Ashbourne is considered to be the gateway to the Peak National Park and if you come from the Derby direction you will come along the A52. Coming from Leek it is again the A52 but should you approach Ashbourne from Buxton or the Peak District or from Uttoxeter you will come in on the A515 from either direction.
Ashbourne is in a valley surrounded by hills so that in order to get out of Ashbourne you have to be prepared to climb a hill. Ashbourne is a classic example of an English market town although the cattle market is no longer and the other market in the town centre which used to be very busy on Thursdays and Saturdays is rapidly dying a death.
Aside from the history and interesting architecture there are a number of antique shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants and it is nice to wander around and check out the little alley ways that lead off from some of the streets.
I can recommend Spencer’s café and bakery on the market place as I worked there for some time in the holidays. The Ashbourne Gingerbread Shop is not only a lovely building but is one of the bakeries that made Ashbourne gingerbread famous. This is a sort of ginger shortbread biscuit unique to the town.
Ashbourne is the home of the traditional and unique rugby football game that takes place at Shrovetide each year. I have written a review on this previously if you would like to know more about how the entire town turns into a football pitch with goals three miles apart.
Strangely considering its distance from Scotland but for many years since 1985 Ashbourne has hosted a huge Highland games which has become one of the largest gatherings outside Scotland. Sadly this year it was cancelled because of the awful weather, the games are held down near the river which was flooded.
The Ashbourne Agricultural Show is a very traditional English agricultural and country show, which is held mid August at the Polo Grounds in Osmaston, a nearby village. Held only a couple of weekends back and my step daughter bought a guinea pig to keep her rabbit company. I just hope they don’t come our way as her two cats did when she split with her ex!
This is a typical agricultural show with competitions for animals and displays of machinery, lots of stalls and sometimes you are lucky and get the dancing JCB diggers giving a display.
Apart from a number of cafes varying from traditional family cafes through to a recent Costa, there are also a number of local bakeries, a very nice natural medicine and foods shop " Natural Choice", a great mini department store in the form of Peter Cooks and many antique shops. We also now have a Waitrose and Sainsbury’s in the town and M&S food just outside the centre along with Homebase, Halfords and a few other shops.
If you want a base from which to explore the Peak District Ashbourne is perfect and there are a number of hotels, guest houses and B&Bs in the area. The tourist information office is in the Market place and has lists. You can buy most of what you might need in the town and people who live nearby rarely go out their way into Derby to shop unless they are looking for something specific that you cannot get in Ashbourne.
there are a number of pretty villages around Asbourne including Osmaston with its thatched A frame cottage,Shoulder of Mutton pub and tall spired church. Shirley with its lovely church and centre of the village focusing on the great pub, the Saracen's Head and of course the library ni the old telephone box.
The other direction takes you to Clifton and Mayfield both interesting villages with nice churches and you can walk to either from Ashbourne. Clifton has a thriving cricket club while Mayfield has a famous Hanging bridge.
Going into the Peak district up buxton Hill takes you to the pretty stone build village of Fenny Bentley and if you go further you will see signs to Dovedale which is a beautiful walk along the river.
Tissington just a little further is another picture perfect peak stone village with a duck pond, church, tea rooms and a couple of other shops and if you visit at the right time you will see their beautiful well dressing festival when the village wells are decorated with pictures made from flowers.