On the very edge of the Peak district, deep in the Derwent Valley running through the Derbyshire Dales, half an hour or so from the M1 and very well signposted from every direction is a small town that can easily be described as a seaside resort without the sea – Matlock Bath. Unless you are a Victorian poet called Byron that is, who called it Little Switzerland. I’ve seen Heidi (and Skippy) in my younger days and yes I can agree somewhat with said poet because of a few scattered chalets, however a seaside resort without the sea describes it better. Matlock town itself is a couple miles along the road (Skippy has nothing to do with it)
Whichever route you take, the roads would be glorious for bikes if it weren’t for those infuriating other vehicles which will hinder your journey. Along with a few ‘Safety cameras’, low speed limits, traffic lights, not helped by white lines – double ones at that… Little more than country lanes in places, the road twists, turns, rises and fall through amazing countryside coupled with forgotten icons of the industrial revolution.
Travelling from the south
Along the A6 from Derby, check out one of the worlds very first factory’s which is a cotton mill in Belper, a marvel of engineering powered by water from the river Derwent. You don’t need to go in pay and tour the place (unless you want to of course), just pull into the car park (it’s free) and see how the water is directed under the whole building and you’ll get the idea of the ingenuity involved in this magnificent feat of engineering.
A few miles off the A6 is the village of Crich, the home of The National Tram museum. (Moving on quickly) On the top of the hill behind the museum is ‘The Stand’ – a war memorial which is a viewing tower. One of the most awesome views you’ll get anywhere. On a good day you can see Lincoln cathedral and over five counties – a long way! It’s free though donations are gratefully accepted.
A popular destination for bikers
On the approach to Matlock Bath from the south, is another old mill which is now a department store. Interesting to have a walk around, they’ve converted the old loom works building into a multi-story car park.
Just before you hit the promenade, hidden away on the left is ‘The Gullivers Kingdom’, a theme park aimed at the under 12’s. It’s well worth a visit for the incredible views over the valley. It’s built on the site of the old Victorian gardens and park which were cut into the steep hillside, much of the original walled garden remains as pieces of history.
It isn’t quite up there with the Swarm and the Smiler, (but will beat the pants off ‘em for location). It is named The Switchback after the worlds’ longest switchback rollercoaster. This that stood on the edge of the town below Gullivers almost 100 years ago. The ski lift is a must… If you go after 3 pm admission is half price be careful riding up through the cark park – hairpin bends and steep inclines.
If you’ve never been to Matlock Bath you’re in for a treat.
The area has been declared a national treasure, so it doesn’t get overloaded with things which would spoil the authenticity.
The tree tunnel road leads directly onto the promenade. Do a ride by first and take it in…. a long row of bikes, as far as you can see. With the occasional car squeezed. Amongst them, all lined up on one side of the road next to the shops. Cafes, bars, pubs, arcades, curiosities, museums, gift shops, ice cream parlours and fish and chip shops. Slap in the middle is an aquarium which houses the baths. It’s rather cheesy but a must-see attraction. The opposite side, across the promenade where the sand & sea should be, is green with trees and a small river.
Welcome to Matlock Bath.