Many visitors on a cottage holiday head to the south-eastern fringes of the Peak District, where sister towns of Matlock and Matlock Bath jostle alongside each other in the narrow Derwent valley. Of the two, Matlock Bath holds the greater attraction for those holidaying in the area, and, thanks to its history as a genteel Spa town, feels more akin to a seaside holiday resort than rural, land-locked town. Matlock Bath enjoyed a heyday in the nineteenth century when high society brought an aristocratic ambience to this little town set in delightful, dramatic scenery. Mass tourism came with the arrival of the railway some decades later, and nowadays there are many attractions here for those staying in a Peak District holiday cottage. The steep gorge rising on either side of the town provides a good starting point. On the one side, the Heights of Abraham was once a lead mine subsequently developed for those who came to Matlock Bath to sample the waters and now a great place for families to visit.
Holidaymakers can enjoy the comfort of a cable car ride to the summit of the Heights then take in the scenic views, eighteenth century folly, ‘Prospect Tower’, picnic areas and restaurant, nature trails, children’s playground and a choice of two caverns to visit. There is also Gulliver’s Kingdom; in a naturally dramatic setting children will love to visit Lilliput Land, Little Switzerland, Fantasyland and the rest of the magical kingdoms with their multitude of rides and activities.
On the opposite side of the gorge, High Tor scaling almost 400 feet in height is popular with climbers. Tourists are also well served on this side of the valley; the Pavilion houses the Peak District Mining Museum where the history of the local geology is explained, and an Information centre. Next door to the Museum, Temple Mine offers a self-guided tour detailing the mining and smelting processes. There are wooded walks, children’s playground and recreational areas with restaurants and picnic benches.
A reconstruction of the Midlands Railway Company’s tracks through the Peak District draws rail enthusiasts to Matlock Bath, whilst the Aquarium is also a popular attraction for visitors. Housed in what used to be the town’s original Victorian thermal baths, the aquarium now exhibits a collection of British and tropical freshwater species together with particular features such as the high-tech Hologram gallery, Thermal pool and fascinating Petrifying Well, where objects are turned to stone before one’s very eyes. Visitors will also enjoy Matlock Bath’s quirky Life in a Lens museum. Dedicated ostensibly to the history of popular photography, but almost overtaken by its celebration of Victorian memorabilia, it is a curious and eclectic exhibition. The building, which dates from the 1860’s, and the famous Victorian Tea Shop are as much a part of the pleasure of a visit, and indeed part of the local landscape, as the museum itself.
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