Superlative WalksUrban and rural trails, each with something very special
Directions with Added Information
This five-mile walk covering urban and rural terrain goes from the railway station, and visits the northern and southern edges of the Buxton bowl, before dropping down into Buxton’s historic centre, where it visits many landmark buildings, before ending at the historic Crescent
Buxton is a spa town with the highest elevation of any market town in England. Buxton is described as “the gateway to the Peak District National Park”. The origins of the town’s name are uncertain. It may be derived from the Old English for Buck Stone or for Rocking Stone. The town grew in importance in the late 18th century when it was developed by the Dukes of Devonshire, with a resurgence a century later as the Victorians were drawn to the reputed healing properties of the waters.
The Dukes of Devonshire have been closely involved with Buxton since 1780, when the 5th Duke used the profits from his copper mines to develop the town as a spa in the style of Bath. Their ancestor, Bess of Hardwick, had taken one of her four husbands, the Earl of Shrewsbury, to “take the waters” at Buxton shortly after he became the gaoler of Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1569, and they took Mary there in 1573.
In 2013, the Academy of Urbanism named Buxton as one of the three most attractive towns in Britain.
Buxton Cricket Club was founded in 1853. This is the location of the only county cricket match to be stopped due to snow on the pitch in June 1975.
1. The walk starts at Buxton’s historic railway station.
Two railway lines arrived in Buxton almost simultaneously in 1863. The Stockport, Disley and Whaley Bridge Railway built its line from Manchester to Whaley Bridge and extended it to Buxton. Meanwhile the Midland Railway extended the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway from Rowsley. When the Midland extended its main line to New Mills in 1867, to bypass the LNWR, Buxton became a branch line from Millers Dale. The stations were side by side, with identical frontages designed by J. Smith with guidance from Joseph Paxton (perhaps more famous for his design of the Crystal Palace in London), each having a wrought-iron glazed train shed. The Midland station closed in 1967, along with the line to Rowsley, and the site is now a roadway.
2. Turn right out of the station car park and walk down Station Rd towards the roundabout, noting the Palace Hotel on the right.
The Palace Hotel was designed by Henry Currey in 1867 and is now the largest hotel in Buxton.
3. At the roundabout turn right up the steep Devonshire Rd, passing the Devonshire Dome on your left.
The Devonshire Dome is architecturally stunning and with its 44-column, colonnade supporting the 560 ton roof, it is one of Buxton’s most famous landmarks. Measuring over 150 feet in diameter, the dome is bigger than St Paul’s Cathedral in London, and is the largest unsupported dome in Europe.
Built between 1780 and 1789, the building was designed by John Carr of York for William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire. Octagonal in shape, it housed up to 110 horses and the servants of the guests of the Crescent Hotel.
In 1859, the Buxton Bath Charity had persuaded the Duke of Devonshire to allow part of the building to be converted to a charity hospital for the ‘sick poor’. In 1881, the Buxton Bath Charity trustees persuaded William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire to give them the use of the whole building in exchange for providing new stables elsewhere in the town. Local architect Robert Rippon Duke designed a 300-bed hospital to rival Bath and Harrogate for charity medical provision. The steel structure was clad in slate, and proposed to be supported by 22 curved steel arms. However, during construction the Tay Bridge disaster occurred and so the number of arms was increased. Further changes were undertaken, with the addition of the clock tower and lodge, surgical wards, spa baths and the dining room and kitchens. The building became known as the Devonshire Royal Hospital in 1934.
The Devonshire Royal was the last of the eight hydropathic hospitals in England when it closed in 2000.
On 31 January 2001, the University of Derby acquired the Devonshire Royal Hospital. The University received £4.7m Heritage Lottery Fund backing for the restoration and redevelopment project.
4. Take the next road on the right, Marlborough Rd and follow it to the top where it joins Corbar Rd, turn right and after 50 yards, turn left into Corbar Woods Lane. Follow the lane round to the left and enter Corbar Woods by the green sign. To your right is Corbar Hall.
Corbar Hall is the family home of the Bowen family and was built in 1862. It was converted to a hospital in the 1950s and is now an office. It is a Victorian-style mansion originally built as a larger house. The original features were preserved internally, including a fine oak staircase modelled on the Dorothy Vernon staircase at Haddon Hall. The high-rise hospital building was built on the original croquet lawn of the house, also known as Corbar Villa, which might be attributed to Joseph Paxton, who laid out the Buxton Park and Devonshire Park next to each other.
5. There are many paths through the woods. Follow the path along the side of the hill. Turn right at the T-junction, then turn right at the next fork and up the wooden steps. Go upwards, aiming for the gap in the wall which leads to fields and Corbar Cross in the distance.
Head towards the cross through the field and scramble up the rocky outcrop to get to the cross itself. From here there are magnificent views of many of Buxton’s landmarks.
Corbar Hill is 1,433 feet above sea level. On top of it is Corbar Cross, a tall modern cross originally given to the Roman Catholic Church by the Duke of Devonshire in 1950. It was replaced in the 1980s and in 2010, during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, it was cut down as a protest against a long history of child abuse at the Catholic St Williams School in Market Weighton, Yorkshire. The Buxton ecumenical group, Churches Together replaced the cross with a smaller one in May 2011.
6. Retrace your steps to the woods, down the steps and turn right at the junction, passing to the left of the mobile home park and out onto Manchester Rd.
7. Turn right up Manchester Rd and continue past a terrace of houses, then turn left onto a path descending steeply, with the golf course on its right.
The Cavendish Golf Club was designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie, and unlike many early courses has not been altered or modernised. At 5,721 yards off the medal tees, the course remains shorter than many, yet still fulfils MacKenzie’s belief that length has nothing to do with the quality of a hole. Two of the staff who had helped construct Cavendish subsequently worked with him in California at Cypress Point, the design which convinced Bobby Jones that Mackenzie should be the architect for Augusta. Over the years, many notable visitors, including Henry Cotton and Babe Zaharias, have played Cavendish. In winter, the golf course is used as a toboggan run, hyperbolically known as “The Cresta Run”.
8. Follow the path down past the clubhouse, and on reaching the first houses, continue briefly on Gadley Lane before bearing right down a track through the woods and later re-joining Gadley Lane. Cross the bridge over the river and up the tarmac path through the woodland until it meets St John’s Rd.
9. Turn right on the main road, opposite Wyelands Close, and cross at the pedestrian crossing, then straight on via the ginnel called Broomsway leading to Macclesfield Rd. Turn right on Macclesfield Rd. and then left up Cavendish Ave.
10. Follow Cavendish Avenue to the top where it meets Green Lane and turn left, following the road down to the entrance to Poole’s Cavern on the right.
Poole’s Cavern is a 2 million year old natural limestone cave and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The name derives from an outlaw who reputedly used the cave as a lair to rob travellers in the 15th century. Archaeological explorations in 1981-3 suggested that the cave was occupied from the Bronze Age. Some of the finds suggested that one of the chambers was used for religious purposes by Romano-Britons; an alternative explanation is that the cave was a metal-workers’ workshop
Officially opened as a show cave in 1853 by the 6th Duke of Devonshire, the cave was already a tourist attraction, being listed as one of the Wonders of the Peak by Charles Cotton in 1683. Mary, Queen of Scots is claimed to have been an early visitor. Under the management of the Duke’s overseer, Frank Redfern, the entrance was widened and, in 1859, a system of gas lamps was installed to light the caverns which remained in use until the cave closed in 1965. It reopened in 1976.
11. From Poole’s Cavern head up the steps into the woods, turning left at the top of the first steps following the path leading to a stile into the fields below Solomon’s Temple. Cross the field to the Temple.
Solomon’s Temple is a folly at the summit at Grin Hill. It was built in Victorian times by Solomon Mycock and paid for by public subscription to provide work for the locally unemployed. The tower was restored in 1998, also by public subscription. The tower has no practical purpose!
The structure is a 20 foot high two-storey tower built on top of a Bronze Age barrow, which sits on top of a ridge. During the construction, an archaeological dig revealed several Bronze Age skeletons which were said to have come from the Beaker period.
12. Descend from Solomon’s Temple, heading down towards the stile with Buxton in the distance above the playing fields. Turn left at a gap in a wall just before the path rises.
13. Cross the playing fields and re-join Green Lane via a short path between houses. Cross Green Lane and proceed down College Rd to its junction with Macclesfield Rd.
Note the arts and crafts style doctors’ surgery by the junction.
14. Go almost straight across and after 50 yards enter the Pavilion Gardens Park at the start of Broad Walk. Work your way through the gardens; there is a variety of routes, but try going left at the lake and aim for the Octagon, the large domed building.
With the arrival of railways in 1863, this was a boom period, and houses, hotels and boarding houses were built on Broad Walk and Burlington Road, which border and overlook the gardens. An eminent landscape gardener, Edward Milner, was appointed. The gardens opened in May 1871, to be followed in August by the opening of the Pavilion. The concert hall, which is now known as the Octagon, designed by Buxton architect Robert Rippon Duke, was added in 1889. The gardens were restored to their Victorian style in 2004 at a cost of £4.5 million.
15. Head left towards the entrance to the Gardens, with the Octagon on the left and then turn left to the Opera House forecourt.
The Opera House was built in 1903 and designed by Frank Matcham, one of Britain’s finest theatre architects, who also designed the London Palladium (1910) and the London Coliseum (1904). The Opera House ran as a successful theatre, receiving touring companies until 1927, when it was turned into a cinema. Silent films were shown until 1932 when the theatre was wired for sound and could present talkies. The Opera House also became the venue for an annual summer theatre festival from 1936 to 1942, two of them in conjunction with Lillian Bayliss and her London-based Old Vic company. After the Second World War, the theatre continued to serve primarily as a cinema. It reverted to being a theatre in 1979 after a brief period of closure.
16. Turn right along the colonnade and cross the road just past the Old Hall Hotel.
The Old Hall Hotel is one of the oldest buildings in the town. The current building dates from the Restoration period.
According to the Derbyshire Archaeological Journal (1994): “In the national context, the survival of a building which accommodated both Mary, Queen of Scots and much of the Elizabethan nobility is of considerable note. Its importance in architectural terms is further enhanced as it is believed to be the earliest known British building of cross-axial form.”
Since at least the Middle Ages, a hall has stood on this site by the warm spring for which Buxton water is known. The oldest part of the current building was once part of a four-storey fortified tower, built in 1573 by Bess of Hardwick and her third husband, George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury.
The tower was used at times between 1576 and 1578 to house Mary, Queen of Scots, while she was in the custody of the Earl on the orders of Queen Elizabeth I. Her last visit to Buxton was in the summer of 1584.
The Hall was rebuilt by one of Bess of Hardwick’s descendants, the 1st Duke of Devonshire in 1670. By 1727, the Old Hall had become a hotel, the only one in Buxton, where the writer Daniel Defoe stayed on his tour of Great Britain. Of the Hall he wrote: “The Duke of Devonshire… has built a large handsome house at the bath, where there is convenient lodging, and very good provisions, and an ordinary well served for one shilling per head; but it is but one.” By the time that the nearby Georgian Crescent was built (1780-86), Buxton had become an established spa town; and the Old Hall had become a fashionable hotel for the Georgian aristocracy taking the waters.
17. Climb the short steep Hall Bank and enter the park known, imaginatively, as The Slopes, for stunning views of Buxton.
18. Descend The Slopes via the war memorial to the Crescent and Pump Room
Modelled on the Royal Crescent in Bath, the Crescent was built for William Cavendish, the Duke of Devonshire between 1780 and 1784. It was built by John Carr, made out of locally quarried gritstone and included a ballroom and an Assembly Room as well as a townhouse for the Duke and shops along the ground floor. Next door to the Crescent are the former thermal baths, built between 1851 and 1853.
The Crescent is a grade 1 listed building and was once described by the Royal Institution of British Architects as ‘more richly decorated and altogether more complex’ than the Royal Crescent in Bath. The facade was built as a unified structure incorporating a hotel, five lodging houses and a fine painted ceiling in the Assembly Room, which became the social heart of 18th century Buxton. On the ground floor there are arcade workshops, including a hair and wig dresser, and kitchens were in the basement.
In 1993, with a grant from the National Heritage Memorial fund, the High Peak Borough Council purchased the Crescent to act as a temporary caretaker of the building. Work to develop and manage the hotel and spa has had many delays due to funding, technical and legal issues relating to the continued supply of water from springs beneath the buildings.
It wasn’t until April 2012 that an agreement between the joint councils and the developer to start the first phase of the project was signed for a 79-bedroom, five-star hotel, natural bath, thermal mineral water spa and specialist shops, with completion of the project due in 2018.
The Latin name then, for Buxton was Aquae Arnemetiae, the prefix aquae means ‘of the waters’, and was used by the Romans to denote natural spas or springs. The second part of the name is associated with the Celtic word Nemeton or “sacred grove”, so the Roman name for Buxton suggests that the natural springs represented a religious centre of some considerable importance, probably used by many generations of native Britons prior to the coming of Rome.
The Pump Room, also by Currey, was built in 1884 opposite the Crescent. Visitors could ‘take the waters’ until 1981. Beside it, added in 1940, is St Ann’s Well, a constant source of Buxton spring water. The water from the source today fell as rain over 5,000 years ago. During its nearly one–mile long downward journey, this pure rain water filters through the ancient limestone of the Peak District, acquiring a natural balance of minerals. At a certain point, the water hits a fault in the rock strata which forces it back upwards. The water rises completely naturally to the surface, without being pumped, at a constant temperature of 28°C. It used to fill the nearby Thermal Baths, and was sold by a small scale mineral water company, Buxton Bottling Company, until acquired by Nestle in 1992.
19. Turn right after exploring the Crescent and enter the Devonshire Arcade on your left.
The Natural Baths, by Henry Currey, are on the site of the original Roman baths. The building was opened in 1854 and re-developed as an arcade in 1987, featuring a barrel vaulted stained glass canopy – the largest stained glass window in Britain – designed by Brian Clarke.
20. The walk ends at the Station, to be found on Station Rd, which is reached via Station Approach, across the road from the arcade.