There are many reasons to visit this delightful village, set on the northern bank of the River Wye. Known as one of the prettiest villages in the Peak District, with its charming riverside limestone cottages and much-photographed three-arched packhorse bridge, it welcomes visitors throughout the year to experience its traditional warm Peak District welcome.
Let’s look at some of the reasons you should visit this charming Peak village.
Discover one of the UK’s most photographed bridges
The low-slung three-arched Sheepwash Bridge is one of the many reasons that visitors flock to this village when visiting the Peaks. With elegant willow trees overhanging the river, swans gliding gracefully and rainbow trout a-leaping in the sparkling waters, it makes the prettiest picture, and is possibly the most visited of the 62 Ashford structures listed by Historic England for their historic or architectural interest.
Just to the side of the bridge, there is also a collection of equally interesting historic features, including a former tithe barn, the parish pump and a little parish church. Kids will love to explore this area and play pooh sticks from the bridge – in fact, the bridge has been named by Visit England as the best location in the country to play this much-loved game!
Uncover some rich history and culture
Well known for the quarrying of Ashford Black Marble, the village is also famous for being the place where ‘maidens’ garlands’ were made to mark the deaths of virgins until 1801, with some preserved for posterity in the parish church. Listen to the fascinating tales of village history, including the story about the unusual walled enclosure attached to the bridge, where lambs were placed in the pen to entice ewes to swim across the river to reach them. Why? To allow the waters to wash the fleece of the ewes in preparation for shearing!
The Peak tradition of ‘well-dressing’ still has a role to play in Ashford in the Water. Every year, around the time of Trinity Sunday, villagers decorate slabs of clay with petals, leaves and plants to create pictures. The finished masterpieces are then taken around the village and placed at the six wells, followed by a church service and procession through the village to bless the wells.
Browse the sweet little shops
Many of the buildings that house the shops and pubs have been around for years – sadly some of the old shops, once used for the manufacture of stockings, have since been turned into dwellings, though they do add to the idyllic character of this village. There are only a couple left - pop into Cottage Crafts on Fennel Street – the lady who has been running it has done so for over 30 years! Find cute tea cosies, baskets, pictures and, our favourite, mini limestone wall ornaments.
If you want to see some of the local limestone in action, pop over to the Holy Trinity Church where you will see a great example of an Ashford Black Marble tabletop. You’ll also find a local shop which sells all the essentials you could need, as well as some tasty deli produce, chutneys and fine preserves.
Come for the countryside
You’re probably well aware of the walking possibilities if you are thinking about a holiday in the Peaks. There are so many wonderful walking routes, trails and mountains to scale, but one of the best is the traffic-free Monsal Trail which runs for 8.5 miles between Blackwell Mill in Chee Dale and Coombs Road, at Bakewell. You’ll be sharing the route with walkers, cyclists and even the odd horse, through long railway tunnels lit up during daylight hours. Don’t worry, there are no trains on this route, not even cars – the most you’ll have to listen out for is the clip-clop of hooves or a bike bell tinkling behind asking to overtake.
If it’s stunning views that you’re after, make your way up to Monsal Head to drink in the calm atmosphere and experience the most breathtaking views. Rest awhile on one of the benches and watch the sunset, just don’t forget to bring something warming in a flask! There are many pretty Ashford in the Water walks, from short trails around the village to longer hikes up into the Peaks - even if you've got little ones with you, there'll be a suitable walk. Don't forget that most of them make the perfect afternoon out for the family dog too!
For more gorgeous views, check out our guide to the top views in the Peak District.
Stop off for something yummy
Pop into the Aisseford Tea Room on Church Street, for a chunk of scrumptious homemade cake or a couple of freshly baked scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. The name is taken from Aisseford, the name given to the village during the days of the Royal Forest and there’s also a gift shop on the top floor if you want to spend some holiday pennies on mementoes of your time in the Peaks.
If you prefer a pub lunch, you have a couple of good options with the Ashford Arms and the Bulls Head. Both serve hearty country fare, with the latter having three cask ales on offer and an open fire to relax in front of, after tiring walks amongst the peaks. In the summer, laze in the shaded beer garden with something cool and join other pub-goers in a game of boules. Both of the Ashford in the Water pubs offer a warm Peak welcome, so make sure you stop off at one of them for a taste of not only the fantastic local ale but also of the warm local hospitality.
Stay at one of our Ashford in the Water cottages
Our cottages in Ashford in the Water are the perfect base for visiting not only this charming village, but also for exploring the rest of the Peak District. Stay in a cottage right in the heart of the village so that you can step out into centuries of history without so much as a car key. One such cottage, the beautiful 300-year-old Thorpe Cottage, will delight guests with its wooden beams, exposed stone walls and warming wood burner.
If you want country views, we also have so many properties to choose from, including Granary Barn which sleeps 4 and a four-legged friend - you will also have access to fishing on the River Wye at this cottage. Or bring the family to the contemporary conversion of Stable Barn, offering a country location within walking distance to the village. For something a little grander, the Grade II-listed Rookery Cottage on the banks of the River Wye is a very special stay for up to 6 people.
Come and visit this pretty village from one of our holiday cottages in Ashford-in-the-Water – we have a selection of charming properties to stay in – from romantic cosy little cottages for two, to dog-friendly country barns and family-friendly properties which welcome all ages. Click below to find your next holiday!