July is a great example of this. The town itself never looks better. Think of July and you think of summer sunshine. The cobbled market square, little yards and the miles of bunting create an excellent theatre. Visitors can just potter around and visit the excellent delis, unique shops like Pachacuti, Equatorial, the Olde Sweet Shoppe, Guitars 4 U, the field sports shops. Sacs, Young Ideas, Bennett’s department store, the market, the galleries and the antique shops. There are plenty of them and they make Ashbourne an essential part of the Peak District experience. First thing in the morning groups of cyclists make their way through the town. It’s a good stopping off point for them to have some tea and a snack before the sun really gets hot. The Flower cafe and Bramall’s deli seem to have taken over as the favourite with them.
The town really is blessed with cafes and tea rooms. For something a little different the outdoor experience at the Flower cafe and Bramalls are hard to beat. Close to the parking there is a nice outdoor setting at the Ashbourne Coffee Stop by the Shawcroft car park and a few tables at the back of Chimes. For something a little more refined – particularly if you are eating I’d go for Bennett’s, the Bridge or the Gallery. If you want to play it safe there is the Costa but there are also slightly different offerings with Cheddar Gorge, Cafe Impromptu, the Cornerstone cafe and the new Dillon’s. There is a good half day’s entertainment and subsequent refreshment in the town for anyone.
While in the town I’d go and have a look at the Tunnel and experience a bit of cool away from the sunshine and hear the eerie train sounds that will entertain the children as well as adults. It’s nice flat walking as well for anyone in a wheelchair or the elderly.
For something a bit more adventurous the Visitor’s Centre organises walking tours and there are lots of little alleyways to explore. It would be nice to have a proper self-guided walking tour set up so that visitors can appreciate the “feel” of the town. Ashbourne’s charm is in the hidden views, the Georgian architecture, the little nooks and unexpected surprises. I think a nice route would go from the visitor’s centre up one do the many sets of steps, along some of Belle Vue Road down towards St Oswald’s. It would stop off at the Heritage Centre before cutting to the Tunnel and then along by the bus station to Dig Street before making its way through Shawcroft car park to the Shrovetide podium. The memorial gardens and a finish on the market square would be nice. Just in time for another cup of tea.
If the weather is nice I’d buy some food from the sandwich shops and delis and have a picnic on the Rec or in the Memorial Gardens. The children can play on the play area while the adults can just relax. If it turns a little cooler I’d aim for lunch in Sticky Fingers or Da Carlos.
In the evening the nice summer pubs are The Bridge courtyard – always something going on, the Horns tables outside or in the window to watch the world go by or even the Stepping Stones pub for a good value family meal. For the best beer in town I would go to the Smith’s Tavern. If I was going out with my wife I would go upstairs in The Bridge. The best places to watch sporting events are the White Hart (with Sky Sports 3D), the Bridge downstairs, or The Wheel. For anyone staying in town the Bengal or Red Chilli keep the restaurant’s cool on a summers evening. For something a little more sophisticated there is always the magnificent Dining Room. You may have already had some of Pete’s bread for lunch as part of your picnic.
Entertainment is varied. At the start of the month is the Ashbourne Arts Festival. Tickets are sold online so you can order in advance. In July this year was an excellent standup comedy night with Justin Moorhouse headlining. There was also comedy with Barbara Nice and a lighthearted music night with Graffiti Classics. There are more relaxed and restful events which are fabulous on a sunny day – Poetry In The Garden and Picnic In The Park and more cerebral events with a talk on Richard III’s exhumation and one on Symbolism in the Parish Church.
At the end of the month is the amazing Highland Gathering which will keep the family entertained all day. Scottish marching pipe bands come to compete and there are lots of other arena events including a hill race and the traditional strongman competition.
If any other readers have suggestions on activities which I haven’t listed – for example the local pub quiz nights, regular music entertainment slots, where to go when it rains (it never does), what’s the best thing on a Sunday afternoon…please let me have them and I’ll update the post.