Matlock guide

...pretty former spa town

Located at the south-eastern edge of the Peak District National Park is Matlock, Derbyshire’s official county town.

Lying on the River Derwent, Matlock at one time comprised five small villages – Matlock Town, Matlock Green, Matlock Bridge, Matlock Bank and Matlock Bath. The discovery of thermal springs in 1698 saw a proliferation of hydros being built which, over the next century or so, triggered a swift increase in the local population.

Today Matlock is divided neatly into two - the main town and Matlock Bath. Matlock itself is a lively little town with a Victorian feel, and makes an ideal base for exploring the rest of Peak District. Dominating the green hillside above Matlock is Riber Castle, a now-ruined folly which was built as a home for himself by John Smedley – the industrialist largely responsible for establishing the town as a hydrotherapy centre.

One of the town’s most attractive features is Hall Leys Park, a large Victorian park in the centre of the town. The park is a hive of recreation, with a recently rejuvenated children’s playground, a miniature railway, mini-golf, bowls, a bandstand and a boating pond (featuring the oldest running powered boats in Britain). 

Matlock Farm Park can be found as part of a 600 acre working farm, and provides a fantastic day out for all the family - with its array of animals to see, plus playgrounds and even a go-karting track.

Film tourism is a growing market in the tourist industry. The recent rise to fame of film director Shane Meadows – dubbed the new Ken Loach – has seen a surge of interest in his earlier work, including his stunning 2004 thriller, the cult favourite Dead Man’s Shoes. Shot entirely in and around Matlock (including the town centre and Riber Castle), the film’s impact has led to fans visiting the area and retracing the steps of its major players – most notably at Riber Castle, where the film’s jaw-dropping climax is played out. Somewhat depressingly, the ruined folly and its grounds will soon be turned into apartments, so make the most of it while you can.

The many attractions, allied with its proximity to the cities of Sheffield, Manchester and Derby, ensures Matlock remains an enduringly popular destination for day trips or short breaks. Fittingly the area is abundant with quality holiday accommodation.

In the heart of Matlock town centre is Thornleigh House, a large, five star Victorian house which sleeps 12 in six bedrooms – five of which are en-suite. A hot tub and sauna complete the luxury self-catering experience.

Mayfield Cottage enjoys stunning panoramic views over the Derwent Valley and across to Riber Castle. This is a dog-friendly self-catering let and sleeps five in three bedrooms.

Less than a five minute walk from Matlock Bath high street is the four star rated Sunnybank B&B. Situated up on a hill on the edge of woodland, it boasts wonderful views, clean air and is a peaceful escape from the vibrant atmosphere of Matlock Bath.

With the likes of Chatsworth, Bakewell and Buxton all within easy reach - not to mention the ever popular Matlock Bath - Matlock enjoys a glorious location, a perfect gateway to the scenery of the Peak District's hills and dales.

Sean Cummins

January 2011


Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015