The UK is renowned for its abundance of popular coastal holiday resorts, which offer fun and relaxation for all the family. Britain’s best-loved seaside resorts seem to share many of the same qualities: they grew popular in Victorian times; they feature an amusement park for kids, a long strip of penny arcades, fish and chip restaurants and gift and novelty sweet shops; there’s lots of entertainment and a choice of hotels and other holiday accommodation, and at night they’re lit by brightly-coloured illuminations.
But hang on a minute! All of those qualities apply to Matlock Bath, a little spa town located in the beautiful Peak District in Derbyshire, central England. The only thing that distinguishes Matlock Bath from any other traditional British resort is the fact that this town could not be further from the sea if it tried.
Happily, the absence of a beach does nothing to detract from Matlock Bath’s appeal and ongoing popularity. In the summer months the town is alive with that unmistakable feel-good holiday atmosphere. Matlock Bath’s fortunes as an inland holiday resort began with the discovery of thermal springs there in the late seventeenth century, and when the healing properties of spa waters became immensely fashionable with Victorian high society a hundred years later Matlock Bath was quick to take advantage. Mary Shelley, in her famous novel Frankenstein published in 1818, compares Matlock to a smaller-scale Switzerland.
Matlock Bath enjoys a naturally beautiful location
Matlock Bath has always owed a large proportion of its appeal to its stunning setting. Derbyshire’s Peak District is a paradise for walkers and an area of outstanding natural beauty composed of rolling hills and crags and open farmland, divided by ancient dry-stone walls. The town nestles in a gorge along the banks of the wide River Derwent; steeply-climbing side roads ascend the cliff walls formed by the gorge, leading to hotels that offer superb views over the river.
One side of Matlock’s main through-road is occupied by the many tea-rooms, gift shops, arcades, bars and shops that can be found in any traditional resort, whilst the other side follows the pretty River Derwent which can be crossed via the occasional footbridge. A path on far side of the river leads through delightful wooded riverside gardens.
The many attractions of Matlock Bath
Like any traditional holiday resort, Matlock Bath offers a wealth of fun things to see and do for all the family. The town is home to the UK’s first Alpine cable car system and this exciting aerial ride transports visitors over the Derwent Valley and up to the Heights of Abraham. A former lead-mining site, the Heights of Abraham is now an exciting visitor centre. This elevated area is wooded with beech trees and is a pleasant place for strolling and admiring the views, but the chief claim to fame of the Heights of Abraham are its two large caverns, the Rutland Cavern and Great Masson Cavern which, partly natural, also formed part of the ancient mining excavations here, Visitors to these extensive cave systems can see graffiti left by mineworkers in the sixteenth century on cavern walls that glitter with embedded mineral crystals as they pass through a number of large underground chambers.
Also here is a children’s playground, several exhibitions explaining the history of the Heights of Abraham, an historic summer house, and the Prospect Tower, a Victorian stone tower approximately fifty feet in height which offers stunning views from the top.
No holiday resort would be complete without a theme park, and in Matlock Bath Gulliver’s Kingdom has been amazing and amusing kids for the last thirty-five years. Set on another hillside this huge park is divided into themed sections such as the Dinosaur Kingdom, Western World, Adventure Land and Toyland features more than fifty rides and attractions including a log flume, rollercoasters, a tower drop, dodgems, a big wheel, pirate ship and loads more.
Matlock Bath’s illuminations are switched on each August and run through until the end of October. The festivities include a famous ‘Venetian Nights’ parade of illuminated boats which are floated along the River Derwent each Saturday and Sunday evening throughout the illuminations season. The four Saturdays in October also feature a dazzling cliff top firework display, whilst a children’s funfair and live entertainment from the town’s bandstand are also regular attractions during the illuminations.