Dovedale is the name given to the section of the Dove valley between Milldale and Thorpe Cloud, which contains some of the most spectacular limestone gorge scenery available in this country. Everywhere the river is flanked by steep cliffs, with numerous caves and rock pillars, of which Ilam Rock is only the most spectacular.
Below Ilam Rock the valley narrows, and the path even has a short stretch where duck-boards have been erected to save walkers from having to wade the river. Then it opens out again and high on the left lies Reynard's Cave, a large cave with a natural arch in front. From the cave you have a fine view of the Dale.
Below here there are more crags - Tissington Spires - which are almost like blades or fins of rock alongside the river. The next stretch of the river is again narrow and craggy, so the path climbs up the hillside above Lover's Leap to pass Sharplow Point and then down to emerge at the famous stepping-stones where Dovedale meets Lindale, overlooked by the conical mass of Thorpe Cloud. This is the end of the gorge, and soon after the Dove is joined by the Manifold for the combined river to meander through gentler and less exciting countryside to eventually meet the Trent near Burton.
The Stepping Stones
The river is a well known trout fishing area, made famous by Izaak Walton in his classic 17th century book 'The Compleat Angler', and you will frequently see anglers by the side of the river.
View from Thorpe Cloud
The classic view of the lower section of Dovedale is obtained from the summit of Thorpe Cloud, the conical hill which guards the entrance to the valley. The hill can be climbed from any direction, though erosion has caused the owners, the National Trust, to direct visitors up particular routes. The easiest ascent is from Thorpe village along the ridge on the eastern side.
The view is superb, with Dovedale laid out below you, Alstonefield on the northern horizon and Ilam Hall clearly visible to the west. On the north side of the hill the deep-cut valley of Lindale descends to the Dove and at their junction are the famous stepping-stones which thousands of visitors use each year to start their trip up the valley. This is not a place to come on a summer Sunday unless you like crowds!