Why Visit Ashbourne

As a wonderful old historic market town, there are several up-to-date attractions in Ashbourne but also lots of wonderful architecture and history which can be explored at your leisure. With the fantastic scenery of Dovedale, ‘The Gateway To The Peak’ just a few minutes car ride away, the wonderful geography of the place makes it an attraction in itself. Nestled in the gentle slopes of the Henmore Valley, on the southern edge of the Peak District, it is built on the rugged white limestone, which gives the name ‘The White Peak.’ It is the starting point for one branch of The Limestone Way.

It is a wonderfully elegant town, renowned for its charm and famous cobbled market place and of course it’s wonderful antique shops, which attract visitors from miles around. The market today is still a very atmospheric wonderful occasion with traders selling all sorts of produce and products.

Ashbourne Restored Houses

St Oswald’s Parish Church is arguably one of the most prominent of features as soon as you enter the town. With its 212 foot spire dominating the skyline, looming protectively over the streets, it is a wonderful church to discover lots of history and peace. George Eliot famously described it as the ‘finest single spire in England.’

With so many wonderful shops both old and new, one of the delicious delights of Ashbourne is the making of gingerbread from times gone by, and the original Gingerbread Shop is still there in St John Street. It is now run by Birds the Bakers. The building has a mock fronted Elizabethan facade, in a very striking white and black beamed design, but look out for the famous wattle and daub walls , which were once covered over, but have now been put proudly on show. The shop has its own cafe where you can try out the delicious gingerbread men, as well as having hot and cold snacks and home-made cream cakes.

The Green Man And Black Heads Royal Hotel is not easy to miss, the landmark with its historic Cross Street Gallows and is featured proudly in the Guinness book of records for having the longest inn sign in the world. The hotel dates back to 1750 and was formed went to former coaching inns were joined together. The landlord of the Green Man bought the neighbouring Blackamoor Inn which is now turned into shops, but if you look closely at the sign, on one side the Blackmore’s face is smiling and on the other, he’s scowling. The place is said to have been frequented by lawyer James Boswell and his good friend Dr Samuel Johnson (the famous Dr Johnson) , who lived nearby in the 17th-century Mansion house. Queen Victoria was also said to have visited, reputedly to have a visit to the toilet, although in polite society, it was retold as a ‘refreshment break, of course, but it was an occasion which added the term ‘Royal’ to its name. It serves delicious ale and wonderful pub grub just as it did back then.

Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, is opposite the church and has very distinctive red sandstone walls and a multi-gabled roof. It’s a nice piece of the town’s history to locate and a lovely walk just a little way from the churchyard. It was founded in 1585 by Sir Thomas Cockayne and was saved from demolition just over a century ago by the Derbyshire archaeological Society. It is now a grade one listed building, but unfortunately its future is uncertain.

Ashbourne Memorial Gardens is a wonderful splash of greenery amidst the bustling town, a great place to sit back and relax and listen to the fountain tinkling away to itself. The gardens back on to the park where there are playing fields and a great area for ball games of any kind. There is also a statue, which commemorates the life of Catherine Boothby, co-founder of the Salvation Army who was born in the town.

Ashbourne Park

Wright Memorial and bullring is set amidst the historic, cobbled market place. It was once used for mediaeval bull baiting and was also the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie proclaimed his father, James, King of England during the first Stewart rebellion. Just behind it, is the Wright Memorial, which was erected in 1874 in memory of Francis Wright, a very wealthy local industrialist who was responsible for building St Pancras railway station.

Ashbourne is very famous for its Royal Shrovetide football match which is a two-day game which takes place each year on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. It’s an absolutely spectacular event not to be missed if you are here at Easter to view it. Half the town takes to the streets and shops board up their windows in case the cork filled, leather covered, hand painted ball accidentally hits the glass. Residents from both sides of the river, the Up ‘Ards and the Down ‘Ards kick the ball around the ‘ pitch’ which is actually 3 miles long and 2 miles wide -the entire length of the village.

Ashbourne Highland gathering was founded in 1985 and this event has become one of the largest gatherings outside Scotland. If you are visiting Ashbourne in July then pencil this into your diary because it is an event not to be missed we assure you. It features pipe band competitions and the sound of bagpipes can be heard for miles around. Another wonderful spectacle is when the band parade through the town and streets and there is also Highland dancing and related sports, as well as a wonderful array of attractions and stalls.

Ashbourne Festival has become a really popular annual event since it was launched in 1999 and it takes place over two weeks at the end of June at the beginning of July. It features a wonderfully diverse programme which is designed to appeal to all the family and to people with a broad range of interests. It features photography, painting, music, poetry readings, literature and events, and is well worth a look if you are around at this time of year.


Ashbourne Agricultural Show is a very traditional English agricultural and country show, which is held mid August at the Polo Grounds in Osmaston. It features competitive classes for horses and goats, cattle and sheep, but there is also a famous dog show and now a cage bird show. There are lots of trade stands and handicrafts, with stalls featuring local produce sold by local people. There are also handicraft and horticultural stalls and a wonderful food hall to explore. It’s definitely worth a visit.

These are just some of the events and attractions of why to visit Ashbourne. At any time of the year, even when there isn’t something exciting going on, Ashbourne is a wonderful place to do some fantastic shopping, but also a brilliant base to find some wonderful accommodation to take off for the day, exploring the most picturesque scenery you can ever imagine in the Peak District.