Derbyshire Walk - Buxton
PUBLISHED: 00:00 28 December 2015 | UPDATED: 14:55 03 May 2020
Established by the Romans and visited by Royalty, Sally Mosley takes us on an overground, underground tour of Buxton, which is said to be the highest market town in England
DISTANCE: 4.75 miles
PARKING: Various pay & display car parks or roadside parking around the town
TERRAIN: Three gates and three stiles. Numerous steps. Woodland paths with trip hazards. Livestock may be grazing around Grin Low.
REFRESHMENTS: Poole’s Cavern Café
TOILETS: Pavilion Gardens and Grin Low picnic site
MAP: OS Explorer OL24 (White Peak)
WALK HIGHLIGHT: All encompassing views from Solomon’s Temple
DESCRIPTION: Containing a wealth of classical architecture and famed for being the cultural capital of the Peak District, this town walk takes you from Victorian and Georgian splendour through Buxton’s suburbs to the wooded slopes of its Country Park. Scale the dizzy heights of Solomon’s Temple for an aerial view of the town or choose whether to extend your experience with an underground tour in Poole’s Cavern (entry fee applies).
1. Begin your walk at the Tourist Information Centre which is located along the promenade within the 23 acres of neatly manicured Pavilion Gardens laid out in 1870 to a design by Edward Milner. The splendid range of buildings begins with an Edwardian gem in the shape of Frank Matcham’s fabulous Opera House and culminates with the spectacular Octagon concert hall. The architect of this was Robert Rippon Duke, probably more famous for creating the Great Dome which you will view from afar later in the walk.
From the TIC take any path to cross the River Wye which snakes through the gardens. Head past the playground and former boating lake, now home to an assortment of ducks, and make your way to the furthest top corner where Broad Walk meets Burlington Road. Walk to the junction at Macclesfield Road with a post box on your left and notice directly ahead a former pub with small painted stone Toby jugs at roof level.
2. Use the traffic light crossing and then walk up Temple Road to the right of Alison Park Hotel. This select area of Buxton contains many large family houses and former Victorian mansions with a plethora of architectural features including mock Tudor and Arts and Crafts styling.
3. After passing Buxton Community School turn left and follow the road through to Green Lane where directly opposite you is a car park and entrance to Buxton Country Park. Between the Visitor Centre of Poole’s Cavern and the ticket office for Go Ape, head up a steep flight of steps into woodland. Turn right at the top to begin a circular walk around Diamond Hill, so named because when quarried it exposed fluorspar in the limestone which is said to have twinkled. The 100 acres of woodland here was planted by the 6th Duke of Devonshire around 1820 to hide the scars of lime works which could be seen down in Buxton. The area is now designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the rich woodland flora.
4. Follow the path around the perimeter of the woods, never venturing far from the backs of houses and roads to your right. The older trees are mainly sycamore, beech and ash. However rowan, whitebeam, guelder rose, hazel, holly, lime and yew have also been introduced or have established themselves here in the last 200 years.
You will catch occasional glimpses of the approach to the Cat & Fiddle road winding up towards distant High Peak moors. To the right of this is the old 1759 turnpike road, now a rough stone track, whilst the ‘pin cushion’ hill is known as the Terret. Once a separate entity, Burbage is now a residential suburb of Buxton. However, centuries ago this would have been an industrial site of extensive quarrying and lime burning. Beneath these hills are the remains of 18th and 19th century coal mines that provided fuel for lime kilns on Grin Low.
5. On reaching the rear of Rockbay Service Station beside the Leek Road with the forecourt down to your right, continue up the steep path ahead and then go left at the gate/stile to follow a track as far as an old stone building with a collection of agricultural machinery.
6. Now leave the track and head left up a steep path, emerging onto the drive to Grin Low car park where a disused limestone quarry provides a tranquil setting for a caravan site run by the Camping and Caravanning Club. Descend into the quarry and from the gate beside a cattle grid walk straight ahead passing the public toilets and picnic tables and continue on the path which ascends gently beside an exposed rock face now home to nesting jackdaws.
7. Turn left and walk to a junction of paths at the edge of the woods. Follow the footpath as indicated by an arrow for Poole’s Cavern and Solomon’s Temple. Descend steps to a stile where over the wall is a memorial seat to ‘Scotty’ Taylor, a very brave Royal Marine.
At this point you may wish to opt for a detour to visit Solomon’s Temple at the summit of Grin Low and a height of 1,441 feet above sea level. The first ‘Temple’ tower was built here as a folly in 1834 on the instructions of Solomon Mycock, reputedly a publican in Buxton, later to be replaced by the current stone structure. It is possible to carefully climb a winding stone staircase inside to a granite viewing platform on top for stunning panoramic views of the town and an aerial view of The Dome.
Between 1779 and 1789 the Crescent was built to rival its namesake at Bath, the architect being John Carr from York. On the hillside above was the huge stable block to accommodate carriages, liverymen and 100 horses, described as a lavish horse palace with a huge open area for exercise. A charity was established in the 1850s to convert part of the stables into a hospital with Robert Rippon Duke being elected to the board of trustees. He designed The Great Dome which when it was completed in 1881 was said to be the largest unsupported dome in the world.
8. Return and cross the stile to the memorial bench and then follow a good path down through the woods and descend the steep flight of steps to arrive back at the car park and perhaps incorporate a tour into Poole’s Cavern.
9. Exiting the car park turn right and walk along Green Lane. After the school turn left and walk down College Road, lined with trees, arriving back at the junction in front of Alison Park Hotel. Turn right and walk up West Road heading toward the traffic light ‘5-ways’ junction. Notice the variety of architectural styles in the buildings lining this road including high Victorian houses of multiple storeys, terraces of Edwardian villas and even a pair of early, low, stone cottages with mullioned windows.
10. Just before the junction turn left by the unusual timber and glass-fronted St Ann’s Cottage and head up Church Street. This narrow road with rubble limestone cottages on your left was probably an earlier route to higher Buxton before the London Road turnpike was laid. This brings you to the rear of Scriveners amazing bookshop and a cluster of former coaching inns including The Sun Inn which still advertises ‘Good Stabling’. Tucked away on the far side of The Swan is St Anne’s Church, one of Buxton’s hidden treasures.
11. Follow the main road lined with shops to the Market Place and look for an old cross shaft in front of the impressive Town Hall which was placed here when Buxton was awarded its market charter in 1813. Higher Buxton is thought to be the site of the Roman settlement Aquae Arnemetiae, although all remains of this have long since disappeared.
12. To end your walk head down the hill past Buxton Museum. This contains artefacts and relics from the town and surrounding areas. Look across to The Palace Hotel, built to accommodate the many visitors who came when the railway reached Buxton in 1868. On your left are The Slopes, originally laid out in 1818 by Sir Henry Wyatville and modified by Joseph Paxton in about 1840. To complete your tour walk in front of the famous Crescent, currently undergoing extensive restoration work to transform it into a 5* luxury spa hotel and then sample some Buxton water from St Ann’s Well. Just before the Pavilion Gardens is the Old Hall Hotel, reputedly the oldest hostelry in England where Mary Queen of Scots is known to have stayed on several occasions.