Day 3. White Peak Distillery and Cromford Mills, Derbyshire

After starting the day with delicious plates of Egg Benedict we collected our belongings together and checked out of The Cow at Dalbury Lees.  This charming country inn had been a delightful place to stay for a mid-winter break with its roaring fires and cosy, well appointed rooms.

The Cow, Dalbury Lees, near Ashbourne
Our cosy room at The Cow

Our first stop of the day was to the market town of Ashbourne which we’d driven through on previous days and thought looked attractive, but hadn’t yet had an opportunity to explore.  Located at the southern end of the Peak District, it’s a charming town with its winding streets, cobbled market place and Tudor and Georgian architecture.  The town was granted a charter to hold a market in 1257 and these continue twice weekly to this day.

Ashbourne, Derbyshire
The attractive centre of Ashbourne

During the Georgian period Ashbourne was a popular resting place for travellers as six main coaching routes converged in the town with the Coach and Horses still welcoming visitors.  The town has some inviting shops and cafes including The Bear Patch, a specialist bear shop and teddy bear hospital.

Tudor architecture in Ashbourne, Derbyshire
The town has some impressive Tudor architecture

We returned to the car through the Ashbourne Recreation Grounds and Memorial Gardens.  The gardens boast an imposing pair of ornate entrance gates and open green spaces accessed by two river bridges.  We admired the bandstand and a statue commemorating the life of Catherine Boothby, co-founder of the Salvation Army who was born in the town.

Ashbourne Recreation Grounds and Memorial Gardens
Ashbourne Recreation Grounds and Memorial Gardens

It was then just a 30 minute drive to the White Peak Distillery located in Ambergate near Belper.  The distillery is run by a talented husband and wife team and is the first full scale craft distillery in the Peak District.  It’s based in the atmospheric surroundings of a former wire works on the banks of the River Derwent.

White Peak Distillery, Ambergate, near Belper
Whiskey Store at White Peak Distillery

We’d come to take part in one of their distillery tours which take place several times each week with groups of up to 12.  We were given a tour of the Victorian still house where we experienced the aromas of the working distillery.  Max, the co-owner who was leading our tour introduced us to the age old process of whisky distilling using malted barley and spring fed water.

Barley fermentation process, White Peak Distillery, Derbyshire
Viewing the barley fermentation process

We peered into large stainless steel vats to view stages of the fermentation process before it is double distilled into two distinctive handmade copper pots and then set in oak casks to mature.

Copper still as seen on the White Peak Distillery tour
Copper stills used for distilling whiskey viewed during our tour

We also learnt a little about their gin and rum making processes getting to see ‘Betty’ their 600 litre spirits still which is used to produce their award winning spirits.

Sampling Shining Cliff Gin on the White Peak Distillery tour
Sampling Shining Cliff Gin on the White Peak Distillery tour

Following our informative tour we were then led into the cosy tasting room with its roaring large wood burning stove.  Sitting around the tasting table we were each handed a tasting glass in which to sample their award winning range of Shining Cliff gins and to take home as a souvenir of our visit.  Each of the gins contains botanicals inspired by the woodland and hedgerows surrounding the distillery from which it takes its name.  My favourite tipple is gin and I was in my element sampling each of them.

Wire Works Single Malt Whisky, White Peak Distillery
The newly launched Wire Works Whisky

We concluded our tasting session by sampling their newly launched Wire Works single malt whisky which tasted very smooth leaving me feeling lovely and warm inside.

The White Peak Distillery overlooks the River Derwent in Derbyshire
The distillery lies on the banks of the River Derwent

Before leaving we looked around the shop and then took a short stroll outdoors where there are picnic tables overlooking the river and access to woodland walks to enjoy before or after one of the distillery tours.

Cromford Mills,, Derbyshire
Cromford Mills, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Back in the car it was then only a further five miles to our final destination of the weekend, a visit to Cromford Mills, the world’s first successful water powered cotton spinning mill and the birthplace of the modern factory system.

Cromford Mills, Derbyshire
Cromford Mils, Derbyshire

Cromford Mills was rescued from dereliction in the 1970’s and has been restored back to how it would have looked in the 1770’s.  The importance of Cromford and the Derwent Valley were recognised in 2001 when it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status.

Cromford Mills Tour
Exploring the Cromford Mills complex

We joined a one hour guided tour (£10) beginning with a visit to the Arkwright Experience where we viewed an audio-visual presentation inside the first mill which was constructed in 1771.  The informative film told us the story of Richard Arkwright, the son of a Lancashire tailor who rose from obscurity to be the first commoner ever to be knighted for his contribution to the cotton industry.

Cromford Mills, Peak District
Taking a guided tour of Cromford Mills

Sir Richard’s Arkwright’s development of the water frame to spin cotton transformed the manufacture of cotton into England’s major industry and created a system of mass factory production that spread around the world.

Working model of a water frame used for spinning cotton at Cromford Mills
The working model of a water frame used for spinning cotton in the mill

Our tour continued around the mill yard with points of interest being pointed out and described including a working model of a water frame based on Arkwright’s original design before continuing to St. Mary’s church where Arkwright is laid to rest.

St. Mary's Church, Cromford
St. Mary’s Church, Cromford

After completing our tour we explored the visitor centre which covers the history of the 15 mile long Derwent Valley.  A scale model demonstrates why the textile industry developed here 250 years ago and how the valley became a cornerstone of the industrial revolution.

Cromford Mills Visitor Centre
Cromford Mills Visitor Centre

Numerous craft shops, galleries and cafes now occupy several of the existing buildings with gifts and souvenirs being available from the Mill Shop from where we picked up audio guides for a self-guided tour around the village (included in the Mill Manager’s Pass).

Cromford Wharf, Derbyshire
Cromford Wharf

With our handsets at the ready we followed the route from Cromford Mills covering 23 stops of historical interest starting with Cromford Canal Wharf located just across the road.  The canal was completed in 1794 to improve the speed of movement of heavy goods in and out of the mills and is now a local beauty spot with its brightly painted narrowboats and canal side cafe.

Cromford Wharf, Derbyshire
Along the Cromford canal

The audio guide then led us along to the village centre as Cromford village is a fine example of an early factory village remaining largely unaltered since the late 18th century.  We paused at various points including the historic market place, Greyhound Hotel and school all of which he established and are still in use today.

Former mill workers cottages in Cromford village
Former mill workers cottages in Cromford village

The route then continued up North Street where we viewed an original row of factory cottages near to ‘The Bear Pit’ with sluice gates to control the flow of water to the mill.  Our self guided tour then led us to the area behind the market place.  Here we saw the Greyhound Pond, a man-made dam constructed to provide the main source of water to drive the water wheels for Arkwright’s mills lower down the valley.  Facing the pond is Scarthin Books, a gem of a bookstore packed to the brim with books spread over four floors.

The Bear Pit, Cromford
The Bear Pit, Cromford

The looped tour ended back in the mill yard where we handed back our handsets just ahead of the 4.30 p.m. closing time.  We’d found the audio guides to be very well designed, providing just the right level of information at each point of interest so as not to become boring and go into too much detail.  Cromford Mill is a fascinating place to visit and it was hard to believe that we had spent three and a half hours there as it was so absorbing, the time just flew by.

The Greyhound Pond, Cromford village
The Greyhound Pond in Cromford village

This concluded our wonderful three days in the Peak District taking in the natural beauty of the national park.  Our days were filled exploring the elegant spa town of Buxton, sampling Bakewell pudding in the picturesque small town from which it takes its name to touring caves in Castleton.

Scarthin Books in Cromford Village
Scarthin Bookshop along North Street

It had been a memorable visit, our first to the region but certainly not our last.  Through this series of posts, I hope I might have inspired you to explore the area for yourselves as whatever the season there is much to be enjoyed in the Peak District.

During our visit we were guests of Visit the Peak District and The Cow at Dalbury Lees and as always, all views and opinions are entirely my own.


If you have enjoyed reading this post, you may also like:

Discovering Hidden Chatsworth

Derby: a festive city break


If you use Pinterest please consider sharing and pinning the image below:

Cromford Mills & White Peak Distillery



44 thoughts on “Day 3. White Peak Distillery and Cromford Mills, Derbyshire

    1. Cromford Mills is located in such an attractive valley and I’m so pleased it’s been preserved so that future generations can visit and learn of the difficult working conditions how forebears had to endure at the place where factory work begun.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. jasonlikestotravel

    Haven’t really got around to exploring the Peak District yet but this was a lovely glimpse of a small part of it. I hadn’t heard of Cromford Mills but it looks quite interesting. I’m glad you had fun gin-tasting during your time there too 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks Jason for taking the time to comment. We had a lovely few days in the Peak District which we found to be such a scenic part of the country. The distillery tour and gin and whisky tasting was fun, luckily I wasn’t the one doing the driving so I could enjoy the samples!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Another solid slab of The Peak District conquered and published Marion. I love the black and white Tudor architecture, we’ve seen a fair bit ourselves up in Tean, Cheadle, Uttoxeter and Stafford. Distillery tours are always fun, while Cromford Mills looks like a genuinely heavyweight sight for history lovers. The church has such a charming location and Sladja has her eye on Scarthin Books 😉

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks Leighton for your kind words. It was a splendid trip to the Peak District and our final day touring the distillery and Cromford Mills was very interesting. Ashbourne is not so far away from your base so you might manage to fit in a visit. I’m a big fan of Tudor architecture too.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. What another charming little place! Derbyshire looks lovely despite the gloom…The Bear Patch sounds so cute, as I love teddy bears and wouldn’t mind having a pop-over inside to see what it’s all about. Spirit tasting looks to be the best way to spend a dreary day in– at least you feel warm and fuzzy afterwards! Sounds like a great day in town. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The distillery tour was a great way to spend an hour or so and mist interesting to learn about the process. Of course tasting was then also a welcome book us. Cromford Mills and village provided a fascinating outlook into the cotton making industry and a perfect end to the day.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. My brother loves the Peak District and aims to stay there at least once a year, if possible. He always stays in the same converted barn, initially with the family, and now just with my sister-in-law, as the children have flown the nest!. I, on the other hand, have never visited the Peak District but having read your detailed and fascinating posts, feel that I should aim to go to this beautiful region, sooner rather than later. Hope you weren’t too badly affected by Storm Eunice.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. What a beautiful area. While we saw signs for Ashbourne, we never made it to this side of the Peaks District during our visit to the area. And Cromford with its canal looks worth a visit to. Thanks for taking us on the tour Marion. Happy Sunday. Allan

    Liked by 5 people

  6. What a great distillery tour – it always amazes me to see such a process from beginning to end. And to end it with a tasting … even better 😉! Your guided tour of Cromford Mills looks so interesting – thanks for showing that working model of a water frame.
    I enjoyed your series of the Peak District very much (a place I knew nothing about, until reading your posts).

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks for your interest in this series of posts Corna. The distillery tour was very interesting as was the historic mill. Hopefully you might be able to visit yourself sometime perhaps combined with a long distance walking route such as The Pennine Way which starts in the Peak District. My husband walked this when at university!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh yes, I’ve heard about the Pennine Way … didn’t know it starts in the Peak District. But this sounds like the perfect combination: A tour through the distillery and the historic mill and a long distance hiking 😊 – I’ afraid, we’ll need a very LONG time for this!

        Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.