High Tor & Pic Tor, Matlock

High Tor

The imposing High Tor, which dominates Matlock Dale below, is reputed to be the last place in England where eagles nested.

This popular attraction was upgraded by Derbyshire Dales District Council as part of the Matlock Parks Project, an ambitious £3.6m five-year Heritage Lottery Fund supported programme to restore five historic parks and pleasure grounds. The project was completed in 2008.

Geological activity left a variety of minerals and ores which have been mined in the Matlock Valley for centuries, lead being the most dominant it having been mined in the area since Roman times.

High Tor contains numerous lead mines with the most obvious being near the summit now known as Fern and Roman Caves. Workings are recorded here from the 16th to the 18th centuries. An earlier origin is possible, although there is no evidence for Roman working, despite the popular name.

A growing number of visitors came to Matlock Bath during the 18th and early 19th centuries to sample the thermal waters, as first the French Revolution and then the Napoleonic Wars raged in Europe. Then in 1849 the railway arrived, bringing day trippers.

This growing visitor pressure prompted the High Tor Grounds to be created and opened to the public by their owner Peter Arkwright (grandson of Sir Richard Arkwright, founder of the mills at nearby Cromford).

Matlock Dale from High TorNew walks and a carriage ride to the summit were created, along with the cliff ledge path 'Giddy Edge'. The two lead mines - Fern and Roman 'Caves' - were opened as official visitor attractions.

High Tor continued to be a tourist attraction when in 1879 the Matlock and High Tor Recreation Company leased the grounds from the Arkwright family and reopened the grounds in 1880 complete with new entrance from Matlock Bath and a refreshment building on the summit.

Although the grounds were bought by Matlock Urban District Council in 1924, the Matlock and High Tor Recreation Company stewardship of the High Tor Grounds continued until 1975 when the District Council took over the management and maintenance.

Regrettably, the former 'Caves' are no longer open to the public, due to health and safety concerns.

The Matlock Parks Project included woodland management, a new entrance at the Matlock Bath end near to the Cable Car Base Station, together with improvements to fencing, paths and viewing areas.


Pic Tor

Pic Tor memorial overlooking MatlockPic Tor Promenade has a peaceful character running between the cliffs and the River Derwent where former lead mine shafts can be spotted in the rock face. Riverside paths link the formal Knowleston Gardens to the Pig Tree Meadows.  Shady paths through the woodland lead to the War Memorial on the summit which offers a panoramic view of Matlock and its surroundings.

The Origin of the Pic Tor Pleasure Grounds

Pic Tor Promenade is an Edwardian development of an area previously known for lead mining and converted into a public park.  The Pic Tor Pleasure Grounds includes the Tor itself where the First World War Memorial can be found on the summit, the more formal Knowleston Gardens and the romantic riverside promenade leading to Pig Tree Meadows.

Two hundred years ago Knowleston Gardens was a hive of industrial activity with hemp yards, lead mining and lime burning.  In 1861 this area was landscaped into formal terraces by John Knowles who built the elegant row of houses opposite in 1857.

Pic TorAt this time neither 'Pig Tor' as it was known nor the Pig Tree Meadows were accessible from Knowleston Gardens.  In the 1890s John Knowles' nephew Henry had a plan to link Matlock Town centre to Matlock Dale along the river.

Just before his death in 1898 he released the land on which the Broadwalk in Hall Leys Park was formed.  To complete the vision, in 1902 Matlock Urban District Council bought Knowleston Gardens, and leased both Pig Tree Meadows and Pic Tor from FC Arkwright.

In 1902 Matlock Urban District Council bought Knowleston Gardens, and leased both Pig Tree Meadows and Pic Tor from FC Arkwright.  The plan was to construct a Promenade as a tourist attraction with band kiosks, shelters and water fetes along the half mile promenade.

In 1906 the promenade finally opened but without these attractions, and under the formal name of 'Pic Tor Promenade'.  Apparently it was the only free promenade in the district as Matlock Bath had recently started to charge entrance fees to its riverside walks. 

Pic Tor has recently been renovated as part of the Matlock Parks Project, including a 'Monet' style footbridge that now provides a more direct link between Pic Tor, Knowleston Place and the popular Hall Leys Park.

Visiting Matlock? 

Enjoy the District Council's fabulous Arc Leisure Matlock, opened in 2011 and the Green Flag park at Hall Leys, Matlock,   

Also within Derbyshire Dales District Council's control are major parks at  Ashbourne Recreation Ground and Bakewell Recreation Ground. Each caters for a range of sporting and recreational activities, as well as providing formal children's play areas, with splash pads.

In addition to the many recreational open spaces, the District Council also manages the picturesque grounds at High Tor above Matlock Dale and Derwent Gardens and Lovers' Walks at Matlock Bath.  In Bakewell is Bakewell Swimming Pool and Bath Gardens.  Bakewell also boasts one of the largest farmers' markets in the whole of the UK, generally taking place on the last Saturday of the month at the District Council's Agricultural Business Centre.