This is one of the most popular places in the Peak District National Park with over a million visitors a year. The series of square-cut stones which cross the river here are not particularly ancient; they were put in around 1890 when donkeys were stationed here for hire to take you further into the dale.
The appetite for sublime landscapes, encouraged by writers like William Wordsworth, Lord Byron and Alfred Lord Tennyson and the paintings of JMW Turner, made the dramatic limestone features of places like Dovedale a “must-see” on the Victorian tourist’s wish-list. Writing to a friend, Byron asked: “Was you ever in Dovedale? I assure you there are things in Derbyshire as noble as in Greece or Switzerland”. The coming of the railway to Ashbourne in 1852 and the Ashbourne-Buxton line (now the Tissington Trail) in 1899 made Dovedale even more accessible.
Polished by millions of pairs of boots and shoes, the Stepping Stones were recently and capped by the National Trust. The Trust’s action shows how many popular beauty spots such as Dovedale can be loved to death by a constant stream of visitors. They perform a difficult balancing act to protect this precious landscape while providing safe access to visitors.
Keep your eyes peeled for fossils in the steeping stones, rocks and walls as you move through this area. A warning though: you still need to watch where you are putting your feet!
Once across the river, the path passes through a double squeezer stile and winds up on rock steps to the first major viewpoint in the dale, Lover’s Leap.
This trail was originally developed by Roly Smith for the Royal Geographical Society’s Discovering Britain.
Roly is a keen walker and the author of over 90 books on the British countryside. He has been recently described as one of Britain’s most knowledgeable countryside writers.
Thanks are also due to Dan Seagrave for use of his photograph of Dovedale and Thorpe Cloud (CC BY-NC 2.0 via Flickr).
Dovedale is managed and cared for by the National Trust.