Our trail begins with our back to the main road. To our left along the high street is the row of shops that epitomise Matlock Bath’s tourism today, But look ahead towards the river and its banks and we can find out how Matlock’s visitor appeal all began.
You can’t miss the pink tones and dome of the now slightly tired looking ‘Grand’ Pavilion. The building seems at odds with the natural backdrop behind it. But the two are actually closely related. The Grand Pavilion once stood proud among hundreds of bustling day trippers, searching for shelter and entertainment. But what brought them all here?
Built in 1905 by a team of German contractors, the Pavilion was originally called The Kursaal, a German name which literally means the ‘cure room’. This translation is a hint, but venture behind the Pavilion and the full picture begins to emerge…
Follow the gardens round to the right, along the waterfront. At the far end of Derwent Gardens are shimmering springs and trickles of water. Look closer and you might see steam rising from the pools. Dip your hands into the pools to feel the water. Why is it so warm?
Matlock Bath shot to fame as far back as the 1600s when the first thermal springs were discovered here. Thermal springs occur when water emerges above ground from very deep inside the Earth. The Earth is much hotter towards its centre, or ‘core’. Water that is especially close to the core can be heated ‘geothermally’ – by the heat held inside the Earth itself. Such water is so hot when it starts its journey that even by the time it bubbles to the surface, as it does here, it is still about 20 degrees Celsius – the perfect temperature for a dip!
It didn’t take long before Matlock’s warm waters were reputed to have medicinal qualities. The upper classes came from miles around to bathe and cure their ills. The springs here at Derwent Gardens were among the first discovered. From 1698 they serviced the aptly named Old Bath Hotel – the heyday of Matlock Bath’s genteel spa resort.
So this explains how Matlock Bath got its ‘Bath’. But how did so many visitors manage to find their way into this steep-sided and precarious location?
Make your way back through Derwent Gardens until you reach the white and green bridge. Cross the bridge and look back over the river from the opposite bank.
This trail was originally appeared on the Royal Geographical Society’s Discovering Britain. Thanks are due to:
Jo Kemp for creating and photographing the trail.
Rory Walsh and Caroline Millar for suggestions and advice.
Neil Theasby for images reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Lily Alsop for putting together the written guide.