Oakhill is a graceful manor house with a fascinating heritage, built in around 1840 by the renowned industrialist Richard Arkwright. It was constructed for a gentleman by the name of William Melville, a cotton merchant who was involved in the management of the cotton mills for which this area is famous.
Oakhill enjoys a truly unrivalled setting. It’s located in the heart of the Derwent Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site in the pretty Derbyshire village of Cromford, surrounded by beautiful rolling hills on the edge of the Peak District National Park.
The grounds of Oakhill are now a peaceful place to relax and listen to birdsong, soaking up the fresh, countryside air. The picture wasn’t always so idyllic and quiet, however. Cromford was a hugely important part of the Industrial Revolution in England, the home of a number of mills built by Richard Arkwright in the late 18th Century. It’s a fascinating place to explore, with history around every corner.
Cromford Mills is now an internationally-recognised visitor attraction, and it’s only a short, pleasant walk away from the gates of Oakhill. Here you can see the world’s first successful water-powered cotton spinning mill and discover the captivating story of how the Derwent Valley changed the world in the 18th Century.
Opposite Cromford Mills you’ll find the start of the Cromford Canal, constructed in the early 1790s to provide transport for the mills. The canal is no longer in regular use but a restored narrowboat takes visitors for trips along the peaceful waterway into the surrounding countryside. The towpath can be followed from Cromford to Ambergate via High Peak Junction and makes a beautiful walk.
Only slightly further afield and still within easy walking distance of Oakhill you’ll find the delightful spa town of Matlock Bath. Developed as one of England’s first true tourist destinations, it occupies a stunning position in a limestone gorge on the River Derwent, with attractive riverside gardens and steep wooded hillsides.
Matlock Bath has been a popular tourist attraction since the late 17th Century, when the healing properties of its warm spa waters were first discovered. It’s still a wonderful place to visit, with a long street of shops, cafés, amusement arcades and places of interest. The riverside walks are great for peaceful, shady strolls, and there is an excellent children’s playground area to keep younger visitors happy.
Also within Matlock Bath you’ll find the visitor attractions of Gulliver’s Kingdom, a large, family-friendly theme park particularly suited to visitors aged 13, and the Heights of Abraham, a large hillside estate reached by cable car, boasting show caverns, a fossil museum, a Victorian lookout tower, gift shops, restaurants with incredible views, adventure playgrounds, and miles of wonderful woodland walks.
Crich Tramway Village
Just a short drive from Oakhill you’ll find Crich Tramway Village, a fabulous place to spend a day with plenty to keep the whole family happy. It’s home to the National Tramway Museum, with more than 60 vintage trams for visitors to admire in airy exhibition halls, and it also features a beautifully recreated period village with a pub, café and olde-worlde shops. A number of the trams run through the village and can be hailed at historic tram stops. Visitors pay one old penny (original coin included in the admission price) to take unlimited rides for more than a mile into the surrounding countryside, with stunning views of the surrounding Derwent Valley. There’s also a Woodland Walk with a sculpture trail, as well as a picnic area and a children’s playground.
A short drive in the opposite direction takes you to Carsington Water, the ninth largest reservoir in England and a wonderful location for walking, cycling, bird-watching and water sports. You’ll find a large Visitor Centre here, as well as a Wildlife Discovery Centre, an excellent restaurant, a café with great views over the water, and a courtyard of small shops, including an RSPB gift shop. There’s also a large outdoor area suitable for picnics and barbecues on summer days, and an outdoor play area for children. There are a number of picturesque walking and cycling trails around the reservoir and through the park, as well as a cycle hire centre.
Peak District National Park
Oakhill is located on the edge of the Peak District National Park, and the many attractions of this stunning area are all within easy driving distance.
Don’t miss the grand country house estate of Chatsworth, the ancestral seat of the Dukes of Devonshire. Chatsworth House is awe-inspiring, with lavish interiors and important collections of art, but its expansive gardens, parkland and its location within the landscape are all just as impressive.
Or visit the superbly romantic Haddon Hall, acclaimed as one of the most beautiful medieval manor houses in England. Standing high on a high overlooking the River Wye, with ivy and roses covering its turrets, it’s little wonder that Haddon Hall has been used as the location for many films and TV shows. Inside it’s largely unchanged since the days of Henry VIII, and outside you’ll find spectacular gardens that are perfect for whiling away the hours on a sunny day.
The pretty town of Bakewell is well worth visiting, with lovely stone cottages on quiet lanes clustered along the River Wye. It has a great range of shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants, and of course no visit is complete without sampling the famous Bakewell puddings and tarts.
Despite its deserved popularity as a visitor destination, it’s easy to escape the crowds in the Peak District. There are more than 1,800 miles of footpaths and bridleways through the breathtaking hills, moors and dales, and the famous long distance footpath the Pennine Way starts in the pretty village of Edale (it runs all the way to Scotland if you fancy a challenge!). If cycling is more to your liking, the Peak District has more than 65 miles of off-road cycle trails, including the picturesque old railway lines of the Monsal Trail, the Tissington Trail, the High Peak Trail and the Manifold Way.