Pocket Britain

Two towns situated in the heart of Derbyshire, surrounded by beautiful scenery

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The two towns of Matlock and Matlock Bath are situated next door to each other, in the centre of Derbyshire. Matlock is the larger of the two, with more shops and facilities. The greenery of Hall Leys Park breaks up the buildings, providing a great place to relax. The park also has good sports facilities, a mini-golf course, and a lake.
Most visitors to the area, though, tend to head to for the neighbouring town of Matlock Bath. This small settlement was transformed into a tourist resort when warm thermal springs were discovered here. At first, the town was exclusively visited by the rich upper classes. It had a particular reputation for high-quality hydro-therapy, where visitors would cure their illnesses and maladies by bathing in the water. They all fell in love with the place, from Lord Byron, to the future Queen Victoria.
Later on though, the arrival of the railway brought in just about anybody who was willing to make the trip. Commercialism ran its inevitable course, and Matlock Bath became the free-for-all centre of attractions that it is today. In a way, Matlock Bath is more like a theme park than a town. It's often described as like the seaside without the sea.
Despite all its transformations, Matlock Bath remains an attractive, fun town, with plenty to keep anyone occupied. The main areas are lined with countless arcades, and fish 'n' chips shops. You may also stumble across a varied bunch of attractions, such as a Photography Museum, and a model railway. But these only scratch the surface of what there is to see.
Matlock Bath is surrounded by limestone cliffs and hills, which are a big part of the town's identity. They are also the location of many more sights and attractions. One obvious example is the "High Tor", with its vertical cliff face. This is popular with climbers and more daring walkers, who enjoy the winding path along the edge.
Also up on the hills, you'll find the old bath house, which was at the centre of Matlock Bath's history as a spa town. It was built in the 19th century by John Smedley, who played a large role in shaping the town. The house is now used as an aquarium. The thermal pool itself is still here, although the only things taking a bath are the shoals of fish. Smedley also built the nearby Riber Castle. This mock-gothic building was his home until he died. Later, the building was used as a zoo. Before this closed, animal rights activists managed to release several lynx cats into the wild. Who knows, they may still be lurking nearby! The castle is now in ruins, and its future is uncertain.
Another big attraction is the Heights of Abraham, a huge hill with several attractions at its summit. You make the ascent by cable car, which is over half a kilometre in length. Once you reach the top, there are lots to look at. You can buy refreshments at the strange triangular visitor's centre, or enjoy the spectacular view. A circular tower offers an even better look back down at the town. Alternatively, having gone up all that way, you can go right back underground again. There are several caverns on the site, harking back to the days when the Matlock area was an important mining location. Back on the surface, there are a few exhibitions and exhibits, giving more information about the mining trade, and the fossils that have been found in the caverns.
Another place with more details is the Peak District Mining Museum, back down in the centre of Matlock Bath. The museum also runs the Temple Mine, which gives another chance to explore a miner's underground world.
Attractions like this are great for children, but to really give the little ones something to cheer about, you can take them to Gulliver's, a nearby theme park. It's aimed at 3 to 13 year olds in particular. It's in the middle of the woods, with many of the rides hidden within the trees. The attractions include a log flume, a river ride, and several rollercoasters, as well as plenty of games and shows.
The biggest event on Matlock Bath's calendar is in the autumn, when the entire town is illuminated with hundreds of lights. At the same time, a parade of decorated boats makes it way down the river. The celebration began in 1897, to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, and has since carried on. This is a great illustration of how Matlock Bath's historic and modern sides have meshed together so successfully.
Visitor Information
Matlock Tourist Information Centre, Crown Square, Matlock, DE3 3AT. Tel: 01629 583 388
Matlock Bath Visitor Information, The Pavillion, Matlock, DE4 3NR. Tel: 01629 583 388
Heights of Abraham is open February to October (weekends only in March) from 10am to 4:30pm (later at peak times). Entry costs around £13 for adults , £10 for children. Matlock Bath, Derbyshire, DE43PD. Tel: 01629 582 365
Peak District Mining Museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm (reduced hours during winter). Entry costs around £4 for adults, £3 for children. The Pavilion, Matlock Bath, Derbyshire, DE4 3NR. Tel: 01629 583 834
Gulliver's is open most school holidays and weekends (closed from November to February, check for special Christmas opening). Entry costs around £13 for adults and children. Temple Walk, Matlock Bath, Matlock, DE4 3PG. Tel: 01925 444 888

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