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Running for over 3 miles between Milldale and Bunster Hill in the beautiful Peak District, the spectacular valley of Dovedale rises majestically up each side of the River Dove. One of the most popular areas in the Peaks, this scenic valley and National Nature Reserve features impressive limestone formations, a wooded ravine as well as secret caves to explore. There is a selection of lovely scenic straight and circular walking paths in and around Dovedale, many of which are suitable for dogs and children.
Read on to discover why Dovedale is one of the Peak District's favourite walking destinations.
- Car park at Dovedale - 1.5-mile walk on riverside path along the River Dove to Stepping Stones.
- Car park (National Trust) at Ilem Park - 1.5-mile walk across fields to Dovedale - uneven and can get muddy!
- Information barn - at Dovedale Stepping Stones (Easter-October).
- Toilets - yes, at Dovedale car park (all year round).
- Snacks - stop off at the National Trust's Ilam Park for cake and tea or a catering van at the Dovedale car park for snacks.
WHAT CAN I SEE THERE?
When you think of Dovedale, the first thing that springs to mind are these iconic stones. They make crossing the River Dove to the other side great fun and are particularly popular with children. They may be hidden in heavy rain but there is also a wooden bridge that you can cross to get to the great walking trails. Many people choose to stop here and set up a picnic by the crystal-clear waters, known as 'the princess of rivers', but it really is worth taking even a short walk to see the beautiful scenery and wildlife on offer beyond the stones.
For other things to do in the Dovedale area, have a peek at our Idyllic Dovedale guide - it's not all just about the walking!
Rising up to a height of 942ft from the River Dove, and lying between the villages of Ilam and Thorpe, this solitary limestone hill makes a great viewing spot, taking in expanses of dale and plain. The path starts just beyond the Stepping Stones, so it is easily accessed. It can be uneven so do go up prepared, walking boots firmly on. If you are lucky, you may catch the rare double sunset phenomenon, identified by researcher Jeff Kent in 1997.
True fact: Both Thorpe Cloud and Dovedale were used as filming locations in the 2010 blockbuster, Robin Hood. Tread in the footsteps of Russell Crowe and 700 cast and crew as you look out for scenes from the film.
Want to discover other excellent viewpoints in the Peak District? Have a look at our High Points in the Peak District guide for inspiration.
WHAT ARE THE BEST WALKS?
Ilam Park to the Stepping Stones in Dovedale Walk
Dog-walkers and families will love this 1.5-mile walk which starts at the National Trust's Ilam Park car park and winds its way through Ilam village before taking you across open fields into Dovedale. Stop off at the famous Stepping Stones to set up a picnic and take in the breathtaking scenery as you lie back on the grassy banks. If you want to go further on, you can extend the walk along the valley to Milldale.
Keep dogs on leads for this walk as you will come across livestock on the way, and also be aware that the route can be uneven with stiles and gates so it's not one for pushchairs or prams. There is an alternative route, however, without cattle and stiles, so look out for the signs along the way.
Thorpe Cloud and Dovedale Walk
If you do want to venture beyond the iconic Stepping Stones, take this popular 1.5-mile route starting at the stones themselves. It's not a long walk but it can be quite strenuous so not good for little legs that get tired easily, unless you are willing to carry them part of the way. This popular route up to the summit of Thorpe Cloud has a pretty well-defined path but it does have rocky areas along the way. The fabulous views all the way up are wonderful, however, so it is definitely one for those who like their walk with a view.
Explore the limestone valley with its secret caves and natural arches, all set around the River Dove. Starting at the Dovedale car park, you can choose two routes: a flatter option which will see you retracing your footsteps back to the start (6 miles) and a circular route which takes you back around Ilam Tops and Bunster Hill (6.5 miles).
THE LOCAL VILLAGES
Nestling below the River Manifold and one of the nearest villages to Dovedale, this pretty little area is typical of a Peak village. With its charming church and pretty alpine-style cottages, it is set against a backdrop of Thorpe Cloud and Bunster Hill. The National Trust's Ilam Park offers a whole selection of family-friendly walks to get involved with, many with fantastic far-reaching views. There are free Friday and Monday walks which are dog-friendly, Early Birds Trails and even Nordic Walking tasters which will show you a whole other way to get fit! You can also stop for a steaming pot of tea and piece of cake after your walk at the Manifold Tea Room and pick up a souvenir or two in the gift shop.
To the east of Ilam sits the picturesque village of Thorpe. Close to the junction of the Rivers Dove and Manifold, you can set off on some great walking routes from here. Walkers and cyclists will also love the Tissington Trail which passes nearby. The area is locally known as 'Little Switzerland' due to its mountainous feel!
COME TO GORGEOUS DOVEDALE!
Come and discover the beautiful walks and breathtaking scenery of the Peak District from one of our cottages. We have a lovely selection of properties in and around Dovedale, from dog-friendly cottages for holidays with your four-legged family member, family-friendly cottages when you want to all meet up for an annual holiday with the kids, and of course, romantic cottages for when it's just the two of you.
For even more walking inspiration read our guide to 10 fantastic Peak District walks.