The Dovedale Stepping Stones are one of the most popular attractions in the Peak District that locals and tourists alike flock to at any given chance. Whilst it’s possible to park just 10 minutes away from the stones, there are many walks out there that incorporate this attraction as part of a wider exploration of the area. Although there are many great walks available that range from a couple of kilometres up to 20+ kilometres, we feel that the Dovedale Stepping Stones Circular walk is the very best; it includes breathtaking scenery at almost every point, the opportunity to climb the spectacular Thorpe Cloud, and of course, the chance to hop over the River Dove using the star of the walk – the Dovedale Stepping Stones.
In this guide, you’ll discover everything you need to know ahead of the hike, a detailed virtual trip of the very best walk, and some top tips for visiting.
WHAT ARE THE DOVEDALE STEPPING STONES?
The Dovedale Stepping Stones are large stones that cross the River Dove. They act as a bridge for those looking to cross the river and have been in place since the Victorian age. Today, they’re a popular tourist attraction in the Peak District due to their idyllic setting.
WHERE ARE THE DOVEDALE STEPPING STONES IN THE PEAK DISTRICT?
The Dovedale Stepping Stones span across the River Dove in Dovedale Valley in the south of the Peak District. The exact location can be seen on the interactive map below.
BEST TIME TO DO THE DOVEDALE STEPPING STONES CIRCULAR WALK IN THE PEAK DISTRICT
As one of the most popular walks in the Peak District, it gets pretty busy regardless of the time of year here. As such, the best time to visit Dovedale Stepping Stones in the Peak District is early in the morning on a weekday. We’d recommend visiting any time that the weather is fine for walking, however, it’s worth bearing in mind that it can get quite muddy around here and the water over the River Dove can rise above the stepping stones.
HOW TO GET TO DOVEDALE STEPPING STONES CIRCULAR WALK TRAILHEAD
By far the easiest way to get around the Peak District is by car. This is because it’s mostly made up of small villages, countryside and heaps of grazing animals. The postcode that you’ll need to enter to get to the trailhead of this walk by car is DE6 2AT – this will lead you to a free car park called Narlow Lane Car Park.
If you need to rent a car, then we recommend using a platform such as Expedia which show all of the best deals on the market.
It’s possible to get to the trailhead by bus, however, it will take much longer than if you were to drive. Below are the routes from some of the most popular towns and villages in the Peak District:
Bakewell: Bus 58 to Buxton – bus 441 or 442 from Buxton to Fenny Bentley, Coach and Horses
Buxton: Bus 441 or 442 to Fenny Bentley, Coach and Horses
You can check out further information here: Peak District Bus Timetable.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to get to Dovedale Valley by train. All routes require an additional step of either a bus or car to get anywhere near the trailhead.
The closest train station to the start of the walk is in Matlock – from here it is roughly a 20-minute drive. Alternatively, there is Derby or Buxton train station which are both 30 minutes away by car.
DOVEDALE STEPPING STONES CIRCULAR WALK DETAILS
DISTANCE OF THE WALK
The total distance of this walk is 5.5km.
DIFFICULTY OF THE WALK
The difficulty level of the Dovedale Stepping Stone Circular walk is rated as moderate that anyone with moderate fitness levels can handle. You’ll see many novice hikers on this trail, including children, with only two uphill stints. In addition, there is one optional incline if you wish to summit Thorpe Cloud, however, it is a diversion off of the main trail and so not necessary to do if you don’t feel up to it.
ELEVATION ON THE WALK
The total elevation of this walk is 242 meters.
DURATION OF THE WALK
The time is takes to do this walk will depend on your fitness levels and how many pictures you stop to take. For most people, this walk takes between 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minutes to complete.
A GUIDE ALONG DOVEDALE STEPPING STONES CIRCULAR WALK
LEAVING THORPE VILLAGE
The walk begins in the silent and sleepy village of Thorpe. You’ll immediately descend down a country road that veers off the left. It’s at this point that you’ll head right through the kissing gate and across a field before being met by the intimidating view of Thorpe Cloud.
SUMMITING THORPE CLOUD
As you meander down through the valley, you’ll walk beside a trickling stream that ultimately leads to the river where you’ll find the Dovedale Stepping Stones. However, before you head towards the main attraction, the route does a quick u-turn to lead you towards the summit of Thorpe Cloud. Although the route follows a direct path towards the top, there are blue markers on the trail which ask walkers to avoid scrambling due to loose rubble. If you follow these blue markers, you’ll add roughly a kilometre onto the walk and it will be an easier climb to the summit. Alternatively, if you choose to ignore the signposts about the rubble, you’ll endure a short-lived clamber, followed by an easy dirt track to the top of Thorpe Cloud. Either way, you’ll enjoy the same breathtaking views of the surrounding valley.
FINDING DOVEDALE STEPPING STONES
You’ll then need to take the same route back down to find the Dovedale Stepping Stones. If you choose to cross, you’ll need to bear in mind that your feet may get wet if you’re visiting during the wetter months. Once you’ve taken a few pictures crossing the famous stones in one the most idyllic settings, the route leads beside the River Dove before reaching a bridge near to the main car park. This is a paid car park that gets extremely busy very quickly that this route thankfully avoids.
RETURNING TO THORPE VILLAGE
As you continue along, you’ll hug the base of Thorpe Cloud, passing many grazing sheep, before a steady incline leads you through a kissing gate that drops you in the first field you crossed when starting this walk. The Dovedale Stepping Stones Circular walk then ends with a short and sharp climb along a country road back to the car park.
DOVEDALE STEPPING STONES CIRCULAR WALK MAP
Below is an interactive map from one of the best platforms for walking. If you’ve not already got an account, then we highly recommend signing up and saving this map for use on the day.
TIPS FOR WALKING TO THE DOVEDALE STEPPING STONES
START THE WALK EARLY
As already mentioned, this is one of the most popular walks in the Peak District National Park. It’s busy pretty much all year round (unless it’s windy, rainy and horrible weather). If you want to beat the crowds so that you can enjoy this wonderful slice of the world in complete serenity, then we’d highly recommend starting the walk early. You’re also more likely to get a parking spot if you arrive before 9 am.
WEAR WATEPROOF BOOTS
If you’re visiting the Dovedale Stepping Stones anywhere between October and the end of April, then there’s a chance that the river level will be high and covering a couple of the stepping stones. As such, we’d recommend that you wear some waterproof hiking boots.
DOWNLOAD THE MAP BEFORE YOU BEGIN THE WALK
As soon as you enter the Dovedale Valley, phone signal disappears off the radar completely. As such, we’d recommend downloading the map to your phone ahead of the walk so that you don’t get lost.
WHERE TO STAY NEAR DOVEDALE STEPPING STONES
Bakewell is by far one of the best-known places to stay in the Peak District and acts as a great hub for many walks in the area. Whilst it’s a small town, it’s absolutely thriving, and in our opinion, one of the nicest places in the Peaks. Whilst those benefits come at a cost, Bakewell is undoubtedly worth it – not least for the numerous Bakewell tarts and cakes on offer.
Bakewell to Dovedale Valley: 30 minutes
Buxton is one of the larger towns in the area and is not strictly in the Peak District. It’s situated in a small pocket of the UK that’s enclosed by the Peak District, but didn’t seem to make the cut when they were carving out the National Park. That being said, it holds many distinct features of the other towns and villages in the area and is a great place for exploring the entire Peaks.
Buxton to Dovedale Valley: 30 minutes
Ashbourne is another great place to stay that isn’t strictly in the Peak District but acts as a great base for exploring the southern area. It’s a quirky little town with a variety of independent restaurants and funky coffee shops, yet it doesn’t hold the price tag that some of the other towns and villages do.
Ashbourne to Dovedale Valley: 10 minutes
Overall, the Dovedale Stepping Stones Circular walk is one of the best in the area that offers the optional extra of summitting Thorpe Cloud for those who are looking to really challenge themselves. It’s a fantastic walk that’s suitable for anybody with reasonable fitness levels and provides some of the best scenery in the southern part of the Peak District National Park.
We hope you enjoy this awesome walk, and if you have any further questions then feel free to drop a comment down below and we will get back to you as soon as possible!
Discover the Peak District further:
- Lud’s Church Walk / an easy walk to an awe-inspiring chasm thats steeped in history
- Thor’s Cave walk / an incredible 150-foot cave with the perfect window to the Peak District
- Padley Gorge walk / a gentle walk through a magical gorge with plenty of wild swimming spots
- Mam Tor walk / a breathtaking Mam Tor walk that leads through Winnats Pass & Castleton
- Bamford Edge walk / a phenomenal walk with some of the best picture spots in the Peaks
- Chee Dale Circular walk / a hidden gem gorge walk with two sets of incredible stepping stones
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