Exploring Dovedale - Ashbourne
Ashbourne is one of the most popular historic market towns in the Peak District and as the gateway to the valley of Dovedale; it's easy to see why. Georgian architecture and historic buildings pepper a town filled with sumptuous delicatessens, friendly welcoming pubs and restaurants and small, independent retailers. Many people look to Ashbourne as the starting point for a white peak adventure and as you crawl up the main town road you find yourself instantly entering the picturesque valley of Dovedale. Situated just northwest of the town, Dovedale is a beautiful area of countryside famed for its spectacular countryside, rock formations, caves and the stepping stones across the River Dove.
Ashbourne itself is a market town and most days will see sellers take to the streets to sell everything from second hand books and pottery to fresh fruit and veg. It is also famous for its festivals, not least the Summer Arts Festival which often see circus acts, magicians, sideshows and copious other street performances dotted around the main streets. Aside from its many fine places to eat and relax, Ashbourne is perhaps most famous for its annual "Shrovetide" Football match. This isn't an 11 a-side kick around in a nearby park though, every year Ashbourne pays homage to the original format of the game by staging the biggest football match in the world.
Regularly featuring over 1000 people and played over a distance of 3 miles wide and 2 miles long, the game is played by those Ashburnians who were born on the north side of the Henmore River - "the Up'ards", against those from the south side – "the Down'ards". The match itself can last up to 8 hours and goals are, unsurprisingly, comparatively rare. Those looking to take part or witness this unique event are advised to park their cars well away from the city centre on the day! Most shops are bordered up for the match although the pubs remain open and seem to compose part of the actual pitch.
Thankfully, the rest of the year sees Ashbourne as a far more civilized destination for travellers wishing to stock up on some supplies before heading off into the countryside. Friendly and welcoming, the town is a great place to spend a day and is one of many things on offer in this beautiful part of the world. Ashbourne remains a fantastic gateway to the White Peaks because no journey to Dovedale is complete without a stop off in the town... and no trip to Ashbourne is complete without making the journey up to Dovedale.
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