After a delicious breakfast (the usual full English breakfast for Michael, and muesli with fruit then an egg on toast with bacon for me), we set off on the half-hour drive to Dovedale. We meandered along narrow roads through pretty countryside, eventually coming across a car park near the area we were planning to hike in. We paid the £2 fee to park on a grassy field, slapped on some sunscreen, and then commenced the walk up to Thorpe Cloud — a high hill with 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside. It was a tough but short climb (20 minutes to the top). Small flies swarmed around us, but weren’t really annoying like Australian flies! Fortunately, they didn’t follow us down the hill.
On the other side, we came across the famous Stepping Stones, clearly a popular picnic area for families. People were queued up on either side of the river, waiting to cross over. It was clear that they needed someone to direct the foot traffic, as only one side seemed to be moving! We didn’t bother to cross over, but instead took the riverside path upstream for a couple of miles, climbing up a path to see the Natural Arch and a couple of caves along the way. The area reminded us of walking in Waterfall Gully — it was quite pretty, but not nearly as lush and green as up in the Lake District.
As the path started to go uphill, we consulted our map and decided to retrace our footsteps a short way and then cross over a bridge to take the track back to our car via the small village of Ilam. The steep ascent took us through a wood and then the track led us through farmland, ending with a sign stating that the footpath didn’t continue any further. This seemed to contradict the arrow just a short distance back that apppeared to indicate in this direction. We returned to the sign under which included a message that could be interpreted a number of different ways. We finally realised that the arrow was pointing up the grassy slope towards a farmhouse, rather than along the well worn track (obviously taken by many a hiker!). (We also referred to some instructions we had photographed from a hiking book, but as we were doing the recommended loop in reverse, they were a little tricky to follow.)
Back on track, we wandered down a dirt road and then back into the fields and down into the valley towards Ilam.
Our next stop was Bakewell where we parked our car just out of the town. I bought a caramel slice that was so rich, just a couple of bites were enough to satisfy my hunger. After strolling around the town centre, we headed back to the car via the old church. We stopped in Matlock to buy fish and chips and some salad for dinner which we ate in the dining room of our B&B before heading off to bed.
The Peak District is a pretty area of England, with rolling green hills, lovely valleys and well preserved village, but it wasn’t as dramatic as I had expected. Perhaps we needed to see a few more areas within the national park to really appreciate it.