Things to do in and around Ashbourne
The quaint town of Ashbourne is one of Derbyshire’s finest old market towns, also known as the Gateway to Dovedale and Gateway to the Peak District. It is located on the south edge of the Peak District National Park and offers a great base to visit places in and around the area. The town still holds a traditional outdoor market every Thursday and Saturday throughout the year, complementing the wide range of independent shops in the town. It is 12 miles North West from Derby, 26 miles from Stoke-on-Trent and 27 miles from Nottingham.
Brief History of Ashbourne
In medieval times Ashbourne was a frequent rest stop for pilgrims walking ‘St Non’s Way’ to the shrine at Dunstable in Bedfordshire. Unfortunately Ashbourne was substantially destroyed by fire in 1252 meaning many buildings had to be rebuilt. The present Market Place is likely to have been established afterwards, which has subsequently reduced in size and has divided the original Market Place into three areas – Market Place, Victoria Square, and St John Street. As Ashbourne became more prosperous in Georgian times, most buildings around the Market Place were rebuilt as 3 storey brick buildings. (Below is an image of 31 and 33 Market place being demolished during Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee making way for the grander 3 storey buildings which can be found there today). Local historians have also said that almost one in four buildings in the town have at one time or another been an alehouse.
Also back in 1745 Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) stayed at Ashbourne on his march south to Derby.
Ashbournes railway opened in 1852 but sadly it was closed in 1963 and the track was lifted in 1964. Since 1971 you can walk or cycle part of the train route on the Tissington Trail.
From 1910, Nestlé had a creamery in the town, which for a period was contracted to produce Carnation condensed milk. The factory closed in 2003, and was demolition in 2006.
In 1985 HRH Queen Elizabeth II visited Ashbourne for the 400th anniversary of the founding of Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School.
(see places of interest in Ashbourne further down the page for more information on some of the buildings in the town and their history or visit www.ourashbourne.co.uk)
Places to Stay
If you are looking to stay in or around the Ashbourne area you won’t be disappointed with the choice. For camping, glamping, caravans and lodges we would recommend Callow Top Holiday Park, Ashbourne Heights Holiday Park, Mount Pleasant Camping and Glamping, Calwich Under Canvas, Sandybrook Lodges.
There is also a good choice of quality B&B or hotels in the Ashbourne area such as The Coach House on Church Street in Ashbourne, The Royal Oak or the Rose and Crown in Mayfield, The Izaak Walton Hotel in Dovedale, Manor House Farm in Denstone and The Peveril of the Peak in Thorpe.
If you are after somewhere a little more luxurious then take a look at Callow Hall near Mappleton or Alton Towers Hotel in Alton. (Alton Towers have several events on too throughout the year such as Scarefest over Halloween, Ultimate Fireworks and Laser Display around Bonfire Night, Santa’s Sleepover during the Christmas season and more)
Shopping in Ashbourne
Ashbourne hosts a great selection of high quality independent shops, so if you feel like a treat why not take a look at our Derbyshire Blue John jewellery range (you will find us on the corner of Church Street) or one of the many fantastic retailers such as Young Ideas (designer clothing and accessories), Optimum Gifts (gifts and jewellery), Spurrier-Smith Antiques, The Makers (gifts), Pretty Things (ladies accessories and gifts), Wigleys Shoes and many more. For a more extensive list go to www.visitashbourne.co.uk
If flowers and plants are more your ideal gift, Ashbourne has three fantastic florists The Flowershop of Ashbourne and Absolutely Fabulous. Also just on the outskirts of town there is Wyaston Nursery and award winning Fairways Garden Centre.
Places to Eat and Drink in Ashbourne
Whilst in Ashbourne you’d be mad not to stop by one of the many little cafes or pubs offering delicious food and fabulous drinks during your stay. Many of which are situated in the heart of the town such as Cheddar Gorge (cheese specialist & bakery), Ashbourne Bakehouse (bakery specialist), Cafe Impromptu, Bramhalls Deli and Cafe, Dillon’s Tea House and Cafe, The recently refurbished Greenman gastro pub (snacks and fine dining), Lamplight Restaurant (British/European), Thai Basement (Thai), Anayas (premier Indian dining), The Artisan (cafe bar and bottle shop), Maison Du Biere (beer shop and tap room), and just out of the centre is The Bowling Green (steakhouse).
Places to Eat and Drink in Local Villages
However if you fancy something a little further afield of an evening there are several fantastic pubs in the surrounding villages including The Royal Oak in Mayfield, The Duncombe Arms in Ellastone, The Saracens Head in Shirley, The Old Dog at Thorpe, The Yeaveley Arms in Yeaveley, The Bentley Brook Inn at Fenny Bentley and The Shoulder of Mutton at Osmaston to name just a few. For a more extensive list go to www.visitashbourne.co.uk
Places of Interest in Ashbourne
Whilst walking around Ashbourne popping in and out of the shops you will find many old and beautiful buildings rich in history including St Oswald’s Church which was built around 1220. One of the grandest churches in Derbyshire, with a slender spire of 215 ft, it is also referred to in the Doomsday book. Other buildings such as The Ashbourne Gingerbread Shop which was built around 1492, the Old Grammar School which was built in 1585 and The Green Man which was built in the 1750’s. In the 1830’s Princess Victoria (who later became Queen Victoria) stopped here during her tour around Britain and its gallows inn sign across the road is one of the few left in Britain. Catherine Booth, ‘Mother of the Salvation Army’, was also born in Ashbourne at 13 Sturston Road in 1829.
Places to Walk
For those who like walking or hiking the Ashbourne area is perfect with places such as Dovedale, Thorpe Cloud, cycle the 13 mile Tissington Trail, Ilam park (The National Trust also provide free 2 hour guided walks from Ilam), Dimmingsdale and Carsington Reservoir on the doorstep. If you are willing to travel a little further afield then Mam Tor, Winnats Pass, Kinder Scout and Ladybower Reservoir are well worth a visit if time allows. At Ladybower Reservoir you can check out where the Dambusters trained during World War II. Also while you are in the North area of the Peak District why not stop off at Castleton where you can take a guided tour of one of the Derbyshire Blue John Caverns.
Places of Interest Close to Ashbourne
If you love history and architecture why not visit a stately home or one of the many National Trust locations in the area including, Tissington Hall, Sudbury Hall and Kedleston Hall which are all less than a 20 minute drive from Ashbourne. Alternatively there is Bolsover Castle, Hardwick Hall and the stunning 1,000 acre site of Chatsworth Estate all within an hours drive from Ashbourne.
If you prefer something more action packed then you could book an activity at Wild Park in Brailsford village just outside of Ashbourne offering Paintballing, Quad Biking, Archery and more. Carsington Reservoir offer a selection of water sports such as windsurfing, sailing and canoeing. If being in the air is more your thing then Darley Moor airfield and race circuit offer track days along with paragliding, hang gliding, microlighting lessons… however if you enjoy a good white knuckle ride then of course there is the world renown Alton Towers. At Alton Towers you will find a choice of childrens rides for all ages as well as adult roller coasters, Splash Landings water park and a spa!
Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide
Last but certainly not least if you happen to visit Ashbourne on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday then you are in for a real unique treat. Every year the Royal Shrovetide Game, which is a “Medieval football” game takes place over the two days, starting at 2pm on each day (the play can continue up until 10pm). The two sides (the Up’ards and the Down’ards) compete in trying to get the highly detailed painted leather and cork ball to their team’s goal. One of which is in Clifton and the other at Sturston. Depending on which side of the river you were born dictates which side you are on. Since the close of the maternity ward in Ashbourne the younger generations follow their family side. In the early 1200’s the Henmore (a tributary of the River Dove) was called Schole Brook but from the 1600’s it was called Henmore Brook. This civil boundary was used for over 1000 years and on into the nineteenth century dividing Ashbourne from Compton. Ashburnians are extremely proud of their ancient traditional game, most of whom hope to score a ball of their own for many decades. The game has been known as ‘Royal’ since the 1920s when the Prince of Wales (later became King Edward VIII) turned up the ball in 1928. The game received another royal visit in 2003 when Prince Charles turned up the ball. There are very few rules for this ancient game so all visitors must take great and avoid getting too close to all the action.