Venetian Nights

Matlock Bath illuminations are a superb event which features beautifully illuminated boats on the Matlock River every weekend evening, throughout the duration of September and October. During the illuminations season, the riverbanks and the cliffs around them are adorned with illuminated displays on a variety of themes, making the Venetian Nights a truly remarkable event for all the family.

In the 1800s, Matlock Bath was one of the top destinations in the country for many wealthy English tourists, including members of the Royal family. The Matlock Bath illuminations were originally inspired by an earlier visit of a pre-coronation Queen Victoria, then Princess Victoria. During her visit, which included tea at the Temple Hotel, she saw candlelight reflecting in the River Derwent and shimmering lights made a lasting impression on her. Whilst she was visiting, she signed a pane of glass in the restaurant window, on which Lord Byron had previously etched a poem. Although it is not in its original position, the window pane is still on display at the Hotel for modern-day visitors to view.

Originally known as the Venetian Nights, the first Matlock Bath illuminations took place in 1887, to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. For many years, the illuminations were simply lit by candlelight and local residents would line the riverbanks with fairy lights, lamps and Oriental lanterns, whilst watching the procession of twinkling boats on the river. The rock faces of the gorge were lit by numerous coloured bonfires. In 1950 the event switched to electric lighting, although the tradition has been maintained as the boat parade continues to feature one boat lit by candlelight.

Matlock Bath illuminations and Venetian Nights are next really popular events during September and October, where Matlock Bath becomes illuminated at night by a whole throng of light displays all along the River Derwent. There are boat parades of illuminated vessels which can be seen on Saturday and Sunday evenings throughout the illuminations period and the spectacular boats built by voluntary groups from a variety of local organisations. Most of the decorated and illuminated boats are produced in road by members of the Matlock Bath Venetian Boat Builders Association.

Each year there seems to be more and more daring and delightful displays of artistry, with wonderful thought and some very clever local people trying their hand at inventing new imaginative designs, and trying to outdo each other in a competitive but very friendly way. Switched on at dusk, the town is lit up and looks a truly magical place.

In addition to the boat parades and events which are held in Matlock Bath’s Derwent Gardens during the illuminations, such as a lively entertainment programme on the bandstand, there are firework displays on some Saturdays during the period. Although the streets to get extremely busy, the fireworks tend to draw in even more people, but it’s always possible to get a good vantage point of the fireworks as they are set off from the cliff top above Matlock Bath, giving everyone at the Temple Hotel the perfect viewing point.