A visit to the Heights of Abraham, Matlock, is one of our favourite days out in the Peak District and a must for any family visiting Matlock. Your journey starts with a cable car ride across the Derwent Valley and up to a hill top estate. But there’s a lot more than stunning views to admire here! Your ticket also gives you entry to two caverns where you venture deep under ground and learn about the history of lead mining in the area, there’s a tower to climb, you can hunt for fossils, and there are also two adventure playgrounds! Plus, dogs are more than welcome.
Peak District Kids were provided with complimentary tickets to review Heights of Abraham in return for this honest review. As always, these are all our own words.
Our latest visit to The Heights of Abraham was 23rd July 2020. This was just five days after the reopening from lockdown. The aim of our visit was to review the new COVID safety measures in place, and this post has been updated to include this.
COVID-19 safety measures
The team at Heights of Abraham have done a superb job in implementing COVID-19 safety measures. The attraction is running at 50% capacity and we felt safe throughout our visit.
There is a hand washing station to use before entering the cable car. There is another one on exit from the cable car.
Face coverings must be worn in the cable cars and on the cavern tours. Children under the age of 11 are exempt from this.
All staff (from the cavern tour guides, to cable car operators, to those working in the shop) wear face coverings.
There are reduced numbers for the cavern tours.
Across the attraction there are over 20 sanitiser stations. You are never too far from one.
Playgrounds are cleaned throughout the day, and there are sanitising stations to use pre and post play. Plus there are signs urging parents to ensure kids social distance (which people were doing) and to return later if it’s busy.
Signs dotted around to remind you to social distance.
In the shop and in the exhibition, there is a one way system.
Be prepared to use contactless payment.
We arrived shortly after opening time of 10 am, and we decided to visit the adventure playground first in case it got busy later in the day. It did get a rather busy when we returned around 2pm, but the boys were happy to move on as they had already had their big play there earlier. This may be something to plan in to your day too.
I also noticed that the tour through the Masson Cavern was shorter than usual. I only know this because of previous visits. But the tour guide only stops everyone in one place through the cavern, whereas there were at least three places pre-lockdown. However, this didn’t detract from the cavern experience and if you’re a first time visitor, you wouldn’t know any different.
I’ll be honest, wearing the face mask in the Masson Cavern did get rather uncomfortable. There are over 100 steps to climb, and the exertion under the mask may be difficult for those with breathing difficulties or those who suffer with claustrophobia. Just something to bear in mind if you visit. The Rutland Cavern involves much less walking, and so the face mask was no problem at all.
Also, the main gift shop is now located in the Rock Shop next to the Fossil Factory. Stock is very reduced compared to normal. This is to make more space by the restaurant.
Getting to the Heights of Abraham and parking
The entrance to the cable car that takes you up to Heights of Abraham is right next to Matlock Bath Train station, making it one of the few main attraction near the Peak District that is easily accessible via public transport. If you come by train and present your valid train tickets at the ticket office, you will get 20% off your admission (you still need to prebook online though using this special link). There are hourly direct train services to Matlock Bath from Derby, Nottingham, Long Eaton, Beeston and Newark on Trent. Check train times here.
If you are driving, there is no allocated car park for The Heights of Abraham. Your best bet is to park at Matlock Bath station car park. This pay and display car park is separate from the Heights of Abraham and run by the council. Bring coins as the card machine can be unreliable. On our last visit prices for parking were:
1 hour stay £1.50 2 hour stay £2.50 3 hour stay £3.80 4 hour stay £5.00 All day to 8am £6.00 We usually pay for all day parking as it’s easily a full day out
As visitor capacity is reduced, it is advised that tickets are pre-booked online to avoid disappointment. Tickets price includes the cable car, and entry to caverns, exhibitions and Hilltop Park.
If you are unable to book your tickets online, there is a telephone booking service (a payment card will be needed). There is a booking charge of £3 per booking for this service, which is available between 9.30am and 4.30pm Monday to Fridays only TELEPHONE 01629 582365 EXT 258.
If you plan to visit more than once in a year, you may want to consider purchasing an annual pass. Bring an annual pass holder means that any friends and family you bring with you get 20% off their admission price too.
There are also preferential rates to NHS, Military, and Emergency services personnel and those who travel to Matlock Bath by rail or bus. Check here for up to date details.
On arrival to The Heights of Abraham, provide your booking reference number and you will be issued with your ticket for the day.
How much time should you allow?
We always spend a good five hours or more at The Heights of Abraham, and arrive just after 10am to get one of the first cable cars up. There is so much to explore, and the adventure playgrounds always fill a lot of time.
Can you take a pram to Heights of Abraham?
Yes you can! Prams and buggies can go in to the cable car and as it’s a full day out, it’s handy to have somewhere for little ones to nap. However, do note that you cannot take prams down into the caverns, so we advise taking a carrier for the cavern tours. There is a little area to leave your pram before venturing into each cavern.
Things to do at Heights of Abraham
The cable car ride
The ride up in the cable car begins and ends your visit and is perhaps the highlight of the day. There is a hand washing station to wash your hands before you go up. Face coverings must be worn in the cable car. Children under the age of 11 do not need to wear a face mask.
The ride last a few minutes and takes you up to 339 metres, which isn’t actually that high but provides you with stunning views across the Derwent Valley.
The Heights of Abraham caverns
Venturing underground to explore the caverns are the main reason people visit Heights of Abraham and one of the top things to do in Derbyshire on a rainy day. There are two main caverns – The Masson Cavern and Rutland Cavern. You can not go into these alone, instead there are guided tours throughout the day. You don’t need to book on to these, it’s just a case of turning up. They sometimes turn people away if at maximum capacity, but it’s never too long to wait until the next one.
Do wear an extra layer when you visit the caves as it is much cooler underground, and wear sturdy footwear.
Tours around the Masson Cavern take around 30 minutes and involve walking up over 100 steps. Learn about the 350 million year story that led to the cavern being what it is today as you weave and duck through tunnels (this tour does involve bending over in places). Caverns are beautifully lit in rainbow colours and there are a few geological surprises along the way to wow both little and big kids. At the end of the Masson Cavern tour you emerge to fantastic views over Matlock, right next to Tinkers Shaft.
Tours at the Rutland Cavern take around 20 minutes and involve considerably less steps. Once inside, you walk down a tunnel into a larger cave and listen to a recorded story from a manikin to hear what life was really like for a 17th Century lead mining family. This does involve standing still and listening for a good 15 minutes, so very little ones may get a bit jiffly. But it is fascinating learning about the role of women and children within the mines, and how they took on the most dangerous work.
Tinkers Shaft view point
As you exit Masson Cavern, walk left and follow the path up to Tinkers Shaft. This is an old mining shaft that has been turned into a safe viewing platform for visitors. My boys also love climbing and jumping off the rocks around here and it’s a good spot for a picnic with views.
Victoria Prospect Tower
Another fantastic viewpoint is from the top of Victoria Prospect Tower, although small kids won’t be able to see over the wall at the top. Kids will more enjoy the steep climb up the narrow winding staircase! It’s VERY narrow and steep and may give you heart palpitations, especially when coming down.
On our most recent visit with social distancing measures in place, there was a queue to go up. We decided to leave it as we had been before, and the boys can’t see over the top anyway.
The Fossil Factory
330 million years ago, Matlock Bath was deep under water, and over the years of mining some fascinating fossils have been found. You can get up close to these fossils now on display, including a giant Ichthyosaur which is around three metres long- touching is encouraged!
There is also free fossil rubbing equipment for anyone who wishes to take home a memento of the fossils they have seen (although this has now been removed due to COVID-19 safety measures), and The Rockshop is located next door for any rock-themed gift you could need (this is now the main gift shop).
The playgrounds at the Heights of Abraham are why we spend a full day here. My boys can spend hours playing here, especially on the giant slides.
There is the ‘Explorer’s Challenge’ located at the summit, and then the bigger ‘Woodland Adventure’. There is picnic seating around for parents to sit.
There are a handful of eateries including a restaurant, cafe and pub. Details can be found here. I can’t really comment on them as we always take a picnic! But on our recent visit I noticed the cafe was selling kids lunch boxes for £4.95 and a hot dog with chips and drink for £7.50.
But… we do always treat ourselves with an ice-cream each from the Matlock Meadows ice-cream stand, right next to the cable car. Delicious!
The Heights of Abraham is always a guaranteed fantastic day out. We are absolutely delighted that they have been able to reopen and very impressed with the COVID-19 safety measures in place. They are running at a 50% capacity, and it felt spacious most of the time. I’m pleased we visited the adventure playground first thing, as it did get busier later in the day. But all cavern tours have a strict capacity, and visitors were adhering to the social distancing rules that were clearly marked.
Be warned that it is hilly in places; you are on a hill top after all. Be prepared for the occasional steep climb, such as the steps leading out of Masson Cavern, and the climb back up the hill after visiting Rutland Cavern. It’s always a good idea to wear comfortable walking shoes. If you are visiting with a baby or toddler, consider taking a carrier as you cannot take buggies into the caverns.
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