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High Tor, Matlock


High Tor is a 19th-century pleasure ground occupying about nine hectares of the wooded limestone cliffs of the Derwent gorge. Its features include a clifftop promenade and recreation grounds.


Cliff and gorge
The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

Nineteenth century pleasure ground which exploited the dramatic qualities of the Derwent valley. The site has group value with the Heights of Abraham, Derwent Gardens, Lovers' Walk, and Willersley Castle, a group of parks and pleasure grounds with common origins in the exploitation of the dramatic scenic qualities of the gorge of the River Derwent.



The western boundary of the site is the foot of the line of limestone cliffs which tower above the east bank of the River Derwent. The grassy summit of the c 9ha site slopes back away from the cliff edge to a largely C19 fenced boundary with agricultural land on the east side, dips to the north to a boundary with Pic Tor Lane and falls away more steeply to the south through woodland to a walled boundary with the lane from Matlock Bath to Starkholmes.


On the north side of the site there is a C19 gateway with stone gate piers at the west end of Pic Tor Lane which leads to a track called the Grand Walk leading to the summit. A viewpoint, Little Switzerland, c 400m up the slope, offers the first dramatic glimpse of the scenery over the gorge to the west. A gated vehicular entrance from Starkholmes on the east side of the site leads to a metalled road running west to the summit. The pedestrian entrance from the south is close to the Heights of Abraham cable-car station and leads to a winding path through steep woodland to the top of the Tor. The southern approach links with a footpath running south to Matlock Bath railway station. The entrance from the west is no longer in use. The suspension bridge has been demolished; only the bridge piers survive in the wall beside the A6 road near the former High Tor Hotel.


The route to the summit of the Tor from the lane to Starkholmes passes behind the Heights of Abraham cable-car station (1984), built on a former tennis court, and below the derelict quoit ground. It then winds up by interconnected paths to cliff-edge viewpoints. The road from the eastern entrance intersects from the east. The pedestrian can follow the road to the top passing over the west end of the Roman Cave, or take the path closer to the cliff edge off which runs the cliff-ledge path, Giddy Edge, or walk further east along the east side of the Fern Cave. All arrive at or close to the site of the former summit cafe. The building was damaged by fire and demolished in 1995. An arched stone shelter, probably of C19 date, stands opposite the entrance to Fern Cave. The caves were important attractions in the C19 and C20. The entrances to both the Fern and Roman Caves are barred (1999). The northern part of the summit is grassed. A cricket pitch was laid out on the eastern side in 1897. The Grand Walk leads north to the entrance on Pic Tor Lane. The vantage points along the edge of the scarp offer changing and dramatic views over the gorge. High Tor Hotel (listed grade II) on the west side of the river (outside the registered area) is of the early C19 in cottage orné style, reflecting the romantic and picturesque ideals the scenery was thought to embody. Riber Castle (listed grade II), built in 1862, is prominent in views to the east.

It is located within the buffer zone of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage site.


Matlock Bath, guidebook, (A Jewitt 1837, revised and expanded 1888)

Matlock Bath, guidebook, (Abel Heywood & Sons, editions of c 1905 and 1911)

N Pevsner and E Williamson, The Buildings of England: Derbyshire (2nd edn 1978), p 273

Matlock Bath, guidebook, (Derbyshire Countryside Ltd 1993)

Matlock Bath, illustrated guidebook, (Derbyshire Dales District Council c 1995)The Matlock Parks, Proposals for a Restoration Management Plan, (Ian Lyne and Associates 1997)


[all in Lyne and Assocs 1997]

J Gratton, Plan of Matlock Bath and its Vicinity, 1848

OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1879

2nd edition published 1899

Description written: December 1998

Amended: March 1999; June 1999

Edited: November 1999

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

This is a public park, open daily during daylight hours.


South of Matlock on the east side of the River Derwent.


Derbyshire Dales District Council


The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):


Matlock Bath developed as a spa during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries communications were improved and the town became a popular summer resort for tourists who by this time were attracted by the dramatic scenery and caves as much as the waters. Notable visitors included Byron, who compared Matlock Bath to Switzerland.

High Tor was recorded as a sublime feature, inspiring awe and dread, by a series of 18th- and 19th-century travellers and writers, and was the subject of innumerable drawings and paintings by artists including Thomas Smith of Derby, J M W Turner, Alexander and John Cozens, and Joseph Wright. The often-used vantage point still bears the name Artists' Corner.

The Tor was visited in the 18th and early 19th century when there were no formal walks, though there would have been some paths worn by lead miners. The 1742 edition of Defoe's 'Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain' describes a hermit's cell near the top. By the 1840s the recognised route to the summit was from the east, from Side Lane, now (late 20th century) Starkholmes Road.

Peter Arkwright of Willersley Castle enclosed the grounds in about 1860 and constructed pedestrian paths from a new entrance on the south side approached from the bridge to Matlock Bath railway station. The entrance from Starkholmes Road was retained and could be used by carriages. A pathway was formed through Fern Cave (Scheduled Ancient Monument) and another on a narrow ledge along part of the cliff face.

In 1879 the grounds were leased to the Matlock and High Tor Recreation Grounds Company Ltd and Milner of London was retained to supervise landscaping. Arkwright's Grand Walk, also used by carriages, was created, leading south to the summit from a gateway in Pig Tree Lane, now (late 20th century) Pic Tor Lane.

A refreshment room was erected near the summit, tennis and quoit or skittle grounds were constructed close to a modified southern entrance and additional paths put in with a broad flight of steps. A worked-out lead mine rake was opened to the public as the Roman Cave.

In 1903 an additional pedestrian entrance was made across a new suspension bridge constructed over the River Derwent just south of Artists' Corner. The company's lease expired in 1975. The site is now (1998) in the ownership of Derbyshire Dales District Council.

Features & Designations


  • The National Heritage List for England: Register of Parks and Gardens

  • Reference: 4172
  • Grade: II*


  • Path
  • Promenade
  • Pleasure Garden
Key Information





Principal Building

Parks, Gardens And Urban Spaces





Open to the public


Civil Parish

Matlock Bath