Milldale Village In The Peak District: A Visitor’s Guide

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Milldale Village on the walk from Dovedale Stepping Stones

The beautiful stone village of Milldale sits at the northern end of the Dovedale Valley in the White Peaks area of the Peak District National Park.

Milldale is regarded as the prettiest village in the Peak District and a ‘must-see’ when visiting Derbyshire.

The picturesque hamlet contains roughly a dozen grey stone cottages which date back to the 17th and 18th centuries.

Milldale is just a 1.5 hour walk along the beautiful Dovedale Valley to the famous Dovedale Stepping Stones. If you don’t fancy the walk from the Stepping Stones you can park up in Milldale’s free car park.

I first visited Milldale village when completing the Dovedale Stepping Stones to Milldale circular walk, which I’d highly recommend. Milldale village is a wonderful half-way point on the walk with a great takeaway cafe, toilets, ducks to feed and even a local pub.

You may also be interested in my other Dovedale guides on the famous Dovedale Stepping Stones which sit below Thorpe Cloud, an isolated limestone hill .

Milldale Map

Zoom into the map using the + icon to see more points of interest.

Milldale Quick Facts

Location address: Milldale, Ashbourne DE6 2GB

Dog-friendly: Yes

Child-friendly: Yes

Best time of year to visit: Spring or summer.

Best time of day to visit: Anytime.

Entry costs: Free

Car park spaces & cost: 40 places / Free

Opening times: 2/4

Toilets: Yes, provided by National Trust

Food: Yes – Polly’s Cottage Tea Room open in warmer months.

Top Tip: There’s no phone signal or internet so make sure you have offline maps downloaded on your phone before your walk.

The view into Milldale village from Viator Bridge

A Brief History of Milldale Village

Milldale gets the first part of its name from the two old mills which used to provide employment for the inhabitants of the village. The ‘dale’ part of the name comes from its location in the dale (valley).

The glorious stone cottages date back to the 17th and 18th century.

Did you know: Milldale village boasts the famous Viator packhorse bridge over the River Dove which is named after the main character in the famous fishing ‘bible’, The Complete Angler.

A charming stone cottage in Milldale Peak District
A charming stone cottage in Milldale, Peak District

Lode Mill sits by Lodge Bridge, to the north of the village on the road known locally as “The Pinch”.

Lodge Mill was a multipurpose water-powered mill which was used as for lead smelting. This process involved grinding and separating lead ore from the parent limestone.

The mill was also used for grinding red and yellow ochre (natural pigments used in paint) and corn for local farmers.

The name Lode Mill may have come from a possible corruption of the name Lead Mill as it was used for grinding lead.

Did you know: Around 1929 the building was used as an undertakers business and according to a past resident, is haunted.

Lode Mill is currently being restored by a local owner. 

Remains of Ochre Mill in Milldale
The remains of Ochre Mill in the River Dove in Milldale

Ochre Mill, located in the centre of Milldale village was a water-powered mill used for a variety of purposes over its history. The mill was powered by water diverted from the River Dove by a channel.

Cited on a small island in the middle of the River Dove, Ochre mill dates back to the 17th Century.

During its history, the Ochre Mill produced power for making red lead paint which is presumably where the name Ochre Mill comes from as the pigments used to make the red paint came from grinding red ochre.

The Mill also processed and crushed calamine, mined near Buxton. Calamine was used by drug firms and also in the manufacture of brass.

Did you know: Ochre Mill was demolished in the mid 19th century. If you look carefully you can see the foundations and also the original mill stone in the river.

The stables for the Ochre Mill is now a National Trust information centre which sits behind the remains of the old sheep wash which was used until 1965.

The land which forms part of the White Peak Estate is owned by the National Trust

11 Things to do in Milldale Village

Despite it’s small size, Milldale provides plenty to do both in and around the village. Below I’ve listed my favourite 11 things to do when visiting Milldale.

Viator Bridge leading to Milldale VIllage
Me on Viator Bridge in the Peak District with a view of Milldale to the right

1. Cross the Famous Viator Pack-Horse Bridge

Originally called Milldale bridge, the bridge was historically much narrower and with very low sides. This was to allow the pack horses carrying panniers to cross easily. 

Dovedale and Milldale were made famous by the english classic book The Complete Angler by Izaak Walton. The bridge was later named after Izaak’s character in the book, known as Viator (meaning traveller).

Why! A mouse can hardly go over it: ‘tis not twelve fingers broad.’

Viator commented on seeing the bridge – The Complete Angler

2. Treat Yourself to an Ice Cream or Coffee

In the warmer months the Polly’s Cafe serves a range of hot and cold drinks, ice creams, sandwiches, pasties and snacks.

Pollys Cottage tea rooms in Milldale Village
Polly’s Cottage takeaway In Milldale Peak District

There’s no seating at the café itself but the River Dove is just a few metres away where there are some benches on which you can sit and enjoy your snacks whilst watching the ducks swim in the river.

Open 7 days a week (Apr to Oct) from 10.30am – 4.30. It’s only open on weekends between November and March (weather permitting) and is closed for January.

The cafe has limited weekend opening times in November and December. Check their Facebook page for latest opening hours.

Google Reviews 4.7/5 | My Score: 5/5

Holding an ice cream in Milldale village, Raven’s Tor in Dovedale Valley, Peak District
Holding my ice cream from Polly’s Cottage – they do some great flavours!

3. Feed the Ducks

This is a great activity for children to bring them closer to nature! It can also be great fun if you’re an adult too and the ducks appreciate some extra food especially in the winter months.

Avoid bread as it’s not very nutritious and fills up the duck’s tummy discouraging it from foraging for its usual diet. Bread can also attract other birds which can result in overcrowding and excess droppings.

According to the Canal River Trust the list below is much better for the ducks:

  • Sweetcorn
  • Lettuce
  • Frozen peas
  • Oats
  • Seeds
  • Rice
Duck in Milldale, Peak District
One of the any duck who reside in Milldale in the Peak District

4. Visit the National Trust Information Barn

In what at first sight appears to be an idyllic tiny house to your left as you walk over Viator Bridge, is the National Trust Information Centre.

Here you can learn more about the history of the Dovedale valley and Milldale. There are also toilets and an outside tap to fill up your water bottle.

These buildings formed the stables for the Ochre Mill back in the 17th and 18th century.

5. Admire the Beautiful Duck Cottage

Duck cottage, named after the ducks which swim on the River Dove, is arguably the most iconic image of Milldale and often seen in social media feeds of the Peak District.

The 17th century cottage has a dreamy exterior and makes a great photo. Unfortunately it seems to be the one part of Milldale which I don’t have a proper photo of, so you’ll have to make do with the side of the cottage below.

The cottage is privately owned and operated as a holiday let.

Duck Cottage in Milldale, Peak District
Duck Cottage in Milldale, Peak District

6. Explore the Village

Milldale village, although small, packs a lot of beauty and character into a small hamlet. Take a stroll down the highstreet and immerse yourself in the enchantingly beautiful ambiance of a village lost in time.

There are around a dozen exquisite stone cottages dating back to the 17th and 18th century.

Tiny Stone Cottage in Milldale, Peak District
Tiny Stone Cottage in Milldale on the road to Hopedale

7. Take a Walk to View Load Mill

Whilst you can only see the remains of the mill the centre of Milldale, Load Mill in the north is perfectly intact. If you have a little time on your hands you can wander along the footpath up to the north of Milldale to see the Load Mill. Load Mill is now privately owned and currently being restored. However, you can get a good view of the mill and the Lodge Bridge from the footpath.

For those who are particularly interested, It might be possible to contact the owners in advance to arrange a private tour.

5. Visit the Milldale Pub

In the centre of Milldale there is an old wooden sign which says “Pub 1m’. This refers to the Watts Russell Arms in Hopedale, a traditional pub with local produce and home-cooked food. 

The pub scores 4/5 on Google and 3.5/5 on Tripadvisor.

Pub sign in Milldale, Peak District
Pub 1 mile sign in Milldale, Peak District

6. Milldale to Dovedale Stepping Stones walk

I first came across Milldale when walking down the Dovedale Valley from the Dovedale Stepping Stones to Milldale and back. This is an amazing circular walk, packed with spectacular limestone features such as Lovers Leap, The Dove Holes, Tissington Spires, Thor’s Cave and Ilam Rock. The walk is about 6 miles and usually takes 2.5-3 hours.

You can read more about it and download GPS files on my blog here: Dovedale to Milldale Circular walk.

It’s also possible to complete the walk in reverse by parking at Milldale’s free parking and walk to the Stepping Stones and back.

Footpath from Milldale to Dovedale
Footpath from Milldale to Dovedale

7. Visit Ilam Park

Ilam part is a beautiful gothic manor owned and operated by the National Trust. The estate includes a Youth Hostel, cafe and glorious gardens. 

You can drive from Milldale to Ilam park in about 11 minutes. It has a big car park which is free for National Trust members.

For those who’d prefer to walk, there is a Milldale to Ilam Park via Dovedale walk which I’ve outlined on the map below. The walk is 4.1 miles (one-way) and takes around 1.5-2 hours.

The walk is similar to the Milldale to Dovedale walk but continues over fields to Ilam Park.

Download Maps: GPX Track | KML file for maps.me

Disclaimer: These GPS files are provided free-of-charge for personal use only and may not be uploaded elsewhere. By downloading you acknowledge that walking can be dangerous and this GPS data is provided without any warranty and you absolve this website for any liability.

a view of Illam Park from Thors Cloud, Dovedale
A view of Illam Park from Thors Cloud, Dovedale

8. Alstonefield Village

Alstonefield is a charming village to the north of Milldale. It lies between the valleys of the River Dove and the River Manifold at the crossroads of several old packhorse routes.

The village gave birth to the writer Charles Cotton, who co-authored the famous book on fishing, The Complete Angler with Izaak Walton in 1653.

The village centres around a beautiful green next to The George Pub. The village has a peaceful demeanour and it’s wonderful to sit and relax on a bench in the green.

You can stroll to the delightful Grade I listed St Peter’s Church, home to the oldest legible gravestone in England. The gravestone commemorates Ann Green, who died on 11 April 1518. You can locate the circular gravestone as it’s protected by a small fence. 

Stop for tea and homemade cake at the Alstonefield Village Cafe.

You can see the walk to Alstonefield from Milldale on the map below. The walk is 0.72 miles and should take around 25 minutes (one-way).

Download Maps: GPX Track | KML file for maps.me

Disclaimer: These GPS files are provided free-of-charge for personal use only and may not be uploaded elsewhere. By downloading you acknowledge that walking can be dangerous and this GPS data is provided without any warranty and you absolve this website for any liability.

How to Visit Milldale, Peak District?

Most visitors will venture to Milldale as part of a walk around the Dove Valley, usually including the famous Dovedale Stepping Stones.

You can start your trip from Milldale or else from Dovedale or even Illam park. It’s also possible to simply spend a sunny afternoon in Milldale.

Milldale village is easily accessible by car. The nearest bus stop is Alsop Moor Bus Stop. For more information on bus routes, click here for the Derbyshire Public Transport Map. There don’t appear to be any train stations nearby.

Where is Milldale?

Milldale sits in the North of the National Trusts White Peaks estate in the north of England. The village is 14 minutes drive from the centre of Ashbourne.

View down a street in Milldale, Peak District
View down a street in Milldale, Peak District

Milldale Car Park

There are a couple of disabled parking spots by the river in the centre of Milldale. There is also a Peak District National Park Carpark which is 5 minutes walk up the road from Milldale to Hope. This is free of charge and has 40 spaces. In my experience there are usually free spaces available.

Are There Toilets in Milldale

Yes there are public toilets in the centre by the National Trust information centre.

Where to Stay in Milldale

Milldale is a fantastic location to spend a few days or even a week as it gives you access to many great walks around the White Peaks Area of the Peak District National park. This is arguably the most beautiful part of the Peak District.

As Milldale is such a small village, you won’t find any hotels. However, some of the beautiful stone cottages are available to rent for short stays.

Bankside Cottage

This lovely cottage is in the centre of Milldale and available for holiday let.

Booking.com reviews 9.5/10

Check rates and availability.

There are also a couple of accommodation options down the road in Dovedale. I’ve listed these below.

YHA Ilam Hall Hostel

Cost-effective accommodation within a 17th century gothic manor. Just 25-minutes walk to Dovedale Stepping Stones.

Google reviews: 4.6/5

Checks rates and availability

The Izaak Walton Country House Hotel

Named after the author of the famous fishing book “The Complete Angler”, this 17th-century hotel features access for trout finishing. It’s just 11 minutes to walk to the Dovedale car park or a 3 minute drive.

Google reviews: 4.3 / 5

Check rates and availability

Milldale Packing List

  • Food for the ducks. Recommended foods are: sweetcorn, lettuce, frozen peas, oats, seeds, rice
  • Rucksack
  • Reusable water bottle – You can top up water bottles at Milldale with a drinking water tap by the toilets.
  • Camera – the Dovedale valley is one of the most beautiful in the Peak District with loads of points of interest to photograph.
  • Walking boots with ankle support if you’re planning to walk to the stepping stones as the path gets more uneven.
  • Swimwear and microfibre towel if you’re considering a paddle or a swim.
  • Torch for exploring the caves (if you’re planning to walk along the Dovedale Valley)

Final Thoughts

Milldale is an incredibly pretty village to visit. You can probably spend around an hour in the village itself exploring, feeding the duck and grabbing some food and drinks. Then you have easy access to walks to some of the most beautiful parts of the Peak District such as the Dovedale Stepping Stones.

Ella McKendrick on Black Rock Viewpoint, Kenmore Scotland

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