Discover the Scenic Dovedale Walk in the Peak District
Nestled in the Southern region of the scenic Peak District National Park is a stunning circular Dovedale Walk. Unsurprisingly, this popular route is a hit with families and walkers of all abilities.
Here is the route and some of the milestones and highlights to look out for along the way!
The Dovedale Walk Route
The walk begins near Ilam and will take you on a journey alongside the River Dove up northwards to Milldale and back again, with some breathtaking views featured along the way.
For this walk that will take roughly 4 hours, you will begin in the Dovedale car park. After parking up and ensuring you’ve got your hiking boots, gear and snacks for the journey ahead, you will follow a tarmac path for a short distance along the River Dove until you reach the famous Dovedale Stepping Stones.
Dovedale Stepping Stones
This area is especially popular with families and children thanks to the brilliant stepping stone attraction laid out across the river. It’s not too tricky to cross and you shouldn’t have too many problems – just be wary if the weather’s bad or they look like they might be a bit slippery.
If the river level is high the stones can sometimes be submerged, and as this is one of the easiest ways to cross the river to the trail, this can be a problem. We’d advise checking out the river levels before you arrive to take on the Dovedale walking trail to avoid disappointment.
The River Dove
Once you’ve made it across the stepping stones, you’ll spot a clearly signposted path right through the beautiful valley that will lead you up to the most northern point of this trail, the village of Milldale.
This part of the walk is simple enough and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take in the breathtaking crags and streams as you walk alongside the River Dove and through the woodland.
En route, you’ll spot Ilam Rock, a tall protruding shape in the hillside next to a wooden bridge. The point of interest is signposted but not part of the route. You can take a detour for a closer look or continue to follow the path alongside the river for the Dovedale Walk.
By the time you reach the small and quite beautiful village of Milldale, you’ll be just under halfway there. You’ll notice Viators Bridge that you can take if you’d like a look around the village for a quick ice cream or coffee break or you can continue on to the slightly trickier part of the route.
From your path alongside the river Dove, take the steep track signposted ‘Bailey Hill’ and keep on up until you arrive at a portion of a drystone wall. With the wall on your left, follow the dale and take a diagonal line uphill until you reach a fence. With the fence on your right, follow it uphill again and you’ll arrive at a stile.
Hop over the stile and carry on ahead until you reach another drystone wall off the summit of Bailey Hill.
Bailey Hill offers some glorious views of the Peak District and the recently ventured valley below. If you’ve taken some snacks along for the ride, this might be a good stop-off point as you’re about to start your descent.
When you’re ready to leave the views behind, continue along the ridge of Bailey Hill until you reach ‘Brian’s Gate’. The first section of the descent can be a bit tricky, particularly in wet or windy weather so take care walking on the uneven, grassy terrain and try to stick near the wall on your left.
You will eventually reach a rocky track called Nabs Dale. Turn right onto Nabs Dale (the wide track) and enjoy the final part of the descent through the gorgeous woodland to Dove Holes, a series of caverns in the limestone.
Immediately after Dove Holes, you will notice a discrete track on your left that will take you up into more beautiful woodlands – but be careful, there are some steep drops to the right of the track!
When you follow this track you will soon pick up another wall that you can follow up a high path (for around 1000 meters) where you will head towards Thorpe Cloud. Standing at 947ft, Thorpe Cloud is an unusually shaped hill that offers great views of the surrounding area. For such a busy walking trail, Thorpe Cloud can often be quite a serene stop-off point. It’s also one of the few places in the UK where photographers have been able to capture a double sunset!
The Final Stretch Back Along The River Dove
Pass through several more stiles and you will stumble across a sign that will lead you back to the path alongside the River Dove, and you can take a left and follow it right back to the Stepping Stones and the car park.
More About the Dovedale Walk
This trail totals around 11km but the area is beautiful for a stroll if you just want to take a casual approach and take a look at some of the sights along this circular Dovedale Walk.
Be aware that the Dovedale Walk is an extremely popular walking route in the Peak District and can get very busy on weekends and school holidays – particularly around the Stepping Stones.
If you’re taking dogs on this trail, you should be aware of livestock as you reach the Thorpe Cloud section of the trail. Keep dogs on a lead in this portion to help make the trail safe.