Dovedale Circular hike

Peak District
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Dovedale Circular hike

Distance: 11.6km
Elevation: 440m
Time: 2.5-4h

Difficulty Rating:

User Ratings:
8.3 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
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Starting near Liam, the walk will take you along the River Dove to Milldale, allowing you to take in the impressive limestone features of Lover's Leap, Tissington Spires and Dove Holes. The return is a tougher hike, but at the summit of Bailey Hill a spectacular feast of panoramas await.

Dovedale Circular hike Map

Getting there

Near the towns of Thorpe and Ilam you’ll want to find the access road to the Izaak Walton Hotel and onto a public car park for visitors to Dovedale (parking £3 all day). Get to the car park early though or it’ll fill up.

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When to do

All Year

Backcountry Campsites

Yes. Common end Farm


At the trailhead and in Milldale

Family friendly


Route Signage


Crowd Levels


Route Type


Dovedale Circular
Elevation Graph

Route Description for Dovedale Circular hike

From Dovedale Car park turn right onto a tarmac road and follow the River Dove, which marks the boundary between Staffordshire and Derbyshire, upstream to a large set of stepping stones. Alternatively you can cross a small wooden bridge and follow the rocky path under Thorpe cloud to the stepping-stones however, this is advised only when it is dry and the river level is low.

After carefully crossing the stepping-stones follow the clearly signed path along the valley floor all the way to the village Milldale keeping the river to your left hand side. Navigating this part of the route is straightforward allowing you to gaze up at the limestone crags and explore the river nooks and falls.

After approximately 5.0km you will reach Viators bridge and Milldale. From here you can cross the picturesque bridge to explore the village or immediately begin the more challenging half of the hike. Viator’s Bridge has been used by Packhorses transporting silk and flax since the middle ages.

From the river path ascend up a steep grassy zigzag track (signposted to Bailey Hill). At the brow of the dale you will come to a section of drystone wall. Keeping the wall to your left, contour along the dale and then take a diagonal line uphill towards a fence. When you reach the fence keep it to your right and follow it further uphill until you reach a corner stile (set of steps to pass over a fence).

Cross the stile and continue straight ahead until you meet a drystone wall coming off the rocky summit of Bailey hill. Follow to the top. After marvelling at the views continue along the ridge of Bailey hill to a wooden gate (Brian’s gate) and the beginning of the descent of the Nabs. The first section of the descent is steep, grassy and undefined. Be careful in wet weather and keep close to the wall on your left.

Eventually you will reach a wide rocky track called Nabs Dale. Turn right onto Nabs Dale and enjoy the final part of the descent through the woods to Dove Holes. You will recognise the valley path from earlier.

Immediately past Doveholes there is a discrete single track on your left that leads into Upper Taylors Wood (covered in bluebells in late spring). Follow this track as it ascends gradually back above Dovedale and the Tissington Spires. Careful not to venture too far to the right as there is are steep drops.

Once over Sharplow Dale you will pick up another wall and follow a high path for approximately a 1.0km in the direction of Thorpe cloud. There are lots of livestock up here so keep dogs on leads.

After passing through a number of old stiles you will eventually come to a sign directing you right, off the dale and down to Lover’s Leap where you will meet the River Dove path for a third time. Turn left onto the path and follow it back to the stepping-stones and Dovedale car park.

Insider Hints

  • The stepping-stones are a great for photos and for a refreshing dip on a hot day. However, be aware that this scenic spot can become very crowded on weekends and holidays.

  • Light refreshments can be found in Dovedale Car park and at Polly's Pantry in Milldale, where you can get a coffee to go!

  • If hiking around the area in a large group why not consider renting the Ilam Bunkhouse, a nearby converted stable block, for a weekend.

  • The River Dove is famous for its trout and exclusive to a only a few lucky individuals for fishing. It also supports a number of breeding birds from sparrowhawks to redstarts.


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Sarah T 2 months ago

The last bit of this hike really awarded us with some spectacular views.

9.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
Lisa B 3 months ago

Dovedale Circular was a really lovely little with lots to see.

9.0 Overall Rating
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Iris Krukova 3 months ago

It was very crowded when I went there. Some nice views but it's annoying to always try to squeeze by the slow ones. It was a Summer weekend, but anyway.

7.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
4h 00m Time Taken
Minds 3 months ago

Hike this one 2 years ago. Spent some time in this park. The Dovedale was a good hike. As it's circular there isn't any trouble of getting back to the car after you're done.

8.0 Overall Rating
Technical Difficulty
Physical Difficulty
4h 00m Time Taken

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