Ilam Park to the stepping stones in Dovedale

Walking trail

We’re finding that popular spots like Ilam Park, Manifold Valley and Dovedale are getting extremely busy, especially at weekends. We expect our car parks to fill up very quickly by 9am on weekends, bank holidays and school holidays, so we encourage people to plan ahead and check our social media channels for updates and visit at quieter times. This will help us keep our places safe and enjoyable for everyone. We ask that all visitors please park safely and considerately in designated spaces and not on roads or grass verges, as this can block access for farm tenants, local residents and emergency services. We also remind people that BBQs/campfires are not permitted and ask everyone to help us look after our beautiful Peak District countryside by taking their litter home with them.

Plan your day out. Respect, protect and enjoy.

The walk starts at Ilam Park, where you'll find a National Trust car park, Stableyard Grab and Go and toilets. Some parts of the walk can be muddy so suitable footwear is advised. You'll pass farm animals and other wildlife along the way so please ensure your dog is on a lead at all times. To avoid cattle, please look out for the 'alternative route' sign to avoid the fields with cattle, and also avoids stiles. The route is not suitable for pushchair and prams due to the uneven ground and width of stiles and gates.

Dovedale, Midlands


A popular walk between Ilam and Dovedale


Ilam Park, grid ref: SK132507


Start at Ilam Park and walk away from the hall and towards the surfaced footpath by Ilam church. Look out for the shafts of two 1,000-year-old Saxon crosses in the churchyard. Continue on the path into the village. In the distance you will see Thorpe Cloud, the large flat topped hill.

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Far reaching views across the Italian Garden


Follow the surfaced path past the Church into Ilam village. Here you'll find alpine-style houses and a school, provided for locals by Jesse Watts-Russell. Walk along the pavement until you reach the Mary Watts-Russell Memorial Cross, built in 1840 in memory of Jesse Watts-Russell's wife. Cross over the road before the stone bridge and walk past the postbox on your right.

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Ilam Cross stands in the village


On leaving Ilam village, after the last house, cross the road and go through a small wooden gate. There is a short steep slope to the footpath. Turn right onto the stone track and continue along the base of Bunster Hill, grazed by sheep and lambs.

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Lambs on Bunster Hill


At the first squeeze stile on the path there are two route options for you to choose from. You can continue through the squeeze stile and across the fields towards Thorpe Cloud, which will include further step stiles and passes through fields of cows and sheep. Alternatively, turn left before the squeeze stile and walk beside the drystone wall. This route avoids cows and stiles but will take 10 minutes longer. This is the recommended route for walkers with dogs and those wanting to avoid stiles.

Walking in the Peak District


The route across the fields passes behind the Izaak Walton Hotel, named after the author of the book The Compleat Angler. He fished the River Dove in the mid 17th century. Bunster Hill is on your left and Thorpe Cloud is ahead of you, with the flat top.

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Walk across the fields from Ilam village to Dovefdale


The path will go downhill to join the surfaced track by Dovedale car park (not National Trust) and the public toilets (20p charge, not National Trust). Turn left and walk along the track into the valley, passing a small wooden bridge on your right. Welcome to Dovedale. The River Dove is on your right, at the base of Thorpe Cloud. The river marks the boundary between Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Dovedale became a National Nature Reserve in 2006, because of the vast range of rare habitats and wildlife found here. The river is an important habitat for fish, invertebrates and birds. Look out for dipper, heron and ducks on the river bank as you walk along. The steep valley slopes have woodlands and grassland meadows with wildflowers, fungi and ferns.

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The River Dove flows through Dovedale


Congratulations, you have reached the Stepping Stones - take a moment to look around and absorb the scenery. Put in place in the middle of the 19th century, the stones have long been a magnet for visitors to the area. There are lots of fossils in the stones, you can spot them as you cross them. Many visitors choose to stop near the stones for a picnic or paddle before walking back to Ilam Park.

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A view of the river and Thorpe Cloud at Dovedale


Dovedale Stepping Stones, grid ref: SK152514

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Ilam Park to the stepping stones in Dovedale


The route includes fields and slopes that can be muddy and slippery at times.

The route is not suitable for pushchairs or prams due to the terrain.

Some of the fields between Ilam village and Dovedale may be grazed by cows when you visit. To avoid walking through the cows use the labelled 'alternative route' which takes slightly longer but avoids the cows, and is stile free. Dogs on leads at all times in areas with grazing farm animals and also in Dovedale National Nature Reserve to protect wildlife and other people from disturbance. 

This route passes below scree slopes on the valley sides. Please keep to path and avoid walking onto these areas as they are unstable. 

After heavy rainfall, the stepping stones can become impassable due to flooding.

Suitable footwear is advised, due to the uneven surfaces and slopes along the route. There may be muddy areas after rainfall.

Look after the places you love and leave no trace of your visit. Take all litter home, including dog mess and if you find a bin is full we urge you to take all your litter home with you. BBQs/campfires/outdoor cooking equipment are not allowed anywhere in the Peak District National Park. Please only camp in desingated campsites as wild camping is not allowed. Dovedale car park closes promptly at 7:30pm so please leave the car park before this time. Ilam Park car park is open dawn to dusk and we do not allow any overnight parking. 


Ilam Park to the stepping stones in Dovedale

Contact us

Telephone: General enquiries 01335 350503        



Ilam Park to the stepping stones in Dovedale

How to get here

Walk route starts at Ilam Park, Ilam, Derbyshire, DE6 2AZ
By train

Matlock, 11 miles (17.7km); Derby, 21 miles (33.8km).

By road

Ilam village and Dovedale are near Thorpe village about 5 miles (8km) north-west of Ashbourne. Routes from the A52 and the A515.

By bus

Regular service, Ashbourne to Thorpe, and weekend bus to Ilam.

By bicycle

National Cycle Network Route 68, 4 miles (6.5km) east, then along Narlow Lane through Thorpe to Ilam. This road can be busy at times.

Ilam Park to the stepping stones in Dovedale

Facilities and access

  • National Trust Stableyard Grab and Go open daily for takeaway treats, parking and toilets available at Ilam Park
  • Non NT toilets in Dovedale, 20p charge. Toilets are looked after by Peak District National Park Authority
  • Coach parking bay on road between Ilam village and Izaak Walton Hotel. Designated coach parking, cars not permitted.
  • Accommodation available at Ilam Park - YHA youth hostel, National Trust bunkhouse and caravan site