At first sight Matlock Bath seems an unlikely place to go for a walk but the gorge carved out here by the River Derwent offers an excellent little circuit with a number of interesting sights along the way. This walk should not be underestimated - what it lacks in length it makes up for in ascent and descent!
You could start from several other places along the route, including the car park at Poets Corner or from Matlock Bath station (which has another car park).
Cross the road from the Pavilion and start up Temple Road, which ascends the hill almost opposite. From the car park entrance walk a few metres towards 'Gulliver's Kingdom'. Turn into the steep, wide road and immediately at the bottom on your right (a few metres before the pay entrance) can be seen some solid, stone steps which mark the start of the walk proper.
The path climbs through trees, steeply up the hill passing alongside Gulliver's Kingdom, a theme park which covers a section of the hillside here. This is a well worn but maintained section of path with proper steps. The path climbs for some way to reach a small road which winds around the contours of the hillside. Turn right and follow it downhill admiring occasional fine views across the Derwent Gorge and Matlock Bath. After about 400 metres you reach some woods on the left side of the road. Turn left (signed) where the path path ascends diagonally along the edge of the wood. Follow this path uphill.
This section in brackets applies if you wish to visit The Heights of Abraham. The road continues to The Heights of Abraham grounds and the walk can be re-joined after visiting this popular attraction. Here can be found the Victorian 'Prospect Tower', Rutland Cavern and Masson Cavern, a restaurant, toilets etc. Re-join the walk leaving the Heights at the upper-level exit gate; cave visitors walk downhill to this point after leaving the cave tour.
The path climbs steeply up through the woods, passing the entrance to the old Devonshire Mine a short way above the road. At the top of the climb on the very edge of the wood there is a junction of several paths and a farm nearby. Do not leave the wood but make a sharp right turn (modern cast iron sign) to follow the path through a fine beech wood, the path following the contours of the hillside.
Where this path eventually forks, take the left (uphill) leg heading for a gate in a wall. Pass through the gate and head diagonally left for a short way to join a narrow road. Look for a tarmac path (signed 'Tinkers Shaft') which leads from the Heights of Abraham. At the path turn uphill for a few metres (passing the cave exit) and enjoy fine views of High Tor and Riber Castle across the valley. This is a great place to picnic.
Rejoin the tarmac path and walk downhill for a short way towards the upper entrance/exit gate of the Heights. (Heights' visitors should also make their way here.) Near the gate take the public footpath (signed) diagonally downhill across a rough field and heading towards trees. Go through another gate (signed) and a field to reach Masson Farm. The path passes on the uphill side of the farm before descending a slippery section alongside a high wall to reach the top of St John's Road.
Walk all the way down the road to the A6 (ignore footpath sign) passing the strange little Victorian chapel of St John's and admiring the excellent views along the way. This is a noisy, busy main road and care should be taken. Cross directly to the Artists' Corner car park, an alternative starting point for this circular tour.
Turn left and walk along the footpath for perhaps 100 metres to a footbridge over the river and cross it with some relief at escaping from the busy road. Walk straight ahead through a short tunnel under the railway. On emerging from the tunnel, walk uphill passing a wall on the left until reaching the first house on the right.
Turn right through gates into High Tor, a large plaque on the ground at the entrance. There is an information board on the right just through the gates which tells the history of this pretty walk. This is the entrance to the High Tor gardens.
Enter the gardens and climb to the top of High Tor itself, the valley way below and visible in places as you follow (but stay back from) the cliff edge. It's about a kilometre to the top with several fenced viewing points looking into the valley with lovely views of Matlock in the opposite direction. The view at the top is highly impressive but the unfenced edge may be alarming for some and definitely not a place for unsupervised young children!
From the summit follow the sign into the small wood, passing along the face of the cliff, handrails set in the rock to help with safety, eventually reaching a small wood. Walk ahead to the fence and turn right to follow the path downhill with occasional glimpses on the opposite bank of Matlock Bath.
The path descends through another heavily wooded area emerging just above the cable car terminus. This cable car takes passengers to the Heights of Abraham, a lovely visit at any time of year.
Join the road, turn right and continue downhill until reaching the railway track at Matlock Bath station. Do not go through the tunnel but take the path to the left leading to the far end of the platform. Taking care to look and listen, cross the track and directly leave the station.
The path to Lovers' Walks starts at the edge of the large car park, towards its far left end and tricky to find until you get close enough to see it! It can be found by walking to the parking area marked for the use of coaches. (July 2014) Do not take the road out of the station that crosses the river!
There is a sign pointing to Lovers' Walks on the far side of the coach parking section. After joining the trail keep to the right, ignoring a left uphill path across a small field. A hundred metres further along is a board detailing the walks.
If you've had enough uphill walking follow the river section. If you haven't then take the narrow path which goes uphill and passes along the top of a wood above a series of small cliffs overlooking the river. It's quite pretty in places, with good views across towards Matlock Bath and the Heights of Abraham. The cliff-top path ends after about a kilometre at Wildcat Crags where it zigzags down through the woods to the river.
On reaching the riverside path turn right where a hundred metres upriver a steel footbridge (perhaps not marked on OS maps) provides a crossing to Derwent Gardens. Turn right after the bridge and walk through the gardens to The Pavilion.