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Just recently we had a mini-break in Derbyshire. And one of our favourite days out was to the Heights of Abraham.
The Heights Of Abraham
Nestled in the base of the Derwent Gorge is Matlock Bath, a spa town with an almost seaside feel. At one side of the gorge is a sheer cliff – a lofty limestone crag called High Tor. And the other side is an incredibly steep hill – Masson Hill. And this is home to The Heights of Abraham.
In the late 18th century, romantic poets such as Wordsworth and Shelley brought the wonder of nature to the people and it became fashionable to visit the Great Outdoors. The Georgians loved to visit the countryside, climbing up the steep paths around this area to marvel at the wonderful views of the valley and High Tor across the gorge. And thus the grounds encompassing the Heights opened as a ‘savage garden’ for the visitors to this area. In the Georgian period, visitors would have had to climb using zig zag paths and passageways. But these days there is a much easier way to get to the top. Via cable cars.
We parked in Matlock Bath and walked to the cable car station nearby. The cable car system was first opened in 1984. It runs continuously up and down the hill, and provide wonderful views as you climb all the way to the top. And there is lots to see at the summit.
The Great Masson Cavern and Great Rutland Cavern
The stone on Masson Hill is mainly limestone, but volcanic activity in the area in prehistoric times pushed up other metal deposits. Mainly lead in this area, though fluorspar was also mined.
Mining in this area has been happening since Roman times, but it reached a peak in the 17th century as lead was needed for weapons, windows and makeup (only later did they realise it was poisonous!)
Both the Great Masson and Great Rutland caverns give a great insight into what life would have been like underground working as a miner. A tour takes you underground through a maze of tunnels, finding out all about the history of these mines, and some of the families that worked them. There are some wonderful things to see, including mine signs.
If you are not mobile enough to cope with the 30 minute underground walk and the steps it entails, you can always watch the video of a full tour of the cavern. Though even at 3 years old E loved walking through.
The Visitor Centre
The visitor centre has a bar, restaurant and cafe. A great place to relax and enjoy the view.
Woodland Walks and Play Areas
There are some lovely walks around the estate, and you can get a real feel for how the early Georgian visitors would have seen the attraction.
High Falls is a very pretty sight. Furthermore, there are some fabulous play and picnic areas for children.
The Victoria Prospect Tower
Just as you appear to be leaving to go back down on the cable cars once more, there is a little path that takes you up to an imposing single tower. The Victoria Prospect Tower was built in 1844. Walk up the very steep little steps to the top to get an unparalleled 360 degree view of the whole site, and over to the top of the Tor and River Castle. Not for the squeamish!
How Much Does It Cost?
It is not a cheap day out. At the time of writing this a visit to the Heights of Abraham cost
- Adult £18
- Child £12 (under 5s free)
- Senior (60+) £14.50
There are discounts available for family tickets and booking online. There are also yearly tickets available.
This cost gives you access to a return on the cable cars and all the attractions at the top of the hill.
We also had to pay for parking itself, in a pay and display car park at Matlock Bath. And it was a 5-10 minute walk to the cable cars from there.
Other Things to Know
You can save money by choosing to walk up the hill, but you still have to pay to enter the park grounds at the top.
Whilst the cablecars are wheelchair accessible, there is a lot of hilly terrain, so do be aware of this. It probably is not a day out for people of limited mobility.
Find out any questions that I have not answered here at The Heights Of Abraham Official Website
And What Did We Think?
We didn’t spend a whole day up at the top. We arrived soon after it opened and spent about 3 hours at the summit, which meant we left the attraction just after lunch. The weather was mixed on the day we went with some drizzle and some sunny spells, which possibly didn’t make us want to stay. We also felt that we had seen pretty much everything in this time, although it wasn’t busy and we did not have to queue at all.
We ended up going back down into Matlock Bath itself for a late lunch, which probably saved us some money from eating at the cafe in the attraction. Plus we visited the Matlock Bath Aquarium.
Matlock Bath Aquarium
At just a couple of pounds each this is a nice way to spend an hour.
Due to the volcanic rocks and pureness of the water filtered through limestone, Matlock Bath was a Spa Town. The old Victorian spa baths on the main street now houses an aquarium. You can see the original spa source, where the water emerges at a constant 20 degrees.
There is a small but very full aquarium exhibit, with terrapins, and lots of different varieties.
The original Victorian Spa house building is now home to koi carp. And when we visited, there was a room of holographs on display.
Matlock Bath is a lovely little town where you can eat fish ands chips and even buy rock! It feels like a seaside town, though not like being in Cornwall! For that you need Cornish Secrets Newquay.
So well worth a visit if you are visiting The Heights of Abraham. And just around the corner is Gulliver’s Kingdom.
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