rides and attractions for kids, including a Drop Tower and Pirates’ Play area.
Things to do near Matlock Bath
Cycle the Monsal Trail
One of the very best things to do near Matlock Bath is a bike ride on the Monsal Trail.
The start of this family-friendly cycle route is about 30 minutes drive from Matlock Bath. The Monsal Trail is a former railway line, so is completely flat and traffic-free. It’s an ideal track for a ride or walk with children and has lots of tunnels to add some interest.
You can hire bikes and helmets at Hassop Station or at the other end at the Blackwell Mill Cycle Hire. You’ll find parking at both ends of the trail.
Cycling the Monsal Trail is a fantastic way to get some amazing views of the Derbyshire countryside.
Eat Bakewell Tart
On the way back from the Monsal Trail, take time to visit the charming village of Bakewell. This is about 20 minutes’ drive from Matlock Bath.
Bakewell is the largest town in the Peak District National Park and is famed for its unique pudding, Bakewell Tart. You’ll find a choice of shops selling the traditional Bakewell Pudding, including The Old Original Bakewell Pudding shop.
After a wander round the town, head to the banks of the River Wye, which flows through Bakewell. The vehicle bridge is a Gothic five-arch bridge has been bringing traffic to town for hundreds of years.
However, in recent years Bakewell’s Weir Bridge has been attracting the tourists. Known as the Love Lock Bridge, hundreds of padlocks adorn the bridge. These symbolise the everlasting love of couples who have visited.
The Bakewell riverside is a picturesque area and ideal for a walk.
A visit to Chatsworth House
Another good idea for a day trip from Matlock Bath is a visit to Chatsworth House. It is about 9 miles from Matlock Bath and takes about 20 minutes by car.
Chatsworth House is a beautiful stately home, which has been the family to 16 generations of the Devonshire family. You can visit the house or explore the 105-acre garden. For children, they have a farmyard and playground, with a zip-line and rope park.
Accommodation in Matlock Bath
Self-catering accommodation in Matlock Bath
If you’re looking for places to stay, you’ll find a good choice of self-catering accommodation and guest houses in Matlock Bath. We stayed in a house overlooking the cable car, with fantastic views, but a very steep climb home! Try these other self-catering accommodations in the centre of Matlock Bath.
- Click here for Gate Cottage, a cosy historic cottage within walking distance from town.
- Click here for The Grange, a comfortable home in a central location.
- Click here for Cedar House B&B, situated on the banks of the River Derwent.
Hotels in Matlock Bath
Hodgkinsons Hotel has an excellent location in the centre of Matlock Bath. This hotel is in a Grade-II listed building and has its own secluded roof garden.
Click here for prices and availability on Booking.com.
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