Matlock Bath has always been somewhere that has intrigued me. It is a mis-match of attractions, scenery and wacky festivals that don’t seem to go together. You would expect this picturesque village on the edge of the peak district to be a quiet haven for relaxing, peaceful views and an escape from city life. Though it is far from the truth. This scenic historic area of the peaks is filled with attractions. A theme park, aquarium, promenade and cable car make it feel like you have just stepped into a British seaside resort. This creates a unique vibrant seaside-esque atmosphere in the centre of England! I took a trip to discover it for myself…
This was my first visit and the immediate thing that caught my eye was what a stunning location it was. A towering limestone gorge with wooded hills and gardens overlooks this little corner, which was one of England’s first tourist destinations. Beneath, the River Derwent passes through the promenade style corner, where funky shops, amusement arcades, an aquarium and many fish & chip shops lie. This was our first stop for lunch and with each fish shop fighting each other for trade, it meant reasonable prices too! We walked along the riverbank taking in the views and atmosphere, then stumbled across the Heights of Abraham. The UK’s first alpine style cable car that takes you up to the Hillstop Estate. Entrance into here includes tours around the caverns, a museum telling the long history and of course the amazing views of the surrounding Peak District.
The journey back along the promenade was taken on the other side of the noisy street, mainly coming from the hundreds of motorbikes arriving and departing. The location has been a popular stop with bikers for years now. Walking past the sweet shops, ice cream parlours and fish shops felt like a stroll along Blackpool promenade but without the seagulls! Some attractions such as The Peak District Lead Mining Museum and Matlock Bath’s Victorian Aquarium are also located on this stretch. The Aquarium was once a public thermal pool which first drew hoards of tourist and the Exhibitions section holds a weird collection of randomness. Some of these being the largest public display of Holograms in Europe, a Petrifying well, and a huge collection of Goss China.
To complete the wacky village, skull and cross-bone flags, abandoned boats and people dressed as pirates were scattered throughout as there was some sort of pirate festival going on that weekend. I’ve heard they put on a ‘Blackpool’ Illuminations-style event later in the year too! Though, the multitude of different coloured houses in various styles all lined up did give a quintessentially British feeling to the village. A cosy Victorian feel did appear slightly in my last moments there, so maybe it is a destination that grows on you the more you visit.
We returned the car park adjacent to Gullivers Theme Park thinking what have we just seen. Maybe I missed the point, if there is one? The randomness of attractions combined with the picturesque countryside location just didn’t mix. Then add a busy atmosphere and a nearby theme park which creates a wannabe seaside resort. The contrast was so vivid in comparison to our next stop, the nearby much more traditional village of Bakewell. So even now I have visited, I still don’t know what to make of it!
Check out some of my other posts!