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Ashford in the Water is one of the prettiest villages in all of the Peak District and was a highlight of my trip.
Perched on the River Wye, it’s an idyllic escape from the crowds where you can take a lazy stroll over the historic Sheepwash Bridge and relax by the water.
As well as boasting the river, there are plenty of things to do in Ashford in the Water beyond that. You could visit the historic church, indulge in a cream tea, or take one of the many scenic hikes found in this area.
Here are the best things to do in Ashford in the Water village in the Peak District!
Ashford in the Water history
The idyllic village of Ashford in the Water has a history dating back to the Saxon era and in the Domesday Books, it was noted down as Aisseford in 1086.
The Cavendish Family of Chatsworth House owned the village as part of their estate in the 16th-century.
The ‘in-the-water’ part of the name didn’t appear until the 17th-century and was added due to the fact that the village sat so close to the northern bank of the River Wye.
The river was used to power various mills around the village and this is why the famous Sheepwash Bridge was built to allow packhorses to pass with regular malt deliveries. Beyond the mills, the village is also famous for carving and polishing black marble.
In the 1950s, the Cavendish family eventually sold off the village to cover Death Duties.
Today, Ashford in the Water is one of the prettiest villages in the Peak District and provides a charming retreat on the River Wye. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon.
Lovely Things to Do in Ashford in the Water
1. Play Poohsticks from the Sheepwash Bridge
The Ashford in the Water Sheepwash Bridge is easily the most attractive feature of this village.
It’s a gorgeous stone bridge with three arches and its Grade II listed. As its curious name suggests it was originally used for sheep washing in the River Wye prior to them being sheared.
You’ll find the old sheep pen beside the river which is now a private garden for the Rafters Hotel nearby.
In the 17th-century, you would have seen hundreds of packhorses cross this bridge every day with malt deliveries in their carriages.
As well as being a pretty bridge, this has been voted as one of the best places in the country to play Poohsticks by Visit England!
If you don’t know how to play the favourite game of Winnie the Pooh. You pick up a stick, throw it on the downstream side of the bridge. Then you cross the bridge and watch it float underneath to the other side.
If there are a few of you, you throw the sticks at the same time and see which comes out first! You may even spot a few rainbow trout while you’re playing.
2. Walk around Ashford water and feed the ducks
Just beyond the Sheepwash Bridge, you’ll find a pretty riverside view on a green where you take in the views.
It’s a beautiful spot right on the river where weeping willows sigh into the water and you can just hear the trickle of water passing by. It’s easily one of the best things to do in Ashford in the Water.
One of the best parts of a visit here is meeting the local ducks who will come and say hello! Of course, they are after your food but make sure to only feed them birdseed.
If you were looking for a picnic spot, this is the best place to go but I’d definitely bring a blanket to save you sitting in something unsavoury! I found out the hard way that there was lots of bird poop on the banks.
3. Have a cream tea the Aisseford Tea Rooms
If you fancy a spot of tea whilst visiting the village, you can find the cosy Aisseford Tea Rooms on Church Street. It serves up breakfasts, light lunches, and afternoon teas throughout the day!
Or, you could stop by here for a coffee before you set out on one of the numerous walking trails found around here.
The Aisseford Tea Rooms have both indoor seating and an outdoor garden space if the weather is particularly nice on your visit.
It’s an adorable place to stop on your visit. Click here to see their Facebook Page for opening times.
4. Visit Holy Trinity Church
One of the best things to do in Ashford in the Water is to pay a visit to the impressive Holy Trinity Church that sits in the centre of the village by the Bandstand.
The Holy Trinity Church is a Grade II listed building and has a history that dates back to the 12th century.
You’ll find lots of Norman remains throughout the church including the stone arch tympanum. It had significant restorations made in the 19th-century.
You may also spot the unique ‘maiden’s garlands’ here that were made to mark the death of every woman in Ashford who died as a virgin. Thankfully, this ancient practice died out long ago!
Anyone is welcome to pop their head inside and visit for free but donations are always welcomed.
5. Have lunch at The Bulls Head pub
If you fancied having some lunch or dinner in the village after a walk, you could pop by the Bulls Head Pub on Church Street.
It’s tucked away off the main street and has a lovely pub garden for spring and summer days. In the winter, you can cosy up beside their open fire.
It was founded in the 17th century as a coaching inn but now is owned by Robinson’s Brewery. So, you’ll find lots of real ales and popular favourites behind the bar as well as a wholesome menu of meals.
6. Stroll around the gorgeous village
As well as seeing all the main attractions, there’s nothing better than strolling around this gorgeous village to take in the sights.
Unlike Bakewell, Ashford in the Water is a peaceful retreat in the Peaks. You won’t find many tourists here so you can just enjoy some peace and quiet.
It’s only a short walk but there are so many quaint cottages and gardens to admire here as well as shops to pop into.
I would recommend at least an hour to ensure you get to experience as much of the tranquility as possible.
7. Watch a cricket match
On lazy summer afternoons, something we Brits love to do is to pass the time by watching local cricket teams play some matches.
Ashford in the Water has the perfect riverside pitch to take a pew and see some of the games in action!
You’ll find the cricket club by the River Wye on the East Side of the village.
8. Hike along the River Wye
Being so close to the Wye Valley here in the South West, it always baffles me that the Wye River travels so far up the country!
So, when I saw that I could stroll around the River Wye in the Peak District, I definitely took the chance!
Ashford in the Water gets its name from sitting on the Northern Banks and this is why it’s one of the prettiest villages in the national park.
You must take a stroll along the river here to take in the views. If you wanted more of a trail, there is a short and scenic ‘Three Bridges Walk’ that takes you over the famous Sheepwash Bridge and then to the old packhorse bridges on the river.
9. Drive to Monsal Head viewpoint
Just a mile from Ashford in the Water is the incredible Monsal Head viewpoint which is one of the most photographed locations in the Peak District National Park!
From here you can see the rolling hills of the countryside and overlook the impressive Monsal Head Viaduct.
Back in the day, this viaduct used to form part of the Midlands Railway, and Victorian tourists would stop at Monsal Dale to visit the viewpoint by stagecoach.
This viewpoint is part of the extensive Monsal Head Trail that you can take from the village if you were feeling energetic! But, driving up here requires minimal effort and you’ll take in some incredible views at any time of day.
There is a pub, ice cream shop, and café where you can pair something to eat or drink with the panoramic views.
10. Visit Magpie Mine
Above Bakewell, you’ll find the atmospheric remains of the historic Magpie Mine. The Peak District has a history of lead being mined here back to the Roman Times but the Magpie Mine was founded in 1740.
There are lots of legends and stories surrounding this mine. After an ownership dispute, three miners were murdered here in 1833 and 24 miners were put on trial. The wives of these murdered men supposedly put a “Widow’s Curse” on the mine and it closed in 1835.
It re-opened a few years later in 1839 by John Taylor of Cornwall. He made large improvements to the mine and created shafts leading down to the River Wye.
This large lead mine continued to provide important work for the area until 1958 until it eventually closed its doors. It was the last working lead mine in Derbyshire.
Today, it’s an industrial heritage site and scheduled monument that you can visit for free near Bakewell.
The only thing I will say is that you will need to walk through the country fields in order to get there! I was fine with this until I started getting chased by a herd of cows! Let’s just say I was terrified.
There is no visitor centre at Magpie Mine but if you wanted to learn more you can visit the Peak District Lead Mining Museum in Matlock Bath. They have created a leaflet you can purchase to guide you!
11. Take a drive to the pretty town of Bakewell
Ashford in the Water is just a short drive from the pretty and historic town of Bakewell in the Peak District.
It’s known for its offerings of original Bakewell puddings and tarts (there’s a distinct difference by the way) and you cannot leave without trying one!
A Bakewell pudding is made with puff pastry and a Bakewell tart is the short pastry with the icing and the cherry on top.
There are multiple places where you can try a Bakewell Pudding but the most famous is The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop in The Square. You may have to queue but it’s so worth the wait.
As well as gorging on pastries, it’s well worth checking out Bakewell’s historic shopping district that is filled with cobbled streets and adorable boutiques!
Parking is limited in Bakewell and traffic can be quite a nightmare. So, I would visit earlier or later in the day to avoid the midday mayhem.
12. Fall in love with Chatsworth House
One of the best stately homes in England can be found nearby Ashford in the Water. The impressive Chatsworth House has been owned by the Cavendish family since 1549.
It was founded by Bess Hardwick of Hardwick Hall and her generational wealth ensured that this property survived for generations. Today, it’s owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and they open the house as a tourist attraction as part of a charity trust.
Jane Austen herself visited this wonderful property and she used her visit as an inspiration for Mr. Darcy’s Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice. You’ll even find a bust of him on display in their gift shop!
The house and the estate today are vast and visiting Chatsworth could take a whole day! The house is filled with impressive staterooms, sculpture galleries, sweeping gardens, shops, and much more.
It was one of the highlights of my trip and I would highly recommend that you visit at least once in a lifetime!
How to visit Ashford in the Water
Ashford in the Water can be found close to the town of Bakewell and the famous Chatsworth estate in the Peak District.
It’s also close to the famous Monsal Head trail and this is a great place to start this walk from the village.
The easiest way to visit Ashford in the Water would be to drive as it’s a remote location. However, there are regular bus services to Ashford in the Water from Bakewell if you were visiting car-free.
Ashford in the Water parking
There is no official visitor car park in Ashford in the Water but you’ll find plenty of roadside parking that is free of charge.
Most people park outside of the Holy Trinity Church and the Bandstand in the centre of the village. Just remember to park with consideration.
Where to stay in Ashford in the Water
Ashford in the Water is a small village in the Peak District but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t places to spend the night.
So, if you did want to extend your stay here there are a few places to choose from.
My recommendation would be the Rafters at the Riverside House Hotel which is a boutique property in the centre of the village.
You’re just a few inches away from the famous Sheepwash bridge and it’s the perfect base to explore the area.