We’re moving forward to another season, and so there’s the opportunity to try out five great walks in my new Peak District Year Round Walks Book. We’ve already enjoyed spring and the chances of a bluebell walks that it throws at us, but now it’s time to get down to picnics and paddling in rivers. There are wonderful spots for this all over the National Park, but a particular favourite is Dovedale. The walk from Dovedale sets off from Ilam Hall, a great National Trust property with a fantastic cafe, and meanders over the hills before dropping down into Dovedale itself.
No visit to Dovedale would be complete without a hop over the famous stepping stones that have made this place picture-postcard perfect since the 19th Century. Like many occasion when people have altered the countryside landscape, the stepping stones did not have an instant appeal but over the decades they have become strongly associated with this quaint, beautiful valley. In truth, you don’t have to go over the stepping stones to get to the other side because there is a bridge a little further down the valley towards Ilam. But where’s the fun in that? In the summer months, it’s quite normal to see people queueing for some time until it’s their turn to head across. People can only make the journey across the River Dove in single file and so there can be a fair bit of congestion at either side, but it’s something you just have to do! Storms leading to rising river levels and flooding have swept away the stones and led to significant damage. There have been times when the popular tourist cross-river route has had to be closed off. But it’s always been worth investing money to get the stepping stones renovated and the picturesque scene back to its best. The fossil-laden stepping stones are one of the main reasons this remote dale has the high number of visitors that it does.
Here are some “must-do” recommendations for a day out in Dovedale.
- Get involved at the National Trust cafe at Ilam Hall. Treat yourself to a cream tea, and debate whether it’s jam or cream on top.
- Enjoy an ice cream at the entrance to the Dovedale trail – there’s some amazing flavours going on there!
- Queue up to take a trip across the famous stepping stones. And don’t fall in. Everybody will be watching.
- Annoy everybody waiting to cross the stepping stones by taking time to crouch down and see the ancient fossils in the limestone rock. These are amazing. Take your time.
- Save time for a paddle in the river on a cool, summer day.