A loop from Ashbourne




7 miles (11.3kms)

672ft (205m)
3hrs 30min

About the walk

Few Derbyshire towns boast such architectural splendour as Ashbourne and this walk begins and ends in its rich townscape.

Coaching Inns and Town Houses

As soon as the Peak District started to become popular with visitors Ashbourne’s location as the southern gateway made it an obvious place to stay. Six separate coach roads met here, giving rise to inns and hotels across the town, like the famous Green Man and Black’s Head Royal Hotel on St John’s Street, with its rare ‘scaffold’ sign that still spans the entire road. After the coaches came the railways, and by 1851 Ashbourne was a busy commercial centre with no less than 35 taverns and alehouses. Unlike some town centres, Ashbourne has been spared too much insensitive modern development and it retains some of the finest Georgian architecture in the county. Look at the facades around Market Place and on Church Street. This is the oldest part of the town and includes modest almshouses and grand 18th-century houses that once belonged to wealthy merchants. Further along is the Old Grammar School, built between 1585 and 1610 and granted a charter by Queen Elizabeth I; and beyond that is the Parish Church of St Oswald, dating from 1241 and containing a wealth of effigies and monuments.

Shrovetide Rough and Tumbles

Alongside its elegant architecture, Ashbourne also boasts a peculiar local sporting contest. The annual Shrovetide Football Game has been going on for as long as anyone can remember and is contested by two teams: those born on the north side of the local river (Henmore Brook) called the Up-ards, and those from the south, called the Down-ards. The goals are a small matter of 3 miles (4.8km) apart and everything in between – including the town centre, the river and surrounding countryside – is in effect the pitch. The match begins with the leather ball being ‘turned up’ at a ceremonial brick plinth at Shawcross car park, where this walk starts. A huge scrum of people known as a ‘hug’, often many hundreds strong, then tries to propel the ball towards the respective goals in what is a rough and boisterous affair that’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. It’s played over two eight-hour periods and for the duration of Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday shops board up their doors and windows and the traffic is even stopped as the ‘match’ spills out on to the road. The game is officially known as the Royal Shrovetide Football Game since HRH Prince Charles began proceedings in 2003, although he wisely didn’t participate in any of the action.

Walk directions

From the corner of the car park by the public toilets turn right for the walkway through to the town centre shops. At the end turn right, then left at the junction to reach Market Place. Walk down past Ye Olde Vaults pub and right on to the road at the bottom. Go past the traffic lights on to Church Street and turn left on to Station Road.

In 100yds (91m) turn right to reach the southern terminus of the Tissington Trail, by the leisure centre car park. Turn right again and walk the trail through the short tunnel under the town and out past the cycle hire centre. Continue on the trail northwards for just over 2 miles (3.2km).

Just before you get to the Tissington Trail Thorpe car park and picnic area turn left at the signpost ‘Public footpath to Thorpe’. Go up and across the first field, then through another to the road. Cross this for the narrow lane opposite and walk this all the way into the village of Thorpe.

At the far end turn left and left again on to Hall Lane. Go left on to Church Lane, past the church, and follow this to its conclusion at a gate. Go through it and in a few paces left for a public footpath through a hedge gap.    

Go down to a second gate, then diagonally left down across an open slope into the valley of the River Dove. Go through a gate at the very bottom and down a winding path through the undergrowth. At the bottom turn left to join a wider track along the river bank. Follow this through a succession of meadows until you reach a road.

Cross over to the footpath straight ahead across the field. Just beyond a line of small trees go diagonally left, away from the river, and aim for the stile in the far corner next to a house. Turn right and walk along the road. Turn left by the driveway to Callow End Farm, going through the fence gate ahead and left up the steep hillside through fields. Go over a stile, then diagonally left across the hilltop field to another stile. Now drop down sharply to the right to a gate, then left on to a hotel driveway.

Turn left on to the road and left again to reach the cycle hire centre on the Tissington Trail. Go right for the tunnel back to the town centre and the start.

Additional information

Pavements, firm cycle trail, field paths, 4 stiles

Town centre, farmland

Off lead on trail, but under control around livestock in fields

OS Explorer 259 Derby, OL24 White Peak

Shawcroft pay car park, Ashbourne

At car park

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About the area

Discover Derbyshire

The natural features of this central English county range from the modest heights of the Peak District National Park, where Kinder Scout stands at 2,088 ft (636 m), to the depths of its remarkable underground caverns, floodlit to reveal exquisite Blue John stone. Walkers and cyclists will enjoy the High Peak Trail which extends from the Derwent Valley to the limestone plateau near Buxton, and for many, the spectacular scenery is what draws them to the area.

The county is well endowed with stately homes – most notably Chatsworth, the palatial home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, with its outstanding collections of paintings, statuary and art. Other gems include the well preserved medieval Haddon Hall, the Elizabethan Hardwick Hall, and Kedleston Hall, whose entrance front has been described as the grandest Palladian façade in Britain.

The spa town of Matlock is the county’s administrative centre and other major towns of interest include Derby and the old coal mining town of Chesterfield, with its crooked spire. Around the villages of Derbyshire, look out for the ancient tradition of well dressing, the decorating of springs and wells – the precious sources of life-sustaining water – with pictures formed from flowers.

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