Things to do in Dovedale in the Peak District
Please note: The Dovedale area is currently experiencing high levels of visitors. If you love Dovedale, then please click 'read more' for our guidance on ensuring your visit is enjoyable but respectful of the landscape at the same time. Always park safely and responsibly and only in designated car park spaces, and please be aware that spaces become very limited on weekends, bank holidays and school holidays by 9am.
Dovedale is known for the River Dove and it’s impressive limestone ravines, but the most iconic part of a trip to Dovedale has to be the picturesque stepping stones…
Arriving at the nearby car park, where you can also be tempted by snacks and refreshments, it’s just a short walk up and across a wooden bridge to get to the River Dove, where you can look up onto Thorpe Cloud.
Thorpe Cloud is an isolated limestone hill, also known as a reef knoll, which sits between the villages of Ilam and Thorpe and lies right on the border between Derbyshire and Staffordshire. It’s highest point has an elevation of 287 metres, which is quite a quick and steep ascent, but one with lots of hike-worthy views across the Staffordshire and Derbyshire countryside once you’re at the top. If you are planning on walking to the top of Thorpe Cloud do remember to bring a good pair of walking boots with you, as the way down the hill can sometimes be a tad tricky.
Following the River Dove up towards the stepping stones you can cross and climb to the top of Thorpe Cloud, giving fantastic panoramic views of the Peak District.
For a more family friendly walk, you can continue up passed Thorpe Cloud and carry on up along the river. There’s lots of great wildlife and woodland to explore along this riverside stroll, and the path is very clear and flat which is a plus point for families with small children.
If you’d rather take more of a walk to enjoy the Peak District countryside and arrive in Dovedale along the way, there are a few good locations to start. For example, the River Dove flows through Milldale, which is a great starting point for the walk down through Dovedale to the stepping stones, as well as Wolfscote Dale and Beresford Dale.Here there are also a network of footpaths and walks either along the river or over the surrounding countryside.
Dovedale parking and arrival
Due to a lack of signal infrastructures in the Dovedale and Ilam Park areas, we can only accept cash for car parking so please being the correct change with you, £5 for up to 4 hours and £7 for all day. National Trust members park for free but please remember to bring your cards with you to scan at the machines or show to a member of staff at Dovedale car park and then display a ticket in your car window.
There is no need to book your car parking space but please be aware that spaces become very limited on weekends, bank holidays and school holidays by 9am. Please park safely and responsibly and only park in designated car park spaces and not on roads or grass verges. All access points and roads must be kept clear for farm tenants, local communities and the emergency services.
(National Trust) Ilam Park car park is open from 8:30am until dusk - no overnight car parking allowed. £5 FOR UP TO 4 HOURS AND £7 FOR ALL DAY. NT MEMBERS PARK FREE WITH PROOF OF MEMBERSHIP CARD.
(National Trust) Dovedale car park is open from 9am until 7:30pm - no overnight car parking allowed. £5 FOR UP TO 4 HOURS AND £7 FOR ALL DAY. NT MEMBERS PARK FREE WITH PROOF OF MEMBERSHIP CARD.
If you find that an area is very busy, please have an alternative place to visit planned and do not be tempted to park or queue on narrow roads or grass verges.
The vital funds raised in National Trust car parks help to directly support their conservation work across the Peak District, from planting trees that help to tackle climate change, to increasing the diversity in wildflower meadows. For more FAQs around parking across National Trust sites, please visit their central page here
The toilets in Dovedale are looked after by the Peak District National Park Authority and have a charge of 20p, so please bring change with you.
How long is the walk in Dovedale?
You have lots of walking routes in and around Dovedale, the popular short route is from the main car park, along the river, across the famous Dovedale stepping stones and back. This route is a short 20 minute, 1 mile walk.
How long does it take to climb Thorpe Cloud at Dovedale?
From Dovedale car park it’s a 1.5 mile circular walk that includes the climb to the top of Thorpe Cloud as well as the stepping stones. It’s a steep climb to the summit and can get slippy in wet weather.
Where is the best place to park for Dovedale?
The closest car park is the (National Trust) Dovedale car park, However it can get very busy, especially at weekends, so consider starting a walk in Ilam.
How far are the Dovedale stepping stones from the car park?
The stepping stones are a ½ mile short walk along the River Dove from the car park.
For the love of Dovedale
National Nature Reserves are open to the public, and we welcome our visitors to enjoy them freely whilst looking after this special place that you love to escape to.
If you love Dovedale then please follow our guidance for a visit that is enjoyable but respectful of the landscape at the same time:
BBQs/campfires/outdoor cooking equipment (stoves/free standing BBQs) are not allowed anywhere in the Peak District National Park as they are a severe health and safety risk to the landscape and to people. If you see a fire get to a safe place and dial 999 and give location details.
‘Wild camping' (anywhere outside of designated camp sites) is only allowed with landowner permission, and the majority of landowners in the Peak District do not allow this. There's also no wild camping allowed on National Park Authority land or National Trust land. To avoid disappointment, we encourage anyone wanting to camp, to plan ahead and book in at a campsite. To book in at a campsite you can visit the Pitchup website which lists all the different campsites across the UK.
Dogs on leads at all times is required when exploring any National Nature Reserve. This helps to protect the wildlife that lives there from disturbance and also is safest for you, your dog and other people exploring the area.
Take all the litter that you brought with you home. Issues of access, emptying and servicing make the provision of bins extremely costly and our charitable resources, as well as staff and volunteer time is very limited. We have some incredible staff and volunteers who are picking up litter each day across our different Peak District sites. You can help look after the places you love to visit, by taking all your litter home when bins aren't available. This includes dog mess, tissues, wipes, nappies, shoes, picnic blankets etc. Fly-tipping is against the law and you can face hefty fines for doing so.
It is safest for you and for nature that you stick to footpaths as you could easily disturb the home of animals that live in these areas, as well as delicate wildflowers, vegetation, insects and amphibians.
Thank you for being #peakdistrictproud and helping to look after the places we all love.
- On-site light refreshments
- Public toilets
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