Ashbourne visitor guide
...elegant, Derbyshire town on the southern edge of the Peak District
Elegant Ashbourne is primarily a market town. It celebrated the 750th anniversary of its charter in 2007 and its cobbled market place is still used twice-weekly – a popular haunt for bargain-hunters and local shoppers alike.
Let's Stay PEAK DISTRICT explores this popular Derbyshire town at the southern edge of the Peak District
GETTING TO ASHBOURNE
From the M1 (south)
Take junction 24, A453 exit to Nottingham. At roundabout, take 2nd exit on to A50 towards Stoke/Derby; go through next roundabout, then take A515 towards and keep on this road to Ashbourne.
From the M1 (north)
Take junction 28, follow A38 to Ripley then A610 to Ambergate. Turn left on to A6 towards Belper, then turn right on to A517 to Ashbourne.
Head north-west on the A52 Ashbourne Rd. Go straight across two roundabouts; at the third, take 3rd exit onto A515 to Ashbourne.
Head south-east on A6, through Furness Vale. At the roundabout, take 3rd exit onto A5004 towards Whaley Bridge; continue on this road to Buxton. At A53 turn left and then, at roundabout, take 2nd exit to A515 and follow this road to Ashbourne.
Numerous bus services pass through the town, although most are infrequent. Operators include D&G (Uttoxeter 409), Arriva (Derby 109), Holmes (Belper 113), TM Travel (Matlock 411), Bowers (Buxton 442).
National Express services go only as far as Derby.
The nearest mainline railway station is Derby.
The nearest airports are Nottingham East Midlands, Manchester and Birmingham.
Watch all-new Ashbourne Video
BRIEF HISTORY OF ASHBOURNE
Best known for its gingerbread and its unique Shrovetide football match, Ashbourne is the southern gateway to the Peak, lying just outside the National Park boundary.
Mentioned in the Domesday Book as Essiburn, it grew up around a Saxon settlement. Medieval street patterns are still in evidence, but the town came to prominence in the 18th century – six coaching roads met within its boundaries – and it has changed little since then. Much of what we see today is Georgian, clustered around picturesque streets, hidden alleys and yards. ....
The town has been linked with some illustrious names over the years, including Bonny Prince Charlie – who proclaimed his father king of England while marching through Ashbourne en route to London – and Oliver Cromwell, whose troops are reputed to have unleashed their canons on the parish church.
In literary circles, the town was a regular haunt of George Eliot, who used it as a model for the fictional town of Oakbourne in the novel Adam Bede.
More recently, it was the birthplace on Catherine Mumford, who later married William Booth and became the ‘mother’ of the Salvation Army.
Today, Ashbourne is primarily a market town. It celebrated the 750th anniversary of its charter in 2007 and its cobbled market place is still used twice-weekly – a popular haunt for bargain-hunters and local shoppers alike.
GEOGRAPHY OF ASHBOURNE
The town nestles on the gentle slopes of the Henmore Valley, on the southern edge of the Peak District. Just outside the National Park, it is built on the limestone of the so-called ‘White Peak’, and is the starting point for one branch of the Limestone Way.
The River Henmore flows through the centre of the town. It is also close to Dovedale and the River Dove.
ATTRACTIONS IN ASHBOURNE
Ashbourne is an elegant town, renowned for its charm, its cobbled market place and its antique shops. Much of its attraction for visitors lies in its archtecture.
St Oswald’s Church
Derbyshire is teeming with magnificent buildings, and St Oswald's Church is arguably one of the very grandest structures in the area.
Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School
Opposite the church is the old grammar school building, with its distinctive red sandstone walls and multi-gabled roof. Founded in 1585 by Sir Thomas Cockayne, it was saved from demolition a century ago by the Derbyshire Archaeology Society and is now a Grade I Listed building, but its future is uncertain.
Green Man and Black's Head Royal Hotel
It’s difficult to miss this landmark, with its historic cross-street gallows – noted in the Guiness Book of Records as the longest inn sign in the world. The present hotel dates back to 1750 and was formed when two former coaching inns were joined together. The place was said to have been frequented by lawyer James Boswell and his friend Dr Samuel Johnson who lived nearby in the 17th century Mansion House. Queen Victoria is also said to have visited: an occasion commemorated by the addition of the term ‘royal’ to its name.
The Gingerbread Shop
Ashbourne is famous for its gingerbread and the old shop is still there in St John Street, though it is now run by Birds the bakers. Look out for the wattle and daub walls, once covered by a mock-Elizabethan frontage. The shop has its own café where you can tuck into hot and cold snacks as well as cream cakes and the famous gingerbread men.
Wright Memorial and Bull Ring
It’s not only Birmingham that has a Bull Ring... across Market Place is Ashbourne’s own version. It was once used for medieval bull baiting and was also the spot where Bonny Prince Charlie proclaimed his father, James, king of England during the first Stuart rebellion. Behind it is the Wright Memorial, erected in 1874 in memory of Francis Wright, a wealthy local industrialist.
Ashbourne Memorial Gardens
This town-centre feature, off Park Road, is a splash of green amidst the urban infrastructure. The gardens back on to a park where there are playing fields and space for ball games. A statue commemorates the life of Catherine Booth, co-founder of the Salvation Army, who was born in the town.
EVENTS IN ASHBOURNE
Royal Shrovetide Football Match
Arguably Ashbourne’s greatest claim to fame, this two-day game takes place each year on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. Half the town takes to the streets to join in the fun, with hundreds on each side and the ‘pitch’ around three miles long and two miles wide. The Up’ards (from north of the river) compete against the Down’ards (those born on the south side); they score by tapping a specially-painted ball three times against one of the goal stones, which are three miles apart.
The origins of the game have long since been forgotten, but the ‘turning up’ (kick-off) takes place in Shawcroft car park and is carried out by a VIP – in 2003 it was the Prince of Wales.
Ashbourne Highland Gathering
Founded in 1985, this event each July has become one of the largest highland gatherings outside Scotland. Features include pipe band competitions, highland dancing and sports, plus a variety of other attractions and stalls.
The festival has become a popular annual event since it was launched in 1999. Taking place over two weeks at the end of June and beginning of July, it features a diverse programme designed to appeal to a broad range of interests. Includes photography, paintings, poetry, music, literature and events.
Ashbourne Agricultural Show
A traditional agricultural and country show, held mid-August at the Polo Ground, Osmaston. Featuring competitive classes for cattle, sheep, goats and horses; dog show and cage bird show. Also handicraft and horticulture, trade stands and food hall.
ACCOMMODATION IN ASHBOURNE
Ashbourne isn’t short of places to stay, with a healthy range of self-catering holiday cottages, B&Bs and hotels. See the comprehensive list of Ashbourne accommodation.
ACTIVITIES IN ASHBOURNE
As the largest town on the southern edge of the Peak District National Park, Ashbourne makes the perfect base from which to enjoy a whole host of outdoor activities.
There are dozens of walks to enjoy around the town, ranging from flat paths alongside the High Peak or the Tissington Trails for those who want an easy stroll, to more taxing routes through Dovedale, the Manifold Valley and other surrounding areas.
The Tissington and High Peak Trails offer the perfect route for cyclists of any ability. where the local cycle hire centre is based. Details: Tissington Cycle Hire 01335 343156; Peak Cycle Hire 01335 343156.
The White Peak is renowned for steep rock faces with fewer cracks than the nearby gritstone edges. Matlock Bath and Black Rocks near Cromford are popular local challenges; for gritstone try Froggatt Edge.
Plenty of choice on offer, for lakes try the Yeavely Estate, 01335 330247; for coarse fishing call Ashbourne fish pond (day tickets from Fosters of Ashbourne) 01335 343135.
Go-karting / quad biking / paintballing
Wild Park Leisure, based in the nearby village of Brailsford. Family-run business with a variety of packages on offer, 01335 360485.
Ashbourne Golf Club based at a 158-acre former hunting lodge off Wyaston Road. A designer-built 18-hole course and practice ground with modern clubhouse facilities and professional’s shop. Bookings: 01335 342078
The nearest riding centre is Tissington Trekking Centre: 01335 350276
A range of organised activities including abseiling, climbing, potholing and canoeing is available via Perception on 01733 314924
A wide range of recreational activities, including swimming pool, sports hall, squash courts, skate park and gym, is on offer at Ashbourne Leisure Centre in Station Road: 01335 343712
WINING & DINING IN ASHBOURNE
There’s a good choice of venues for foodies in Ashbourne, whatever your taste.
For those who want something a bit up-market, try the award-winning Dining Room in St John Street, which has been awarded two coveted AA rosettes for its food. ....
Or, not far behind with one rosette, is Bramhalls restaurant, formerly the White Lion pub, set in Georgian and Edwardian buildings in Buxton Road.
For something more informal, there’s 14, a stylish bistro in Church Street, or Project X, a contemporary coffee shop and juice bar off the Market Place, which also has excellent home-made cakes – and internet access.
The Gallery Café in St John Street is a light and airy contemporary building, recently refurbished, that specialises in home cooked food and also has a reputation for gluten and lactose-free chocolate brownies.
Also worth a try is the licensed tea room in Bennetts: a real taste of old world elegance.
There are various pubs too, including the town centre Green Man that has recently launched a ‘grub fest’ on the first Saturday of every month, with homemade beers and produce.
But for picturesque country inns you’ll need to explore some of the outlying villages.
SHOPPING IN ASHBOURNE
Ashbourne is renowned for its slightly upper-crust independent stores, boutiques and antiques shops.
Newly-crowned among these is the Antiques Centre in Church Street, a newcomer to the town but already making its mark with collectors.
No shopping trip in this town would be complete without a trip to Bennetts, off-shoot of the famous Irongate department store in Derby. In addition to clothes and accessories, china and gifts, it boasts a superb cookshop.
Foodies will appreciate the town’s traditional butchers and fishmonger, Spencers bakery and Birds, which has taken over the Ashbourne gingerbread shop.
Don’t miss the quirky delights of Patrick & Brooksbank in Market Place, renowned for their specialist cheeses, handmade chocolates and home-cooked ready meals.
Or nip up to The Compton to find grocer and delicatessen H Smith, with their home-brewed beers, fine wines and other delights.
Look out for dress shops like Young Ideas, Sachs and Banjo or, for something more traditional, try Country Style or Pure Inspiration. If it’s children’s fashions you’re after, take a look at family-run Dove Child or Paracute.
Local jewellers CS Sellors and Avanti are both worth a look, while accessories fanatics will appreciate Omni and nearby Wigleys.
And there’s always the market, which takes place every Thursday and Saturday, for the usual fruit, veg and nick-nacks, plus a growing band of small traders selling everything from jewellery to home-made cakes.
NEARBY ATTRACTIONS & TOWNS
As a major gateway to the Peak District, Ashbourne is well placed as a base for numerous beauty spots and tourist attractions including:
Alton Towers (Visit our selection of Cottages in the Alton Towers area)
Gulliver’s Kingdom and Heights of Abraham at Matlock Bath
Peak Rail steam trains
The Silk Mill, Derby
Royal Crown Derby visitor centre
Crich Tramway Village
Sudbury Hall and Museum of Childhood
Wirksworth Heritage Centre
Tourist Information Centre: 3 Market Place, Ashbourne 01335 343666
Some on-street parking, but main car parks are Shawcroft in the town centre, the leisure centre and Sainsbury’s off Compton (two hour limit, charge refunded for shoppers) – charges are around 80p per hour.
Shawcroft car park and Market Place, but locals recommend Sainsbury’s!
Methodist, Church Street | United Reformed Church, Buxton Road | Church In The Peak, community based, meets Thursday evenings (01335) 344968 | All Saint's Roman Catholic, Belle Vue Road | Elim Pentecostal Church, South Street, DE6 1DB, 01335 344 388. www.elimchurchashbourne.co.uk | St John's C of E, Buxton Road | St Oswald’s Parish Church, Church Street
Ashbourne Taxis (01335) 345198
Clive's Taxis (01335) 345250
Greenway Cars (01335) 342964
Shenton’s Travel (01335) 342930
Health Centre – Compton (01335) 343784
Health Centre – Clifton Rd (01335) 342666
© Let's Stay Peak District
Last Updated: 5 Oct 2015