In August Ashbourne is in full holiday swing. The town is surrounded by hotels, log cabins, self-catering accommodation, caravan parks and campsites to suit most budgets and tastes. During the summer when the touristy areas can get overcrowded it is an excellent choice for an outdoors family holiday.
Of course there’s good walking. One of the first things we bought when we moved to the area was a book of Derbyshire walks with children http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1850586136. The closest to Ashbourne is in the Osmaston estate. They are all circular walks of between 3 and 7 miles and directions are interspersed with “iSpy” things to look for and interesting facts. Other favourites start in Thorpe, Tissington, Cromford, Black Rocks and Hartington. The walk around Carsington is good fun and can be broken with tea at the Visitors centre or lunch and some other refreshment at the Miners Arms. For the more serious hiker there are some excellent longer rambles across the Peak District. The great thing about Ashbourne is that it is close to all of this but is not too touristy a place to stay. It remains a working and trading community that isn’t just awake in the Summer time.For cyclists there is the excellent network of old railway tracks. Not only can you rent bikes if you haven’t brought them – the Ashbourne office on the Tissington trail is just a short walk from the town centre through the old Tunnel – but the beauty of the trail for younger kids is that railways tend to be on the flat. Again there a some nice pubs and tea rooms to call off at along the way and you can travel to some interesting places without ever using the car once you’ve arrived.
For water sports we have the excellent Carsington Water Sports Centre http://www.carsingtonwater.com/RYA-Windsurfing-and-Sailing-Lessons0002v01.htm a short distance away and the white water at Matlock http://www.canoeslalom.co.uk/courses/matlock.htm.
Riders can use the cycle trails or trek – there is a trekking centre in Tissington.
For more extreme entertainment the Brailsford Wild Park centre http://www.wildparkleisure.co.uk/ provides quad biking, laser tagging, and paint balling and has hosted the extreme 10k mud events in recent years.
For those who enjoy nature we have the RSPB Coombes Valley nature reserve http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/c/coombeschurnet/. Perfect at this time of year for seeing woodland birds – pied flycatcher, redstart, nuthatch, woodcock etc. Carsington Water has some excellent hides accessed from the Sheepwash car park. A well as waterfowl the scrapes can be very good for waders and the feeding station by the nature centre is heaving with the scarcer tree sparrows. Dovedale has ravens and dippers as well as grey and yellow wagtails.
There are other nearby things to enjoy in the great outdoors. One of my favourites is the National Stone Centre at Cromford http://www.nationalstonecentre.org.uk/. The exhibits of stone and quarrying and an activity to let kids pan for “precious stones”. They also have an extensive exhibit of dry stone walling in various parts of the country and a mini railway. My favourite is the hands-on stone carving which takes place on Sundays. You need to book in advance but you can create some pretty impressive souvenirs in half a day and it is very relaxing chipping away outdoors overlooking the quarry.
The Ashbourne Show has been running for over 120 years at the Polo Ground in Osmaston. There are all the activities you would expect at a good agricultural show. Equestrian events, Open and WI crafts competitions, livestock displays, food, drink, crafts and country pursuits. It is a good day it for all the family.
Of course, there will be the odd wet day and there are still plenty of things to do. The leisure centre has a swimming pool and well equipped gym as well as a skate park outside. The National Stone Centre, the Ashbourne Heritage Centre, Sticky Fingers craft activities, Sudbury Hall Stately Home and Museum of Childhood, the regular indoor markets (Farmers and Vintage) in the Town Hall, the galleries and antique shops in Ashbourne, St Oswalds Church, Tissington with On A Wick And A Prayer and Edward and Vintage, the industrial heritage areas of Cromford and Belper, the Independently owned and run Ritz Cinema in Belper, and for something different, the Story of JCB exhibition at the impressive Rocester JCB Headquarters.