Dovedale is a National Nature Reserve with internationally important ancient ash woodland, wildflower-rich grassland and a river full of wildlife. Thousands of people visit each year to enjoy the sense of wilderness in this special area of countryside.
Many visitors choose to enjoy Dovedale with gentle activities such as picnics by the river or watching wildlife. The more adventurous can choose to climb Thorpe Cloud or walk along the valley from the famous stepping stones to Milldale.
Spring highlights at Dovedale
Don't forget your camera to capture the wooded valley sides and you may spot birds such as dipper, heron and ducks on the River Dove.
The valley is grazed by sheep and at this time of year lambing is in full swing, so you will spot lambs and ewes along the walking routes. This is one reason why we request that dogs remain on a lead, to avoid disturbance and attacks on livestock.
There are plenty of quiet places to stop with a picnic and listen to the birds and the sounds of the river. Please take your litter home with you, to keep the countryside clean and safe for other visitors and wildlife.
Whatever the season, you can tick off some of the 50 Things list on a family visit to Dovedale. Our favourites are spotting fossils at Lover's Leap, birdwatching, catching a falling leaf and exploring a cave.
Dovedale is open countryside and there are no facilities beyond the entrances. You can help us to look after this special place, ensure your safety, and make sure everyone can enjoy their visit.
- To help care for this countryside site, please take all your litter home with you.
- Avoid climbing on scree slopes (loose rock) and be aware of the chance of rockfall.
- Barbeques and open fires are not allowed, to reduce the risk of wildfires.
- Please keep your dog on a lead to avoid disturbance to grazing livestock and other visitors in Dovedale.
- Consider whether you’re equipped for the route you choose – Thorpe Cloud is steep with uneven ground, and we recommend walking boots
- The flying of drones is not permitted, to ensure the safety of all visitors to Dovedale.
- The walking route between the Stepping Stones and Milldale includes steps, boardwalks and uneven ground as the footpath follows the River Dove for 3 miles.
- Please be aware that there is virtually no mobile phone reception in Dovedale and the surrounding area. There are public telephone boxes in the villages of Thorpe and Ilam.
Dovedale’s famous stepping stones are less than half a mile from the main car park. Please be aware that this path leads to the stepping stones but they are the only way across the river beyond this point. Alternatively, you can cross the river by the bridge here but the route alongside the river is rough and sometimes floods.
Whatever the season, after heavy rainfall the river level may rise and flood the stepping stones and some parts of the footpaths. There are alternative walking routes in the area, on higher ground, please refer to a map to choose a different walk if you need to.
A useful website to check the latest river level is available here
There is a car park at Dovedale open daily throughout the year. This is not a National Trust car park and the parking charge applies to all visitors using the car park.
The nearest National Trust car park to Dovedale is located 1 mile along the road at Ilam Park. National Trust members can park at Ilam Park for free, non members can use the pay and display machine. There are also toilets, a tea-room and National Trust shop at Ilam Park.
It is a 1.5 mile walk across farmland between Ilam Park and Dovedale, which is unsuitable for buggies and wheelchairs due to gates, stiles and uneven ground. You can use the trail to find your way between the two places.
There are toilets located beside Dovedale car park, managed by Peak District National Park Authority. There is a 20p charge to use these. There are also free public toilets at Thorpe village and Milldale.
Our team of friendly volunteers and mobile information barn stands near the bridge in Dovedale between Easter and October each year. In the barn you'll find a range of useful walking guides and maps to purchase, as well as toys, postcards and gifts. The volunteer team are happy to recommend walking routes if you fancy exploring further.
Dovedale is a popular spot for photographers and dippers, heron, buzzards and ducks are often spotted along the River Dove.