A lovely leisurely pram friendly walk in the beautiful setting of Ilam Park and picturesque Dovedale. The walk starts by crossing the parkland and dropping down towards the River Manifold. It then follows the ‘Paradise Walk’ path along the river to St. Bertram’s Bridge, which used to be the main route into Ilam. This attractive section of the walk was known for its carriage rides for visitors during Victorian times. Finish off by heading back to the hall and formal Italian Gardens, enjoying the stunning and iconic views of Thorpe Cloud and Bunster Hill.
Kids will love this walk as there’s plenty of fun places to run around and explore including the wavy ‘ridge and furrow’ fields created by medieval ploughing. There’s also a small natural play trail and on the way, they can spot the boil holes where the river has travelled through caves and bubbles up out of the rocks.
England is now back in lockdown. Please only visit if you are local. Please respect social distancing, take all litter home with you, don’t bring BBQs and park your car in designated parking areas.
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TYPE OF WALK: circular, pram/buggy friendly, easy going, parkland (one field), well maintained paths
PARKING: There is a National Trust car park at Ilam Park so free for National Trust members. For non-members, the charge is £3.50 for up to 4hrs or £5 for over 4hrs (coin machine or card payment in the ‘Grab & Go’ takeaway cafe). Click here for the Google Map location on your phone. The postcode is: DE6 2AZ. There is also a small number of roadside parking spaces in Ilam village but these get snapped up quickly. Dovedale is a very popular tourist destination so please remember to respect local residents.
WALK HIGHLIGHTS: Beautiful setting of Ilam Hall and Park, formal Italian gardens, riverside trails, stunning views across Dovedale.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE: This walk can be done in 30 minutes but with a couple of optional detours, the leisurely nature of the walk and of course, time for the kids to play, I would allow 2 hours.
ACCESSIBILTY: Pram/buggy friendly, one wrought iron gate, one side opening gate, one field which can get wet but not usually muddy, well maintained paths.
TOTAL ASCENT: 44 metres
PUBLIC TOILETS: Toilet facilities and Grab & Go café are located in the Stableyard and were open Mon-Sun from 10-4 when we visited. The Manifold Tea-room was closed but for up-to-date information click here.
The below directions follow the above OS Map route anti-clockwise.
1. Walk towards the top left of the car park where you’ll find a map of the park. After this, take a hard right and walk through the wrought iron gate onto the parkland.
2. Follow the stone path for 50 metres until it turns into grass terrain. At this point, bear left and walk 250 metres diagonally across the field. There is no clear track so look out for the dew pond surrounded by railings in the middle of the field. Keep this on your right and head towards the boundary trees.
OPTIONAL DETOUR: For beautiful views over to Dovedale and Thorpe Cloud, head towards the rocky outcrop and climb up to the top of the hill. You might struggle to get your buggy up as it’s quite steep but it’s not far so you can easily take it in turns to go up. This will add an extra 400 metres onto the walk. Look out for the corrugated appearance of the field known as ‘ridge and furrow’, a medieval ploughing technique. Our girls loved running up and down the ‘waves’ in the field!
3. When you reach the field boundary, you’ll see a track. Follow this for 130 metres down to the bottom where the path splits.
4. Turn left and walk through a wooden gate. Follow the path known as ‘Paradise Walk’ for 900 metres with the River Manifold on your right.
5. Halfway along, there is a path on your left leading up into the woodland. Ignore this and continue on the path straight ahead. Look out for the ‘boil holes’ where the river has travelled miles through caves and bubbles up out of the rocks and into the river.
6. Keeping the river close to you on your right, continue as the path turns to grass and head towards St. Bertrams Bridge. This used to be the main route into Ilam.
OPTIONAL DETOUR: Cross over the bridge stopping for an obligatory game of Poohsticks. Turn right for a short walk through Hinkley Hollow and back, adding 500 metres onto the walk. Here you’ll find a short natural play trail for the kids with wooden stepping stones.
7. Leaving the bridge behind you walk towards the church with the hall on your left, passing a stone well on your right. Continue 130 metres until you reach the stone path.
8. Turn left and follow the path 140 metres towards the hall, through the courtyard and archway and back to where you started. From here you can follow the path round to the right for the car park or to the left for the toilets and Grab & Go cafe.
9. Finish off your walk in the formal Italian Gardens, taking in the beautiful views across Dovedale with the iconic Thorpe Cloud and Bunster Hill. There are benches to sit and enjoy a drink and something to eat whilst the kids play and explore. Our girls had lots of fun running up and down the spiral steps in the turret. Please note that the hall itself is now a Youth Hostel and not open to the public.
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