FREE RIDE SUNDAY: towns guide

get into the habit of making the most of your Sundays

1. Ashbourne

You know there is something special about this place as soon as you arrive. The town centre is adorned by red, white and blue bunting and you’ll be hard pressed to find a building that doesn’t have a hanging basket, or four. In fact, the town is so clean and tidy it looks like they are preparing for a Royal visit, everyday! Don’t let its size fool you, this picturesque yet compact market town is filled with historic buildings and lots of things to keep you busy. Ashbourne was granted a market charter back in 1257 by King Henry III and now the town holds a market every Thursday and Saturday on its cobbled market place.

Ashbourne doesn’t just rely on its looks, although it could, throughout the year the town is brought to life by various quirky events. The Ashbourne Festival, the Highland Gathering and perhaps its most famous; the annual Shrovetide football match, make the town an all year round destination.

Thursday and Saturday markets are complemented by a host of independent shops making a shopping trip to Ashbourne more personable and friendly. It’s certainly the best place to find that perfect gift or unique home accessory few people will have ever set eyes on before. Most of the shopping hotspots are on or around Church Street, St John Street and the Market Place. There is even a Waitrose, fancy.

Eat and drink

Due to the town’s position on the fringes of Dovedale and the wider Peak District, Ashbourne is a gateway town which means, luckily for us, it has plenty of places to fill up with some good grub. A trip to a British market town isn’t complete without afternoon tea, it would be like going to Italy with no intention of getting a pizza, pasta or ice cream! There are a number of traditional tea rooms and cafes in the area, but Betty’s Sewing Box is probably the best. The surroundings make it feel like you're in your Grandma’s kitchen, and with a selection of homemade sandwiches and cakes you might as well be. Make sure you try the scones. Looking for something a tad more artisanal? Derbyshire independent, Jack Rabbits have a fine selection of posh lunches all made from quality, local produce.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are no shortages when it comes to coaching inns and pubs. The Bowling Green Inn, just up the hill from the Market Place, is as traditional as it comes. Boasting a great selection of beers, ales and cider plus it does a cracking Sunday dinner – what more do you need?! We also recommend trying The George and Dragon and the Ye Olde Vaults. Want to satisfy your inner hipster? Why not head over to Artisan on St John Street, a newly opened café and bottle shop where you're guaranteed to discover a new tipple that you can boast to your friends about like you’ve invented it yourself. Truly hipster.

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2. Belper

 This handsome mill town sits just 7 miles north of Derby, beautifully nestled in the Derwent Valley making it a popular pit-stop for the throngs of hikers, ramblers and countryside-lovers heading towards the Peak District. But you’ll be doing it a great disservice if you don’t have a stroll around and see what it has to offer. Belper’s roots go right back, it gets a shout out in the Doomsday book, and was originally a centre for the nail making industry. Then, when the country steamed towards the industrial revolution, the town’s proximity to the River Derwent made it the perfect location for pioneering water-powered mills, the first being built in 1776 and by 1792 there were 5. Why was that so important? Well it transformed the town from a small hamlet to a thriving industrial centre, perhaps the first industrial community in the world. The Strutt family who drove the construction of these new mills gave a lot back to Belper providing housing, entertainment and education to the workers. They may have named a few streets after themselves too, but that can be pardoned given their investment. As a result of the family’s generosity, the town has some of the finest examples of Georgian industrial architecture in the country. A trip up Long Row is a must to see the 3 storey houses built from local gritstone where the factory workers would have lived, even the original cobbled paving remains. The North Mill is open to the public as a museum and retail outlet and should be on your ‘to do’ list when you visit so you can see the secrets that changed the world.

Today Belper retains that community feel and offers a relaxing atmosphere with a true high street experience. Chapel Street, King Street and Bridge Street are filled with great independent friendly shops; from artisan bakeries and chocolatiers to delightful delis and unique gift shops. Just missing a candlestick maker.

Eat and drink

Amber Valley has no shortage of quality fresh produce, and Belper has no shortage in award winning cafes, restaurants and delis to get them from. But if you’re really going to make us choose, then Fresh Basil would be our recommendation. It’s been listed as one of the UK’s top 50 delicatessens, so they are doing something right. Their menu will certainly tempt your taste buds, and they have a deli counter overflowing with local cheeses, meats, and olives (not so local) to take as a little snack with you for the bus ride home.


This quaint market town has no shortage of places to grab your favourite tipple. Not surprisingly, the busier venues are the ones up and down King Street. There you will find pubs that will cater for almost everyones needs. The Greenhouse offers a good range of meals throughout the day as well as a very well stocked bar, which makes choosing just that little bit harder. But if you want something a little different and to really relax, we recommend you pay the Black Swan a visit. This place has a lovely feel to it, from the retro decor to the friendly staff. This place also serves some of the best food around. Using local produce as much as possible, with an ever-changing menu which is based around seasonal dishes (just to keep it as fresh as possible). To wash down your meal, The Black Swan offers a wide range of beers. Both real ale and lager. Children under 10 are not allowed in the upstairs bar but are permitted in the downstairs one. The staffs aim is to make sure that your visit to both Belper and The Black Swan is not a fleeting one but one that you really take the time to enjoy.

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3. Chesterfield

It may be best known for its twisted spire, but this market town has lots more to offer for those looking for a day trip with a difference. The town traces its roots back to the Romans, which may explain the grid-like system of streets in the heart of town centre, and later became an important trading post for the surround communities. Chesterfield market is one of the biggest open-air markets in the country, and they are a big deal, you can find everything from pans to potatoes; shirts to shoes; cutlery to carpets – you’re guaranteed to find a bargain. The outdoor markets are held every Monday, Friday or Saturday, with a flea market every Thursday and a farmers’ market on the second Thursday of each month – told you it was a big deal. If that wasn’t enough, on the last Sunday of the month the local Artisan stall holders gather together to offer unique gifts and treats you won’t find anywhere else. Close to the markets, the Shambles gives you a better sense of Chesterfields history. The buildings here date back to the 12th century, and the narrow streets and timbered framed structures full of shops, tea rooms and pubs make you wonder if you’re about to bump in to Harry Potter or Hagrid. If you need to break away from all that bargain hunting, then you’re spoilt for choice, Chesterfield and the surround area has lots of places to catch your breathe. The peaceful Queen’s park is a Victorian green space with a boating lake, gardens and a children’s play area. Occasionally you may even see some cricket matches there.

Eat and drink

After all that shopping and sightseeing you’ll be in need of somewhere to take the load off of your feet. Good job Chesterfield has more tea rooms than you can shake a stick at! If you’re looking somewhere truly unique and quirky then head straight to H & F tea room on New Beetwell Street it’s close to the bus station, how very convenient, and has a great selection of sandwiches and cakes in stylish, vintage atmosphere. Stephenson Tea & Coffee House and the Northern Tea Merchants are also worth a try, you may need more than one trip…


The Royal Oak in the Shambles is as traditional as it gets. The sign outside states that ale has been served there since 1772 and is considered the oldest pub in town. It’s full of character and has a wide selection of real ales. If you’re looking for somewhere that does a hearty bit of pub grub then the Rutland Arms on Stephensons Place is worth a trip. If you’re serious about your ale then check our Brampton Brewery’s Tramway Tavern, a short walk from the town centre on Chatsworth Road.

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