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The history of Ilam Park, Dovedale and the White Peak

Stepping Stones at Ilam Park, Dovedale and the White Peak, Derbyshire
Stepping Stones at Ilam Park, Dovedale and the White Peak | © National Trust Images/Neil Jakeman

Over 360 million years ago the Peak District lay under a shallow subterranean sea as coral reef. The limestone was formed by the millions of sea creatures, plants and shells of this early existence. Here are some of the milestone moments that have shaped the landscape you see today.


The limestone valley is full of rock pinnacles and caves high above the River Dove. A precious hoard of Roman and Late Iron Age coins were discovered in 2014, in a cave where they had been undisturbed for more than 2,000 years. The coins are now on public display at Buxton Museum.

In 1653, Izaak Walton and Charles Cotton wrote 'The Compleat Angler', making the River Dove famous for fishing.

The stepping stones were first laid across the River Dove in around 1890, as the area became more and more popular with Victorian tourists. In 1934, the stones were acquired by the National Trust and in 2006, Dovedale was declared a National Nature Reserve to protect its future. People visit from miles around to cross the River Dove via these stepping stones and there are many great walks up the valley.

Ilam Hall

In October 1934 Ilam Hall was donated to the National Trust by Sir Robert McDougall. Since then, the main hall has been leased to the Youth Hostel Association and become a popular youth hostel for families and school groups. The hall was partly demolished in the 1930s and you can spot remnants of the hall in the Italian Garden and surrounding gardens.

The surrounding parkland is maintained by staff and volunteers and open to visitors throughout the year. As you walk around the park, look out for ridge and furrow, the Saxon cross on Paradise Walk, Bertram's well and the Boil Holes.

Ecton Engine House

In 2008, the National Trust acquired Ecton Hill in the Manifold Valley. The stone buildings on Ecton Hill relate to the former copper mine within the limestone hill, once owned by the Duke of Devonshire.

Winster Market House

This was the first property to be acquired by the National Trust in the Peak District. It is in the village of Winster, between the White and Dark Peak. Visit today and you can find out more about the Peak District and the work that takes place here.

Read more about Winster Market House

Three walkers with Thorpe Cloud in the distance at Ilam Park, Dovedale and the White Peak.

Discover more at Ilam Park, Dovedale and the White Peak.

Find out how to get to Ilam Park, Dovedale and the White Peak, where to park, things to see and do and more.

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Two walkers, adult and child, walking on with Thorpe Cloud in the distance at Ilam Park, Dovedale and White Peak, the Peak District.

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